Monday, 18 September 2017

Namaskard ...#6 Cruise Diary


Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #6

Continuing my 'Jewels of the North' tour on Iceland. 

28th August 2017

Namaskard, Iceland
The last stop of the 'Jewels of the North' tour was at Namaskard  - an other worldly steamy scene in a landscape that makes the word barren somehow wrong. Barren for me in Scotland means very little vegetation covering the landscape and what exists clings low on the soil, whether sloping or flat.

Over the area approaching Namaskard the limited vegetation petered to none and what we drove into was an area of bare, grit covered rocks. Reddish, light brownish, greyish - it was a sort of sludgy sandy rock covering slight rises but the upland was nothing at all like Dimmuborgir, and nothing at all like the pseudo craters at Lake Myvatn either.

Namaskard, Iceland

The land beneath my feet was literally bubbling, steam rising from cracks on the surface with little rivulets a bit like you sometimes see on a sandy Scottish beach after the tide has receded. There the similarity ends because there was going to be no paddling in this water since it was literally boiling hot water and the drifting vapours around the area were pure, smelly steam. 

There was a slight drizzle dampening me from above which may have contributed to the natural heat of the area being less than it would have been on a sunny or clear day but any bubbling water around Namaskard wouldn't entice anyone to have a dip here. 

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Namaskard, Iceland





Mud pots, steam vents, sulphur deposits, boiling springs (solfataras and fumaroles if you are geologically minded) are part of the description for this tourist stop.

Going to Iceland really shouldn’t be done without seeing some of these fabulous geological wonders. But make sure you're wearing decent boots or shoes because the warm sludgy grit clings like mad in the same way that concrete and mortar mixes do on a building site. 

Again, the area covered by this tourist stop is small and is constrained by where it is safe to tread. Very basic low rope barriers indicate the best pathways around the mud pots. These indicated routes are changed daily, according to the tour guide, and probably even within the day, to ensure the safety of the wandering sightseers.

The colours and smells at Namaskard are so different to those at Dimmuborgir.

Yes- the sulphur smell is definitely potent like a hundred stink bombs have simultaneously gone off and the muddy colours are like another world.

The stop at Namaskard was fairly short, thankfully because it wouldn't have been too healthy to breathe in the delightful sulphurous air for too long!

I’ve seen lava flows and bubbling lava ‘pots’ on Mount Etna, Scicily but they were on what was essentially a green clad mountain. The area around Namaskard is a barren, low rise rocky surface with a totally different vista.

Our ‘Jewels of the North’ tour was quite a long one but very well worth it!

Check in soon for #7 Cruise Diary- Norway -first stop Alesund which was immensely different from Namaskard but that's what travel is all about. It's about appreciating the huge differences that exist across our planet. 

Slainthe! 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Lake Myvatn and Dimmuborgir ...#5 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #5

Continuing my Treasures of the North tour…

August 28th 2017

Lake Myvatn, Iceland
After the delights of the Godafoss Waterfall we drove on to Lake Myvatn. The volcanic mounds which rise up from the lake bed are very impressive and would be even more so on a fine day. Sadly for us, the bird life that’s said to be plentiful and colourful all seemed to be hunkered down and in hiding. The rain continued to drizzle and the cloud level being very low meant that vision across the lake was severely restricted. Thousand of years ago at Lake Myvatn, during the formation of Iceland, bogs were heated to extreme temperatures which turned the water to steam. The resultant explosions from the expansion pushed up volcanic ash and created pseudo volcanic craters.
Lake Myvatn, Iceland

I’d love to explore them on a much better day sometime in the future and the rest of lake Myvatn. (Some of the cruise guests went to the Myvatn natural baths for a geo-thermal dip. Although they experienced it in the rain it didn’t seem to diminish their enjoyment. One interesting comment was that though there are separate showers for men and women at the lake those showers are communal and have to be taken before donning a bathing suit.)

After a brief lunch stop we moved on to what was a fabulous little place.
 
Dimmuborgir, Iceland
Dimmuborgir – the Dark Fortress/Dark Castles/ Dark forts – is a small but impressive site and almost totally unique in the world (only one similar that under water off the coast of Mexico). Thought to be the remains of a lava reservoir which cooled and formed above a lake all that’s left now are the spectacularly bizarre structures I visited. A lava field of giant pillars, chimneys and twisted towers are there for scrambling around and across. These incredible formations are one of Iceland's most popular tourist destinations. 

Icelandic folklore tells that Dimmuborgir was the home of a homicidal female troll named Gryla. She shared the area with her third husband Leppaludi and their mischievous sons, neatly named the Yule Lads. 

Can you see her in this photo, here at left? 

The Icelanders used the threat of the Yule Lads and Gryla to keep their naughty children under control. If the kids didn’t behave then rotten potatoes would be left in their shoes instead of nice gifts. There has been a merging of the ancient Norse aspects of gift giving with Christian Santa Claus traditions.  

‘Game of Thrones’ viewers might recognise some of the area as it was used for filming some of the scenes.

The tourist board have made access easy in the quarter mile of pathways and it was so brilliant to appreciate the home of the trolls!
Dimmuborgir, Iceland


One step onto the pathway I felt the atmosphere of the tourists change. There wasn’t a collective sigh but there was a hush as everyone turned the first corner some ten steps along. I personally named him ‘Big Daddy’ but having learned the myth I should maybe have been calling her ‘Big Mama’. I’d not dare to be rude to any Icelander and name the rock such to their face, and certainly not to my tour guide, but I really could see a dramatic troll face in the volcanic rock.


She/he was the first of many as I wandered the quarter mile of twists and turns. The whole area only measures about one kilometre in diameter but it does include some very nifty little caves. One in particular, a fairly large step-inside one was a main feature for tourists. A tiny scramble up some very conveniently laid stone steps gives a humorous inkling into the life of a Dimmuborgir troll.



Those Yule Lads must be sweeping from dawn till dusk to keep this place dust free! 

I loved this stop and paid due attention to giving my thanks to ‘Big Mama/Daddy’ as I left the area. 

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Slainthe! 

Just Haven't Met You yet by Cate woods

Happy Sunday wishes to you!

It's dreich and miserable, the rain pouring down at times but a good day for getting on with mmore writing and later some more reading.

Here's my thoughts on a chick-lit/ women't fiction book just finished. I think I bought this via 'Book Hippo' but if not via them it was from another of the many sites which I've signed up to for book recommendations. If readers are not buying my books in droves when sent recommendations I'm certainly using their services to fill my kindle. Having read  'Just Haven't Met You Yet' I might well be tempted to read more by Cat Woods if I'm in need of something simple and an easy read- and being romance I'd know what kind of ending I'd be expecting.

If you're into reading chick-lit type novels, or just want an entertaining light hearted novel to curl up with this might be suitable.

The trials and tribulations of falling in love! There are a few twists in this fun read that made me wonder exactly what might be going on and how Percy’s story would turn out. There were just enough clues to work out who she would end up with but there were still a little surprise right at the end. Well written with very likeable characters, the plot rolls on at a steady ‘must read what’s on the next page’ pace.  Very entertaining. 


This was a 5* read for me. 






Slainthe! 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Merle by Angela Wren

Happy Friday to you! 

One of my tasks today was to get caught up again with posting reviews of books I've read recently. Some I had popped onto my blog, and onto Amazon during my recent cruise holiday when the internet connection wasn't too slow but it was impossible to post them to the Goodreads site. That's now done today along with a review for Merle by Angela Wren which I was still currently reading during the holiday.

Merle - a Jacques Foret French Mystery is Book 2 of the series. Here's my thoughts on reading it...



I thoroughly enjoyed reading Merle, Book 2 of the Jacques Foret series. Messandrierre (Book 1) introduced the main characters of Jacques Foret and Beth but it also introduced many of the secondary characters who appear again in Book 2. For that reason I was very glad to have already read Book 1.
The French setting is well described and the characters are neatly drawn, making it so easy to love Jacques. Beth grew on me a lot more in Book 2 than Book 1!

It’s interesting to read how Jacques has branched out on his own as a private detective but still maintains contact with the French police force, especially useful when he needs to use their ‘facilities’. Following the plots and developments within Vaux Enterprises was a nice challenge though there were a couple of situations that threw me off a bit– one near the end which I won’t mention since it would be a spoiler. It did make me wonder about Book 3 of the series…


This was a 5 * read!

Slainthe! 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Godafoss Waterfall…#4 Cruise Diary

Cruising Iceland, Greenland and Norway #4

My cruising diary continued...

Monday 28th August - The Jewels of the North tour stop 1. 

By 2 p.m. (Monday 28th August 2017) we had docked at the port of Akureyri, Iceland, and the tour guides had us signed in and ready for a swift disembarkation from Deck 3. By 2.30 p.m. my husband and I were on the coach which stood ready for us at the quayside and we were off to visit the first stop on our Jewels of the North tour.

We didn’t see much of the town of Akureuyri, which is named as the Capital of North Iceland as we headed east but learned a few details about it. Akureyri is an important port and fishing centre which tends to remain ice free due to its relatively warm climate, the fjord where it is situated at the southern tip being a very long fjord. Technically Akureyri is said to be a sub-polar oceanic climate! Its winters are cold but not severe and it has mild summers. It also has the reputation of having a lot less rain than southern Iceland gets, though that is balanced by it being a very cloudy area with fewer days of sunshine than in other parts of Iceland.  
 
Godafass Waterfall- Iceland
The day was definitely cloudy and it was raining when we set off through fairly barren countryside to the Godafoss Waterfall. The farming I saw along the route was done on a smallish scale, the population of the land we drove over very slight. The grazing animals were mainly cattle, sheep, pigs and horses which I believe are very old breeds, from stock which came to Iceland with the earliest settlers. Poultry wandered around in large penned areas close to the farmsteads, confined but definitely not battery farms. I don’t remember seeing food crop fields but since the growing season is so short that may account for me only registering the cut hay for animal fodder. The information given was that currently only 1 % of the terrain of Iceland is arable fields and something like 5% of the population farm the land, though around 20% of the total land is grazed by animals. Farming was much more widespread and over larger areas from Viking 12th century times to the late 19th century but the repercussions of the deforestation and land 'exhaustion' on what is essentially volcanic soil means that little is arable farmed now. More recently, geothermal heat has been harnessed to provide heat and artificial light for the growing of some vegetables and fruits but a visit to these farms were not on my tour. Iceland with a current population of some 334,000 is self sufficient in the production of meat, dairy products and eggs.  

Some parts of our drive to Godafoss reminded me of the Fenwick Moors of East Ayrshire, Scotland and in some parts the bleakness of Caithness, Scotland.
Selfies are rubbish but Godafoss inpressive! 

The Godafoss Waterfall was an unexpected surprise! My experience of spectacular waterfalls in Scotland and in the western North American continent (U.S. Oregon and Washington State and Alberta, Canada)  has been of really deep falls creating a magnificent water drop. The Godafoss Waterfall seemed all the more impressive since the water tumbles over from a fairly flat origin.  

What I really loved about the waterfall was the story behind it along with the impressive rock strata and the little caves that border the falls.
 
Godafoss, Iceland

Godafoss- the Waterfall of the gods derives from the time of Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi Thorkelsson who was a law speaker of the ancient Icelandic Althing (Parliament) A.D 985 to 1001. Around the year 1000 the parliament was debating whether the country should remain true to the old Norse gods or become Christian. Thorgeir (by then around 60 years of age and a pagan priest and chieftain) decided in favour of Christianity being adopted by all, after a day and night spent meditating under a fur blanket. When he publicly declared he had taken on the mantle of the Christian religion he threw his carvings of the old Norse gods into the falls. From that point onwards Iceland was to be a Christian nation though it was still possible to worship the old gods in private and some old pagan traditions were retained. Thorgeir’s story is recalled in the works of the Íslendingabók- the Book of Icelanders. The original was written by Ari Thorgilsson, the most well documented Iceland chronicler of the 12th century. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ari_%C3%9Eorgilsson  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Landnamabok
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I'm afraid I didn't find any of his ancient carvings much as I wanted to find them (no doubt along with the crowds of tourists at the site) but I did wonder if his shade was sitting watching us from one of the little caves on the far side of the River Skjálfandafljót.

This site has a fabulous image of the waterfalls with a 'northern lights' backdrop and is spectacular! https://www.northiceland.is/en/other/place/godafoss-waterfall

Stay tuned for my next places on the 'Jewels of the North' tour. 

Slainthe! 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Oh! What a Pavlova

My Wednesday 'Summer Surprise' is  Oh! What a Pavlova.

Today I'm welcoming a new guest - Isabella May - who is extremely busy across the internet since it's getting closer to the launch of her debut novel Oh! What a Pavlova (published Oct 3rd 2017 by Crooked Cat Books).  

Isabella - What a fantastic eye-catching cover design for an enticing title! 

Isabella's debut novel is published by Crooked Cat Books and her second will be following on soon... 

Welcome to my blog, Isabella. I've been seeing some of the pre-launch publicity on Facebook about Oh! What a Pavlova and look forward to reading it. But since that won't be for a wee while, why don't you introduce my blog readers to some of your characters from Oh! What a Pavlova?

Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, Nancy!

Today I am going to share a wee character interview with Steph. She’s one of the main characters in my debut novel, and works closely with Kate Clothier, the protagonist of the story. But first, to put everything into context, here’s the book blurb for ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’:

Kate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

Steph, would you describe your friendship with Kate for us?
Narcissistic (laughs)… no, no, I’m only joking, you can’t write that! Look, Kate is beautiful too. In her own unique kind of a way. She just needs to… well, get some goddamn self-belief for want of a better way of putting it. Whereas I learnt long ago that just because you have curves, it doesn’t mean you can’t carry your slightly more voluptuous frame a la Nigella Lawson… and still eat men for breakfast, spitting them back out by elevenses. I just wish Kate could openly adore herself in the same way.

Hang on a minute… you’re asking about my friendship with her, aren’t you? Right, yes, excuse me for going off at a tangent there. I guess you could call me her idol, her icon. Well, somebody needs to take her under their wing and show her how to walk the walk – and definitely how to talk the talk when it comes to the guys. Purlease.  If I had a tenner for every occasion that I could have rescued her courtesy of a hidden mic whilst I’m drip-feeding essential one-liners to her, hiding around the corner in one of those white vans…. I’d be so minted by now that working in this excuse for an office would be a thing of the past. I mean she visibly shakes like a leaf if she fancies someone, comes out with all the wrong stuff. Only a Campari and blood orange can take the edge off her nerves. Mind you… there’s something not quite right about any of this incessant mission to flirt with men in the first place. She’s in a relationship for god’s sake. Practically married. None of it quite adds up if you ask me…

Right (interrupts)… shall we get onto a different topic now for a bit, perhaps? I understand that Kate and yourself both share a passion for cake?
Oh yes, I’m the undisputed Queen of Desserts. Everybody knows that. I mean, Kate can knock up some pretty nifty rustic-style cupcakes, but if it’s something with a little more finesse that you’re after, I usually take orders around the 3pm lull: cheesecakes, fancy iced triple-tiered birthday cakes, croquembouche – you name it, I can make it. For a price of course… or some kind of office-related bartering.

That’s… yes… I’ll um… I’ll bear that in mind. What I was really trying to establish is: what are your favourite kind of cakes in terms of the eating?
Well, I’m not quite as uncouth as Kate. She’s always bringing things in and leaving them on The Cake Table, which is clearly just an excuse for her to pig out herself. Crikey, you should have seen her the other day when Hayden… or somebody… was on the phone. Daisy nearly had to give her the Heimlich Manoeuvre to dislodge the flapjack she’d got stuck in her throat. And do you know recently when we were in Venice, of all the delicious and refined things she could have chosen, she went for a lurid green muffin style thing, wedged into the corner of a bakery window. Me on the other hand, well, it could only be the Venetian Zabaglione. When in Rome

Tell me a little about Singapore… did you notice any change in Kate after that particular trip which you made together?
She seemed to be perpetually jealous of my pulling ability, but hey, what’s new? (Laughs before resuming a serious face). I don’t get what this is all about? Should I have noticed anything? She was her usual Shrinking Violet self at times, and then a bit more fun at others when she decided to let her hair down. I do remember there was a call on her mobile she had to suddenly run off to take outside. Probably her boyfriend, Daniel, who seems to need to know her every move; I’ve never met him you know. Don’t you think there’s something a little oddball about that? I mean she’s never even brought him into the office, or to pick her up from any of the Christmas parties. But anyway, no, there was nothing especially untoward with her behaviour on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, she was fuming the morning after our night out with Hayden. For some reason he’d had an overnight personality transplant… probably not helped at all by the slagging match his Singaporean girlfriend dragged into the office with her. Now you come to mention it… perhaps Kate did react in a slightly more hostile manner to his announcement that we weren’t just there on a ‘jolly’, that we needed to muck in and tidy up the showroom to ‘pay our keep’. Hmm… then again, if anyone makes her feel small she’ll react the same way. Me on the other hand, well, I know my worth, I’m street-wise like that. There’s little any man on his high horse can do to diminish my self-respect.

And what about your own behaviour in the pizzeria in Copenhagen? Kate said you looked like you’d seen a ghost when she came back to the table…
She what? (shakes her head and looks particularly miffed). I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. All I was doing was adjusting my erm… my boot buckle… that’s the only reason I didn’t raise my head to greet her for a few seconds. No big deal…  Don’t forget, we’d just been whizzed around at 200 kilometres an hour by that idiot manning the waltzers at Tivoli Gardens. And it was a school night… so we were the only ones on the ride… and that was before the flippin’ things ascended into the air at a 180 freakin’ degree angle. What do you expect? Of course my buckle would have flown loose… and… and… of course my face would have looked pale when I’d finished re-fastening it. The same pale it was before I bent down. I was dizzy, disoriented; we’d drunk wine before the ride too. Honestly, these questions. It’s like being in the Spanish Inquisition or something…

We’re almost done, Steph. Thanks for your co-operation. But I’d like to return, if I may, to Kate’s relationship with Daniel. Why do you think all is not as it seems?
Good. I’ve had enough of being interrogated by the Stasi. Yes, back to Kate, please… Why do I think all is not as it seems behind closed doors? That’s pretty obvious. If you’re in a relationship, you are committed, to each other. You don’t feel the need to drive around in a red convertible Audi with its top down, fluttering your eyelashes at the traffic lights in case your dream man pulls up next to you… well, doing your best to flutter them anyway… nobody pulls that little gem off better than me. From what I have heard about Daniel though - and his preference for a quiet country life, maybe it’s just that… that they’re a mismatch… he’s looking in all the wrong places for his housewife… they got together young and Kate’s scared to break his heart and leave him. But there’s no way he could be beating her, if that’s what you’re implying. God no! Did I tell you about my NVQ in Psychology? That I’m a dab hand with the tarot cards? I’d have sniffed out domestic violence the moment I met Kate, if that’s what you’re getting at. Trust me, it couldn’t possibly be that. The signs would be far more prominent… black eyes and bruises for starters. I mean, he wouldn’t even let her come to work, let alone jump on a plane to book fairs, or to visit her customers. Nope. I’m not even going there with that suggestion. Forget the idea now.

I didn’t say anything to suggest Kate was being abused, Steph. But thank you. Thank you very much indeed. This has been… enlightening, for want of a better word.

Nancy says: it has indeed been intriguing, Isabella. The elusive Daniel needs to be met! 

Isabella May
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.

As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls - www.theglasshousegirls.com - she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative 'drops'!

Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel... and her second novel has already been submitted to her publishers: watch this space...
You can follow Isabella May on her website and social media here:
Twitter - @IsabellaMayBks
Instagram - @isabella_may_author

To pre-order Oh! What a Pavlova click HERE 

Thank you for popping in, Isabella. My very best wishes for a great launch for Oh! What a Pavlova. My copy is on order...and I look forward to answering my question about the elusive Daniel and his relationship with Kate. Steph will also be interesting to get to know because I suspect a darker character than she portrays herself- but, of course, I could be very wrong!

Slainthe! 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

We are Sailing...#3 Cruise Diary

Cruising Iceland, Greenland, and Norway #3
Continuing my cruise diary updates...

Saturday 26th August 2017

Black Watch tender to shore at Tasiilaq, Greenland
On Saturday 26th August after we sailed away from Tasiilaq, Greenland, around 5.30 p.m. the seas became quite choppy.

Just before my early dinner sitting at 6.15 p.m. the captain, Age Danielsen (apologies for lack of the fancy accent above the letter A), was on the PA system warning us that the Force 3/4 of the late afternoon had developed into a Force 6. He gave us fair warning that the winds were likely to strengthen quickly to more like Force 9 that evening and that the deep low weather depression above the Northern Atlantic meant that the same gusts and wind conditions were going to last all night and well into the next day (Sunday 27th), perhaps even into the day after (28th).

Observatory Lounge, Deck 9 , The Black Watch 
He informed us that our progress would be severely hampered and the average of 15 knots that he had achieved on the way to Greenland would be a thing of the past week and that he was aiming to achieve something more like a steady 7 or 8 knots as he sailed eastwards battling against the wind. He promised us more regular weather updates and progress reports since the general Captain’s Log was normally only issued at noon on days at sea.

My Saturday dinner (26th) was superb and afterwards my husband and I went off to enjoy a few more drinks up in the Observatory Lounge where we could look out for the last of the icebergs as we headed east and watch the swell surges rise above the lower decks.

(There's a reflection in my 'selfie' but there's also an iceberg to the left of my shoulder that I was trying to capture! )

Sunday 27th August
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For around 36 hours the Force 9 gales battered The Black Watch and to make it even more exciting they were interspersed with intermittent stronger gusts that some passengers quoted at Force 10 or 11 gusts—though as far as I know that information didn’t come from the captain himself.  Whilst I found it great fun lurching around the public areas of the cruise ship, some unfortunates spent that day and a half in their cabin ensuite bathroom doing a different sort of ‘heave-hoeing’ (like one woman I chatted with a few days later). That must have been really yukky! They lost a ‘cruising day’ with potentially many different activities on offer to while away the time and probably missed the wonderfully entertaining talks about the places we were due to visit.  They also missed out on the excellently presented cuisine which was of superb quality every single meal. However, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the ‘poor’ sailors were in the minority and that most people attended meals as usual—even if the corridors, lounges and bar areas were pretty quiet during the day.  

The sick ‘cruisers’ also missed the hilarity of getting ready for the ‘Dress Formal’ evening on the Sunday night, the second of the three nights during the cruise when ‘Black Tie’ was the order of the day. Applying face make up during a Force 9 Gale was a huge challenge for me in the close confines of our small ensuite bathroom but we scrubbed up pretty well.

My husband was glad he had his Jardine tartan trews outfit packed rather than his kilt! The meal that night was as superb as usual, the mainly Philippine waiters not batting an eyelid when the huge surges came and the waves battered the side of the ship – and they didn’t drop a single tray!  

After dinner the show really did ‘still go on’! The gales continued to batter the ship al night long but in the Neptune Lounge, the main theatre area, The Black Watch Show was excellent late night entertainment. The romantic tunes of the 20s and 30s went even better with some extra unplanned ‘clutches’ and smooches when the ship rocked and rolled!   
Wave rush as high as Deck 8 -as seen from Observation Lounge 27th Aug 2017

Those were the fun bits for me that night but the bad weather meant there had to be changes to the original schedule.

When the weather conditions are not in the captain’s favour he has the ultimate judgement call on what is about to happen to all of the souls under his care. He did a superb job to keep up the general morale when he delivered a special, somewhat disappointing, Captain’s Log update. Due to our slow speed, and the projected continued bad weather conditions in the coming days, it was not possible to visit both of our next 2 scheduled stops on Iceland.


Instead of arriving during the very early morning of Monday 28th August to our third port of call, Akureyri,down the fjord on the northern coast of Iceland, we would not arrive till around 2 p.m. The knock on effect of our late arrival to Akureyri would be that we’d not be leaving at 5.30 p.m. to chunter down the east coast of Iceland to Eskifjordur, our intended fourth port of call. The best that Captain Age Danielsen could do for us was to get us to Akureyri for early afternoon on Mon 28th where the ship would remain overnight, and in safer conditions, at port instead of journeying on to Eskifjordur.(near Reydarfjordur on the map below)


Akureyri was do-able given the adjustment to scheduled berth bookings (other ships using the harbours as well) but we had to abandon a stop at Eskifjordur.

For tourists who only disembarked at Akureyri to wander around the town for a couple of hours our 2 p.m. arrival didn’t really didn’t matter so much but for those who had pre-booked tours to see more of the countryside of Iceland it meant cancellations and reorganisation. My husband and I had originally booked a 3 hour tour in a 4x4 vehicle which was to take us to ‘The Vacant Valley’. This tour would have allowed us to see areas, and hidden gems, that coaches cannot travel to but it was cancelled. The weather was also very poor on Iceland that day so that particular tour, being off road, might have been too dangerous.

Instead, we joined the coach tour named ‘Jewels of the North’. This was a much longer tour of 8 hours. Normally this tour has a stop around the half way point for lunch but since we didn’t start the tour till 2.30 p.m. our meal replaced an on board dinner instead. Our viewing stops were curtailed a little to make the tour a shorter time of 7 hours. That meant we were back to the ship quite late but since the Captain had decreed we were spending the night at Akureyri it was fine.

Look out for more about my Jewels of the North tour  in my next ‘Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway’ post.

Slainthe!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Crooked cat SALE continues!

It's the Crooked cat Summer Sale time again!

Grab some fabulous bargains and enjoy escaping to other realities as you engross yourself in engaging characters and situations. Almost all Crooked Cat novels are on sale at ONLY 99p/99c across the Amazon Network.


Search for Crooked Cat Books on Amazon or try my link HERE.

Slainthe!


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Holiday reading!

Tuesday Tales!

One great thing about holidays for me is that I try to squeeze in some reading for pleasure, as many novels as I can during all the in between bits of travel, sightseeing, meals and sleep.

So far I've read a few of those on my kindle queue but I've been dipping into some non-fiction hardbacks in The Black Watch Cruise Ship's Library as well.

1.
The first of these kindle novels is hard to write about since it was the worst content edited story that I've read for quite a while. I think there may have been an edit for grammar and spelling which meant those aspects were adequate but the whole text needed a thorough edit for continuity errors; possible anachronisms; frequent POV changes; and use of phrasing which was far too modern for the era. I'd need to research whether or not a band of gypsies would have been likely as entertainment at this time, because perhaps they were the earliest troubadours, but the whole inclusion of the gypsy scenes seemed far too contrived. I persevered with the read in the hope of improvement but it didn't happen for me. As such I won't be rating Ariana's Pride by Margaret Lake on Goodreads or Amazon since I can't even rate it at 3 stars. If the author had employed a competent editor then the story would mot likely have had at least a 3 star rating.

2.
Amelia and the Viscount by Samantha Holt A 4 star read!

This was a short fast read, a quick dip into the era where it was commonplace for a family to have a string of daughters to marry off, generally the elder one marrying first. However, much like a famous Jane Austen novel, the eldest daughter in this novel is not first to be wed. The storyline is simple yet a bit unrealistic for me. The hero needing the blinkers lifted before he really sees Amelia’s qualities, after being totally smitten by a younger sister, doesn’t quite match up with the given facts that Nicholas had known all the girls as they grew up. The dialogue flows well though and the story has a good pace throughout.

3.
Ready, Steady, Dig! by Rosalind Winter 

This was definitely a 5 ***** read! 

This was a highly entertaining novel with a great pace throughout. The characters, major and minor, are all colourful and well rounded with the lares being personified to a high degree. I really enjoyed the contrasts between some of these, Petro being so responsible and Stillaria being so…well, Drippy!
The whole plot is centred on the Television concept of a fast action archaeological dig, which is not necessarily the way a traditional dig might be conducted. The reader who is familiar with TV archaeology will appreciate the TV characters created by the author. And for those who don’t watch much TV, Dr. Horton seems more typical of the pedantic archaeologists of the last fifty years.

There is a lot of well researched history and archaeology within this very readable, highly imaginative and enjoyable ‘historical fantasy’ contemporary novel.     
by Rosalind Winter.


4.

The List by Joanna Bolouri  4 stars

This was an entertaining book, definitely course but very readable. The story of Phoebe’s kind of dating sounds such hard work though the end was inevitable almost right from the beginning. I liked most of the characters but Oliver gets his just desserts! Quite predictable in a kind of Bridget Jones fashion but compelling reading.






Now I'm off to read a Crooked Cat Books novel! I'll let you know about it later....

Slainthe!   

Monday, 28 August 2017

Tasiilaq Eastern Greenland ... #2 Cruise Diary

Cruising Iceland, Greenland, and Norway #2

Greetings from Tasiilaq- Greenland!

Tasiilaq is the largest town in East Greenland with a population of around 2,000. Surrounded by jagged mountain peaks the town nestles above a small bay which houses the small harbour. A pontoon/floating jetty provides landing facilities for cruise ships like the one I am currently on and larger vessels.

The slow approach to Tasiilaq before 05.00 hours was in heavily overcast skies (I’m not sure exactly when since I was asleep till though the Captain’s daily update at noon over the system generally contains such information). The occasional small iceberg dotted the fjord outside my balcony window and tempted me to have a quick photo opportunity. Pyjama clad, it was surprisingly not too cold as I snapped a few quick shots though any longer would have been a different story.


In that early morning mist some of the colourful buildings closer to the shore peeked in and out of the shifting haar. Most buildings aren’t large, the bigger ones being warehousing, hospital, public buildings, school, sports centre. They have a very pretty Scandinavian appeal with many of them picked out with white rooftop edges.

During my short walk around Tasiilaq the people were very friendly, ready to smile to the hundreds of cruise ship tourists who landed on their shore in small batches from The Black Watch tenders. Impromptu entertainment was provided for us by young girls singing local songs as they sat near the Post Office, overseen by an older woman. I say local songs because at least one of them included the word Tasiilaq- though what the rest of the song meant I’ve no clue. Their first language is Greenlandic followed by Danish. Not knowing how to say thank you in Danish I tried it in Dutch and my ‘Haartelijk Danke’ was greeted with large smiles so it must have been similar enough.

The town used to be reliant on hunting but has in recent years diversified to include fishing and tourism to gain more economic benefits. The small Tourist Shop was crowded when I tried to have a look at the wares so I reluctantly gave that visit a miss. Some 20 -25 of the cruise ships tourists completely fills the small space to capacity. One of the shop windows had been opened for fresh air so I was able to glimpse some of the bone carvings that are a popular tourist buy.

Instead of queuing to get in to the shop and missing some valuable time on shore, I continued my hike up the road to get the best view of the area. Each new step on the sharp ascent took me into the low mist that was hovering. I’m used to Scottish haar descending so there was no use in blaming the local ‘god of the weather’ for not sending me sunshine. And for the locals it's clear that the washing gets hung outside in all weathers!



There's a tiny museum that started off life as a church but again it was very busy when I reached it, ours being the third tender to go ashore. However, finding out more about the traditional Inuit historical and religious history will have to wait for an internet connection that works more reliably. Our tour guide quite rightly advised all of us not to enter the small church if the flag was flying at half mast as that would indicate a wedding, funeral or some such event was taking place. The flag was flying high but as I saw some locals emerging I continued to seek new vistas to take more photos of the tiny harbour below.

My visit was short but I’m so very glad to say I have actually stepped foot on the terrain of Greenland!


Slainthe!         

It's the Crooked Cat Summer Sale!

Hello from somewhere on the high seas off Iceland. 

Actually, I'm in one of the fjords on the northern coast of Iceland, that leads to Akureyri our port of call for one night.

When I managed to log on to the internet (which hasn't been easy while en route to Greenland- should that surprise me?) I confirmed news of the Crooked Cat Summer Sale that lasts from the 28th August to the 31st August (2017).

That means that most of my novels are at 99p/ 99c across the Amazon Network, as well as lots of other CC books.

There's tons of genres to choose from and many of those cross the usual stereotypical genres which makes for REALLY GREAT READS!


Just pop onto Amazon, search for Crooked Cat books to see the selection and click away!

Alternatively here's a link to my own page HERE. 

Happy Reading,

Slainthe! 


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Reykjavik by Tuk Tuk! ... #1 Cruise Diary

Cruising Iceland, Greenland, and Norway #1

Reykjavik  24th August 2017

The grey, seriously overcast morning was no different from what I’m used to in north east Scotland so that didn’t put me off from watching the ship come into harbour at Reykjavik a little before eight o’clock in the morning. Like many fishing towns, Reykjavik is highly dependent on the fruits of the sea and the dockside is probably very like many you can visit worldwide. What might be different to some other ports is the cleanliness I saw around and about. There are medium height cranes but these don’t dominate the surrounding area. Other dockside machinery is unobtrusive.

As I write this post, I’m sitting in the Observatory Lounge on The Black Watch, a Fred Olsen cruise ship, on Deck 9 of 10 and I’m overlooking the harbour near our mooring point. The height means I have a fantastic vista over the city of Reykjavik. The buildings of the city are mainly low rise though there are a few modern apartment blocks dotted here and there, none of which look to be more than ten stories high. The city appears sprawled out from the harbour but the streets are very narrow and traffic tootling along on roads just above the harbour don’t travel too quickly.

Containers are to be found stacked in neat arrays at strategic places along the quayside. The modern container sheds are well designed for filling the containers, the one facing me as I type organised with bays in numeral order. There is movement below me on the dockside but nothing busy or bustling. It’s now four p.m. so perhaps I’d need to be viewing this at an early morning time to see the landings or maybe even on a different day when landings come in all day. The trawlers and whalers of today, I’m told by a local guide, are full processing ships and what comes to the dockside is already frozen or refrigerated and ready for distribution from the warehousing storage units. 

The city of Reykjavik’s tallest building is the spire of the modern white Cathedral. There are many other white buildings so being white doesn’t make it distinctive but what does make it stand out is its pinnacle shape that is so Viking like. The fabulous statue in front of the modern cathedral, started more then 20 years ago and not yet completed, is of Leifr Eiricsson who may, or may not, have discovered America before anyone else.   


The tour we picked for today (Thursday 24th Aug) wasn’t a long one but it was a novelty to go by Tuk Tuk. The city of Reykjavik gets its electricity from geo thermal plants and I’m told is completely free to residents.  The Tuk Tuk vehicle is essentially an electric bike with sufficient power to tow a weather proofed trailer for seating tourists. The ride is supposed to be large enough for 6 people but thankfully there were only four of us inside mine, though perfectly comfy for the purpose. The ride itself is very smooth but less so when driving over cobbled streets.

The first part of the tour was around the harbour area which like many traditional fishing villages has fishing related/ industrial buildings cheek and jowl with habitation. There’s a very clean feel about the areas but I was protected from any fishing odours inside the plastic coverings of the Tuk Tuk so I can’t comment on that.

Leifr Eiricsson 
The city of Reykjavik that I saw today doesn’t seem very old from the visible buildings but habitation of the site of Reykjavik goes back many centuries. Icelandic Sagas tell us that the area was first settled by Ingolfur Arnason (apologies for the lack of accents) and Hallveig Frodadottir back in 874 A.D. The Book of Settlements (Landnamabok), written by Ari Borgillson in the late 11th or early 12th Century, records the first people to inhabit to Iceland. Details of where they settled and who their descendants were are recorded in meticulous detail. (Look out for more of Ingolfor Arnason in a later blog post.)

In such a harsh climate wooden buildings have limited lifespans so what is now visible as the oldest buildings are much more recent than those built by Ingolfor and his descendants. By 1786, the city was an official trading post and buildings and the city grew from then on. A tour of ‘The Old Town’ provides a view of the colourful older buildings along with newer ones which have been recent replacements to fill gaps. Many areas along the shoreline are being redeveloped for commercial or for local leisure uses.

The newer buildings on my tour showed a preference for more neutral colours which in winter must make them disappear in the snowy landscape. However, many of the gable ends of buildings have very decorative street art (see above image) which maybe makes them easier to recognise in a white out! I didn’t see many large houses but those which would have been originally used by one large or extended family, I was told by our guide, now tend to be sub-let into smaller apartments.

Public buildings are small with little embellishment which seems very in keeping with a practical community living in a harsh winter environment. During my tour there were occasional glimpses of the pedestrian shopping area, larger retail outlets which were dotted along the streets between harbour and centre of the city. The city isn’t built on a grid system so it felt a little as though our driver was weaving back and forth to get to the main tourist spot by the cathedral.

Our Tuk Tuk guide’s English wasn’t very fluent but since she was an Italian from Turin and had only lived in Reykjavik for two years it was great she was able to point out anything at all. (A commentary was not guaranteed on the Tuk Tuk tour anyway so some info was a bonus)

More later on the photos from my trip to Reykjavik since my internet connections are not reliable and I'm probably chancing it trying to post the above. 

Slainthe!   

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Summer Surprises continue with Death in Dulwich by Alice Castle!

Saturday Surprise! 

Alice Castle
I've a special guest today, Alice Castle, who has popped in to share news of her soon to be released novel Death In Dulwich. Crooked Cat Books launch it on the 6th September 2017 but since I'll be away on my cruising holiday I'm sharing the update today, just in case I have no internet access on the 6th. 

Congratulations in advance of the launch and my best wishes that it's a fantastic and profitable day, Alice. I've got it pre-ordered and look forward to reading it very soon! 

Welcome to my blog and please tell us a little about what Summer Surprises are in store for us in Death in Dulwich ....  

A big thank-you to Nancy for having me today on her lovely blog. Nancy writes delicious contemporary romantic mysteries as well as historical and time travel novels so, as my book is a mystery with a dash of romance on the side, I’m hoping there will be a crossover appeal to some of you devoted Nancy fans.

I’m really excited about my book, Death in Dulwich, which is coming out on 6th September. It’s a nod to the Golden Age of crime fiction, in that I’ve set my story in a small, enclosed community where everyone knows each other, with all the joys and strife and intense claustrophobia that brings. The twist is that the community is set in the heart of south east London. As a major world capital, London is not the kind of place where you’d expect the neighbours to know what you had for breakfast. But then, Dulwich is no ordinary part of the city.

My heroine, too, is out of the usual mould. She is a single mum, widowed very young and now struggling to make ends meet and keep up with the mortgage payments. She lands a great job and then, on her first day at work, she stumbles over… oh, but that would be telling.

Suffice to say, she is pitched headlong into a situation where she has no choice but to clear her name. It’s a struggle which brings her up against the police, her bosses and, worse still, the judgemental yummy mummies at her son’s school.

I’m really thrilled to say I’ve already had some lovely reviews for Death in Dulwich. My favourite is, ‘a modern twist on Miss Marple.’ I have to confess, I did rather shout, ‘yesssss!’ when I read that. But the book has also been called ‘a compelling page turner’ and been described as ‘murderously good fun.’

Dulwich is undoubtedly one of the heroes of the book. I lived there for four years, my children went to school there and it is both a wonderful and daunting place to make a life. It’s at the heart of my series. The sequel to Death in Dulwich, The Girl in the Gallery, is coming out next year (also with Crooked Cat) and there will be at least two more instalments in the series to follow. I’m really looking forward to writing them and I hope you’ll read them with pleasure. I’d say the books are quite a light read, but hopefully deal with contemporary issues that affect parents, small communities and the society we live in.

Death in Dulwich
By Alice Castle

Already described by early reviewers as ‘murderously good fun’ (author TP Fielden), a ‘keenly observed page turner … highly recommended’ (Amazon) and ‘well-written, engaging and fun,’ (author Jo Blakeley), Death in Dulwich is the story of thirty-something widow Beth Haldane.

Beth has her hands full – she has a bouncy nine-year-old son, a haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and a ton of bills to pay. She loves her little home in plush south London suburb Dulwich, but life here doesn’t come cheap.

That’s why she is thrilled to land a job as archivist at top local school Wyatt’s - though she has an inkling the post is not what it seems and she doesn’t think much of her new boss, Dr Jenkins, either. Then, on her first day at work, Dr Jenkins is brutally murdered. Beth finds the body, and realises she is the prime suspect, with means, opportunity and a motive.

Beth has no choice but to try and clear her name, bringing herself into conflict with the police and the school. But who is the real culprit? And is the cause of the killing a horrifying secret buried deep in the school’s past, or does evil lurk behind the comfortable façade of daily Dulwich life?

Beth grows in confidence during her dogged pursuit of the murderer and, by the end of the book, is ready for any adventures that may come her way. Which is just as well, because there’s trouble brewing at the Dulwich Picture Gallery ….


Pre-Order your copy  HERE 

Alice Castle
Twitter: @DDsDiary

Alice Castle was a national newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph before becoming a novelist. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, was a European best-seller which sold out in two weeks.
Alice is currently working on the sequel to Death in Dulwich, The Girl in the Gallery. The second instalment in the London Murder Mystery series, it will be published by Crooked Cat next year.
Alice is also a top mummy blogger, writing DD’s Diary at www.dulwichdivorcee.com.
She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.


Thank you for visiting today, Alice, and once again best wishes! 

Slainthe!