Did you miss me?

I expect not. Though now you’ve had this reminder perhaps it’s occurred to you that it’s been a while since I posted.

Don’t fetch your cuppa, though. This is merely a stopgap. Not a fully fledged rant, nor a eulogy, nor reminiscence.

I just wanted to confirm that I’m still around. (I worry about bloggers who vanish – sometimes the reason’s not welcome.)

So, here I am. Still writing, just not writing blog posts. Because I’ve started a new writing project. And it’s diverted me from everything else.

It’s a sort of voyage of discovery.

Revealing a bizarre, interconnected world. One that’s been there all along, I just haven’t noticed.

Like one of those colouring books we had as children – you dip your brush in your jam jar of water, paint the empty page and – ooh!

One minute there’s nothing, next there’s a picture. Magic.

Although I’ve been out and about (a post with pictures soon, perhaps) I’m restricting myself, this time, to my own small patch of territory.

Looking in. And up. And around. And liking it.

Because so much of what’s going on out there, in our crazy, war-torn, unpredictable world, is way beyond my comprehension.  And I won’t let it drive me to despair.

No doubt it will impinge, though, the messy human world – and the rants and the eulogies will resume.

Of course, if the other project fizzles out too soon, then you might just find that here.

In instalments.

It’s not just the world that can be unpredictable.



Posted in Thinking, or ranting, or both | Tagged | 16 Comments

And Charlotte sighs

Reality is fickle.

The day is warm, the breeze light to non-existent. Technology tells us we’ve arrived at our destination. But technology is wrong, bamboozled by forces beyond its ken.

A woman with bright red lipstick, walking a dog, stops and bends to my open widow.

‘Are you lost, love?’

Turn around in the cul de sac. Back the way we came. Turn right past the Cenotaph. Then follow the signs. To Wykoller.

Behind us, a view I don’t see as very ‘Brontë’. Pendle Hill, made infamous by the 17th century Lancashire witch trials

Now this, the other side, is more of a Bronte view, don't you think?

Now this, the other side, is more of a Bronte view, don’t you think?

Odd, that. The signs not looking our way. Showing their faces only to those who’ve reached the end – and not found it. Weeding out the faint-hearted.

The large car park is mostly empty. Clumps of tough grass have breached the pale grey crust of ageing tarmac. Reclamation by nature is well underway.

A path descends to the village, separated from the road by a dry stone wall. Separated from the fields by – a dry stone wall.

Nettles, dull breeding grounds for gorgeous butterflies, reach out for careless fingers to sting.

Hawthorn berries are still bitter green, with a tinge of ripening russet.

And there, a wild rose grows, fragile and pink. ‘Charlotte’s rose’, for me, evermore.

I can’t resist. Out with the camera.  A picture, just because.

The wind picks up. Blossom, leaves, stem all dance to its tune.

I wait. But it’s no good.

I put the camera away. And the wind abates.

Oh, well. I shrug and we walk on down the hill. But there’s another Charlotte’s rose.

Out with the camera, again.

In the stillness of middle day, a mischievous wind arises. I give up, with another shrug. Put the camera back in hiding.

WP_20160716_15_09_27_ProAn ancient bridge, a ford, a stream. That tea brown, shallow water. Has it flowed down here from Brontë Falls?

A cloud of midges, riding a sunbeam, dithers over the opposite bank.

And there, beyond the trees, across the ford, over the bridge and tea brown water, it is: the ruin.

‘Last night I dreamt I went to …’?

No, not that one.

Perhaps it’s the empty shell, the fire-blackened ruin that signified doom – and liberation – for Mr Rochester?


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It isn’t.

But the house that now lies desolate, in ruins, was, they say, the model for ‘Ferndean’. The house in which they lived, dear reader, after she married him. Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester.

The path across the bridge is worn deep into ruts by the passing of many feet.

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Trees encroach upon the old hall. A heroic fireplace stands proud in the empty, roofless chamber. Children scramble on the ‘do not climb’ masonry.

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An air of tranquillity – and, perhaps, resignation – permeates the one-time home.

Recklessly lost by a gambler, part ruined, used as a hunting lodge. But never, it would seem, a truly happy place.

A barn contains displays, the history of the hall’s building and decay. The local village’s rise to prosperity thanks to weavers of wool, its decline thanks to the steam-powered looms.

A lone volunteer wipes the bat dung from benches.

‘They eat the midges,’ she says.

Those tiny insects with their insidious bites, not felt till after – and then long after.

‘A midge of a woman…’ says a gossip, of Jane Eyre. Words put into his mouth by Charlotte as the stranger describes Jane, incognito, to herself.

The one-time governess is now an heiress, of independent means. Returning, seeking news of Mr Rochester. Not knowing what she might find.

But what a miserable description. In so many ways.

A midge of a woman.

Was this Charlotte, using the voice of a fictional stranger, to describe how she thought others saw her? I wonder. I’m sure some scholar knows.

Midges aside, the tiny village around the hall is charming, but offers few amenities. A tea room, though, is one.

Inside, a small gift shop sells spells, potions and incantations. We are after all on the trail of those poor maligned creatures, the Lancashire witches.

Despite the dark interior, the place feels good. Homely. Welcoming.WP_20160716_15_14_32_Pro

We order giant crumpets with Lancashire cheese. And tea.

Outside again, we stroll over the bridge, gaze up the path to Haworth. Nine miles too far away.

We head back up the hill.


The green of a damp valley




Summer in Lancashire….



The camera’s in my hand when another pale pink Charlotte’s rose entices me to stop.

As I point the lens, the wind rustles through the undergrowth and the roses shudder.

Charlotte doesn’t want her roses captured. It’s her sigh from beyond the grave, this gentle wind.

No, I don’t really think she’s here and haunting. But there may be some lingering magic.

After all, it is a hidden valley.

And, possibly, bewitched.

Witch way?

Witch way?

The whole Wykoller area, its landscape and the village’s treasures, are one more thing under threat thanks to ‘austerity’ measures, in this case cuts to local council funding, in Britain. Lancashire County Council has to find a new guardian for the house, barn, car parks and landscape by 2018. The cuts are already biting :

Notice in one of the car parks

Notice in one of the car parks

Posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Flying down to Rio Part III. A Beetle, Jesus and crabs

By the sink in my bathroom sits a small paper bag containing pills. Lomotil, they’re called.  A gift from an American colleague’s wife.

Thanks to them, I no longer need to visit the bathroom several times a night, every night. But the bugs are still sticking pins in my abdomen.

I would eat something different for dinner, but beef’s really all there is. And if it’s the caipirinhas – well, forget it. I need the stress relief.

Yes, I know, I’m in Rio, but it’s no holiday. Most days I’m out at the swamp  – sorry, exhibition centre – well before 7 am, ready for another day brimming with challenges.

Today, Sandra has a meeting in town, so I’m default driver. The Americans with us don’t like ‘stick-shifts’, I’m told. But, unlike me, the poor American chap in the passenger seat, does drive on the right …

‘Watch out!’ He yells. But it’s too late.

Taxi drivers gather. Someone winkles me out, reverses the car into the hotel car park.

The almighty bang that shot me sideways – yes, I was wearing my seat belt – hasn’t done any permanent damage to me. Just to the Beetle. But my already fragile morale shatters into a thousand pieces the moment the sympathy starts.

Tears flow like British summer rain. My shoulder hurts a bit, but my ego hurts a lot.

And it gets worse.

  1. I wasn’t insured to drive the Beetle (I didn’t know).
  2. Accidents have to be reported, in person, by the driver, at the police offices.
  3. A vast pool of witnesses saw me drive out into the traffic looking the wrong way.


  1. I’m just a British female. Not a memorable, girl-from-Ipanema female.
  2. Sandra has the same colour hair as me.

Sandra queues, reports the accident. Saves my bacon.

Which is yet another reason why, sitting around the pool on a welcome Sunday off, I’m staring at her in admiration.

She’s so cool, so calm, so – different from me. And she’s organised a visit from a gem dealer.

I gawp at emeralds.  She buys them.

I gave my mum the teardrop shaped one, she never had it mounted. A jeweller in Shaftesbury, Dorset, turned the triangular one into a silver ring which became known as 'the ring of power'. Worn at important meetings, it was supposed to boost my confidence.

I gave my mum the teardrop shaped one, she never had it mounted. A jeweller in Shaftesbury, Dorset, turned the triangular one into a silver ring which became known as ‘the ring of power’. Worn at important meetings, it was supposed to boost my confidence.

I buy some pretty smoky quartz. Beautifully cut (I’m told). And cheap.

I thought I threw this away last year, but apparently not! Sentimental fool am I...

I thought I threw this away last year, but apparently not! Sentimental fool am I…

We visit a hippy market. I buy a sarong made of coarse, tie-dyed cotton.

It makes me feel better  around the pool (yes, I followed Sandra’s lead,  started wearing heels, but heels don’t hide thighs.)

I also buy a wooden sculpture of Jesus.


I think it’s the sun.

Or gratitude.

Or maybe the shock, lingering.


One thing at least is working out well. What with running around the site, the tummy bug and dawn swims, I’ve lost a load of weight.

Guys at the exhibition are chatting me up. One’s rather nice.

I accept an invitation to dinner. At a very smart restaurant. Top floor of a tower, view of a world-famous beach at dusk.

Pudding comes with a sparkler – I’ve never seen anything like it.

But then I make a big mistake. I go back with him to his hotel.

I know, I know!  It sounds stupid. But it’s still early, where else are we going to go? And every night we all congregate at our hotels, so it seems quite normal…

It’s a really bad idea.

Suffice it to say he’s expecting payback for the fancy meal. Doesn’t get it. Sends me back across Rio, alone, in a taxi.

Apparently no-one sends foreign females home alone in taxis. But I survive.

[Look into the crystal ball: his boss tells him off for his presumption. Back home, he takes me out. He’s a cute little chap with a cute little sports car, but, actually, not my type. The End.]

On safer ground, I make a new female friend, from the Boston office. Let’s call her Betsy.

We get on really well. So well, she confides something really very personal.

I wish she hadn’t.

You see, I’ve had quite a sheltered upbringing.

Apart from a girl who lived across the corridor from me at university, who barged in one day telling me she’d ‘got the clap’ (and her boyfriend telling me what the doctor did to him), I’m not really familiar with what they call venereal disease. Or in this case, not disease, but – well, not to hedge around it any more – crabs.

There, I’ve said it.

I didn’t know about crabs. Now I do.

Anyway, Betsy has had the treatment and now she’s clean. Or whatever you say when you no longer have crabs.

She helps me buy some shoes – mine don’t let enough air circulate round my purple feet, apparently. I find a pair of with just enough leather strapping to hold high-heeled wooden soles to my toes.

The extra height makes up for the ignominy of flaky violet feet. And they come in useful when we fly back to Boston.

Betsy invites me to stay at her upside-down house on a river.  I have no casual clothes, so borrow a pair of jeans. Betsy’s taller than me and the new shoes compensate for my shorter legs.

We go shopping. Eat lobster. Have a riot.

I sleep upstairs, on the sofabed.

Day three, her jeans lying on the floor beside my bed, I hear a wail coming from the bathroom.


The crabs are back. And I’ve been wearing her trousers.

You know what imagination does. Just think about nits and wait for your scalp to itch.

But by the time I’m back in London, when it’s plain I escaped the wee beasties, something else is amiss.

I wake every night, sweating and cold.  Have no appetite. My doctor diagnoses exhaustion – and possibly malaria. Gives me two weeks off work.

My editor in Boston thinks I’m malingering. He wasn’t there, doesn’t know how bad it was.

Soon, it doesn’t matter what he thinks. Those nice folks from Philips, the ones I met in Rio, invite me out to play. Offer me a job in the Netherlands.

The legacy of Rio?

Always expect the unexpected. Who knows, it just might happen.

Or, in the happy case of the crabs, it might not.

smoky quartz sequence





Posted in Travelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments