Hello there from Devon! I have Charlie here, but I've neglected to take a picture of him in an interesting situation, so you get a black swan, instead. The black swans are a feature of Dawlish, where we're staying, but they seem particularly appropriate as the Duke of Ithorne's ship is the Black Swan, and the Kentish inn he and his friends use for secretive communication is also named that. There's a reason, but I'll explain that sometime next year.
Now, The Secret Wedding is the book of the moment. It's a bit odd to be over here when it will soon be on the shelves over there, but I'll be back by the official pub date. Excellent reviews are coming in. Booklist called it, “A top-notch tale of romantic suspense.” I wouldn't quite call it suspense myself, though there is a mystery. It's more a romantic adventure with a strong dose of romp. I love a good romp. Anyway, I hope you'll all rush out and buy it, and even more importantly, enjoy it!
If you'd like to read an excerpt or two, go here.
I was hoping to have done my research trip to Glastonbury by the time I was writing this blog, but that's for next week. What we have been doing is exploring the coast for places we'd like to live, and living a regular routine life instead of zipping around all our friends.
We were tested a bit to begin with by the weather, which followed weather lore precisely. March, it is said, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. So our first week was overcast with frequent rainy periods and occasional heavy rain and strong winds. But then the lion slunk away and the lamb frolicked in and we've had mostly sunshine and warmish temperatures. It's nice to know some things still follow the rules! April, of course, brings “April showers” which in particular are light rain while it is sunny. I remember on one visit when we were crossing high land, probably in Yorkshire, having an April shower of snow! Snow in sunshine is pretty.
English country birdsong is a beauty all its own. I try in my books to remember birdsong as background, because I know what a strong part of country ambience it is, but it's often an intellectual exercise. Being here refreshes the memory, but I need to relearn the bird songs to identify them. There are wood pigeons here -- I'm pretty sure that's what they are -- and their distinctive cooing is often a country background. I haven't heard any crows, however, or cuckoos. Such a variety of song birds, however, some exquisite.
There are places around the web with recording of English birdsongs, both individually and in chorus (I think I pointed to some a while back.) If you're a writer, I do recommend exploring them to get the feel for what your characters will be experiencing in a garden or woodland area. Of course now it's spring the chorus is particularly rich as the birds attract mates and mark territory.
I haven't hit a large bookstore yet (hard to find around here, actually)but in the local ones there's sometimes a section for Mills and Boon (sister to Harlequin/Sihouette) but anything we might think of as single title romance is in with general fiction. This probably helps individual authors to sell beyond genre, but it might hold back sales of others. I don't know. I do know that I was delighted by one vertical section in the local W H Smiths. It was labeled “Poetry and Mills and Boon.”
I was also charmed by one TV screen. There are the basic channels here, the BBC ones all being paid for by the TV licence that everyone with a TV pays, and then many others. As I clicked through the channels on the first night, the screen went blank and then showed “text message.” A moment later, it informed me “Yesterday will return tomorrow at 6 am.”
I felt obliged to sit and meditate on that for a while. :)
(Apparently Yesterday is the History Channel.)
I'm enjoying the papers, too. How does anyone get anything done when there's a large and complex national paper to read -- and such a choice of them. Today's Telegraph had a little essay on the letter Z. Zed here, from the Greek, but taken to the New World as zee. Apparently older names for the letter were izzard, zad, and ezod. So X, Y, Izzard to you!
I meant to write more about historical places, but most towns along the coast here were so overhauled as seaside resorts in the Victorian and early 20th century that history has been occluded, plus before George III made sea air and bathing and this stretch of coast famous, they were mostly tiny fishing villages of no great significance. But there's a picture of some old Dawlish buildings which are probably not superficially different from Regency times.
We have visited Lyme Regis, of Jane Austen fame, which is a delightful small town of 3,000. That's a row of seafront Georgian houses. Of course Jane Austen visited, and then used it in Persuasion. Here's some history of Lyme Regis.
Brixham, a small port still full of character, and where a replica of Drake's Golden Hind can be visited. You can find more here.
Brixham is totally charming, but rather isolated.
That might seem strange in crowded England, but getting to places from them can be a bit difficult. Devon is known for its narrow roads, which are often single lane with skimpy passing places. Even the double lane roads are windy and hilly, and easily congested. It took us ages to get into and out of Brixham, and this was in March. I dread to think what it's like in summer! Lovely in one way as it has probably preserved the town's character, but I'm not sure I'd like to feel challenged if I wanted to drive off to visit friends, get medical treatment above the basic, or even to visit some shops of any size.
There's Brixham on your left.
Another thing about coastal Devon is that it keeps you fit. It's all hills!