Avalanche – words complete!

It’s been a wonderful experience. Here’s to the next adventure!


Um, you remember that last post I wrote, about a week ago? The one where I said I was co-writing a book?


Yes, I am rather excited. The Case of the Black Tulip(s) – still haven’t decided how many tulips there will be – is a THING!

Here are some stats:

  • From start to finish, the first draft took us 20 days
  • The draft is 27 chapters and just over 54,000 words long (we aimed for 50-55K so that’s great)
  • My co-author Paula Harmon wrote 14 chapters (she did the first and last) and I did 13. We alternated throughout
  • The last chapter sets things up VERY nicely for book 2…
  • My biscuit and crisp consumption has been remarkably low, considering. I have eaten 2 caramel wafers, NO Viscounts (even though I have some in) and NO crisps in the course of writing! Then again, I’ve…

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A link to “Chickens Eat Pasta” – Claire Pedrick the Author is raising money for the fund for the Earthquake in Central Italy


“Chickens Eat Pasta” is an excellent book which I thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes books about settling in a different culture and about community and love.

The author is donating one month’s royalties to the to the fund for the earthquake that struck her part of central Italy a few days ago.

And in tribute to Amatrice, which was almost demolished along with tragic loss of life, here again is a post from her blog about this beautiful mountain town’s symbolic dish, bucatini all’amatriciana, and the role it played in her own story in Italy.  Please click on the link or visit:






After William abandoned my bed, night tormented me. First sleeplessness, then nightmare possessed me: a driver-less carriage, raced in dimming light or terrifying images whirled insanely. When day came, I was too exhausted to rise.

In a distant pharmacy, candles struggled against the oak interior and the fog pressing against the window. The chemist listened, his features changing in the flickering light. Eventually, he made me a draught.

“Follow the dosage closely,” he advised.

It didn’t work. So I doubled the amount and fell into a nightmare-filled sleep, waking past midnight. To my terror, through a faint miasma, I saw a man closing a bag at the foot of the bed. He went to draw breath but then saw me watching. Frowning, he sprang for the door and passed through without opening it.

Despite my fear and hampered by my nightgown I followed him. He passed through the closed front door as I reached the bottom stair. While I hesitated, the door opened, William came in and the clock struck one.

“Amelia!” he exclaimed.

“I thought I heard an intruder,” I answered, “Where have you been?”

“You’ve been dreaming,” he answered, bolting the door. “Go back to bed.”

The following evening I increased the dose. No nightmares but little sleep. Night after night the same.

It was unbearable. I took to walking the streets in William’s clothes.

Another world: gas light, unknown others, unknown business, smoke, dung, tobacco, alcohol, sweat. Painted women: unobserved, lolling; observed, enticing. If rejected, they slumped. If chosen, fear under painted smiles.

Then I saw my intruder again. Carrying his bag, he sprang up steps, disappeared through closed doors and reappeared, his bag lighter, his grin broader. He bounced past the tawdry women, past the slithering men. Visible only to me.

Then I caught him.

“Who are you?” I whispered.

“I am Nightmare,” he hissed. Something fell from his bag as he wrenched free. It rolled towards a tramp sleeping in a doorway and broke open, engulfing him in a glistening miasma. The tramp started to twitch and then screamed himself awake.

After that, I stayed at home.

Then last night I awoke with foreboding. I crept to my husband’s room and found him asleep. Nightmare stood at the foot of the bed, opening his bag and leering.

Once, William had loved me and I slept in his arms. I still loved him. I rushed at Nightmare and tried to shut the bag but he fought me. The bag burst open and its contents crashed down onto William, exploding as they struck him.

William sat up, his eyes opened wide. Whatever he saw made him flail and his mouth opened in a soundless scream before he fell back, horror still frozen on his lifeless face.

Nightmare threw his head back and smiling, breathed the miasma in. Then he disappeared.

The doctor says it was a stroke.

But all I can hear is Nightmare hissing as he left: “you did that” and know I will never sleep again.

night mare

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

Over the Bridge

It’s a slow amble down the slope.

The railings on either side are a little wonky. One set appears to be held up by brambles and on the edge bordering the big green field with the sad horse tethered in his small brown circle, the railings slope idly as if no-one ever told them to stand up straight. They were painted black once, but now they’re dull rust colour. You can taste the iron just by looking at them. Right at the end, just before the bridge the bars have been bent apart so that someone small can squeeze through.

The start of the bridge is overhung with trees.  Trees overhang the river on both sides. The railings of the bridge are still black, mostly, and the paint is smooth and lumpy under my hands as I look over.

Upstream, the river curves away but the depths still sparkle under the trees and little droplets of light and dust shine and spin and dart – appearing and disappearing. The water is darkest as it disappears around the bend but the spots of sunshine on the waves and in the air make it friendly and welcoming. I open my mouth to speak to the flashes of brightness but find I am dumb.

Turning, I look over the other side of the bridge. You can see further downstream and it is not so overhung. For a few metres, the water runs swiftly, weed straggling with the flow. Deceptively it plays over hidden deeps and stony shallows.  It will speed up and deepen as it bends away, as it nears the waterfall at the other end, before it pours out into the bigger river and on to the sea.

The black bars of the bridge are hot under my hands, even under the trees and when I step on the bottom bar with my feet between the balusters so that I can lean over, the metal is hot on my toes as well.

Just out from under the bridge is a small sandbank, dry enough to stand on. A little girl is there alone, crouched down, intently staring at something. She is around nine and her feet in white sandals are planted firmly on the edge of the lapping water. Her cotton dress is short and floral and her brown hair is clipped back from a face which is turned from me. She is carefully picking out stones and examining them. A little pile has built up and I can see that some are smooth and pretty and some are like black glass, jagged and sparkly. After a while, she stops picking out stones and just hunches, elbows on her knees, chin on her hands, staring into the water. It is shallow enough here for her to make out all the little lives going about their business in the lee of the main flow. Sometimes, she looks upstream and downstream and then returns to her observations or her foraging.

If she has any doubts and fears, it seems they are forgotten. Now she appears totally content and safe and full of hope and peacefully alone.

In a while, she will go home, taking some of her finds; she will say goodbye to the river and the sparkling lights who listen to her secrets and her worries; she will take one last look at the nymph, busily marching round its underwater kingdom and hope that she will be there when it emerges and transforms.

I look at her and wish I could remember the words the river understands, wish I knew how to find the pretty stones, still feel sad that the next time she comes the nymph will be gone and a myriad dragonflies will fly around but none will recognise her.

If she looks up, she will not see me because I do not exist yet. She will see nothing but a bridge, going home in one direction and going away from home in another.

She will grow up and stop visiting the sand bank. Some of her worries will come true and others won’t. She will forget how to talk to the wild, but the wild will not forget how to speak to her.

The river will flow on, the waterfall will carry her away, the big river will swallow her up, the sea will engulf her, but she will be all right. In the end, she will be all right. The light sparkling under the trees will always be there.  She will be all right.


Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

BOOK REVIEW: Chickens Eat Pasta by Clare Pedrick

How often do you look out of the window when everything is going wrong and wish you could start all over again? And then you sigh and decide it’s impossible and you’ll just have to keep on going.

At 26, Clare Pedrick was a successful Sussex journalist with plans for a career in London. But the death of her parents and the end of a long term relationship left her wondering if that was enough anymore. When she saw an advert for a “house for sale in Umbria”, Clare started on a journey which would lead her to resigning from her job and buying an old house in a small village in Italy, against the advice of friends, family and colleagues.
“Chickens Eat Pasta” is a wonderful book. Clare’s love of Italy and the new friends she makes there fill the pages with warmth. The author skilfully demonstrates some of the culture clashes between British and Italian cuisine and customs, but unlike some similar books, there is no sense that the author feels either superior or inferior to her new compatriots. You can sense that real, lasting friendships were formed while Clare learned to fit into her new surroundings without relinquishing her own personality.

In this book, Clare interweaves love stories, her own and those of others around her, locals and ex pats, funny and tragic with the constant thread of her love affair with her new home -the purchase and renovation of the house which “towered imposingly from its position on a knoll overlooking an endless vista of hills and valleys”. She describes how her new friends help protect her against bureaucracy and menace and how she manages against technological odds, to continue her journalistic career in a different way.

I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who loves travel, humour and a little romance. For anyone who is looking out of that window and wondering what would happen if you started again – this book shows how it worked out for one woman brave enough to find out.

Clare’s book can be found by following this link 

http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=3313FRONT COVER IN JPG

The Wanderers

Do they wander do you suppose? Books I mean.

Every couple of years I herd them up from the four corners of the house, sort them out, put them into some sort of order so that I know where they are (a few are lassoed and corralled for the charity shops). Then I try to work out how “Eastern Vegetarian Cooking” came to be nestling between “Travels in Tartary” and “The Marriage Proposal” up in the spare room where the shelves are mostly filled with thrillers (and the odd random school report hastily shoved on the shelf when visitors come).

The cookbook should be in the kitchen, still pressing petals from my first bouquet (many many years ago, the giver lost to the turbulent waters of teenage past). “Travels” should be close by “Notes from a Small Island” in the travel/autobiography area in the hall and “The Marriage Proposal” should be with the novels by authors names at the end of the alphabet in our bedroom.

Do you think it’s because I’ve never cooked from the cookbook? It’s far too complicated, and I’m not a vegetarian.

And “Travels in Tartary” is an old book, very old, bought by my father in some dusty secondhand shop, maybe the one in Salubrious Passage many years ago. It makes me think of Dad – travels in the wild, unkempt parts of the world being absorbed by a comfortable plump man who didn’t like to be too far from a decent cup of coffee and a three course meal. I keep meaning to read it too, but never quite get round to it.

So do you suppose the unread ones move about when we’re not watching?

Maybe they get bored with the company of their own kind. Perhaps Tartary said to himself: “Just because I’m a travel book, am I only allowed to hob-nob with travel books?” and decided to broaden his horizons? Perhaps on his travels he found a restless cookbook, clutching her petals in her pages and together they braved the stairs to discover the wild world of the spare room bookshelves with their murder and espionage and dark deeds. And at the door, they found a cosy novel about love who wanted a bit of excitement and together they… no that’s ridiculous. How can books wander?

Only where is the one I’m looking for now? It is another cookbook which I’ve never cooked from (mainly to avoid an early death from coronary heart failure.) Where would it go?

Any ideas? If you were a cookbook of recipes from the Southern States of the USA (lots of frying). Who would you want to hang out with?IMG_0820

Copyright 2015 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission