Thursday, 19 October 2017

What Did Those Ancient Romans Ever Do For Me?

Good morning everyone!

It's been a few days since I posted and here's a bit of why... 

Rome Aqueduct - Wikimedia Commons
I've decided that living in rainy Scotland isn't such a bad deal after all. Though we've had intermittent downpours and sometimes continuous drizzle for days and days we are lucky compared to many areas of the globe that are having horrendous wildfires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes. My part of Aberdeenshire just missed the effects of Hurricane Ophelia who was downgraded to a severe storm by the time she reached southern Scotland. For many of us in Scotland, a storm with winds of 70 mph was just  a wee blow, nothing special, and a 'good drying day' for the washing (laundry) hanging outside in between downpours! For sure, some roofs lost their coverings but not many, and those damaged were possibly not the best maintained anyway! Or, not built to last over the decades, or centuries, or even the Roman aqueduct above! 

Enough of weather, and I'm not going near politics since that's something that's also taking up some of my precious day's reading time. Politics in the UK, and also in Europe, is a definite hot potato right now.  They say there is more than one way to skin a cat and what is needed now are sensible options being taken up by blinkered voters and incompetent governmental leaders in the UK.  

So, I'll return to my title topic What Did The Ancient Romans Ever Do For Us? and explain why it's been a great reason for me being too busy to post on here. 

I posted on my regular slot yesterday (18th Oct) at Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog about  What Did The Ancient Romans Ever Do For Us? but here I'll expand my notes a little further! 

That phrase in bold above might bring to mind many different scenarios. For me growing up watching UK television in the 1960s and 1970s, the first image would be of an irreverently funny show called Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The weekly show itself had many spin offs, one of which was a definitely irreverent feature film "The Life of Brian". In the film, a character (John Cleese) derisively asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  The answers from those assembled reply: err…sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system via aqueducts, public health…and our peace. 

From Youtube.

It's a very funny film though not to everyone's taste as it challenges some established theories of religion, dogma and the like...

Ancient Rome was an amazing place. It is a city that I’m learning more about every day during my FutureLearn Course - Rome: A virtual Tour of the Ancient City
Aqua Claudia by Pietro Sassi - Wikimedia Commons 

It’s only Week 2 of my course and I’ve already learned about some of the list above. It’s incredible to think of how inventive the original engineers of Rome were back in 312 B.C. when the first short aqueduct of 16 km (c. 10 miles), the Aqua Appia, brought a constantly running supply of fresh water into the city of Rome. The Aqua Appia was an underground channel but by 140 B.C. the Aqua Marcia (55 miles) had a about 6 miles of its total running over arches. By the first century A.D. there were around 11 aqueducts feeding the city’s 1 million inhabitants with fresh water. 

This site has information on another ancient Roman aqueduct built in the first century A.D.

The Ancient Romans didn’t only appreciate the fresh water coming into their city for drinking purposes. They also used it for:
  • continuous flushing out of their communal lavatories
  • supplying water to their communal bathhouses
  • for other domestic, trade and industry reasons
  • for sluicing down their streets and sewers 
  • and for feeding the many fountains around the city.  

Trevi Fountain, Rome -Wikimedia Commons
The famous Trevi Fountain in Rome is still partially fed from the Aqua Virgo which was initially constructed in 19 B.C. during the time of the Emperor Augustus. The Aqua Virgo brought in the fresh water from hills and streams some 18 km (11 miles) away from the city and was used as a source for 400 years till it fell into disuse around the time of the Fall of Rome in approx 397 A.D. during the ensuing 1000 years, some attempts were made to restore the aqueduct but it wasn’t till 1453 that it was properly restored to feed a fountain on the site of the present Trevi Fountain. 

By 1762 a fabulous new baroque fountain was created, the one we can view today in Rome known as the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi is famous for various reasons, one of which is the 1954 film “Three coins in the Fountain” that title song sung by Frank Sinatra, though he got no credit for it.  

This site has some info on where the name Trevi probably originates from and gives details of the fantastic sculptures around the Trevi fountain. 

BTW - I’ve also learned about the sewers of Rome but I'll leave that topic for another day! 

The architecture of the buildings of the Roman Forum are now holding my attention much more, although I confess to being fascinated that had the Ancient Romans settled in my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, my surroundings might have been very different from they are now.

Aqua Claudia -Wikimedia Commons

The longest unbroken stretch of an ancient above-ground aqueduct near Rome is the Aqua Claudia. 

I'm off now to do a bit more of my FutureLearn Rome course and some very neglected writing. 


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Highways and Byways!

Sunday again!

I really can't believe it when someone tells me that their week has gone slowly past. I never have enough hours in the day to do all I want to. It's always a case of squeezing something in.

I do make time for non-fiction reading as well as my fiction slots and some of my recent reading has been quite enlightening. It's easy to see why rumours can grow and why local folklore is deeply embedded in what people believe of a an area. While doing some research on the possibility of Ancient Roman roads in Aberdeenshire, I got myself a copy of a book I'd been recommended some months back (probably sometime during 2016). 

The book is an 'out of print' hardback that was published in Aberdeen in 1985 and is titled Highways and Byways Round Kincardine. My second hand copy has no dust jacket and I've no idea if it ever had one but there are many interesting photographs,maps and illustrations within.

What I have in Highways and Byways Round Kincardine  is a companion volume to a first book entitled Highways and Byways Round Stonehaven and is the work of Archibald Watt who certainly (faithfully and lovingly)  had tramped many miles to gather up his information. The book I have is essentially a book of local driving routes which also take the hiker off road for much of the time- sometimes through public access land and at others over farmland or local private estate land.

I'm not local to Aberdeenshire and I have little experience of Kincardinshire or the Mearns area but the book is a little gem of Watt's knowledge gathered over decades which doubles as a history of the area as well.

Where his original information derives from is very varied -some from original textbooks, old maps,  and histories of the area; some from anecdotal material; some from the libraries of landowners of the area whom I'm guessing he was acquainted with.

The aim of Watt in writing the book of routes is to "stimulate public interest in the history, character and beauty of Kincardineshire, to further knowledge of and interest in our local heritage and to encourage the preservation of various ancient historical sites and buildings that mean so much to us and are of aesthetic and environmental importance."

The book was published just a few years before I moved to Aberdeenshire but I'm very ignorant of the area save when I drive northbound along the A90 to reach Aberdeen, or the opposite direction to drive south to Edinburgh or Glasgow.  Watt is careful in his book to make clear that some roads which were anecdotally and in the local oral tradition thought to be historically Roman are not attested by the Archaeological Department of Aberdeen University. That is not to say the Romans never laid down any proper roads in Kincardine, it just means thorough excavations have never been done to prove it.

In the following extract he writes about a Roman Camp near Kair House (Fordoun) It is believed by some historians to have been created by Emperor Severus around AD 210 rather then during the Agricolan expeditions of the first century AD (AD 84). Watt sounds pretty sure of his information in this book but the site has never been given official status because, like so many others, no formal adn positive excavations have been recorded.

An aerial survey led to this belief the aerial photograph taken in 1945. Watt's description is highly readable even if not proven!

"A Tired Roman Legionary's Earthen Wall
Now let us carry on up the hill to the steading of the Mains of Kair. Here we turn right and left again, past the dwelling house, until in just under a quarter of a mile in all we reach two small huts on the right. Between them you should stop again for you are parked on the site of the porta praetoria or general's gate, the main entrance to the camp, placed as was always the case in a slight re-entrant angle in the middle of the north-east side of the camp, the side facing the enemy. Between the two small huts can still be seen the remains of about 20 yards of the turf rampart or agger which, originally 7 ft high, had once surrounded the camp surrounded by a palisade (vallum) of sharpened wooden stakes. How fascinating that the earthen wall built by some tired legionary some nearly 1800 years ago should show today where the line of defence once continued for another 280 yards down the field on our left!" 

I'm particularly interested in the parts where Watt points out possible Roman sites but the general historical details are also very interesting for periods across all eras.

My next non-fiction 'book I've read' post is likely to be on The Military Roads in Scotland by William Taylor- also a fascinating, though not up-to- date, book.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Review of Under Heaven's Shining Stars by Jean Grainger

It's still Saturday but this time I'm writing my thoughts on a book that I've just finished reading!

I've lately been getting daily emails from many different promotional sites like : Book Hippo; Booksends; Just Kindle Books; Bargain Booksy etc and some of those advertised have drawn my eye and I've done that 'Oh, So Easy' click though on Amazon. I can't remember which source I saw this one on but that doesn't matter because it was a great read. 

Under Heaven's Shining Stars by Jean Grainger 

This was a very engrossing book covering a number of themes.

The deep friendship of three very different young boys- Liam, Patrick and Hugo- from (or near to) the city of Cork, Ireland, continues to develop into adulthood, forming bonds that are unbreakable.

For a young devout Roman Catholic man entering the priesthood there are hurdles for Liam to pass and ethics to agonise over. For Patrick there are life changing events that it seems impossible to evade the consequences of. Hugo looks set to have the loneliest life, even though privilege sits on his shoulder, but fate has a way of balancing the sadness.

I'm not religious so I have no way of knowing how accurate the aspects of Catholicisms are but Roman Catholic religion is central to the story and how circumstances which don't fit the norm can be adequately accommodated.

Having money and the lack of is a theme that runs throughout. Death and the consequences to those left behind is a tragic theme that affects all three of the main characters but I’m glad to read that the story has favourable endings for all of them. 

I thought this was a 5* read!


Cracking new review for The Taexali Game!

Saturday surprises are fantastic!

It been a great few days into October for me getting new reviews for my novels. Topaz Eyes got two brand new 5* reviews on Amazon UK recently which takes it to 13 (5*) reviews!

And today is another wonderful day since The Taexali Game has a brand new cracking review on the Book Viral site.

The review begins with:

"A thoroughly absorbing slalom of a novel The Taexali Game proves a bold and imaginative melding of Historical, Fantasy and Science Fiction with Jardine delivering a maelstrom of action and intrigue in equal measure...."

Click the Book Viral link HERE to read the whole fantastic review which I very much appreciate as it has no spoilers of any kind but highlights the elements I wanted to write about in the action adventure. 

The Taexali Game is now entered into Book Viral's 'Crimson Quill' Award. To qualify for this award I need the endorsement of lots of my readers. Please consider clicking the link on the left sidebar of the review page and enter the details for me to gain your endorsement for The Taexali Game being a great read!  

Thank you - your support will be brilliant. 

It's also lovely that the site has a little promo of my other novels as well. 

Cheers and have a happy Saturday. 


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Imagining ...or imaging?

Welcome to my first Wednesday in October post.

Today was my regular slot to guest post at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog. Since I wrote about some of my writing and researching techniques I'm re blogging some of it here - with some different images.

...Sometimes I need a little bit of help to kick start my imagination when I’m writing. Once I get that little extra push, I’m right into the scene and then my characters can take over in their imagined setting.

When I write my contemporary mysteries my imagination is helped by my memories of a place where I want to scene set. But I also know that my memories can be fickle and a bit selective so in the interests of accuracy I use the internet to give me current photos of where I'm writing about. 

In my historical writing it’s not so easy to create visual images for my locations.  I want authenticity and credibility in my stories but I can’t look back at photographs of my places to see what that landscape was like 2000 years ago. The contours may be largely the same but the vegetation is unlikely to be similar since recent centuries of farming (since the 18th century) and forestry methods in north east Scotland have altered the original picture. That means I need to seek help from other places.

I can add ancient standing stone circles of the stone and bronze ages, or stone hillforts, or stone brochs but my imagination has to work double time on Celtic roundhouses and crannogs which have mostly deteriorated to nothing over the millennia.

What helps sometimes with my ‘scene imagining’ for 2000 years ago Scotland is looking at the artwork of relevant artists  like the famous Angus McBride, or from illustrated children's non-fiction history books of which I still have a large selection! 

But I need to remember it’s that particular artist’s interpretation. Other artists, archaeologists and historians may interpret things differently. And so do I!

In Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series, when writing about my character General Agricola thinking about the Emperor Domitian and the Senate being back in Ancient Rome, I find it a little helpful to look at ancient sculptures. The friezes, and the carved fascias of ancient buildings also give me clues as to what the environment was like. Things my character Agricola is remembering as they were almost 2000 years ago.

My visit to Rome last year helps me a bit but of course, what I saw last year is only what has survived and not the Rome of Agricola's era  in all it's colourful glory.

Virtual imagining processes of ancient places are fabulous and I love to see any that are shared with me on Social Media. Looking at Pompeii, or Portus (the artificial harbour of ancient Rome), or Athens or Ancient Egypt is fascinating.

So, last week, when I saw a FutureLearn course entitled ‘Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City being advertised I just could not resist enrolling. Click the link, scroll down to the little video window and see what's on offer. You might like it, too but there's not much time to enroll since it starts next week, 9th October! (I loved my last year's FutureLearn course on Hadrian's Wall'.)

I’m hoping this Rome course will give me some ideas for polishing my character named Agricola a little better, or that it’ll be useful for the next book in the series BUT—most of all I hope that it’ll be fun!

What are your thoughts on Virtual imaging? Do you like seeing the way gifted visual imaging creators present these ancient places?

Expect updates later when I start my course.


Monday, 2 October 2017

Some Monday moments have been amazing!

The first Monday of October has come and gone! 

Yay! I've just noticed 2 brand new 5* reviews on Amazon for my mystery novel Topaz Eyes. Reviews have been hard to come by so these are absolutely welcomed and very much appreciated. I thank all who take the time to read my novels and especially thank those who take time to write a short review and post it to places like Amazon and Goodreads, which in turn helps to sell more of my novels! 

Return customers are lovely as are new readers.

Here's what they have to day...

5 out of 5 stars 
Posted  29 September 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love reading Nancy Jardine's novels and this one was no exception. Her story telling is enticing, exciting and sensual as well as skillful as she weaves a plot of intrigue across Europe. The protagonist, Keira Drummond, is strong, determined and self-assured as she embarks on a mystery involving a family she doesn't belong to, jewels she's never seen, and Teun Zeger, a rather dashing American.

With a very helpful family tree at the start of the book, the characters with their unusual names are easy to follow as the mystery deepens.

This was the perfect holiday read; gripping and engaging with, of course, a romance which Nancy Jardine writes so well.

24 September 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A velvety trip packed full of history, mystery and suspense. Nancy Jardine writes fluidly and skillfully to create a very unique novel that holds the attention until the very last page...

The day has been full of other sad news but I go to bed a happy author having noticed these accolades of my efforts. 


Friday, 29 September 2017

At Aboyne on Royal Deeside!

Friday greetings to you!

What an odd sort of week it has been. I've been looking after my grand kids a few days as usual but I've also managed to do some of my new writing as well as organise promotions for my current novels.

My writing is kind of cyclic but it'll come right soon, I'm sure. Time and effort should do the trick.

I've come to a halt with my research of 'Roman Roads in Aberdeenshire' having had official confirmation from Aberdeen University Archaeology Dept that there probably were none. None that have been officially identified as 'properly laid down' roads. Though, it's been fun to pour over the oldest maps of Aberdeenshire ( from the 15th century onwards) to see what the earlier residents of Aberdeenshire thought about those dastardly ancient Roman armies who invaded their territory and left traces of temporary marching camps. 

The Taexali Game promotion is now ending for this latest duration but if you're very quick you'll still manage to pick up a copy at 99p/99c across Amazon.

For those who've grabbed a copy this week, it'll be fabulous if you could leave a review on Amazon and tell me what you think of the read. A few sentences is all that's needed. Thank You!

The weekend looms but for me it'll be a mixture of 'work' and play. I'll be signing/ selling paperback versions of my novels at the Victory Hall, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire tomorrow (Sat 30th of Sept) with my lovely crafter friends FOCUS Craft Fairs. I love the conversations I have with people who are interested in my chosen historical period or in the locations of my contemporary novels and look forward to some tomorrow.

I can hardly credit that the month of October is coming so soon but if you're anywhere near tomorrow, please call in at the Victory Hall, Aboyne, and say hello!


Monday, 25 September 2017

What people are saying about...The Taexali Game- 99p!

Monday Moments!

It's Monday and for no particular reason The Taexali Game will be on SALE for a few days across the Amazon network.

Here's what people have written about it so far...though I admit to needing a LOT more new reviews for this novel!

If you grab a copy at 99p/99c please consider writing a short comment about it on Amazon when you finished. Thank you!

Just click this link HERE

The Taexali Game is sends three teens back to northern Britannia (current Aberdeenshire) during the invasion of the Ancient Roman Emperor Severus c. AD 210.

"This combination of fantasy and history, linked by an interactive computer game, is sure to appeal to a wide audience. The geographical location of the story is used well in this tale of the attempts of the Romans to subjugate the peoples of the North and though there is little historical evidence of events, the writer skilfully creates a most believable world."

"The historical research rings true, especially as I had just read another book that featured the Ancient Roman Emperor Severus and his sons, so had done some research of my own. (The other one, however, was a mystery set against a movie about Severus.) Aran and his friends, the twins Brian and Fianna, depend on the knowledge gleaned at school about the period. The author uses this to weave interesting but relevant facts in, in a way that Henry Treece would be proud of."

"As usual, Nancy's characterisation is fantastic and the action never stops. You are gripped and have read the next chapter.

Although this is sort of aimed at teenagers I would recommend this for all lovers of historical novels... " 

"An entertaining romp, with a combination of time travelling, gaming and "real life" action. Enough to satisfy the desires of any techno addict. I'm no gamer and was out of my depth at first, but soon became drawn into this fast-paced quest with a strong sense of history, and can only admire the skill of grandmother Nancy Jardine in using a meld of fiction, research and fantasy to educate the young of today in the world of ancient Roman Britain."

Wishing you a happy read! 


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Underneath the The Queensferry Crossing #9 Cruise Diary

Cruising GreenlandIceland and Norway #9

Continuing my cruise diary...

Victorian built Forth Railway Bridge
Sunday 3rd September

It seemed all too soon for the cruise to be over but I awoke knowing that The Black Watch was cruising into the River Forth estuary, Scotland.

My husband was desperate to take a video of the ship sailing under all three bridges that straddle the River forth. I was less inclined to go down to the deck below at 5.40 a.m. to get a better view but was happy to throw on a fleece and take some shots from our tiny balcony.
Directly under the Forth Railway Bridge

It was quite magical to be out in the pre-dawn, just as the first tinges of purplish red were lighting the sky. I slipped out onto the balcony at just the right time since The Black Watch was almost under the Victorian Forth Railway Bridge.

It only took minutes to sail under that then on to the Forth Bridge and then under the brand new Queensferry Crossing. Stunning since it was also the beginning of a day that promised to have some sunshine, something lacking from our days at sea and at our destination ports.

Our timing was a little bit off on Sunday the 3rd September for being able to drive northwards over the newest Queensferry Crossing on our journey home. This was because the bridge had been open for only a very short time to traffic the week before and then closed again. It would be a few days till it officially opened to traffic on a permanent basis. From the 6th of Sept the bridge was destined to become a motorway crossing with the existing Forth Road Bridge becoming available to pedestrians, cyclists and used as a local transport corridor.
Approaching the Forth Bridge (opened 1964)

BUT...Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September were designated days when pedestrians could have the amazing 'once in a lifetime' opportunity of walking across the bridge. The new Queensferry Crossing bridge was not built with a pedestrian lane. Once permanently opened, the bridge is only constructed to take vehicular traffic northwards on the M90 motorway. It’s the longest three tower cable stayed bridge in the world at 1.7 miles and the largest to have cables which cross mid-span, providing extra strength and stiffness to the bridge. It rises as high as 48 double-decker buses stacked on top of each other.

Looking back to both the Forth Bridge and the Forth Railway Bridge- courtesy Alan Jardine

The above photo is so much better than mine!

The bridge was built to improve congestion into and around the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh but also because the existing Forth Road Bridge (opened 1964) has been dogged with structural issue caused by a much heavier volume of traffic during it’s approx. 50 year lifetime, the use being much greater than was anticipated back in the early 1960s when it was conceived. 

As we sailed under the bridge just after dawn it was too early for the special  ‘once in a lifetime’ pedestrian access so the bridge was eerily quiet.
Queensferry Crossing taken from my balcony on The Black Watch
(structure to left is The Black Watch tender for ship to shore transfers)

The new Queensferry Crossing is a beautifully stylish bridge that twinkles in the early sunlight, a majestic shape that blends in rather than being intrusive given the very different styles of the Victorian Railway Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge.
Looking back to Forth Bridge and Queensferry Crossing - courtesy of Alan Jardine

Our cruise was at an end when we docked smoothly at Rosyth around 7 a.m. By approx. 10.30 a.m. we had disembarked The Black Watch and were headed back into Edinburgh by taxi over the Forth Road Bridge. By this time we could see some pedestrians having fun making their historic crossing of the new Queensferry Bridge.

Looking back to view all 3 crossing over the River Forth- courtesy of Alan Jardine

p.s I found out later that my nephew and his family were among the few thousand lucky people who managed to get the well prized tickets to make that pedestrian crossing. It’s an event that I think my great-nieces will remember for the rest of their lives.

All credit goes to the organisers of that pedestrian access because it seemed to be a very well run event with buses ready and waiting, ‘hop on hop off’style,  to transport the pedestrians back to the other side if they only wanted to walk across one-way.

All kudos goes to The Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party administration for their historic achievement! 


Saturday, 23 September 2017

#Loen Skylift! #Mount Hoven #8 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #8

Continuing my cruise diary...

Friday 1st September

Sailing to our next port at Olden, Norway, meant cruising along a very long fjord. I’m sure we were told our route was along one of the longest fjords in Norway. Entering the first part near Maloy we cruised along the sea opening to Nordfjord > to Innvikfjorden and >along to Olden at the head of the fjord. The end of the fjord doesn’t culminate in one bay, it’s actually like there are ‘2 heads of the loch’ with Olden to the south and the town of Loen to the north.

Most of the sail was done overnight but I was awake to see the ship make its slow way to the harbour at Olden. The views to either side were fantastic and it was easy to believe that the cruise along it would have been stupendous in daylight.

We booked the Loen Skylift—a short cable car trip—for our Olden trip knowing it came the day after the long trip at Alesund and because it was yet another method of travel to view the panoramic sights of Norway from on high. 

Loen Skylift, Norway
Travelling to the mountain tops by coach would have meant another long day so the cable car was an excellent way to do it in a few minutes. The coach ride from the harbour to the cable car stop at Loen was quick mainly due to the tunnel connections between the fjord ends.

Loen Skylift, Norway
The Loen Skylift was the most amazing cable car ride I’ve eve had so far and I’ve taken a lot of rides in many different kinds of cable cars. The Loen Skylift  claims to be one of the steepest cable car rides on the globe. 

Brand new, the engineers had to create a new type of ‘lifting mechanism’ because nothing that existed was capable of coping with the slope of Mount Hoven. The ride takes about five minutes and up to a height of 1011 metres (3316 feet). A comparison might be going straight to the top of Liathach (Carn Eige, Torridon, Scotland) or Snowdon in Wales.  

It was the smoothest, the most silent and incredible ride I’ve experienced and so close to the surface of the mountain near the top that someone tall with a long stretch could have put their hand out of the top ventilation window and touched the rock wall. That may be the tiniest exaggeration but only the tiniest! There was no lurch over the sections of the cable just a beautiful glide to the top.

Unfortunately, it was very misty with light intermittent rain. That meant the view from the top of Mount Hoven was seriously restricted when we exited the cable car at around 10 a.m. It wasn’t as cold as I expected but my ski jacket was perfect for taking a wander on the top of Mount Hoven. However, the wind was so shrill I didn’t linger on the pathways. Because the mist was so low the cliff edges were difficult to see and the top pathways close to the restaurant had no perimeter edging (that I could detect).

I loved the huge horseshoe at the summit and wondered if it was good luck for those who had taken the opportunity to ride to the top by the cable car or…was it good luck for a safe cable car ride back down!  I have since found out that the horseshoe is there because ‘Hoven’ means hoof. The mountain is named Hoven because Sleipner, the horse belonging to Odin in Norse Mythology is said to have kicked one of its hooves into the mountain at Loen and left the characteristic hole that lies at the peak.

The two cars of the lift are named Hugin and Munin. In Norse Mythology they were a pair of ravens who flew daily over Midgard (human world) and Asgard (the gods' world) watching what was happening and listening to what was said. On the approach of dusk they returned to Odin's shoulder and whispered their findings. In this way Odin was credited with being the most knowledgeable and wisest god. We travelled on Hugin both ways.  

This site gives information on the official opening ceremony of the cable car in May 2017.

We lingered in the restaurant drinking excellent coffee and ‘Norwegian’ doughnuts for an hour or so in the hope that the mist would clear and we’d get a better view. It thinned a little but we gave up and went back down since the prognosis by the informed staff was that it might be 2 p.m. before it properly cleared. On a good day I’m sure it has to be absolutely stunning. The whole trip for us cost around £50 each but we still reckoned it was worth it to have experienced the brand new ride!

I loved the way the surroundings of the building at the top were exposed to reveal the rocks that the builders had had to excavate to prepare the flat foundations. 

The striations of the rocks were impressive perhaps showing up even more in the damp mist than they would on a fine day. Sadly the neat little outside cafe area was deserted though it's easy to see why.

I made a short video of the ride back down but it's apparently too large a file to be shown here. However, I did manage to post it to Facebook from the ship while it was still in port at Olden so you might be able to catch it HERE , scrolll down to find a post of the 1st September. 

We saw a little more of Olden on our coach tour back to the ship. It was too late for lunch on board so we opted to eat in a cafĂ© near the harbour. Olden beer, made just a few yards along the road at the craft brewery, was too tempting not to try. Being late for lunchtime the only hot food left was ‘pizza’ – not a traditional Norwegian dish like we’d thought to try but it was freshly made pepperoni style and was delicious with the Olden brew.

Regardless of the intermittent rain and mist, it was a lovely day but our cruise holiday @Fred.Olsen The Black Watch was almost over. Only a day and a half sail left to reach our destination at Rosyth.

Look out for my next and last cruise diary!


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Rauma Railway & Trollstigen Mountains #7 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #7

Continuing my cruise diary...

Thursday 31st August, 2017

Alesund, Norway
By the time we reached the coast of Norway the weather had slightly improved. It was still showery to start with but very much better than the gales of the previous days at sea. Our approach into the fjords of Norway near Alesund was very early in the morning so, being a slugabed, I missed the views. My first sight was of the apartment buildings by the harbour in Alesund.

The tour we had booked was entitled Rauma Railway & Trollstigen Mountains expected to last 8 hours. Everything went according to plan on this tour and we set off by coach along the very pretty route along the Storfjord and into the equally stunning Romsdalsfjord valley. Thankfully any rain was light,  the day mostly dry and even at times a little bit sunny!
near Trollveggan

Our stop at the Trollveggen picnic area was short but the views were stupendous. The mountain tops around are quite spectacularly jagged, Trollveggen being Europe’s tallest vertical, overhanging rock face at 1000 metres high. The thought of climbing up and abseiling down is quite alarming but paragliding (or whatever) from it (now banned by law) was a story I wasn't sure I wanted to hear. 

The tour continued by coach along beautiful valleys to the railway station at Bjorli where we picked up the next Rauma Train (The coach driver’s timing was excellent because we had no more than a 5-10 minute wait which considering the bending single track route we had just driven on was very skilled driving!). The Rauma Railway is a regular train so we struggled to get seats for the approximately 1 hour train ride. The train carriage was very comfortable if not designed to take loads of luggage which must cause some difficulty during the winter months since the area around Bjorli is a busy ski-centre. One other thing to note about the train was the large vending machine between carriage sections which sold drinks and snacks- useful since the train passengers might have come from a lot further away than us.

The Rauma river meanders around the valley floor so attractively with pretty little bridges across it and in some parts it's a stunning green colour. I wanted to come home with some amazing images but ...sadly my view was restricted from the train as I avoided getting shots of the woman opposite and my photographic skills are just not that good.

Rauma River

The ride from Bjorli to Andalsnes was beautiful and gave me a different perspective from the coach ride to Bjorli as the train sometimes crossed the Rauma River. It was very relaxing on the train though photos were hard to take since the speed was probably around 60 or 70 mph in parts.

Our lunch venue in the town of Andalsnes was very efficient the main course a local dish that resembled a meat loaf. The mushroom and stilton soup to start with was very creamy and tasty!
Norwegian Mountaineering Centre, Andalsnes, Norway 
The image above of the Mountaineering Centre was just one of the modern archetectural styled buildings we'd seen on our cruise. I think it looks a bit like a whale from this perspective but it was an incredibly designed building which made a huge impact on the senses.

Back on the coach we journeyed back to Alesund via a slightly different route and passed through many long tunnels which, for the locals, have cut out long sails around the fjords.

Along the  Rauma Road from the Rauma Railway. 

On the way back to Alesund
The tour gave me a really good flavour of the mountainous interior around the area of Alesund, Norway. It was a great way of demonstrating how the road builders, and those who laid the Rauma train track, coped with cutting through the bare rock to shave off a lot of distance and time along the route. None of those measures diminished the grandeur of the valleys we passed through or the fjords we bent around.  

Map indicating the location of a couple of the many tunnels we went through.

I've so many lovely photos but can't include them all here. When I can make more time I'll make new Pinterest boards. 

The Cruise Diary so far:

The gist of it here as well!

Yesterday, 20th September 2017, 
was my day to post at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog but I forgot to mention it here as well. Since I spent some of my writing time creating it yesterday I'll re-post some of it here, though the images might be different! I've already posted some of my holiday images on this blog so I'll try to avoid repetition.


Full length novel completed. Own edits thoroughly done. Manuscript is ready for next stage. What might that be for you?

Me? I’d be focusing on finalising:
1) Title
2) Tag Line
3) Blurb
4) Synopsis… before submitting to a publisher. 

I find it incredibly difficult to do those last stages even though, by then, I know my story inside out. So how do I decide on what is the gist of it? gist:   main points; general ideas; general picture; substance of the thing…

I want the person who reads my submission to immediately know the essence of my story. I want the main highlights to be pointed out but not the full happenings. I want to get across the impact of certain developments in my story and strategic moments within it where my characters are faced with situations that they love being in/ hate being in/ or perhaps need to change to reach the finale of the events.

Like my story writing I’ve been realising that my recent cruise holiday to Greenland, Iceland and Norway was very similar. Sailing to those places meant a lot of water to cross before setting foot on the land. The days spent at sea were part of the preparation for the on-shore events and were the background to strategic and particular moments.

Reykjavik, Iceland
My last post on this Wranglers blog mentions what led to my husband choosing our cruise. Those details can be found here: However, part of our advance planning was also booking our on-shore trips. From a wide range of options, we chose on-shore activities that would allow us to experience the essence of Iceland and the parts of Norway that we visited by using different travel methods.

In Reykjavik, Iceland, we booked a Tuk-Tuk ride to experience the old city. Actually the old city is neither large, nor very old, but Tuk-Tuk  is a novel way to ride the cobbled streets.

At Akureyri, Iceland, we booked a 4x4 ride across terrain that a normal coach wouldn’t be able to travel on, the idea being to see hidden waterfalls and ancient ‘ghostly’ places. At Eskifjordur, Iceland, we booked a coach tour that would take us to tiny seaside towns where we could visit a small fishing museum, and a rocks and minerals museum.

At Alesund, Norway, we booked a long coach tour to the interior where we would take a short train ride on the famous Rauma Railway which goes past the incredible Trollstigen Mountains.

At Olden, Norway, we booked a short coach ride to the brand new Cable Car which goes to the top of Mount Hoven Loen (opened spring 2017).

There was only one port of call on Greenland to the tiny coastal village of Tasiilaq. For this shore trip we opted to just take the tender ashore and wander around for a while to explore on our own. This was a good choice since it was around 4 deg C/ 40 deg F, a little windy and showery, so a short visit was just fine.

Like writing a novel those were our original on-shore plans but plans have a tendency to be derailed. Thankfully, not literally - the Rauma train was a lovely little ride! But… due to horrendously bad weather as we sailed from Greenland eastwards to Iceland the captain had to seriously change our plans. We experienced 36 hours of continuous Force 9 Gales with intermittent gusts at 10 and 11. That means Force 9 winds around 55 mph; Force 10 storm gusts of up to 63 mph; and Force 11 violent storm gusts of 72/73 mph. Those Beaufort scale numbers of wind speed sound insignificant when compared to the hurricane winds recently experienced in the Caribbean area but at sea even violent storms are pretty scary.
Trollveggen near Alesund
I’m so glad my husband and I are very good sailors so the huge swells didn’t affect us at all, though that wasn’t the case for some cruisers. It also became clear that although those gales are a nuisance to all on board, most of those who return again and again to cruising are good sailors. At mealtimes, the restaurants were still pretty full and the wait staff carried on regardless and as though shifting floor wasn’t happening. They still carried trays at their shoulder stacked with 9 heavy and full dinner plates and the beautifully presented haute cuisine never slipped a fraction on those plates. During the whole cruise, I was highly impressed by the quality and presentation of the food and professionalism of all staff, including the ‘turn down’ room service.

But back to those Force 9s…As I battled with my camera on our tiny balcony on Deck 8 the Bridge Deck, I thought about the driving force our little ship needed to plough through those huge breakers. Later that night, after dinner, as I watched some of the breakers splash up to the windows of the Observation Lounge on Deck 9 of 10 decks on board it also made me think of the exhilaration needed to drive forward the plot of an adventure novel. I knew that my current WIP was lacking some of that exhilaration and I resolved to change that when I got home. I’m now working on that every chance I get.

The impact of the storm force winds meant huge delays to our arrival on Iceland, so in essence we experienced a much longer sail time. We missed our scheduled ‘slots’ for berthing at the ports of  Akureyri and Eskifjordur. The best our captain could do was to get us a late berth at Akureyri, half a day late. That meant changes to all the various on–shore tours that had been booked but we were so lucky that Icelanders are very resilient and adapt well to whatever weather is thrown at them. Instead of tours beginning at 9 a.m. with lunch included, they shifted tour times to start at 2.30 p. m. just after we docked. The longer tours included dinner instead with a very late arrival back to the ship which was now booked at port overnight (This ‘overnight stop’ was not on the original itinerary but meant less battling of the continuing high seas for the captain and bridge crew).
Dimmuborgir, Iceland (home of the Troll Gryla and her family) 
My husband and I didn’t get our 4x4 trip because the poor weather on Iceland meant off road driving was too skittery and dangerous. We went on an alternative long coach tour that proved very good considering it rained all day and the mist lay low across the landscape so visibility was vastly reduced.

I was gutted; I admit it, when our captain informed us that we had to totally miss out our stop at Eskifjordur. The knock on effect of waiting for a new berthing slot at Eskifjordur would have made us too late to stop at 2 places in Norway. The weather was expected to be better in Norway so it was a ‘no brainer’ for the captain to make his decision. He had to ‘cut out’ what wasn’t going to be viable. And…that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do fairly soon in my writing—there will be a lot of slash and burn and removal of unnecessary scenes.  

The gist of my cruise experience? Be adaptable. Be prepared to make changes. Be flexible about the outcomes that are achievable.

Those things apply just as much to my writing.

How about changes to your writing or to your ‘life/leisure/vacation’ plans?



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. 


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.