....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Friday, 31 August 2012

Lindy Hop in London

Okay, so I admit it, I am obsessed with dancing at present. My latest tryout was Lindy Hop. Said to have originated in Harlem during the Jazz era it was popularised by Hollywood (here's a short history from Wikipedia). I've heard of this dance so many times but have shied away mainly because learning a new dance is thoroughly daunting. You just know there's going to be that horrid bit where you look like a an elephant in a tutu with a great big sign, 'learner dancer' strapped to your wobbly behind. Well, not exactly, but that's how it feels. Then there's the other yikes bit where you sit in the corner hoping, just hoping that someone might come and ask you to dance. Well, now that I am a lady of a certain age I've got to the point where I swallow my inhibitions and just go and grab someone myself. I was told by a very nice guy last night that he appreciates being asked so that made me feel better. The two of us hopped and jumped (sadly due to my inexperience, not at the same time) but had a nice chat too - dancing is so civilised and such fun. He goes to lindy hop because of the music. If you want a taste of what lindy hop is all about, check out this you tube video I defy you not to smile while you're watching this. All the moves in hold are lindy hop. The thing I like about this video is it shows that this sort of dance goes on all over the city, off back streets, behind ordinary residential homes people are just out there having fun, keeping fit, meeting each other and enjoying themselves. Dancing is a great antidote to all the negative stories in newspapers. It's also fantastic for beating writers' bottom. Needless to say, I shall be out dancing again tonight - this time up in South Kensington at a nice, easy ceroc do.... PS the photo above is of my daughter dancing with last night's most fabulous dancer, she was great at it although she didn't think so (she doesn't read my blog so I'm safe posting it!)

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Big Blitz Jive - dancing in London

I have just found the Big Blitz Jive happening at the National Army Museum in Chelsea on 22 September 2012 and booked two tickets. It sounds like a fabulous evening. This quote from London Drum gives you a flavour of what's happening. "Swing and jive to the sounds of the big band in an authentic 40s-style dance night at the National Army Museum. Ladies can get themselves made-up at the 1940s make-up stand, and gents can treat their girl to a sepia-toned souvenir photo. So get your dancing shoes on, defy uncle Adolf and party through the Blitz!" So, we'll all be going a bit Betty Grable
and a tiny bit Veronica Lake! Believe it or not, there is some relevance here to writing which is what I spend most of my spare time at if I'm not dancing. This period is very popular in fiction. My own mother who is 91 now lived through the Blitz and I hope to do some blog posts in the future of her reminiscences of the war years. People pulled together and partied. It must have been extraordinary so it is no wonder it features in so many books and films even now. My own book, a romance set in the present day, The Sanctuary can be bought by clicking this link.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Dancing in London

I have, after a bit of a break, taken up dancing again. London is one of the best cities in the world to dance. Partly because hidden away in the South of my lovely city is the fabulous Rivoli Ballroom. The Rivoli shines like a twinkling diamond in the pile of dust and crowded dwellings that is South London. In the otherwise unremarkable area of Brockley you can spot guys and gals on a Saturday night in 40s and 50s gear sweating out on the street trying to recover from their exertions. Buy yourself a ticket for a mere £15 and hear a live Big Band, get a lesson (beginners VERY welcome) and then dance until you drop till 1am in the morning.
Built in 1913 as a picture palace, The Rivoli is one of the few dance halls in London with original 1950s decor. The dancers, especially on Jive Night go all out to recreate the fashions and hairstyles of an era which feels like it wants to have fun, fun, fun. You could easily imagine Diana Dors sashaying in on the arm of one of her gangster boyfriends. I love it, go on, don't be shy, give it a go! Here's where you can find out more about the Rivoli h ttp://www.therivoli.co.uk/

Friday, 17 August 2012

Free book download...... but look away if you are of a sensitive nature

Hi Independent publishing has always been tough. But, we have a fantastic independent publisher in Britain which has won awards and is run by an amazing woman, Hazel Cushion. She owns Accent Press, and one of their imprints is Xcite. Now, here is where you should look away if you are of a sensitive nature because Xcite produce erotica. They had been doing so before 50 Shades of Gray was even a twinkle in its author's eye. Xcite have produced a new range called 'The Secret Library'. This is designed with a strong romantic element in mind, basically they are romantic, whirlwind, crazy love stories with the bedroom door open. The print books have wonderful velvety and discreet covers. Here's a peek at 'The Thousand and One Nights' which contains three novellas. Please note the print novella is called 'The Thousand and One Nights' but, as that is also the title of the three-novella anthology, it has in addition been issued as a single title under the title 'Dark Nights' (because the hero is Sebastian Dark geddit!).
One of these by my very good friend Kitti Bernetti is available as a free download until 19 August, here's the UK Amazon link to download it and the US Amazon link and here's the cover.
If I were very clever I could have managed to create a link from these covers, but unfortunately I couldn't! Sorry. Anyway, here's the blurb: When Breeze Monaghan gets caught red-handed by her millionaire boss she knows she’s in trouble. Big time. Because Breeze needs to keep her job more than anything else in the world. Sebastian Dark is used to getting exactly what he wants and now he has a hold over Breeze, he makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Like Scheherazade in The 1001 Nights Seb demands that Breeze entertain him to save her skin. Can she employ all her ingenuity and sensuality in order to satisfy him and stop her world crashing about her? Or, like the ruthless businessman he is, will Seb go back on the deal? It is scorching hot, but if you can take the heat, you'll be doing independent publishing a big favour. Just remember, erotica is all in the imagination....

Thursday, 16 August 2012

What I did on my holidays....

Well, firstly I had a fabulous time. Secondly I found inspiration to write.... It's difficult arranging a holiday which a teenager and a 91 year old will both appreciate. However, this year seven of us family members rented a farmhouse in Umbria which is in the middle of Italy and the farmhouse was in the middle of nowhere. I knew when I chose somewhere far up in the hills it might have been hair-raising. However, the drive to the farmhouse up steep inclines, hairline bends and on an unmade road of scree and pebbles was pretty horrendous. At one point not only did I stall, but with everyone in the car, started rolling backwards! We were however saved by a Swiss guy who drove past with the greatest of ease and offered a tow if we needed it. When we got to the top, the views were worth it. We had a spectacular view from our patio where we had all our meals, and from where we could see in the distance the most wonderful medieval village, Santa Giuliana. Apparently this is being restored and apartments were up for sale. I have just discovered this website which gives photos. Fascinating as there was still building work going on and although I and my husband wandered around (here's a photo of him standing outside)
it was all closed up and we couldn't get inside the walls even to see the outside of the houses. It did however give me a fantastic idea of what a proper medieval town would have been like. It was totally impregnable. Sheer walls, tiny slits presumably through which arrows where shot and boiling oil might have been poured. On a hilltop site you not only get to see visitors hours before they arrive, as they come across the hill, but you can hear them. We could hear distinctly what was being said at a holiday home with pool way down the bottom of the hill. All walled up in their medieval village, the inhabitants must have felt very safe and be able to prepare beforehand for any invasion. We also had some wonderful visitors, a bevy of six little wild boar piglets who came around each evening to finish off scraps we threw down the hill. They were so cute although their mum who came one day looked pretty scary! It was a wonderful holiday and I know have a crime story worked out in my head involving 3 girls who holiday in a remote hilltop house, discover a crime being carried out and .... well, you'll have to wait for the rest until I write it!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Olympic news - should cyclists wear helmets or not?

With the saintly, Lord, Professor Sir Bradley Wiggins winning a Gold for Britain and being announced as our greatest Olympian ever, a debate has arisen over the wearing of helmets by cyclists. Bradley, recent winner of the Tour de France, has called for cycling helmets to be made compulsory. Now he's famous, people are taking notice. I love cycling. Did the London to Brighton a while ago and yes, I did wear a helmet. Occasionally it's true, I will rush out of the house and forget it but I now feel very undressed and vulnerable without it. I also have a friend who works with people who have brain injuries and she is totally and utterly convinced having seen people whose lives have been ruined through not wearing them, that we all should. The counter argument is that less people will cycle in Britain and we certainly don't have the highest numbers of cyclists in the world. Personally I think that's b******x. What stops more people cycling in London is small roads populated by aggressive drivers. I'm a car driver as well, but I do not shake my wrist at cyclists, cut them up or drive in their cycle lanes. That said, many cyclists here view themselves as sort of ninja Kings of the Road who dash in and out like maniacs and are about as welcome as a storm of bees in a jam factory. The Boris bikes are one of the best things to hit London in years and from what I can see anecdotally, the ranks are nearly always empty as loads of people use them every day. So, let's bring in compulsory helmets, save some of the NHS's hard earned cash with less accident cases taking up hospital beds and have more bike schemes. Go Bradley. Job done! By the way, a post wouldn't be a post without a writing plug so this is just to mention that I did a short story once which concerned two strangers who rode bikes and he accidentally chained his to hers outside a train station. It all ended happily ever after of course in that the People's Friend bought it for their magazine. You, though, can buy The Sanctuary from Astraea press by clicking this link..... I thank you!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Understanding the Olympics - cycling

I'm no great fan of sport so I thought the Olympics would leave me cold. However, dinner with friends reminded me that everything, even sport, can be interesting once you understand it. A friend had been to see the cycling road race & regularly visits the Tour de France. He explained the intricacies of the sport and now I am fascinated by it. The really interesting thing is the peleton - this link courtesy of Wikipedia explains it. Basically (and here I apologise to anyone who REALLY knows what they're talking about because this is very much a layman's explanation) the peleton injects a very strategic element into cycling. Peleton means little ball in French and is related to the English word pellet. It refers to the process by which cyclists will bunch together in order to cut down on the amount of wind resistance. Cyclists in the middle of the little ball or cluster of cyclists can experience 40% less wind resistance, thereby resulting in them getting a rest from the amount of work their muscles have to do. Then, when it is their turn, they will return to the front of the cluster and take their turn dealing with the wind and having to cycle harder. The extraordinary thing about this process is that opponents will make this formation together, benefitting everyone until that is the time comes to seek victory. However there are times when opponents do not act as suspected. I understand that what happened the other day when Mark Cavendish failed to win an expected gold medal for Britain and said, "it just seems like most teams are happy not to win as long as we don't win." As occasionally happens in life, we witnessed a serendipitous moment in relation to this. We were at the seaside recently and were mesmerised by a shoal of fish where the front runners would swim for a few seconds, then zip to the back of the group. This ritual happened over and over again during the ten minutes we watched them. I can only assume that they were practising a similar formation to racing cyclists, fascinating. So, now I know more about it, I am finding cycling a fascinating sport. Something I had never imagined it would be!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Victoria Coren explains why 50 Shades is so popular...

I have read many reviews of 50 Shades and by far the best is this one by Victoria Coren in the Guardian. Look away now folks if you are of a tender disposition because I am going to quote from Victoria's review when she says that, 'this is a book that puts the "b" into anal.' She also points out tongue in cheek that one of the main reasons the abusive Christian Grey is meant to be so attractive is his constant urging of Ana to eat! Buttermilk pancakes, syrup, bacon. Yeah Victoria, you're right that would do it for me too! A straw poll of the two ladies at present reading 50 Shades in the office also reveals that his million, squillionaire status and his tendency to do outrageously extravagant things like whisk Ana off in his private jet might have something to do with the fact that he still appears attractive whilst doing the sort of thing which would make your toes curl. Same straw poll came up with Bradley Cooper as a possible tip to play the piercing-eyed Christian. I do hope it isn't Bradley, gentle-eyed gorgeous hero of a number of delightfully funny comedies. I don't want him to turn into some control freak wierdo! For those who do not know of Victoria Coren by the way, she is the sharp-tongued, champion poker playing, journalist and presenter sister of the wonderful Giles Coren. His spiky column in The Times is one of the best things about the British weekend. I actually came to read both brother and sister through firstly being hugely entertained by the columns their father wrote in Punch decades ago. Alan Coren used to do a fabulous satirical column on Idi Amin which I would sneak away from lessons to read in the library at school. Here, courtesy of Wikipedia is a quote of his about Margaret and Denis Thatcher visiting the Falklands: 'Does not even the most sexually democratic of us, among which number I unquestionably count myself, not choke back the tiniest sob at the sight of poor old Denis stumbling along behind, struggling pitifully to hold his trilby on, as the PM strides across Goose Green with the wind managing only to make her hair look more Medusan, and the very mines praying she will not crush them under-heel?' The Corens - great fun, lovely to see the kids carrying on where their esteemed father left off. You thought for a moment there I had forgotten to plug my book. No such luck! Here goes, my book The Sanctuary, totally unlike 50 Shades, has nothing that would offend even your dear old maiden aunt. You can buy it by clicking this link.