Monday, 14 December 2015

The Perfect Christmas ( fictional obviously )

I like to read and listen again and again to my favourite Christmas Day scene and it comes Anthony Trollope's beautiful novel, Can You Forgive Her. I know it's a crap title, there's hope for all our titles.
It's set in Cumbria which is one of my favourite places, being as wild and untamed in parts as my beloved Weardale when Alice and Kate, who are cousins, go to stay at Vavasor Hall where their grandfather is the local squire.
This is mid nineteenth century and as unlike our Christmases now ( I blame Charles Dickens in part and Marks and Spencer for the rest ) as it could possibly be.
Alice receives a letter on Christmas morning - can you imagine that happening now, and this in the middle of nowhere  - which is from her cousin George in London, Kate's brother.
They have breakfast with their lovely grumpy old grandfather and then they go to Church.  The Hall is not far from Penrith and within an energetic person's walking distance from Shap. After church, with a big piece of fruitcake each to take with them, they set off on a long walk, promising their grandfather they will be home in time for dinner which is promptly at five o'clock.
Off they set in one of the loveliest places on earth and the day is fine and they are very close. And Trollope knows his Cumbria so well. He describes the lovely walk and their conversation and eventually Alice tells Kate that she has received a proposal of marriage from George.
They get back and their grandfather scolds them because the beef is almost on the table and they rush upstairs to dress for dinner. After that I imagine them sitting over a huge fire because that's the end of the scene.  In order to find out whether Alice marries George you should read the book or if you're idle like me download the audio which is read by Timothy West and is superb.  Trollope's women characters are the best in fiction.  His young men tend to be either dull or complete bounders. George isn't dull.  George, in Trollope's language, is a scoundrel.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Where is my Ark?

I heard on television news last night that the water authorities in Cumbria are saying that the people who have had to abandon their homes because of flooding won't have to pay their water rates until they are back into their houses. Was it meant to be funny?  Perhaps, having just come back from a very wet Kendal, I have lost my sense of humour.
In October when I had to abandon my beloved caravan for the winter my daughter suggested that I should plan ahead and spend a couple of days each month at a Premier Inn. So I paid up my £32 a night and duly booked Newcastle, Kendal and Ashington.
Last month in Newcastle I stayed at the wonderful waterfront listed building on the quayside and had meals looking at the Tyne bridge. The only criticism I have of it is that the wireless internet was absolute crap. The rest of it was so perfect I hesitated about coming home!
This month was to be Kendal. Unfortunately the awful flooding in Cumbria put me off rather but I went anyway. The River Kent had gone down but there are dozens of homes and businesses which people have had to leave. Outside on the pavements all their furniture, but the thing that really got me was that a lot of them couldn't get through to their insurance brokers and were advised to go online. The electricity has been off in Carlisle and other places so what were they to do. For some of them this is the second flood in six years. How heartbreaking. I know what it's like, I have been flooded. I remember my perfectly sanded and varnished maple floor disappearing beneath inches of water which had been through the sewage station first I think.  I tried to carry out the deep fat fryer, slipped and after that kept falling in again and again with oil on top of sewage.
My husband, being brighter than a lot of people, went off and bought a pump . He didn't want the rescue people anywhere near our pale pink carpets which were also brand new. We pumped the damned water out ourselves and me, at thirty six, and full of pluck,stood and cooked dinner in my wellies in six inches of water. Wow. Just call me Noah.
The Premier Inn in Kendal has perfect beds and if the lovely staff thought the strange older lady who lost her rag all too quickly over small matters was completely nuts I don't have the patience that I had at thirty six.
Less than a year after my beautiful maple floor was ruined my husband died and my life was ruined. It never got back to where it had been or maybe I should say that it never moved on in certain ways. I am forever banging my head against some bloody ceiling beyond which my happiness once was.
I feel as though my capacity to recover is at full stretch and so must those poor people in Cumbria must feel. You get to the point where if your internet doesn't work as mine doesn't on my phone now that the stupid Premier Inn internet knocked something about it, and the wine you are drinking too much of is rubbish, you lose it.
Your cafe is underwater, all the Christmas plans you made are horribly defunct and once again life is shitting on you from a great height. After I reached Kendal I discovered that they had just pulled some poor bloke dead out of the river. I have a very close relationship with rivers, since my husband drowned and some canoeists found my daughter unconscious.
So, with my friend Leah Fleming, I did what I could. I went to Kendal, I spent lots of money, I laughed and talked and ate and drank and wrote with my laptop on my little table in the Premier Inn's dining room. But please, if anybody from there should ever read this, talk to however provides the wine list there. It really is bloody awful and you can take it from me because I drink an awful lot of wine. It tops me shrieking from the rooftops when stupid things go wrong.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Bad Language

I don't know when some words got to be 'bad language' and I've never understood that people think cursing has power. Words of course can have more power than anything else but it's strange that people get so upset about the use of cursing in novels.
My mother was a farmer's daughter so we were used to 'bugger', 'damn and blast' and 'hell' when we were small children. We didn't know what any of it meant, all we knew was that she was having a bad day and that was her way of letting rip without losing her temper. My father  never swore. I heard him say 'hell' once when he was driving me across the fell to school. It icy and some bloke nearly drove into us.
The first time I heard the word 'fuck' was  when I was about nine. I went to private school and one of the other girls said it. I was rather taken aback but she thought she was very clever.
Most newspapers delete words that they think their readers might find offensive though considering the difficult lives people lead it seems odd they have time to feel offended about such trivia. I worry when I don't have onions in the house.
When I was writing my first books for Hodder and Stoughton, this was 1995 onwards and I had a character, very upper middle class, who was inclined to swear a lot so I put a great deal of it in figuring that my editors would probably object and call for half of it to be taken out, in which I would get what I wanted. Alas, such open minded women, I don't think they even  noticed.
It's like sex. If you are being told a good story and the sex is important then why would you not put it in?  Or violence. But if necessary. Anything gratuitous defeats the object, surely.
I went to the cinema twice last week and saw what I think are the only two films available at the moment which are not full of killing people.  Then the games which people play on Xboxes and whatever. Why is killing people so exciting?  And why on earth do people exquate sex and violence as being something that goes together. Consensual sex is not violent in that both parties are agreeable to whatever is taking place. So it should be rape and violence, shouldn't it?
I do think a good story, all of the best stories, have neither sex nor much violence. If you take the classics, Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Lawrence, Dickens. They wrote the best stories and therefore they didn't require sex or violence or anything else which seems to excite people in the worst way.  Implication is everything. Think of Brief Encounter. It's all about time and loneliness and missed opportunities and people trying to choose between what they want and what they think they want and what the consequences will be. Isn't that more exciting than watching a whole load of paper figures being mown down on screen?  It's watching people making a mess of things or trying so hard to lead decent lives that you bleed for them because that's what life is like. Everybody is out there having a difficult time and they need stories where they empathise, characters they care for and an out come which makes them laugh or makes them cry, or both.
There is a lovely saying among frustrated writers which goes something like 'We write songs for bears to dance to, while all the time we're longing to move the stars to pity.' And because so few of us manage this we go on trying to make people believe in what we write and to care as much as we do about the people in our stories.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Izzie, Lizzie and Katy go on Holiday

Usually for my birthday my daughter takes me somewhere glamorous. Last year it was Prague where I wore a long black velvet dress to the opera. The years before was Athens where we stayed in a gorgeous hotel and our room looked out at the Acropolis and we watched the changing of the guard.

This year, however, she has acquired a large yellow (, sorry, golden!) labrador so we drove to the wilds of Northumberland, the new labrador in back of a brand new ( and I mean that day!! ) Mercedes CLA 180 sport, gleaming white and smelling - of dog.
Izzie is seventeen months and has been rehomed three times. She thinks nothing of licking a bowl of fruit even though she knows it isn't hers and she likes bananas for breakfast, carrots for lunch and will east tomatoes when the wind is in the east.

Dogs, of course, were not allowed in the bedrooms at the cottage where we stayed but Izzie is very good at opening doors and managed to leap on both single beds before we could stop her. The covers were chocolate so you can imagine the mess.
She barked at the man who owns the cottage because he was working mostly in the communal garden.

On Boulmer beach she ate a huge quantity of seaweed and half a pasty outside Morrisons in Alnwick.  We scoured the internet for pubs which liked dogs and were very upset when we found that the only pub in the village banished us to a cold and windy seafront while the locals ate their Sunday dinners and laughed at Izzie winding her lead around the tables, attacking a bench with her teeth and we cowered in hats, scarves and sweaters against the incoming tide.
We were greeted at the The Red Lion in Alnwick with a cacophony of barks and whines. There were labradors, sheepdogs and spaniels.  Her favourite shop is Pets at Home or any supermarket that has discarded bread outside or the local park on Sundays where there are half eaten pizzas from the night before when the kinds smoked weed.

It's not just holidays. For Christmas I have bought her a bottle of Barker's Dog beer and Dog Cake Mix. I now own very expensive trainers ( from Cotswold ), serviceable green trousers from M&S and a hideous anorak with a gold zip.  We usually go to Mughli's on Christmas Eve which is the wonderful Indian restaurant in Knutsford. Now we are looking forward to an evening spent by the fire, a take away and the delights of television and dog smelling sofas.
Boxing Day will be a walk in Tatton Park where she will be able to greet her friends. There will be tennis ball throwing and my kids will have the joy of seeing all the people they didn't know before they acquired a labrador.  They are both very fit now and Athens and Prague seem a long way away but the beaches in Northumberland have been my second home since I was five years old when I walked my Boxer Dog up the beach at Hauxley Bay. I walked my spaniel there when I was forty five so what could be more appropriate than to watch Izzie like thousands of other lucky dogs before her run up and down hoping in vain to catch the wily seagulls?
At night when the tide is full the seabirds gather in their hundreds to feed and the moon rises about the North Sea.  What better way to celebrate my sixty fifth birthday?

Friday, 25 September 2015


When I was a little girl my mother used to take me to Woolworth's to buy toys. We had a decent amount of money and this was nothing unusual except that it was for me because I always headed straight for the stationery department.  No wonder she thought I was odd. I was one of four. The others were always outside as we lived in the middle of nowhere. I was always upstairs, just as I am now, in my office. It was never the bedroom, despite the pink furniture, I filled it with books and pens and papers and used my kidney shaped dressing table as a desk. It was the only bedroom on the back of the house and I could watch the sun going down. When I got older one of my friends would join me there, put down the sliding sash window and we would hang out there smoking full strength capstan which my rather kept. My parents never tried to stop us smoking and drinking, they had more important things to think about. They fed us royally, loved us, educated us and kept us safe.  It was a very good childhood which I did find rather difficult but writers always feel out of place and I was a writer before I was anything else.
I don't write letters much any more. Who does?  Email is swift and efficient but I could never get through a day before turning to a notebook and pen. It's my  Linus's blanket. Everything can go wrong but there is always writing.
I'm just starting another book. I spent three weeks waffling but now I have an idea and I'm doing lots of research about what kind of people were transported, what kind of quarries are there in Weardale and getting lost in the world of my own ideas. So much easier than the real world.
I do care very much about politics and what is going on but creative people have to slide away or they cannot work.  I love to go away to this place where I write even though it is hard and frustrating and lonely. I can't do with people around too much, I need a big space into which to write.
This is my favourite time of year. I love to start writing in the run up to Christmas when the nights are clear and the frost is white on the fields and the cold wind nips at my ankles and the dusk comes in at around four. It's bliss for me.  I am doing some research on W H Auden who spent a lot of time in Weardale. He hated warm weather and loved the howling gales in the this area and the relentless wind, rain, sleet and snow. Nice to think that he did. It's always my preference.
I'm going off to my caravan now, the best place to write. I have to make the best of it because it closes at the end of October but by then it's too cold to be comfortable up there and it's always something to look forward to when Easter arrives. I should be halfway through my novel by then and I'll be putting pen to paper every day, watching the half grown pheasants toddling around the caravans and the big black cattle stirring behind the caravan in the fields and bunnies bobbing up on the horizon before night settles in.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Doctor of the High Fells

My new book is out on Thursday August 27th, that's this week. My agent says it's the best thing I've done in years. She doesn't always say that. Actually the book I'm just finishing would never have been finished if it hadn't been for her. Thank God for agents and editors and all those people who never seem to get the credit. Books should be like films, with credits at the end, all those people who worked so hard, the people who design the cover, the printers, the on line folk, those who do the big print and audio books, the booksellers, the librarians, the secretaries who hold the publishing houses together, those people who have to decide how much the book should cost, whether it should be hardback or paperback or an ebook, the poor damned accountants who get blamed for everything,
A work of fiction is a team effort so next time you see the author think of all the other poor buggers who have to put with it all as well.

There is an element of luck with any published book. Sometimes it just takes off. We live in hope.  The genres change, people have new ideas, some people have old-new ideas and it's difficult to tell which way the wind is blowing or whether you can make it blow your way.

I don't think at the moment there are many books with a woman doctor as the main character. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe there are but I didn't write it for that reason. I wrote it, as my agent would say, because it was the book only I could write. I longed to write it. I just hope people like it and that we didn't all sweat and work all that time for some mean bugger to think it's too expensive when the download is little more than a Starbucks' coffee.

Some people think nothing of paying forty quid for a pair of shoes but get upset when a book costs more than a fiver. You get a lot for your money with a book. It has a lot of mouths to feed and strangely we aren't doing it for the fun of it, we do expect to get paid. If people want me to write books for nothing I shall give up and stay in bed in the mornings and read a lot and eat more cream cakes. And be poor and not care. They are not getting me for nothing. The labourer is always worthy of his hire. Nobody should do stuff for nowt, not in business. It's false economy and of no use for our self respect.

I'm not a vain writer. I don't think I should have been Jane Austen or E.L.James. I don't mind that i'm not brilliant and that I'm not a millionaire.What the hell would I do with it all?  I could give it to water aid of course. That's what I would do or like Catherine Cookson did and gave most of her money to the Newcastle hospitals. That's what a lot of money's for, I think.

Anyway, it is all right, the book, I laughed and cried over it, we all worked so hard. It isn't a work of genius, it's an honest attempt to get something right and to hope that somebody likes it.
I like the main character, Prue Stanhope, I admire how brave she is and that she does her best and that she's out there as woman all are. We've giving it rock all and that's what we can do.

So I do hope you might read and like it and if not there are thousands of other books out there and a whole load of other folk have sweated blood over them so go for something else, something you enjoy.  I love to read crime. I'm happy with Peter May and Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson and a dozen more. They make my life better. They make me happy.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Oh God, a Labrador

Our first dog was a black labrador, called Rex. I was very young at the time. I remember my mother on being told that it had been run over. She was the only one of us who wept, I can remember getting on with my fish and chips, quite unmoved. After that there was a boxer, that got run over eventually too. Those days dogs were not pampered, they were free to roam. The third one, when I got a bit older, was  Sherry. She used to run up and down the Northumberland beaches so that when we came home she would sulk in the shower.
I didn't want any more dogs so many years later when my husband, who use to shoot, insisted on having a black labrador, I could not contain my mirth as it threw up all over our smart yellow sports car.
After that there was Jasper, half labrador, half springer spaniel and then Timmy, fully springer spaniel, and like many aristocrats, good pedigree but quite stupid.
I still suffer from being left with the damned dogs when my husband died.  George collapsed of old age and had to be put down a year or so later, Jasper went into a decline, missing Richard and I sent him off to a Yorkshire estate so that he could work and I kept the last dog.
I shall never forget the day they came to take Jasper away. I remember him watching me from the back of the car. But he was not meant to be a lap dog. He was the dog who swam widths of the loch all week when we went to Scotland. We named him Wilkie Jasper. Everything good in my life seemed over when I had to give up that dog because he loved the shooting so much.
Dogless I remained, so my emotions when my daughter rang earlier to say she had bought a yellow labrador were so hard. In vain had I told her that it could not be left, that it would need walking ten miles a day, that it would throw up in the hall, crap in the bedrooms and leave hair all over the sofa. I told her that I would have nothing to do with it, that it could not be left for holidays with me when she went to top up her tan.
Like all children, she hasn't taken a blind bit of notice, so I'm sitting here crying now for all those days of my dogs, for the days when my husband used to try and cuddle them all together. He would say,
'My boys, my boys,' and laugh over them.
On the last day of his short life we took our little girl and our dogs to Fountains Abbey and walked through the woods where he named the trees for her and the dogs frolicked about and played.

The new labrador is called Izzie.  Which presumably is short for Isabel which is another name for Elizabeth. Well, I don't suppose there's anything in that, other than the fact that my daughter has moved on, dog wise and that's lovely but I still can't wait for the first time that it throws up in her new Mercedes. I really can't.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Bitten, Burned and Burgered - How not to go on holiday

 When I first announced to my friends that I was going on holiday
 to Miami one said,
'Do you know how hot it is?' and another,
'Top Miami hotels are very elegant, Liz.'  Hmm.
I do not like the heat. I owe my almost pale blue skin to my Irish ancestry.  When it's cold and wet most of the time it does not equip you for oven temperature muggy heat. Also I can be called a lot of things but 'gym bunny' and 'sun worshipper' are not among them.
There were other older people at the hotel but not many and hardest of all for me is that no one in such a place appreciates my Eeyore impression. I learned very quickly that bouncing up to people and speaking to them does not mean a positive response. I got a good many stares.
A great many people here speak Spanish as their first language so a very pale woman with a weird British accent is worrying.
Miami is all about money. Even in Cheshire I have not see such an abidance of enormous flash and shiny cars.
The other thing is that you tip everybody.  If you don't get this right they might, as one ill advised gentleman, run after you as you leave the restaurant, complaining that he needs a bigger tip as he get so badly paid.
One of the joys of a hotel like the one we went to was that nobody until the age if seventeen was allowed.Handbags dogs however are cool here. I blame Reese Witherspoon,
Alcohol is not a good idea with weather like this. Lots of water is the only way forward. I hate water! The food is mostly good for you so I did not put on weight even though I ate for England.
'Hey, you guys'.  Two countries divided by a single language.
The culture here is as foreign to me as anywhere I have been. I would hate to live in a place where there are no seasons but what the hell - the sky was blue and white with fluffy clouds, the sea really is aquamarine, there's nobody about and I spent most of my time lying on a sunbed in the shade by one of the loveliest views I have ever seen across the bay. I saw a school of dolphins one day like this.
I went to a fantastic sushi bar twice and saw that lovely part of Miami where the buildings are art deco.
We never ate before nine pm which I love doing, the later the better. Every meal was outside and I wore long dresses, with thin straps and diamonded sandals. Gorgeous hotels had lights outside reflected in pools.
Back at the hotel iced water is brought to my shaded sunbed. My room is air conditioned, my bed is bliss and I am so slick with sun cream that small insects can skate down my legs.
Snobby person that I may be, I might write popular novels but I rarely read them for pleasure. I make money, not history but I was on a beach holiday so I read Funny Girl by  Nicky  Hornby - good ending, The Heat of Betrayal by Douglas Kennedy, good,  but could have been shorter and The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. She writes well and I might pinch the basic idea.
One day I had a mud bath, covered in pink gunge and plunged into a huge ornamental bath of tepid water and hosed off.  Iced coffee to follow.  Lots of wallpaper music to chill one further.
Back at home now I am still in recovery but happy because I've been away. I missed good music, cool mornings and I feel as if the summer is only just beginning.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Would You Marry a Genius?

Watching the film about Stephen Hawking and his wife, I got to thinking that she had a really rough deal but they met in 1963 and it was a different world then. Would any woman marry a man who had such a disease and give up so much for him now? I know she was very religious but she was also a brilliant woman and yet she married him, thinking he would soon die and having three children to him and no doubt running around like a headless chicken trying to pull it all together.
Was it because she loved him?  Well, obviously it was but how much of that love is pure self sacrifice? How much self sacrifice is good? Women are wonderful at it and not very good at making men sacrifice anything for them. How many nurses in the past would have made good doctors?  How many women had half a dozen children and wanted to help rule the world? How unfortunate that now we are still self sacrificing, we are still having those children and trying to rule the world as well and feeling that worn down mood that can become your whole life.
I know that having children is utter hell and bliss both together and having that kind of unconditional love which you get only from small children and dogs is great but the world is big and wide and a little more selfishness would not come in wrong. Be a cat. Care about you.
I was thinking also this week about Martha and Mary. It irritates the hell out of me. There Mary is sitting on her arse listening to Jesus and Martha is doing all the work and he has the audacity to tell her to sit down and shut up. I would have had him sorted out in no time.
I love the book by Colm Toibin, set from Jesus's mother's viewpoint. It's so refreshing. She can't understand what the hell is going on. Who does he think he is?  The Testament of Mary, it's called. The mother's view of her jumped up son. Sons. Hell. They bugger off and leave you or worse still they don't. I'm sure a lot of them think they're the son of God. I'm all for Martha telling Jesus that he gets to do the washing up!
Pick up your bed and walk, girls.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Don't panic, Captain Mannering!

I had a panic attack last night.  One moment I was eating a perfectly good meal, of lamb and rice, since you ask, and the next I was coughing, shaking and throwing up. I've been doing that quite a lot lately.
I used to pass out. I didn't know that I was feeling so bad about my life, that it had all become so very heavy to deal with, that my body couldn't cope any longer. I would choke, stop breathing and then slide down the wall if I could reach one in time. The passing out is such a relief except for the time when I passed out in the kitchen and banged my head off the radiator.
I  can remember sliding down the wall of a rented cottage in the middle of a thunderstorm when the lightning fired up and down the electric cables and I woke up to find my spaniel standing over me like a puzzled nurse in the hall.
I didn't know that panic attacks vary. I assumed they were all the same.
I'm going to the opera twice next week. I will take my courage and sit in the middle of the row somewhere close to the front and it's always a big test because I'm much more likely to choke and run at a live performance. I cough and can't breathe, I can't drink water, it makes it worse. I have to try and take control of my breathing, close my eyes and envisage the road between Durham and Stanhope and breathe slowly in while sticking my stomach out and then out while pulling my stomach in.
When I do this the tears stream down my face. I had to stop wearing eye make up, it ended up all over my wet cheeks.  If the attack is really bad I have to get up and run out, which is why I sit in the middle of the row because if I bolt I've disturbed everybody, made a spectacle of myself and lost that evening's battle. And if I run out it makes the next occasion so much harder.
Worst of all is having a panic attack at home. Most people feel safe in their houses. That's Crawl Into Bed Time, the only good thing about it being that it might happen on a sunny afternoon, the bed all light and warm. That's my idea of safety and then I listen to my audio books and remember how to breathe again.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Gently in Durham

If I don't go out in the evenings I always work. Well, last night I was so fed up of trying to get on with the book which is due in July that I gave it up just after eight. I don't remember the last time I did this, I was surprised and rather upset that I could give in so easily but the die was cast when I remembered that Inspector Gently was at that very moment righting Durham's wrongs so I took my wine and went through into the  back room ( confusing, I know. I'm now like the old ladies who had parlours. I never sit in the front room unless somebody comes to call and I work in my little garden room where we eat whenever my kids come home so the back room is not much more than a television room where I huddle in bad weather because it's the only inside room in the house.)

However, I digress. Oh dear. I'm listening to so much Anthony Trollope in bed at night ( and even sometimes in the mornings) that I'm turning into him but whereas he could be as long winded as he liked and retain my interest, I don't have his talent and cannot expect you to bear with me forever so back to Gently.

When the Gently stories first came to television I was prepared to be entranced. They are set in my favourite area, Northumberland and Durham. I love this area to distraction, am terribly prejudiced about it, wondering why people can ever live in areas which I'm sure are just as beautiful as Durham but never quite convinced that they can be happy there.

I was confused from the beginning because I knew that the books were set in Norfolk. They are well written but old and cop shows change, well, at least some of them do and they vary a great deal and these days since I work at night ( see first paragraph ) I don't usually see them.

I do sometimes think I'm missing things and bought the first series of Game of Thrones a couple of weeks ago. I had read and enjoyed the first book but the second just didn't do it for me and I gave it up. Knowing that Sean Bean played Ned Stark I went out and bought the first series on DVD. Not a good move. People slaughtered all over the place, men guffawing about women they've slept with ( yawn, yawn)  and a beautiful dog about to have its throat cut. No, I thought, not amusing, and the dialogue, well, let's just say, Trollope aside, that I'm very picky about dialogue.

So, the first series of Gently was set in Durham, except that it wasn't. I kept trying to make out different places and couldn't and while the place looked absolutely stunning, a blind man in the middle of an Iowa cornfield couldn't have been so lost. It was set in Ireland. I think it must have been cheaper to do there but Norfolk, Ireland and Durham? Oh dear.

 And the accents, oh God. The really good thing about it was that, well - actually there were lots of good things about it. The acting was superb, the stories were wonderful and some of the humour - I've never forgotten the lassie ( and her accent was perfect, she must be local ) telling Inspector Gently that she'd set her dad on him if he didn't shut up. And his side kick. I was very upset to discover that this young man didn't come from Chester le Street. I could have handled if he came from Stockton or Consett but when I saw him in a chat show I thought, my God this lad really can act. Forgive me, I don't catch on to actors but this guy sounds like he was born and brought up in Gateshead.

Gently, of course, is southern posh and they haven't made him alter it. Poor Martin Shaw. He is now ill in the series and his face!! It looks like Brimham Rocks ( in Yorkshire. Yes, I know it isn't Durham but I like it ). Like Clint Eastwood, Martin Shaw doesn't have to say anything, his face does it all. I squirmed when they made him Judge John Deed and all the women fell for him, it distracted from the story. Sex, like everything else, works when it works. Here he is playing the guy who's trying to get justice for women. The fact that the story is set way back is very dispiriting in that we still haven't got anywhere with rape but at least he was making salient points and at least women got a bit of a voice. Rachel, I really liked. More please. It would be great if she became a major character.

One quibble, people in this area don't all sound like they come from Newcastle.

I loved the shots of Prebends Bridge, although, knowing the place so well I kept thinking, 'The train station isn't three miles away, it's just up the road'. You can know too much.  I did like the shots of the cathedral fellas, you can't better it anywhere and unlike Westminster Abbey, where I gather it's sixteen pounds to go in!!  Durham is free.
They do like you to contribute so please do. ( An aside. Ahem. )

Anyway, I didn't work and I got to slaver over my favourite places. I don't remember anything about the story, I was too busy wondering where the boathouse had gone to. It was thoroughly entertaining and I was convinced that all those people watching wished they lived in Durham so I got a lot out of it. Thanks, writers and actors, those lovely camera people  and everybody concerned and most of all shots of Denise Welch playing a madam. My God, I wish my legs looked as good as that.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

My heroes have always been Cowboys

When I was small I was a cowgirl. I had a wonderful black skirt with silver tassels, a black bolero, white bodice, a black hat and two silver guns with black holsters.
We had a big field at the back of our house, no doubt in the old days it was where the carriage horses grazed. When I was little the local scrap man grazed his horses there and we got to ride them, bareback mostly, hanging on to the reins like hell.
My favourite childhood television was cowboy films which I used to watch while my Dad dozed on Saturday afternoons by the fire. I loved John Wayne and later Clint Eastwood and best of all the Man from Laramie himself, James Stewart. The slow talking keen eyed man who rode out of camera shot at the end of the film, leaving the woman inconsolable behind him. John Wayne framed in the doorway, Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, surveying the cattle, his eyes narrowed against the sunlight.
I don't think I've ever forgiven my sister as a baby for screaming when I was trying to watch the Lone Ranger and Tonto. My Dad said that the Lone Ranger was on at the local Picture Palace so often that he stabled his horse there.
My favourite writer became Zane Grey. His descriptions of sunsets were still the best I've ever read. I longed to write a western. I knew there was no money in it but can quite honestly say, fool that I am, that the only time money has been my first priority was when I was a journalist and afterwards when I worked as a house journal editor. These days I wouldn't write a novel I wasn't being paid for but in the beginning I wrote because I loved it. I still love it.  I love the words coming up on my screen, I love my pens and notebooks and the ideas tumbling from my head. It's such a thrill but it's a hard thrill, writing fiction is heavy work but it isn't the same kind of work as many people have, on their feet toiling eight hours a day.
I did once write a cowboy book but when I sent it to my agent she laughed and said it was a saga in disguise.
I married a cowboy. He only once got on a horse and demanded to know where the gears were but he was a shootist, a forager, he manoeuvred for gain, bent the rules, traded, fished, built, set up endless business opportunities and was always surprising.
Now when I see James Stewart and John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance it reminds me of who I was in my childhood and early life. Somewhere out on the range all my cowboys are still there, recreated in the sagas that make up my fiction.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Ten things I hate and love because it will make me feel better to put them down here.

Like the film which is great but I hate

1. Those dreadful cheery letters people send you to tell you how wonderful their lives are. Liars.

2. Evenings. After Eggheads there is this big scary nothingness which I fill with work, wine and food. For some reason summers are worse than dark nights.

3. Quiz shows where I can never answer anything. Television, sport, personalities, popular songs. With the exception of football ( I wrote a book about it ), tennis and snooker both of which I really like. One other exception I love Eggheads.

4. Television generally, all those dreadful food programmes, reality programmes, dancing, morning news, the people who go around escaping to the country thinking they can keep a couple of sheep in the garden!!  And can afford an Aga but don't know how to use one.

5.  The country anyway, cyclists, tractors, caravans and weekend drivers. I love to go to Weardale but I couldn't bear not to live in the town.

6. People who use fuck instead of breathing or as an adjective.

7. People who think northern accents mean people are stupid or below them.

8. Sweets in general. Cakes, biscuits and cheese flavoured crisps.

9. Religion. It denigrates women.

10. People who tell those with depression to pull themselves together.

I love

1.The Champagne Bar and red wine and white wine.

2. Good homemade food, in particular soup, bread and Indian meals. This varies depending on how I feel.

3. My caravan, which of course is in the country, see number 5 on hating the country.

4. My lovely little town house which has original fireplaces and stained glass windows and is ten minutes walk from my beloved cathedral See 9 above, I love psalms, choirs singing, the dean who seems such a lovely bloke. I also love St Cuth's which is near and where I go to classical concerts, St Oswald's because it's so beautiful and I go to university orchestral concerts there and oh, yes thousands of other churches and graveyards and so on.For history and music.  And I love to write about religion because it's so complex and offers all manner of opportunities to slag off vicars. In the book which comes out in the summer the vicar is killed. Sorry but I really enjoyed this.

5. The herbs in my garden and all the other lovely things which Howard sorts out for me. I grow  basil on the window ledge and in the garden bay leaves, lemon balm, rosemary thyme, curly parsley. I adore lavender .

6. My friends of course. Whatever would I do without them. I can't name them, it wouldn't be polite.

7. Music, opera, ballet, anything by Chopin and the rest of the gang.

8. Anthony Trollope and everything he ever wrote.  Books, books, books. Fiction and non. Anything. I once read a book on sewage systems of Northumberland. Fascinating.

9. Audio books on Amazon which save my nights from despair.

10. Ceylon tea, Assam Tea, Darjeeling tea, Earl Grey tea.

Most of all of course I love my wonderful daughter and my writing in that order which of should go first and goes last and first and every other  number.

I feel a lot better now. Eggheads is on any second so I must go.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Elizabeth Gill, Author

I was talking on the phone to Trisha Ashley the other day and moaning about the fact that my books aren't selling as well as I would like them to  - do they ever? - and she said why don't you have an author page, what used to be called 'Facebook Fan Page'. No, honestly, I am not Madonna, I do not have fans, I have readers, at least I hope that somebody besides me is reading my books.
Now I took a test on Facebook three weeks ago to find out how techie I really am and it told me that I was first class. Either it tells everybody they are first class or I lied through my teeth and it  believed me. I set up this blog myself. This would account for the fact that since I went into Apple products I cannot upload photographs so all there is is the text and there are no bobbly bits around the edges like pictures of me or dates of whatever or, I don't know.
Stormfront guys set up official things, and my lovely techie man, George, set up everything else so what gave me the idea I could do an official page about my books I'm not quite sure.
I read about it, I wrote down about it and then I attempted it. At first it seemed easy and then I tried to  upload ( that is right isn't it?  I find it hard to tell the difference between up and down  except on stairs and very often these days I go up and down trying to remember what the hell I was doing there in the first place. Things are bad on my ageing planet. Yesterday I tried to reverse the car and couldn't find the clutch pedal and my mouth has a nasty habit of going into alien territory when I'm on the phone, trying to remember somebody's name or when I'm doing a crossword. I will not give up, I have a very reliable Crossword finding book or whatever you call it.
However, back to the Elizabeth Gill, Author problem. I did upload a pic of me, sitting there grinning Cheshire cat style. Unfortunately it uploaded the pic five times and could I hell get rid of it. There I am grinning from ear to ear everywhere you look with nothing and nobody in sight. I spent two hours uploading and getting rid of this pic and uploading and getting rid of the pic of my latest effort book wise but nothing happened. Every time I tried to delete one there was nothing but white space and so now there are five grinning pics of me on my would be Author page.
My friends know how bad I am at this. I can however type three times as fast anybody else I know and as my daughter pointed out last week I am a nice person. She has to say that, she's my only child and knows where the silver is.
Worst of all people seemed to notice, though I hadn't meant to inform anybody, that there I am alone except for myself on my Author page and people found out and have liked it. Are they secretly worrying about me, sitting there in all my glory, or do they just think 'Liz is being daft again' and the nicer ones forgive me. They know that I have no skill once I'm on a screen but hey I can't even remember how to tell people from Facebook and Twitter that I have written another blogpost so perhaps nobody will read it. I do like writing this though, I believe I'm funny. I don't believe I'm clever, I'm just trying to remember what I came upstairs for in the first place.
I shall now go tentatively to try and upload another pic of me so that when the odd person does politely want to view the page she may seen dozens of pics of little old me and thereafter have to go downstairs for some tea.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Mrs Gill's Book of Household Management ( or hints for merry widows)

If you are newly widowed you will be feeling anything but bloody merry. It took me twenty years to be glad I didn't have to iron shirts, produce homemade cakes or buy groceries for two. Actually the second part of that sentence is a lie. I never did produce homemade cakes and if his lordship tried to insist, I baked stuff that would have driven any decent man to a dentist. He was a lovely lad, my husband and had beautiful teeth so it was all a bit difficult really.
Firstly, seriously, don't try to do everything. If you can afford help get it. I have my lovely Howard to sort the garden, a window cleaner who needs nothing but a cup of tea, (two sugars), and recently a smashing lady to do my house. When she comes I go out and work and do research and eat lots of chocolate.
Last week I took myself to the Fat Buddha and had honey chilli chicken and a large glass of Chardonnay.
The other thing is and it took me a long time to sort this one out as well - don't try to be the perfect parent. Your kids will never work out that there is only one of you and that you are not there to solve their problems, prop up their bank accounts and listen to their moans when you have a) work to do, b) an excellent meal getting cold, or c) a glass of champagne which is rapidly warming. Train the little buggers not to phone in the middle of a decent film or a good conversation. When you die they will inherit everything unless you are peeing your knickers in a nursing home by then and in that case they put you there so don't deserve anything.
Secondly, or thirdly if you read the last paragraph, don't expect to marry Brad Pitt. Angelina Jolie was there before you.  I have just recently accepted this. To be fair nobody ever wanted to marry me and although I blamed God at the time I am quite relieved now. I won't be looking after any man in his dotage, won't ever have to watch sport, can lie in bed all day if I want to and have made a habit of chatting up young men in supermarkets. They don't seem to mind, since I am wearing a purple fur coat and a purple hat they know I'm dotty anyway.
I have recently gone back to cooking. It has taken me twenty six years. My kitchen now is full of the smells of good bread and chillies and ginger and garlic. My evenings are spent stirring things in pans and wondering where I put my second best wooden spoon. In between, I drink wine and do bits on my current book which I either think is the best thing since Anthony Trollope - yes, I do go on a lot about him, I know, but he is my favourite author - or is the biggest load of garbage in the history of writing and is too bad even to inhabit my bin.
Being widowed means you don't have to live in the country. I do love the country and spend a lot of time there but it can be very boring. There are no theatres, no cinemas, no cathedral. Awful really. Shops sell lemon yellow cardigans and have never heard of a chocolate croissant.The country roads are not just full of tractors, I can deal with the odd tractor, it's the bloody cyclists and I don't mean motor. Farmers spread muck on the fields and I can always find the odd sheep with a limp. The bends in the roads have spattered dead pheasants and run over moggies.
Nextly try not to drink coke. It's undignified at our age. Some people think it's better for you than alcohol. If you want to ruin your teeth with fizzy stuff go to Majestic wine and buy Chandon from Argentina. It's made by Moet and is the nearest thing you can get to champagne for thirteen quid. You have to buy two bottles of course but that's never been a problem for me.
Lastly, please don't talk about your grandchildren to people who don't have any. Either they wish they had or they are bored witless. It's bad enough them having to listen to me going on about how intelligent and charming and about to take on the whole world is my only child. She is, you know.
And lastly again, being widowed is awful, it's lonely, it's painful and nobody understands. Someone once described a widow as 'a bird with a broken wing'. Well, all I can say is 'up yours, mate!' Get out there, people and fly!!!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Lentil Shepherdess

During a visit to Durham cathedral yesterday I decided to have lunch. I hate the lunchtime boredom of sandwiches, soup and baked potatoes. Can there be anything more truly revolting than a baked potato with tuna in cheap mayonnaise? The only thing a baked potato should come with is lashings of good butter and sea salt.
At the cathedral they were offering shepherdess pie and I thought that would be lovely, nice and hot, tasty, for such a cold day so I queued, sat down and began to eat.
To be fair, I should have asked how it differed from shepherd's pie. Shepherd's pie has minced beef. Shepherdess pie has ... lentils??  Oh my God.  The vegetables were cold, the pie with nothing without its meat.
There are some terrible eating places in Durham. I don't know why. Is it something to do with tradition or is it just that nobody complains?
Bhs store takes the biscuit for this if you will pardon the pun. This cafe has the best view in Durham but the food is appalling. I go for the view and the staff who are lovely but all I ever eat there is hot buttered toast.
For decent chains we have Ask and Zizzi's so you know what you're getting.
Vennels do wonderful cake and the staff are lovely there too.
The best place for Sunday roast or fish and chips is my local, The Garden House Hotel in North Road and the chef prides himself on his wonderful puddings.
In summer I go to the Cellar Door where I can sit by the river and watch the sun go down. The food is great, the staff too.
The cafes in Durham tend to be dark and in old buildings which they can't do much about. The cafe beside the Barker library, in a gorgeous building on Palace Green does sandwiches without butter. No, I have no idea why either.
We are now being urged to eat 'real food' and to ignore what we have been told about eating too much fat. I think the culprit is sugar so I try not to go too far with it. A balance is always good but most of all I will not eat food which is not good for me or tastes bad.
Chez Liz is the best eating place in town now, the wine is superb because I choose it, the food exactly what I want because there's only me and anyway I hate cooking for other people. I feel like I'm putting myself on the line somehow and it takes the pleasure from it. I feel like Mary, from Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library, who was the vicar's maid of all work, slogging away in the bloody vicarage while the vicar's wife sat on her arse. No wonder Mary overcooked or undercooked all the food.
At Chez Liz there are no complaints. Even last week when the second night of had been an excellent chicken curry was cooked to buggery in the microwave. The Aromatic Yellow Basmati rice was a kind of puke slop.
One of these days when I am rich I shall go and live at Matfen Hall where the food is the best. Would I get tired of it?  Oh, please, Lord, give me the chance!  In the meanwhile the dinner at Chez Liz is leek, lemon and white wine risotto and has to be better than the shepherdess I ate at the cathedral.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Shopaholic becomes Chefaholic

I should put a sign outside saying Chez Liz. Having shopped myself stupid for the last few weeks in a bid not to be alcoholic of the year I finally got bored. Things went a bit further this week. I decided to cook.
No big decision, the rest of you think, but ah ha, I haven't cooked since I started living alone which is at least ten years. I do throw meat and veg into the oven, with olive oil and bring out charred remains when I remember it's there. I do a good line in Cheese and Garlic Bread as a main course. I gave up on fish when I could smell it three days after it left the pan. The exception is soup. I do a very good carrot soup.
This week on the menu has been the most wonderful daube of beef. Wine, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, tomatoes and thick strips of orange peel. Can't you just smell it?  I actually went out of the house so that I could come back in again and enjoy the scent which wafted through the hall. Unfortunately my stomach, wondering what in hell I was doing, thought the daube too rich and I suffered the following day.
Then it was the best risotto I have ever tasted, leeks and white wine ( you see I do get the wine in, even if the alcohol has gone off it by the time I eat ), bay leaves ( the bay tree in the garden has had a hammering this week )and lemons. I adore lemons. It was sublime.
The day after this it was charred asparagus with lemon, basil and spaghetti.
Last night I excelled myself. Lemony chicken with Fresh Coriander. I hate coriander but my garden supplies curly parsley which I chopped very small. There was ginger made into a paste, garlic, chilli ( red since I had no green ) cayenne, cumin and turmeric. To go with it I had Aromatic Yellow Rice which boasted cinnamon and yes, you guessed it, more bay leaves.
In between all this I've been having rosemary bread with salads for lunch. Not ordinary salads, vine ripe tomatoes, avocado with lemon oil, yellow and orange peppers and king prawns.  I haven't had king prawns since Kitty died. She used to hide them under the beds like squirrels hide nuts.
Best of all I did have to go shopping. I needed one of those little collections of spoons which give you a quarter of a teaspoon, half a teaspoon etc. And I discovered that the lady who has the fruit and veg at the covered in market in Market Place, does a good line in herbs. I urge you all to buy your goods at this market. It's cheaper than anywhere else, the people there are lovely and the watch man is mending a watch of mine which hasn't gone for years.
The fruit and veg lady must go somewhere really good for her produce because it lasts and lasts. Of course it isn't very warm in the covered in market which possibly accounts for some of this but I have been buying bunches of snowdrops there, two for £1-50 which are locally grown. On top of that you get the chat, everybody there is so nice, it's a blissful way of shopping.
Today - deep breaths here - I am making spelt bread. I don't need to make dinner, there is enough left over from last night. I went to Sainsburys and bought a big loaf tin and a stainless steel mixing bowl so if you happen by the smell should be incredible.
The only problem I have is that I make awful coffee. I could hit the Guinness book of records for the coffee I have made which people merely looked at. So no smell of coffee.
Kind regards to Madhur Jaffrey and the lovely people at hamlyn books who wrote the mediterranean collection which I bought from my local library last week for one pound. My afternoons no longer exist under the spell of Escape From the Country - Freudian slip there - and Antiques Road Trip. My couch is awash with cookery books. Elizabeth David move over, here I come.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Best Thing I Ever Wrote

The paperback of my book Far From My Father's House comes out on January 29th from Quercus. It is now available from Amazon as an ebook for 99p.

My agent still says this is the best book I ever wrote which is very frustrating because it means I'm not getting any better.  It was my second Saga and my new lovely publishers Quercus think it will sell in paperback. I do hope so. I chose the cover myself from a number of options because I think it looks like my mother and this book is partly about her.

She didn't like the book, she thought it misrepresented her and of course it did, it was my view of her early life and nobody can know what another's life is really like. She died fourteen years ago and by God, I miss her. She was beautiful, vital, dynamic and part of her is always there in the women in my books. The one I'm writing at the moment there my mother is, riding her horse down a beach into the water and being the outdoor person that I always wanted to be. I don't look like her, I don't think like her, on a good day I tell stories about her because it comforts me.

Annie is the main woman in the story, the man is David Blake. This was the first time I had made a man so important in my books, his voice is as complete as hers and the publishers have acknowledged it in that the audio will be read by a man in a northern voice. Oh joy!

I can't read some of the book because every time I look at it I want to cry. I used a great deal of my own experience. The funeral scene is my husband's funeral and what Blake goes through after it is the same hell that I went through when my husband died.  The nights where I never slept, the days when I didn't eat, the way that men would ask me casually if I wanted to go to bed with them, as though it was sex I missed and worst of all the awful loneliness which has never receded, raw and personal.

'Afterwards there was not a day in the rest of his life in which Blake could think about what happened without pain.'

That's me and that's why it's the best thing I ever wrote.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Alcoholic becomes shopaholic

My daughter sat me down over Christmas, when I had tonsillitis and was feeling weak, most unfair and she impressed upon me that I drink too much. I know, I know. I gave her all the explanations I could think of but it was no use. She was right. So I came home with the promise that I would cut down to half a bottle at night with a meal.
I'm sorry if this sounds pathetic. Don't read on if you are thinking 'what a stupid person'. On the plus side I thought it was my only addiction which is good because I have that sort of personality, unfortunate but true. I do everything I do to the nth degree. Very boring for other people, very boring for me as well but it's the way it goes.

I had antibiotics and didn't drink because I was quite ill before Christmas and that really would be stupid and then I thought, for God's sake, how ridiculous the whole thing is to let anything dictate your life to you but I can't bear the evenings. My dreadful empty evenings which I fill with work and food and wine. I know, I know, they say you should get out but my boredom threshold, part of my stupid depression, holds me in it so there are few things I can bear in the evenings. Every other time of day is manageable, evenings, forget it.

So there I am now, with my half bottle of wine stretching out until I go to bed and once there I can listen to stories and I like my bed, I'm happy there. The only thing now is I have much more energy in the mornings. Oh my God, I have turned into Tigger. I used to be Tigger quite a lot but life has ground me down. Here he comes again.  Boing!!  Boing!!  Boing!! Like bouncing on a mattress.

I get up and work at seven am, leaping out of bed to make tea first, I make soup at eight, I hit the shops at nine and boy, do I hit the shops. Yesterday I had to prise myself away from one of those cheese things that have mesh so that you can see the different kinds. This week I have bought sufficient groceries to keep an army going. I have rejected four different kinds of slipper boots which I do not need.  I have bought pyjama tops and pyjama bottoms - not matching, that's too easy. I have been to Sainsbury's as they opened and rifled through the sales there and I went to Next and bought a gorgeous new top in lots of different colours. I went to Wallis and Top Shop and Warehouse and then I went to Boots. I went to Marks and Spencer's twice and bought some very expensive make up. I bought six avocados at Tesco and special peppercorn sauce for my steak one night and my pork chop the next.
In Sainsbury's I kept the lovely young man who runs the fish bit of it in conversation for ten minutes - he had nothing else to do and was obviously impressed by my devotion to bream and sardines and trout, all fresh and all on special offer. I went home and finished off my already teaming freezer. I can get nothing more in there now, nor can I find anything. I don't even like fish!
I looked at shelf after shelf of wine because now that I am drinking less I am more discerning. If it's two glasses a night by God, it had better be good.
This is not a new year thing, I must say. I don't do new year things. I love food and drink. Giving up anything in January is nauseating so it isn't that kind of cutting down. My daughter wants me to live forever. I have tried to impress upon her that this is unlikely at best when my friends are being mown down by cancer all around me. I have already been wrecked by widowhood, being orphaned, had breast cancer, depression and swept aside my stupid family and most of the friends I liked very much but somehow couldn't manage.  I am ruthless that way but it's survival.
Today is Saturday and I have a plan. After breakfast, after making curried parsnip soup, I am going to Paperchase where the notebooks and the pens are on special offer, at least I hope they still are. I'm not walking into town, still a bit weak from blessed tonsillitis but I will take the car and wander the shops and wonder what else I can buy. I have rejected house buying, thankfully, I have a car and two new computers.  My garden has a new fence and my house a new coat of paint and my kitchen is less than two years old. I have walls covered in paintings and a wardrobe as big as John Lewis. I have bought furniture and tea towels. There are so many books in my caravan that the shelves are full. I have wonderful jewellery which my precious daughter buys me. Is there anything else?
Well, breakfast beckons now, soup has to be made and the shops are open. Can I get you anything while I'm there?  I know where everything is. You will recognise me. I'm the strange striped tiger rushing up and down the aisles, greeting everybody, smiling hugely, enthusiastic.
There is a lovely scene in the West Wing, one of my best ever favourite programmes, where the lovely president says to his sidekick something like, thinking of the economy, 'Would two weeks in the Caribbean have hurt you that much?' That's me, keeping the economy going single handedly. It's my duty to the country, getting and spending. Am I laying waste my hours? Should I be planning ahead? Or shall I just saunter into Paperchase and find all those notebooks. It's cheaper than cocaine, is shopping, it's better for you than smoking. It doesn't rot your liver like drinking and it doesn't expand your waistline like eating. So am I hoping for the best. See you in M&S.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Buried in Birmingham

This is a direct quote from Anthony Trollope's Can You Forgive Her.

'A woman needs only one husband and mine is buried in Birmingham'.

This from one lady - and I used the term well because this is Trollope and all his women are ladies, when is receiving a proposal.

The title of the book is awful. It gives me heart. His titles are all awful but his books are brilliant and his plots so good and so relevant to our lives that they are ready to be lifted wholesale by lesser mortals.
To say that Trollope was prolific is like saying that it rains a lot in Manchester.  I am downloading his books on to my kindle, mostly for nothing or just a few pennies but best of all I downloaded Timothy West reading Can You Forgive Her.  I thought eighteen pounds a lot of money for an audio book but it's wonderful!

I fell asleep yesterday afternoon listening to his gorgeous voice and when I woke up after two hours ( I don't usually sleep during the day, I've had tonsillitis for the past three weeks and it's very tiring ) he was thirty thousand words on and Alice was still trying to make up her mind whether to say yes to her suitor, her cousin, George. I was so pleased I hadn't missed anything and yet I knew that I would be able to listen over and over again to the intricacies and I would enjoy each word.

Trollope does all those things which writers aren't meant to do. I don't know whether he just ignored such things but apparently Henry James didn't like Trollope's authorial intrusion. It's something I do myself and nobody's ever objected. It makes the story more intimate somehow rather than the other way about. Also unlike most other male writers, his women are incredible, so well drawn, so likeable, so funny on occasion, so wise as they consider and solve the problems which the writer sets before them. They are the best I have ever seen any writer tackle. Dickens pales beside him. A lot modern day male writers could learn a great deal from him.
He tells you what he's doing so that you don't get lost in the deep intricacies of his plots.  It's like gossip. It's all so delicious.

If you are new to Trollope I can't advise you better than to say download the audio of Barchester Towers. BBC Radio, God love them, presented this in play like form several years ago and it is funny, clever and highly entertaining, written apparently after a visit to Gloucester cathedral. The Warden was his first successful book.  Mr Harding, who is the warden of the hospital is possibly the loveliest character I have ever met and his two daughters are fascinating.

Part of Can you Forgive Her is set in the lakes, places I recognise and love, Penrith, Shap. Alice and Kate, the two main female characters go for long walks where their grandfather owns an estate and you feel as if you are there with them.
One of his characters, Mr Bot ( or possibly Bott, I haven't seen it written down yet ) is so awful and so aptly named. His names his characters for their characters very often. Mr Bot is from Manchester, a politician and monstrous tedious. Oh dear, I fear I have turned into Alice or Kate in my speech, strong, intelligent, honest women, they make their way through society disadvantaged in the ways that women were then, excluded from professions, sitting in the drawing room, finding husbands or not to the detriment of their futures, being kind to impossible men such as Alice's cousin George, who is Kate's dearly beloved brother. I fear that Kate betrays her cousin because of George. Alas.
This book is the first of the Pallisers, known as the Parliamentary novels. Trollope's books tend to follow his desires  and his lifestyle and he very much wanted to be come a politician. Early on he worked for the post office in Ireland and his first novels are set there.
I am so glad that I found Anthony Trollope. He wrote so much and I love all of it so far. I am reading Lady Anna, whose mother married a lord and then found out he was already married. What problems follow this!

So for 2015 I'm going to fill my reading time with Trollope and delight in the entertainment he gives me and learn about fictional relationships from him. And indulge in his plots which are like a good television series. I shall wait impatiently for the next exciting instalment.