Posted in General, Life Playlists, Life Soundtracks, Music, Writing

Life Playlists: this week I’m hosting blogger Joanne Baird of Portobello Book Blog – who is choosing her five special tracks…

The Voyage – Christy Moore

This was the first dance at our wedding so it has to be included. I don’t think many of the wedding guests had a clue what the song was! We both really like Christy Moore’s music and have been to see him several times in concert. The words of this are particularly appropriate, describing the journey of a relationship.

Zanzibar – Billy Joel

Billy Joel is my all time favourite singer/musician and I’ve been lucky enough to see him three times. I like so many of his songs but have picked this one to show there’s more to his music than Uptown Girl! It has a brilliant trumpet solo in it.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Surely the ultimate feel-good start of the weekend song? I’m a big fan of Queen and wish I could have seen them live. Freddie Mercury was such a huge talent, a real performer.

Morningtown Ride – The Seekers

This is a song which takes me back to my childhood. Now it came out several years before I was born so I must either have heard it on the radio or maybe my mum sang it to me. I used to sing it to my girls when they were little as a bedtime song and I sing it now to my much younger nieces when they come to stay.

She – Elvis Costello

This is such a beautiful song. I like the particular version because when it’s used near the end of the film Notting Hill, it’s at a part which always makes me smile – any maybe cry a little. It’s also a song which I can play on my flute as part of a small music group and I get a wee solo bit.

About Me

Joanne Baird

I can’t remember not being a reader and always have at least one book on the go. I started my blog, Portobello Book Blog, in April 2015 to share my love of the books I was reading and it’s been great fun. I’m a busy wife and mum to two lovely girls, an avid book reader of course, a nature watcher, a keen cook and baker, always on the go and I love living by the sea.

Twitter Handle – @portybelle

Facebook –

Instagram – @portybelle


Posted in General

And now for something completely different…

I have to confess my inner magpie never allows me to pass a jewellers without stopping to look in the window, if only for a brief moment.  I love and appreciate beautiful pieces, whether they are rings, bracelets, pendants or necklaces.  When I arrived in Bath in the mid-1980’s, Christopher Milton Stevens’ jewellers had one of those windows where I often lingered.  And sometimes I’d make a purchase.  Now he runs a bespoke jewellery design service from his home. Some time ago I visited his studio with a commission for him: to transform three existing unloved and unworn rings into two completely new designs. I was absolutely delighted with the result but more than that, fascinated by the whole process.  I asked Chris if he would allow me to interview him and was delighted when he agreed. As  I felt I’d be a little out of my depth setting the right questions, his daughter Emilie agreed to help.  My thanks to her for all her hard work in organising the questions and photos for this  blog interview…



Tell us about yourself, judging by that photograph you haven’t always been in the jewellery trade.

I grew up in Wiltshire. The photo shows me ready for my role as a Naval Marine Engineering Mechanic which I began at the age of 15. I trained in Plymouth and was then drafted to HMS Intrepid in Singapore. A year or so into my training, my CPO suggested I left the Navy to finish my education and re-join as an officer. I took his advice and did so, except along the way discovered an alternative use for metal – Jewellery.

My mother volunteered me as an apprentice with Graham Watling a Silversmith in Lacock.

Hand raising coffee pots and making silver jewellery seemed surprisingly straightforward and I was hooked from then on. My early commissions were varied and challenging, but the most unusual was a chastity belt in silver! Lacock was a time for design experimentation and I spent years perfecting techniques to develop a unique style.

CMS Shop

As the 70’s came to a close I knew it was time to branch out of Lacock’s rural idylls and in 1979, aged 23, I prepared to open my first shop in Bath. It took 8 months: I took the roof off the building, replaced the plumbing & electrics, made the cabinets and then I made the jewellery to sell. Silver jewellery featured, as did belt buckles, walking stick handles and trophies. My luxury belt buckles were sold in Harrods – far from their humble origination in Lacock. During the mid 1980’s I opened my second shop on New Bond Street and so began the 80’s high life.


CMS CabinSince 2007 I have been conducting business from my ‘Studio’ or (Chalet when it snows). My commissions continue to vary, from engagement rings to dress rings. My customers from the shop days are now accustomed to the comfort of the Studio (and its coffee).

From Shop to Studio that seems quite a dramatic change, what were the reasons behind the move?

Historically the jewellery industry has been a stock heavy business model, with customers choosing a ring off the shelf. Commissioning a piece of jewellery was seen as unattainable to most. However, the jewellery industry has entered a new era and as with many other consumer sectors, technology and personalisation have been significant driving factors.
The rise in demand for bespoke jewellery, designed to client specifications, requires a flexible and innovative set up. Technology advances in the design process, such as CAD (Computer Aided Design), enables me to create designs based on each client’s ideas. I am able to show my customers rendered designs that are photographic. The shop shelf is now digital – you can see exactly what you are getting at an early stage in the process and we can make amendments with ease. My studio gives me this flexibility, as soon as a client walks through the door we can begin designing whether it be for surprise engagement rings or heirloom remodelling.

I have been lucky enough to take part in the CMS Jewellers experience but for our readers please could you share some of the details?

CMS_CADThe first step is the design brief where I discuss with the customer their ideas, occasion, timeframe and budget. Sometimes we start from scratch or adapt existing designs customers have seen in magazines or online. I then create a range of designs using CAD to start to bring to life our discussion and design options.

Once the design has been agreed I create a wax model – allowing the customer to try on the design and make any final alterations. In some cases the wax model has actually been the ring used in a proposal, giving the bride-to-be involvement with the final design.

A new wax model is created and then sent to my casting company who use 3D printing technology to create the real piece. It is then hallmarked and returned to me ready for finishing. This involves taking off the casting sprues, fettling, polishing and finally setting. Setting is an incredibly specialist skill, I send each piece to my setter, who is one of the very few that can deliver the high standard required. I conduct a final polish and valuation before, my favourite part, presenting to the customer.

Final Polish


Wow, that’s quite a process and do you think unique in the fact the customer is so involved in the design process?


Customer design involvement has always been central to my bespoke design process. Not only does it make the whole experience more memorable and fun, my customers enjoy learning about Diamonds and gemstones and how to choose the right metals to compliment. I explain diamonds and gemstones in a way that enables you to make your own decision. We will look at real gems under magnification so you can see for yourself how grading works. Being part of the design process adds thought and sentiment. Designed together, sounds good doesn’t it.

What have been some of your landmark pieces to date?

We have been discussing this and in my opinion all pieces are landmarks. A landmark, in my eyes, is about the journey and the provenance of the materials. Whether an engagement ring or anniversary gift, the joint design process we undertake is unique, customer’s ideas are central and the result is a piece of jewellery exclusive and personal to them. I love the fact that I deliver joy and lasting mementoes of a special moment in people’s lives. Here is a necklet I made last summer, for the Mother of the Groom on the big day. The magnificent 11ct pink tourmaline is surrounded with 28 brilliant cut diamonds, with a cabochon pink tourmaline finial and in my Liberty style setting. Quite a show stopper!


Finally, must ask, what is your favourite gemstone?

Gemstones are the stones of 2017 in my eyes. Unique in terms of colour, shape and grandeur I believe they are the unsung heroes of Jewellery. In 2016 I launched my Liberty collection which is centred on coloured gemstones. Why Liberty? For me, Liberty means wearing jewellery which is bold, unafraid to make a statement and independent of the status quo. Each design in the collection is unique and based upon the gemstone in question. Upon discovered a dazzling gemstone, I then start to think what design could best show it off. This short video shows some of my recent work using coloured gemstones. (Hyperlink)

Contact details: / / 01225 840976

Posted in General

Anyone for the Brooklyn Bus Stop….?




Tomorrow six of us are heading for the Theatre Royal in Bath to see the stage version of Saturday Night Fever.  I saw the movie in 1977 when snake hipped John Travolta was one of the new rising stars in Hollywood.  It was a good time for the Brothers Gibb as well.  With the score to SNF they not only recharged the disco scene but also re-launched their careers.

The movie brought back all sorts of memories of that year. It was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and she was due to launch a new ship at Barrow in Furness.  HMS Invincible was the first of three modern replacements for the soon to be mothballed air craft carriers in the British fleet. The then man in my life was a very junior member of the design team and we got to go to the launch. That was the year he also bought his first boat. It was kept in a small yard at a place called Shell Bay next to Studland on the Dorset coast.  The guy who owned the yard was a grizzled old ex-mariner who told us the boat would be quite safe with him because he had what he referred to as the ultimate deterrent against burglars.  ‘I hit ’em with a piece of four by two and ask questions afterwards.’ he told us with a grin. I loved the whole boating thing – getting out on the sea gives you so much freedom and we had some fabulous weekends and days out with friends.  Yes those were great days.

Of course it wasn’t all ‘plain sailing’ if you excuse the pun. My man was a bit like an enthusiastic Labrador; someone with a great sense of adventure and precious little common sense   On one of our first trips out we managed to get stuck on a sandbank. Over the side he goes, sure he can remedy the situation with the simple application of muscle – and sinks up to his knees in the sand.  He managed to get enough leverage to move the boat clear but then found he couldn’t move. Thankfully we had a couple of friends with us – I’m not sure what I would have been able to do on my own.  Anyway we managed to tie a rope around him and use the boat to pull him free losing him his footwear in the process.  I remember he was always very cautious out on the water after that.

imagesEU8MMUWGI was not aware that famous white suit started any fashion trends in our small provincial town.  If anything the Bee Gees had more impact as many guys copied that open shirted medallion look.  I cringe now when I think of it, it’s totally awful and brought the phrase ‘medallion man’ into the English language. Thankfully the only time I ever came into contact with anyone wearing this was at fancy dress parties, where the occasional white suit and black shirt would also put in an appearance.

The seventies were big party times for us and invitations to bring a bottle came quite regularly. Most get togethers were standard parties with food drink and loud music but I particularly loved fancy dress. I was amazed at the work which went into costumes – of course everyone made their own, it was unthinkable to hire, that was seen as cheating! From bishops to Batman, concubines to crusaders, they were all there – an amazing array of innovative designs and ideas.   There were other themed get togethers too, like wild west, flower power or vicars and tarts parties and although I never attended one of the latter I’m reliably informed one or two of the more outrageous guys occasionally came in basques and stockings – a sort of early Rocky Horror Show vibe.

A few weeks ago I went with my husband to a Buddy Holly tribute evening featuring Marc Robinson, who is the leading BH tribute artist in the UK.  Now Buddy Holly was way before our time but my OH considers him the man who  laid the foundations for rock music.  I have to admit even though I wasn’t a great fan I did enjoy the evening; great entertainment, a huge age range in the audience and loads of people up and dancing.  I had no idea Buddy Holly had been such a prolific songwriter or that he had written for so many other artists – so an educational outing as well.

The Bee Gees, of course, have also written an enormous number of songs over the years both for themselves and other famous performers.  The score for Saturday Night Fever was pure dance music and I remember magazines featuring a ‘how to do’ on some of John Travolta’s moves.  The mass dance routine, which must have been an early template for line dancing was referred to in one magazine as the Brooklyn Bus Stop and it seemed to catch on at dances.  In fact I went to one later that year where the DJ had everyone on the floor in rows dancing to ‘Night Fever’ just like in the movie.  Today I guess the modern day equivalent is  Lil Jon’s Bend Ova – although thinking about it…maybe not!

So think of me tomorrow night when I’m sitting in the audience taking myself back to my misspent youth, I’m sure I’ll have a blast!





Posted in General


This is my last post before I disappear on holiday. This time we’re heading north-east to Derbyshire and the Peak District. I’ve only ever driven through here on my way to somewhere else, but can remember it’s very beautiful so there’ll be a lot of photo opportunities. We’ve a rented cottage in the village of Over Hadden which is just outside the town of Bakewell. The good news is that the cottage is equipped with every modern convenience; the bad is there’s no wifi. However, I will have my phone so I won’t be totally out of touch. I do, however, have issues with typing on a microscopic keyboard. I have very small hands and that means small fingers but I still fail to cope with a simple message without backspacing and cursing. I’m totally amazed as I watch people beating out a message with their fingers in overdrive, making it look so easy.

One of the nicest aspects of holidays is the opportunity to take photographs but I don’t just restricted this to times when I’m away.  Whenever I go out for walks locally my camera comes too.  I have always loved photography, the only trouble is very often my visual expectations far exceed the capabilities of the camera.  This means what I’m seeing is not what I get when I take the shot – oh and I guess I ought to throw the limitations of the photographer into the mix too – with the best will in the world I’m no David Bailey!  Too optimistic I think is the word we’re looking for.  However that does not take away the love of seeing things and wanting to capture them on film (or memory card as it is now).  A lot of my good shots I have to say are luck rather than judgement.  My friend Jane Risdon is the lady with the camera.  She has posted some wonderful shots and I bow to  her expertise!

One really funny memory wrapped around photography was when we went on holiday in Spain back in the eighties.  The husband of the couple we went with was a total


photography geek – it was a major hobby and he had his own dark room.  This was the first time we had been on holiday with them and although we knew about his passion for photography we  had no idea what what lay ahead. Every time we left the villa it felt like an expedition – the stuff he insisted carrying with him was amazing, including, of course, a telescopic tripod – he almost needed his own private Sherpa!  We went up into the hills one day to a place called Guadalest.  There were fabulous views right back down to the coast and he took ages changing the lens and getting this damned tripod set up to capture each shot while all we wanted to do was to find a bar and a cold beer! These were the days before digital cameras were generally available so all his shots were taken on film. A few days after our return home his girlfriend rang to tell us that when he went to take the film out it had broken off inside the camera.  In his dark room when he took the back off he discovered there was no film – he had forgotten to put one in!  Total geek then!  All that effort, all that fussy preciseness in setting up shots of views had been a complete waste of time! Not sure whether he learned any lessons from what happened as a job move saw them leaving the area later that year and we never went away with them again. Having said that I’m convinced had they stayed we would not have put ourselves through a holiday with a photographer with OCD for a second time!  Once was quite enough!

Denim Patchwork Horse, Bruges
Denim Patchwork Horse, Bruges

Of all the couples we know it seems I’m the only female who likes taking photos.  Not only do I find it a good pictorial reminder of where I’ve been, I’m one of those people who find things beyond beach and cityscapes and want to capture them if only to show other people – much easier than trying to describe what

View from Corfu Villa
View from Corfu Villa balcony

I’ve seen.  Like the denim horse in Bruges last October when we were enjoying a city break there.  It was in the entrance to a number of clothes boutiques and was too good to resist.  Then there was another the year we went to Corfu with friends.  We arrived at the villa and unloaded the luggage.  The men carried it upstairs and we opened the doors to the bedrooms trying to decide who was having which room.  I went into one of them pulled open the shutters, walked out onto the balcony and was totally blown away by the view.  I knew if I left it I would never be able to capture that shot again so grabbed my camera.

My local ventures into photography have come about because even after years of living here I am totally mesmerised by this area on the eastern side of Bath where I live.  Bath is all hills, built in an extinct volcano, you cannot enter or exit the city without negotiating some sort of gradient.  On our side of the city we have Solsbury Hill, made famous by Peter Gabriel’s song of the same name.  It looks across to Bathampton Downs to the south of Bath.  The River Avon, main rail line to London, theKennet and Avon Canal and the A4 trunk road all run from east to west along the valley floor between these two hills.  The place where I live is slightly east of this and gives us amazing views both across and down this valley.  Tucked against a hill with a large sprawl of wood above it, it became the inspiration for Meridan Cross, the fictional West Somerset village which features in my books.  I never tire of watching the cycle of the year and the ever-changing colours of the trees. I had always imagined that leaves were all the same shade of green. Not so, there’s an amazing variety as I have come to learn.  When it rains there is always low cloud which threads its way eerily through the wood and if we should  by any chance get snow it looks as if someone has taken a huge icing sugar shaker and dusted the trees – absolutely magic! Next week the Peak District’s dramatic landscape will no doubt be offering more good photo opportunities. I can’t wait!

Take care and I’ll  be back blogging on 20th July.  In the meantime there’s a slideshow below of some of my favourite shots – enjoy!



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Jo x  

Shine On Award


The SHINE ON Award

7 Random Things About Me

Posted on November 23rd 2013

by  Jo Lambert

I’m proud to be the recipient of the prestigious SHINE ON Award in the ‘books inspired by music’ category. In order to accept the honour bestowed upon me by fellow Canadian writer Melanie Robertson King, I have to share seven random bits of information about me with you – my readers.  So for better or worse here they are:-

One)  I’ve been married twice and both my husbands have the same star sign – Pisces.

Two) I have never changed my initials.  No, it’s not that I preferred to keep my maiden name after marrying, both my husbands just happened to have surnames beginning with the same letter as mine.  As a child I owned a small brown case which had belonged to my father and had his initials  – which incidentally were the same three as mine – set into the lid.  I remember telling my grandmother on more than one occasion that these initials were never going to change, I would always have them.  This pronouncement, however, had absolutely nothing to do with eventual my choice of husband. A little spooky though, don’t you think?

Three) I sat next to Jamie Cullum in the cinema.  It was a long time ago at the beginning of his career; he was with his family and I remember he demolished a very large tub of popcorn through the film!

Four) I have a complete aversion to men’s ginger suede shoes. Not wanting to go too deeply into this, but years ago when I worked in Bristol for an international building company one of the guys in the office behaved in a way to women that would absolutely not be allowed today – and got away with it.  He wore ginger suede shoes and every time I see anyone wearing anything remotely similar, it brings back memories of that particular office predator.

Five) I am a member of MENSA with an IQ of 151.

Six) I adore cats. I’ve owned 8 at different times in my life. My favourite has to be Ziggy, a half Burmese boy who became diabetic at the age of 10 and had to be put to sleep two years later when insulin shots failed to control the disease.  A great loss, miss him very much – he was almost human!Intense Ziggy (640x480)

Seven) Like Melanie I could not exist without chocolate.  It’s my absolute downfall as I can definitely identify with ‘a minute in the mouth a month on the hips’ . I do tend to damp down on my sweet tooth, only indulging at Christmas.  Now if they could make a low calorie chocolate that tasted like the naughty variety I’d be in absolute heaven!

So that’s it, seven random things about me. Read Melanie’s SHINE ON random personal facts on her Celtic Connexions blog found via:

I have to confess this SHINE ON award has been so popular that most of the writers I know have already opted to join under someone else’s banner.  Therefore I am only able to pass the baton for this award to my good friend and writing colleague Kit Domino, Writer and Artist, Author of Every Step of the Way.  However if I do manage to enlist the support of any others I will rope them in and let you all know the details.

Posted in General

Birthday Weekend

DSCF1638 (480x640)We left Bath under grey skies on Friday morning 2nd May.  Was hoping it might clear but obviously not meant to be.  Had lunch at Bampton then drove north towards Exmoor and dropped down along the East Lyn river valley.  This is Doone country.  Have not read the book for absolutely ages so thought I might now download on Kindle just to reacquaint myself with the story of star-crossed lovers John Ridd and Lorna Doone.   Sadly this story appears to have been overlooked in any recent TV adaptations of historical novels and to my mind is well worth bringing to the small screen.  As is Poldark – absolutely loved the series and it would be great to see a new fresh version.

Driving down we had my iPod playing on this occasion.  Usually in-car music is via my husband’s iPod, very much an acquired taste I’m afraid.  According to him I’m the big production girl and I guess it’s true – I love guitar driven rock in particular – melody, power and lyrics are essential both for the iPod and for working on the PC when I’m writing.  The three and a half hour drive was therefore wonderful, everything I love with not one Yes or Robert Plant track! I guess it could have been worse – Status Quo or Robbie Williams (apologies to SQ and RB fans reading this!)

Lynmouth, as always, was totally unchanged as was the Heatherville – Richard and Kay were there on our arrival with their usual warm welcome plus tea and home-make cake.  As we were driving along the river valley I thought ‘This is just like coming home’.  It’s our third stay and they are such fabulous people, more friends now than B & B proprietors.  They have worked incredibly hard since they took The Heatherville over in 2009 and this year it has been given AA 5 star rating for accommodation, breakfast and evening meal (which Kay will cook to order).DSCF1627 (640x480)

Once we were fed, watered and unpacked we walked down into the village and yes, it is a village.  Apparently out of season there are only 67 souls on the electoral roll here.  And such a different life to ours in Bath where we have every kind of shop imaginable.  Outside food shopping these residents have to travel to Taunton 40 miles away for anything esle they want.  The pace of life is slower here too and people are very friendly although like Bath the place is overrun daily with tourists in the holiday season.  I have to say once we reached the harbour it was cold; very cold.  We had dinner in the Bath Hotel that evening, a really weird experience in a large square room with absolutely no atmosphere or background music and only one other party of eight there.  It was a bit like attending a wake!  The food was good though, lots of it and inexpensive.

Lynton and Lymouth - Mike's birthday July 10 042 (640x480)On Saturday morning we caught the funicular railway up the cliff to Lynton, a place which I think could be described as half way between town and village.  DSCF1561 (640x480)After a browse we had coffee in a small restaurant.  Their menu board proclaimed it did ‘Steak and Owl Pie’ – we did point this out to the waitress but she didn’t think there was anything particularly wrong so perhaps there were indeed owls in the pie!  Or maybe it was a wind up the tourist moment who knows?  After this we headed out of Lynton to the Valley of the Rocks which is quite spectacular. The wind was so strong that if there had been rain and we’d had umbrellas we would have definitely had a Mary Poppins moment and been blown away.  Once we reached our destination we had lunch and a large mug of hot chocolate to warm us (yes it was that cold!)  Afterwards we took the coastal path back to Lynton which meant facing a gale all the way and almost being blown back one step for every two we took.  However, despite this discomfort the gorse and the whole cliff side looked quite spectacular and not one goat in sight, although a lot of goat poo on the path.  And I must again emphasise that yes we had blue sky but no it was absolutely freezing!DSCF1554 (640x480)DSCF1550 (640x480)DSCF1553 (480x640)

DSCF1551 (640x480)Saturday afternoon the remaining members of the weekend party joined us and in the evening we ate out at The Bistro, a really good restaurant which specialises in locally caught fish.  After the meal which included several bottles of wine it was back to The Heatherville’s bar to finish off the evening, courtesy of my husband, and then eventually to bed, most of us rather worse for wear!

Sunday dawned with blue sky and cloud and hooray, no hangover!  The wind had dropped a little, although walking down to the harbour that morning it still had that cold edge.  We then headed up the East Lyn river to Watersmeet for a coffee and a pit stop before making our way slowly back again to Lynmouth and a sandwich lunch.

DSCF1608 (640x480)DSCF1600 (640x480)For the little afternoon that was left I sat outside the B & B and read my Kindle.  I had purposely tried to avoid my own writing that weekend.  It was all about celebration and having a good time but, of course, writers never switch off and – this is true  mad woman that I am– the back page blurb for my latest book came to me at 5pm on Sunday morning.  Thank goodness I had a pad and pen with me.  I would never have held it in my head until I got home – it HAD to be written down otherwise I would have lost it.  I can tell you this is the one part of writing a book I don’t enjoy at all and I had been agonising over exactly what should go on the back page for ages.  Whatever I scribbled down eventually ended up with a line through it.  Too vague, too detailed, whatever I wrote, it would not come right.  But as usual it’s all a case of keeping calm and waiting for that inspirational moment.  I guess after four books I should have got used to this by now.  You just can’t hurry it; it comes when it comes and that’s it.

Sunday evening saw us all at The Rock Hotel for another excellent meal and then back to Richard and Kay’s to finish off the evening in their bar.

And then it was Monday morning and time to go home.  How can a weekend go so quickly?  I think we were all sad to leave.   We made home in three hours, crossing the moors again and coming up through Taunton and Glastonbury.  Four of the group were going to stop off and climb the Tor.   For me whenever I go to Glastonbury there is a definite atmosphere.  It might be banned substances on the wind of course, but joking aside, Glastonbury for me is very special, full of myth and magic.  I would have loved to have been able to stand on the Tor on 1st May to see the sunrise when the druids were up there celebrating Beltane.  Amazing place!

So now we’re back and it’s work tomorrow.  In the blink of an eye the weekend has gone, leaving lots of photos and good memories and of course, that excess weight!  I’m back on the diet now as we look forward to our next holiday away in South Devon at the end of June, – somewhere else I absolutely love.  Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Totnes and Salcombe – all fabulous places.  I had lost five pounds before the North Devon trip with another six to go to get me down to the weight I really wanted to be.  Luckily all the walking this weekend plus keeping to fish and avoiding the pudding menu meant I didn’t put on too much.  However, we’ve been out to lunch today and with two large glasses of wine (alcohol is definitely the villain of the piece) I’ve not exactly made a good start.  Never mind I’m not going to beat myself up over it, I’ll be back to the Ryvita’s tomorrow with a vengeance.

If anyone reading this blog plans a holiday on the North Devon coast then Richard and Kay’s Five Star Heatherville is a must – it’s absolutely brilliant and you must go.  You will be treated like royalty!  The house is set high up above the village so the access road is a bit of a north face of the Eiger moment in the car.  We had to reverse the last stretch of road this time to get into the car park and the clutch did not like it one little bit!  And as for walking, well remember on your outward journey the village is downhill all the way and coming back?  Your calves may protest but you’ll be doing your cardio-vascular system a service – remember there’s no gain without pain.DSCF1634 (480x640)DSCF1534 (640x480)

Posted in General


Monday 14th January 2013
Well here we are sitting waiting for the snow. However at the moment I have to report that light rain is all we are experiencing here on the eastern edge of Bath. I’m currently sitting in the lounge using the laptop as BH is upstairs putting finishing touches to the CAD drawing for our new conservatory. He’s also got to complete the on line application for planning permission so that means I probably won’t get to use the main computer until midday. The laptop is fine but none of my main files are on it, it’s just something I use very occasionally and BH uses it for browsing at times when I am writing. So what to do? Well this blog piece I guess, although it’s a day late and not by usual Sunday offering.

The new year is now well into January – I can’t believe we’re in double figures already. A lot has happened in those fourteen days. I’ve handed in my notice at work with a leaving date of 31st May. That is so my boss will have time enough to go through the complex process that is needed to replace me. Applications, panels to debate and justify the need for a replacement. Then there is the protracted recruitment process, interviews, offers and then when the person starts (if they aren’t an internal applicant) a week long Induction. Phew!

I always thought I would miss work and in some ways I will. The day to day structure of working life, deadlines, expectations, people, news, gossip, coffee with friends. Yes it will leave a huge hole. However, on the positive side, it will leave me free to pursue the things I want to do. I can remember all those years when I worked full time, when on some sunny days I would gaze out of the office window and wonder what it would be like to be at home relaxing in the garden with a cool drink, or off for the day visiting somewhere new, browsing and stopping off for lunch. At the moment with my half time work commitment I do have days when I meet girlfriends for lunch and shopping but when I’m completely free my time won’t be tied to just a Monday or Tuesday. But there is a danger with all this new freedom. The lack of the structure that comes with work. It’s all too easy to stay in bed that extra hour, to put off things you planned today and do them tomorrow instead – because we all know tomorrow never comes don’t we? So there has to be a balance of sorts. A plan, allocating time for specific things; balancing the ‘to dos’ with the relaxing non-timetable, enjoyable stuff, and that’s what I’ve got to bear in mind once I’ve hung up my keyboard.

Friday 18th January 2013

DSCF1368 (640x480)Well, that was the Monday blog that wasn’t,  so it’s being posted now. We’ve had snow here to-day. A lot of snow. I did try to get to work. Left the house at 7.30am this morning. I have some snow boots which I bought two Christmases ago when we had heavy snow here. Unfortunately for the boots, when they arrived the snow disappeared so they have been sitting in the wardrobe ever since. Today they got their first outing and they are wonderful! They fit snugly, have special soles and are VERY warm. The problem with wearing wellies is that they are rubber and unlined and although you may put on several layers of socks, the end result is the same. If you are out in snow for any length of time your feet get very cold. This morning, knowing almost certain First Bus would cancel services if they so much as saw one flake of snow. I had arranged a lift from a work colleague who lives in the next road. By the time I reached his house, however, I could see the car wasn’t going anywhere. So we both walked to the bus stop, praying they just might be running. We were in luck. One arrived almost immediately. The journey in was slow and there was a surprising amount of traffic going into the city. However it was clear once we were in Bath that the streets were not that clear of snow and traffic was struggling. We arrived at the bus station and found our connection to the hospital only to be greeted with a tannoy announcement that all bus services were being suspended. My colleague decided to walk the three miles to the hospital, I thought about it and then wondered, as snow was still falling quite heavily, if I would ever be able to get back once I was there. So instead, I walked to the taxi office and booked a taxi home. The driver was telling me most of the roads in the city were blocked. Bath actually sits in the middle of an extinct volcano (hence the hot springs) so in order to get out in any direction you have to negotiate hills – apart from the east where I live where the road is relatively flat. I was so glad to get home, to change and get a hot cup of coffee. And now I’m off for a whole week, although the way things are looking I think most of it will be snowy! DSCF1369 (480x640)DSCF1364 (640x480)DSCF1363 (640x480)

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The Green Green Grass of Home…

DSCF1331 (640x480)On Thursday last week I visited Devizes in Wiltshire, the town where I was born and grew up.  I had not been back for at least four years but whenever I do I still feel the connection.  Devizes is a market town, which serves a large farming community.  Within minutes of leaving the town in any direction there are rolling hills and fields as far as the eye can see.  Even today,  urbanisation has not really intruded much into the landscape.  When I was a child, Thursday was market day and in the centre of town there would be a farmers market – not the sort you get today with meat and dairy products being sold, but one with pens containing sheep and calves for sale.  These days it is the site of the Thursday market, where you can buy anything from car cleaner to the Sunday joint – it’s a large event which brings a huge amount of shoppers in looking for bargains.

The picture above is of Ivy House, although I’m not sure what is is called now.  It used to be a private nursing home back in the late forties/early fifties and it’s where I was born.  It looks a little sad now and am not sure what happens within its walls but before we had the benefit of hospital maternity wards, it’s the sort of place where most babies (including both me and my brother) popped into the world, unless they were home births of course.  How far we have come since then!

Devizes has always been a bustling town with lots of small, independent shops.  On Thursday, however, it was clear to see how the recession had taken its toll.  In one of the main streets there was a wonderful kitchen shop which sold absolutely anything and everything and also a good quality interiors and soft furnishing store – both sadly are now empty.  It’s scary when you realise after so many years managing to keep going that suddenly these shops aren’t there any more.  Bath, where I live, is a commercial bubble which had not taken the same kind of hit other cities and towns have.  Having two universities and a thriving tourist trade has meant  while there have been casualties there too, there always seems to be someone new who will take over the lease and reopen so there are very few empty stores.  So when you visit outside Bath and find long established shops are no more, it really brings home to you exactly what effect the recession is having on this country.

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Opposite Ivy House is The Green, a large open grassy area which hosts visiting fairs and circuses.  To its left is The Crammer.  this is a very large pond and supposedly the site of The Moonraker legend.   This refers to a folk story set in the time when  smuggling was a significant industry in rural England, with Wiltshire lying on the smugglers’ secret routes between the south coast and customers in the centre of the country. The story goes that some local people had hidden barrels of French brandy from customs officers in a village pond. While trying to retrieve it at night, they were caught by the revenue men, but explained themselves by pointing to the moon’s reflection and saying they were trying to rake in a round cheese. The excise men, thinking they were simple yokels, laughed at them and went on their way.  The village pond in the legend was always believed to have been The Crammer.

Devizes is also home of Wadworths, an independent brewery dating back to the 1700s and beyond.  Even today the tradition of delivering beer to pubs in the town  by waggon and horses still takes place.

You can find more about Devizes and the surrounding area on

So there you have it, my town, my birthplace and a little bit of nostalgia.

Next week I will be back with Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s when fellow author Pauline Barclay will be my guest.


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A Small Step for Mankind a Giant Step for Man (Woman actually!)

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Yes, I do have the title in the right order.  There are so many individuals out there with fabulously clever blogs.  Yours truly is about to join them, very much the novice and not at all ready for that moonwalk yet!  My website did have its own blog which I used for a while, but I found it quite basic.  So, I decided I would shelve it and look for a dedicated blog – and here we are!

Some of you reading this will already know me.  I’m Jo Lambert and I write (among other things).  I’ve had three books published and the fourth is almost there.   The Behind Blue Eyes Trilogy follows the lives of four girls – Ella, Jenny, Issy and Rachel – growing up in provincial West Somerset in the 1960s.  It’s a family saga and a love story and of course there’s music – after all, how could you write about that era and not include the music?  Besides writing I work part time, I adore my two cats, Max and Mollie, have a ‘thing’ for Radley handbags and one of my favourite parts of the UK is South Devon.  Oh and I live on the edge of Bath, a beautiful city surrounded by wonderful countryside.

And that’s about it for now. Now I’ve taken the first giant step  I look forward to blogging and making new friends.

Jo xx