HI, I’M LISAMARIE

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Magazine Writing & research per 1000 400
Magazine Editor per day 250
Magazine Sub-editing per 1000 120
Magazine Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (regional) Writing & research per 1000 220
Newspaper (regional) Sub-editing per 1000 95
Newspaper (regional) Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (national) Writing & research per 1000 700
Newspaper (national) Sub-editing per 1000 450
Newspaper (national) Fact checking per day 200
Online/digital media Writing & research per 1000 180
Online/digital media Sub-editing per 1000 95
Online/digital media Fact checking per day 200

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WHAT I CAN DO

Blog Writing

A blog is an essential tool in ensuring your website is seen. I can create regular blog posts that will move you up the rankings and give you a better placement within your industry.

Ghost Writing

Have you ever wanted to write a novel, memoir or short story but don’t have the time? Do you have the ideas, but the words don’t flow? I can help. Contact me for a confidential chat.

Articles

I am happy to carry out research, conduct interviews, and write/edit articles of any length. Contact me for more information about my rates and services.

Web Content

From your home page to your about me details and everything in between, you want a website that has snappy, interesting, high quality content. Let me create it for you.

Sales Letters

If you have a product that you want others to know about, you need a sales letter that is going to get attention – and keep it. I can write that letter for you.

Emails

Are you thinking of starting an email campaign but don’t know what to include? Or perhaps you want to send a special email to that special someone, but you can’t think of the right words. Contact me and we can discuss exactly what I can do to help.

Product Descriptions

Selling products online can be an excellent way of making a business, but if your products sound boring and your descriptions are dull, no one will want them. I’ve written thousands of products descriptions, and I can make your products shine.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

Have you written something that needs that extra level of checking? With my years of experience I can proofread or copy edit your work so that it’s the best it can be.

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

Excellent work by Lisamarie, on time, great quality and constant communication. Would not hesitate to recommend and in fact use again as soon as opportunity arises.

Andreas K
Andreas K

Lisamarie was great to work with - she did a fantastic job that completely met the brief and was delivered before the deadline.

Helena W
Helena W

Quick and brilliant, nailed the brief! Will work with her all the time 🙂

Roshni S
Roshni S

Fantastic work A++++

Rob C
Rob C

It was a pleasure to work with Lisamarie, she adjusted to our workflow and process with ease and completed work quickly and effectively.

Geoff J
Geoff J

Lisamarie is a very good writer and is very easy to work with. She reacted well to my guidance and provided me with content I'm very happy to use. I look forward to working with her again soon.

Ola F
Ola F

Great work from Lisamarie, articles are exactly what we wanted

Matthew E
Matthew E

Brilliant work from Lisamarie. I would definitely retain her again and recommend her to others.

Brad B
Brad B

REVIEWS

I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

MY STORY

my blogmy blog

my diary
Missed out on a place in this weekend’s London Marathon? Book now to take part in the ‘London Marathon Walk’ instead!

The 26.2-mile London Marathon Walk, with challenge specialist Discover Adventure, is a special one-day event taking place on 23 September – and provides the perfect chance to tackle your very own marathon event.

Taking in famous landmarks and lesser-known corners of the historic capital, this entertaining walk will be Cockney-themed and there will be the chance to learn some fun rhyming slang along the way. The route includes the church of St-Mary-le-Bow, centre of London’s Cockney heritage, so pull on your ‘daisy roots’ for a fantastic ‘ball of chalk’ this September!

There will lots of fun-filled elements to provide added entertainment throughout the day, including lively music along the route and a draw with amazing prizes from Cotswold Outdoor.

The perfect opportunity to fundraise for a charity of your choice, or simply to enjoy a wonderful day in the capital city, this is an event not to be missed.

This one-day challenge, usually priced at £75 pp, has a special offer price of just £50 pp until 26 April to celebrate ‘Marathon Month’. The price includes a hot drink and breakfast bap at the start of the walk. There is also the choice of a ‘Half Marathon’ (13-mile) route.

For further information, contact Discover Adventure on 01722 718444, or visit www.discoveradventure.com

 

Why Fairy Stories Are Good For Children

We all like some things that aren’t good for us, especially when we’re children. Children love to do slightly naughty things, they love to eat all the chocolate, they love to stay up late… In fact, we all like to do things that aren’t particularly good for us when we’re adults too – we still like to do slightly naughty things, still like to eat all the chocolate, still like to stay up late (although we regret it in the morning)…

So if things we like tend to equal things that are bad for us, where do we stand with fairy stories? Children adore them; give them a prince, a princess, some talking animals, and a happily ever after and they’re over the moon. And adults have a soft spot for them; they are a reminder of our childhoods.

Which would mean that they are bad for us – that they are bad for our children.

The funny thing is… they’re not. Not in the least. In fact, that are good for children in a number of specific ways.

Imagination

There is nothing quite like the imagination of a child. Even the most imaginative of adults can’t come close to the weird and wonderful minds of prepubescent kids, and being able to make up stories and games is an essential life skill. It can go so far as to define the kind of career they have in the future. So listening to fairy stories, and going on later to read them, can play a big part in the lives of children and the adults they grow up to become.

Morals

Parents do their best. They give children a moral compass and information about right and wrong, but it is the fairy stories that cement it in the little ones’ minds. Fairy stories have a strong moral message – good versus evil, good wins out and so on – that it is easy for children to remember. That coupled with the knowledge they have already been given by mum and dad means that children are going out into the world with a good moral sense behind them.

Critical Thinking

It may sound surprising, but fairy tales can help children with their critical thinking. They can see the consequences of any actions or decisions that may be taken in these stories. They know that the choices they make can have serious implications, so it is best if they stop to think before acting (or reacting) in haste.

Emotional Health

We often hear in the news that younger and younger children are having mental health issues. We’re not saying that fairy stories can prevent this, but they can perhaps allow children to have a good idea of how to deal with internal conflict – something that can cause mental stress. Children identify with the main character in a fairy story, and those characters tend to win out in the end, even if they are going through hardship. They do it with the help of those around them, whom they have confided in. It’s a good lesson and one that children can easily apply to their own lives.

Just Because…

Children are children for such a small amount of time. They will have enough time to be sensible and grown up. They will have enough time for worries and life to take over. So when they are little, they need to have fun. It will give them a good base for the rest of their lives, and with strong foundation they are sure to grow up to be good people. So even if for no other reason than children love them and they are fun, they should be read fairy stories.

 

 

Hire a Canal Boat for Father’s Day at Drifters’ New Day Boat Centre

Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way – and with a new day boat centre opening (26 March 2017) at our canal boat hire base at Gayton in Northamptonshire, Drifters (www.drifters.co.uk) now offers day boat hire at 16 of its bases.

Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day boat hire centres, routes and prices for 2017:

  1. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way. Once there, moor up and take time to visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals.  There are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ****Day boat hire aboard Gayton’s new day boat ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £130 on a weekday, £165 on weekends and bank holidays

  1. Historic pubs in the heart of the canal network – from Drifters’ base at Braunston on the North Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire, day boat hirers can enjoy lock-free boating and a choice of historic canalside pubs. The quiet village of Hillmorton is a delightful seven-mile, three-hour cruise away, where boaters can stop for lunch at the canalside Old Royal Oak, or take a short stroll into the village to the Stag & Pheasant.  Alternatively, head south along the Oxford Canal to Napton on the Hill for lunch in the village at The Crown or King’s Head Inn, or canalside at The Folly.  Again this journey is lock free and takes around two hours. ****Weekday boat hire from Braunston on ‘Water Ouzel’, which can carry up to 12 people, is £135, £170 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours. ****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Catch a lift on the lowland canals in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn. Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.

 

  1. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Drifters’ base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away. ****Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £99 for up to 12 people.

 

  1. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ****Day hire from Goytre starts at £99.

  1. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants. ****Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £99 on a boat for 10 people.

  1. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and Rose & Castle pub. Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub.  ****Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £180 for a boat for 12 people, £220 on weekends and bank holidays, £200 on weekdays in July and August.

 

  1. Chug along the Staffs & Worcs Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge. The journey there and back takes a total of six hours.  ****Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Crewe, cruise north past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat.  ****Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood. The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel. ****Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, day-boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch. Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’.  ****Day hire at Aldermaston starts at £125.

 

  1. Visit Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it.*****Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Enjoy a Shropshire rural idyll…from Whitchurch in rural Shropshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Llangollen Canal, reaching Whixall Mosses National Nature Reserve in two hours. For a longer journey, continue on to Bettisfield Mosses, travelling through unspoilt countryside straddling the Welsh borders.  There are no locks, but there are four easily-operated lift bridges along the way. ****Day boat hire at Whitchurch starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

  1. Perfect picnicking on the Llangollen Canal…from Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head east to Whixall Moss, one of Shropshire’s truly remote wild places, and a mecca for a diversity of wildlife with plenty of lovely places to picnic. Or head West, passing a series of farms, small villages and distant hills, to the Narrowboat Inn at Whittington, with Real Ale and a delightful canalside garden. ****Day boat hire at Blackwater Meadow starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

 

For more information about Drifters Waterway Holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk For more information about visiting the canal network, go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

New Book Out: The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods

My latest book, The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods, is out now. It’s the story of a little girl, Georgia, who discovers that she is the one who has been chosen to save the world. No pressure!

When Georgia runs away from her dinner with her mother’s new boyfriend, she never expects to become the leader of an army needed to fight an evil waldgeist in Wanderal Woods! A waldgeist is the basis of the ‘green man’ myth, and is usually presented as a woodland protector, a good and kind being. But this waldgeist – Aiken – has grown mad with power, and must be stopped before he destroys everything he is meant to protect. He killed his brother, Linden (Georgia’s father), and is now intent on murdering Georgia herself, after he has used her magic for his own evil plans.

Georgia must use her magic ability to talk to animals, and her blood family ties, to rescue her dead father’s spirit, trapped in a tree in child’s form by his brother Aiken, and lead an army of woodland creatures into battle against Aiken’s ghost army. But these ghosts have been driven insane through years of imprisonment in the wood’s trees, and they are vicious and seemingly unstoppable; one touch will kill. Only the rats, the lowest and most mistrusted creatures in Wanderal Woods, are brave enough to fight. Can they, a little girl, and a once dead man-boy, really save the woods and everything in it? Or will Aiken bury them all in the mossy ground?

The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Waldgeist-Wanderal-Woods-Lisamarie-Lamb/dp/1326950908/

 

Writing Retreats – Where The Famous Went To Recharge

Writing is hard work. It is emotionally draining, mentally straining, and physically… well, sitting hunched over a computer for hours at a time isn’t good for anyone, writer or not. So it’s not surprising that, every now and again, writers need to get away from their words and recharge. Writing retreats have always been a popular idea, and there are many around today that can be booked by writers who need a little peace and solitude – they are about finding a bit of space to complete that novel or edit that selection of short stories. Sometimes that’s exactly what is needed.

 

Vita Sackville-West

It is perhaps not a surprise that Vita Sackville-West had her own Elizabethan tower to lock herself away in. After all, she was a rather wealthy woman in her own right, coming from an important family (her father was the 3rd Baron Sackville). Vita took to her tower, located in Cranbrook, Kent, when she needed a little space. There were two reasons for needing this alone time. The first was that she couldn’t write with any kind of distractions around her, and so she decided that the tower was the perfect place to complete All Passion Spent. The second was so that she could write her wonderful love letters to her soul mate, Virginia Woolf.

 

J.K. Rowling

The Harry Potter author has made no secret of the fact that she was living in abject poverty when she first started writing. Her retreat, The Elephant House café in Edinburgh, was used out of necessity rather than desire, but it worked well for her. She went there because it was warm – warmer than her home – and, even when it was no longer completely required, she liked it because of the inspiring views. It is said that from her seat at the window Rowling could see Edinburgh Castle, and this led her to create the famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

George Orwell

When you want somewhere isolated and beautiful, there aren’t many better places than some of the Scottish Isles. Jura was Orwell’s choice, located in the Inner Hebrides. He used to visit a little farmhouse in the middle of some rather beautifully desolate and bleak scenery to write. It is here that he wrote Ninety Eighty-Four.

 

The Inklings

The Inklings were a group of notable authors including C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Hugo Dyson and others. They used to meet in a pub (where else?) called The Eagle and Child in Oxford where they would discuss their works in progress and get further ideas and inspiration.

 

Retreats For You

Retreats for You in Sheepwash, Devon, is my first choice of writing retreat. I’ve visited twice now, and each time I’ve completed a novel (Perfect Murder and the soon to be published Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods). It is a wonderful place and so welcoming – I’d recommend it to everyone.

 

Fantastic Mr Fox: Syndicated Interview with Composer, Arthur Darvill

How did you first become involved with the stage production of Fantastic Mr Fox, and what made you want to come on board?

Maria (Aberg) the director called me and said would you like to write some music for Fantastic Mr Fox, I said absolutely!  She then said it opens in November and this was in June, so it has been a fairly swift process but I am very glad she asked me.

Do you think Road Dahl’s writing is something that translates easily to the stage?

I don’t think anything translates easily to stage but I think his stories are so rich and full of brilliant well-defined characters that it is a real joy to see these characters, especially those from Fantastic Mr Fox jump out of the book.

How does it feel to create music for something as well known and universally loved as a Road Dahl story?

It has been a real privilege to write music for this. It is a pinch yourself moment. When re-reading the book I thought I love this book but I don’t know if I can do this, which I think is a good reaction to have.  Throughout the writing process it has been about honouring what Dahl wrote and making sure the music tells the story in the best we can tell it.

Were you a fan of the book ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ growing up?

I am a massive Roald Dahl fan. He was basically my introduction to reading. I remember reading Fox in my cabin bed that I had growing up in Birmingham. I read it in one go, in one night, and just absolutely loved it. It had a drastic impact on the way my world was shaped. Dahl made the most disgusting things in life seem like the most joyous. He also had a great sense of justice, which can only be a good thing.

Tell us about your process for composing the music?

I don’t know if I have a process. I had a clear idea in my head what I wanted it to sound like but that kind of changed and thankfully a lot of the pressure was removed when I was working with the team on the lyrics. They knew exactly what needed to happen and write with such a good sense of humour.

What did you want to capture about the story and its characters in the music?

There are a definite group of characters In Fantastic Mr Fox; humans and animals. I wanted to give them both a very different sound to start with and as the story develops, these sounds slightly cross over depending on what is happening. The farmers have a dirty earthy English sound and the animals are freer. Mr Fox is arrogant at times and Mouse sings about cheese, which is very sweet.

What do you hope audiences take away from the show?

It’s a perfect family show for all ages.  I hope audiences take away melodies that they can sing on their way home. This show is so much fun and the right people get their comeuppance. It is not black and white. You will go home discussing the moral content of the story whilst laughing at the jokes.

What’s your favourite song in the show and why?

I can’t choose one song. I’m very pleased with how the Farmers’ song (Foxy Feeling) has turned out but they are all good.

Audiences will recognise you from your acting roles in Broadchurch and Doctor Who, but they might not realise that you are also an established composer. Is juggling both careers a challenge?

It is a challenge but a joyous challenge. I couldn’t just do one or the other, I have to do both. I have a fun job and I would never complain about it.

What’s coming up next for you?

I am currently in Legends of Tomorrow and will hopefully write some more music.

UK Tour: 25 Jan – 9 July 2017

www.fantasticmrfoxlive.com

The Year of Literary Heroes

VisitEngland has declared 2017 as the “Year of Literary Heroes” – recognising the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, 20 years since the first Harry Potter book, and other publishing phenomena that have helped put England on the map.

With Britain’s extensive network of navigable inland waterways transporting canal boat holiday-makers through rural idylls, with wooded glades, sweeping farmland and sleepy villages – to exciting waterside towns and cities with connections to some of our greatest Literary Heroes, Drifters Waterway Holidays (www.drifters.co.uk) has put together its Top 5 Literary destinations for 2017:

  1. Explore Ted Hughes’ Calderdale by canal – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden and back, exploring the beautiful Calder Valley and passing through Mytholmroyd, where Ted Hughes played as a child, and Hebden Bridge, where Sylvia Path is buried. The journey there and back travels 20 miles of waterway, passing through 34 locks, and takes around 16 hours. ***2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Sowerby Bridge start at £415 for a boat for two people.  Prices include damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.
  1. Find out about Jane Austen in Georgian Bath – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, it’s a delightful six-hour journey along the picturesque Kennet & Avon Canal to Bath Top Lock and back. Here canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up and walk 15 minutes to Bath City centre, where they can visit the Jane Austen Centre to find out about the writer and the City that inspired ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’, and enjoy a truly elegant afternoon tea at the Regency Tea Rooms.  ****2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Bradford on Avon start at £580 for a boat for four people, weekly hire from £835. Price includes boat hire, cancellation protection, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week.  Actual cost is around £10-15 per day.  Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  1. Mark the 150th anniversary of Arnold Bennett’s birth with cruise through the Potteries – from Drifters’ base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it takes around 10 hours, travelling through 18 locks to reach Stoke-on-Trent, where events and exhibitions are being staged throughout the year to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Enoch Arnold Bennett. A prolific writer with close ties to the Potteries, Bennett’s novels include ‘Anna of the Five Towns’, which told the social and industrial history of the local people.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can continue on from Stoke to complete the Four Counties Ring, which passes through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, travelling a further 90 miles, through 76 more locks, and cruising for another 45 hours. ****2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Great Haywood start at £470 for a boat for four people, weekly hire from £670. Price includes boat hire, cancellation protection, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week.  Actual cost is around £10-15 per day.  Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  1. Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a journey through Tolkien country – Published in 1937 to wide critical acclaim, the popularity of JRR Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ endures. Tolkien spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch.  From Drifters’ base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkien’s masterpiece.  On a short break, travel along beautiful tree-lined waters to the village of Lapworth and back, perfect for canal boat holiday beginners.  On a week’s holiday, more experienced boaters can tackle the Stourport Ring, travelling 74 miles through 118 locks in around 45 hours.  To celebrate 80 years since the book’s publication, Drifters will gift a copy of The Hobbit to customers quoting “Tolkien” when booking a boat departing from Alvechurch in 2017.  Please note this offer won’t be applied retrospectively.   ****2017 short break (three or four nights) hire prices from Alvechurch starts at £619 for a boat for four people, £799 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking, tuition and buoyancy aids. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week, £140 for 10/11 nights and £180 for two weeks.
  1. Unearth infamous pirate lairs in Bristol – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton near Trowbridge, Bristol’s Floating Harbour is a two-day cruise away, travelling 30 miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal and the Bristol Avon, passing through Bradford on Avon and the City of Bath. Once there, canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up and take time to discover Bristol’s exciting maritime history with a guided Pirate Walk, encountering Long John Silver’s treasure chest in the smuggler’s cave, Treasure Ireland’s Spy Glass Inn and Pirate Captain Blackbeard’s lair.  ****2017 short break (three or four nights) hire prices from Hilperton start at £619 for a boat for four people, £799 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking, tuition and buoyancy aids. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week, £140 for 10/11 nights and £180 for two weeks.

Drifters Waterway Holidays offers over 580 narrowboats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2017 hire prices start at £395 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £575 for a week and many boats currently have early booking discounts.

For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk.

For more literary inspiration go to www.visitengland.com/literature For information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

Never Forget The Cake

I used to hate tea. Not just dislike it, not just not mind it, but actually, literally, hate it. The smell, the taste, the feel of a teabag… It was almost a phobia.

A terrible phobia. A debilitating phobia. In fact, there was no ‘almost’ about it. I’d be quite happy, minding my own business, walking down the street, or sitting in a café, when suddenly, that tangy, spicy scent – the smell that made my taste buds shrivel up and try to hide – would hit me. Wafting its way past as a waitress carried a cup of the beige stuff to a nearby table, it seemed to leap out of the mug and assault my senses, slapping me round the face with its jolly old self. Jogging by me in a frantic commute, its consumer blissfully unaware that their beverage of choice had made me feel really rather unwell, it slowed down as it went by, wanting me to get a good dose of its goodness.

And it’s a strange thing, this ‘teaphobia’. Someone who is afraid of spiders gets sympathy, gets people offering to save them from the hairy little beasts. A person afraid of the dark is allowed to sleep with the light on. Anyone afraid of heights wouldn’t be expected to work up a ladder.

But I received no sympathy. Odd looks, disbelieving sniggers, shakes of the head, yes, I got those. And I was not excused from being in the same room as tea – I could not run off and hope that it was gone when I got back. I had to stay or risk being thought of as a fool. I had to listen to friends, family, colleagues slurping their way through never-ending cuppas. I had to watch them licking their lips and sighing in satisfaction. I had to, on occasion, tidy up the remains of their crumb encrusted mugs, the biscuits they had dunked leaving behind remnants that floated in the cold, brown puddle at the bottom of the teacup.

Disgusting. Isn’t it?

Or was it just me?

It felt that way.

When visiting family, all great tea drinkers, I would, of course, be offered a drink when I arrived. “Cuppa?”

I steeled myself. “No, thank you. Coffee would be great. Or something cold.”

“What? No tea?”

Every time. Every time I saw the confusion in their eyes, the worry coursing through their minds. They wondered why I was so strange. They wondered what was wrong with me.

What was wrong with me? Tea was my birthright, surely. I’m British. I should have been sipping tea until the cows came home, dunking Digestives and munching macaroons. I should have enjoyed cradling a hot mug as I sat and listened to the radio. Or gossiping through a mouthful of the stuff in the hairdresser’s. My friends had been weened on tea, had drunk it from bottles and beakers and sippy cups since they were tiny. They loved it. It reminded them of snuggling with their mothers at story time. It reminded them of feeling unwell and dozing on the sofa.

It was a part of them.

It was a part of us. Keep calm and have a cup of tea. It was – and is – the solver of all ills, and fixer of all failings.

I shouldn’t have been trying to get away from it at any given opportunity.

Should I?

But I did. And so, feeling decidedly unpatriotic and strangely alone, I carried on through life drinking coffee and cola and trying my best not to come into contact with tea.

Something changed, though.

Something big.

My husband bought me a present.

Now, at this stage I had sailed through four years of dating followed by three years of marriage without the dread ‘T’ word causing too many issues.

“I don’t really like tea,” I had said when he had offered to make me a cup the first time I had visited his house. “I’d rather have a Coke.”

He didn’t have Coke, so I settled on lemonade. And that was it. All those years later, I was still drinking lemonade in preference to tea, and Coke in preference to lemonade. I bypassed his family asking if I wanted a cuppa by offering to do the making, and thereby not sounding strange in front of them.

It was all working out rather well, and my odd little phobia was neatly tucked away in the drawer in my mind labelled Nothing To See Here.

But that present… I couldn’t get away from it then. He bought me tea at The Ritz. At. The. Ritz.

What a gift! How exciting! I was so impressed and stunned, in fact, that forgot about the tea part. At. The. Ritz. That’s all that mattered to me. I would have to find a suitable outfit – smart but not something that looked as though I was trying too hard. Nothing flouncy or flowery. A hat? Would I need a hat? Did I own a hat? So many questions, so little time to organise anything…

It was on the train to London that I started to wonder. Tea. It didn’t mean the afternoon meal. It couldn’t. The Ritz would call that ‘dinner’ and besides, this was booked for eleven o’clock in the morning.

Oh no! Tea meant tea! What was I going to do?

I started to panic. I probably even sweated a little. My husband, himself excited and pleased at the gift he had bought me, did not notice. Thank goodness. But my stomach was in knots and my throat was tight and all I could think about was how to not drink tea at The Ritz.

I didn’t think there was any way around it.

How could I ask for coffee? How could I ask for Coke? To not drink tea at The Ritz might even, as far as I knew, have been a capital offence. If I declined their kind offer, I might have been dragged off to the Tower, left there to rot until I apologised and had a nice cuppa with the Queen to prove how sorry I was.

And how could I possibly do that?

I don’t remember now whether there was even an option for choosing anything other than tea… I suppose there must have been, for form’s sake, but I wouldn’t imagine the waiter who served us had ever taken an order for anything else. His face was expectant, and he had appeared with such a silent suavity that he took me by surprise and I panicked.

The menu – a menu just for tea (and, yes, possibly other things, but nothing overly important) – was expansive. There were seventeen different types to choose from, ranging from the caffeine free Moroccan Mint, a fresh and light cup that soothes the senses, through Chun Mee, a carefully scented green tea, to the Ritz Royal English, a specially made blend only available at The Ritz, it takes the best of Kenyan, Assam and Ceylon.

But I didn’t know all of that.

As I said, I panicked.

And knowing nothing about tea, and having to choose something, I went for the only name that seemed familiar: Earl Grey.

Of course I’d heard of it. I’d never tasted it (I’d never wanted to), but it seemed the safest option. It was the most recognisable. It was harmless. Sort of. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to drink it, or pour it, and I would have to stop breathing since the room was full of the mingling aromas of lemon and mint and orange and rose petals. And, underneath all the clever, interesting, rather lovely smelling ingredients, there was tea.

Hang on a minute.

Tea.

I was surrounded by the stuff.

It was being sipped and slurped all around me.

It was being enjoyed and savoured everywhere I looked.

I could smell it. I could almost taste it, the air was so full of tea. And I didn’t mind. Actually, it was rather pleasant. Actually, I quite liked it.

How strange.

So when my lovely little teapot – made of bone china, so delicate and thin that I was worried I would break it just by touching it – arrived, full of Earl Grey, I felt ready. I would taste it. I would try it. I would see how I coped.

It didn’t look too bad when my husband poured it into my cup. It smelt good, and I gathered up some of the teeny tiny sandwiches (beef and horseradish sauce, salmon and cucumber) in a pile in front of me.

And, steeling myself, ready to run should I need to, I took a very little drink from my teacup.

Then I took a slightly larger one.

And another. And on and on and I had, unbelievably, finished the whole thing.

Not only that; I had enjoyed it.

I must have done, since I hadn’t yet touched my sandwiches.

I must have done, since I poured myself another cup.

I must have done, since I haven’t looked back.

I am now a tea drinker.

I am drinking a cup of tea (Earl Grey with just the smallest splash of milk) as I type this.

I tend to believe that my sudden about face was related to the occasion – romantic, special, possibly even once in a lifetime – and my surroundings – opulent, stunning, absolutely beautiful and so very British – and that strange thing that people do in relating smells and tastes to times and things.

When I drink tea, I am reminded of that day. I see again the chandeliers and the marble. I can hear the delicate tinkle twinkle of teaspoons on thin china. I can smell the heady mixture of tea and fruit and salmon sandwiches. And cake. Let’s not forget the cake…

Let’s never forget the cake.

Beating The Back To Work Blues

It doesn’t matter whether you hate your job with a passion, or whether you have the best career in the world, that feeling of going back to work after a little time off still fills us with dread. It’s back to reality. It’s back to the daily routine. No more home time, no more holiday, no more freedom. The grindstone is waiting, and your nose has to be put right back on it.

keep your nose to the grindstone

Ouch.

No wonder we all get a little sad about the prospect of heading back to the office.

But guess what? There are ways to combat this terrible feeling and get straight back into the swing of things without too much distress…

Why Are You Feeling Like This?

That’s an important question. Ask yourself why you are feeling so down about going back to work, and you might get a surprising answer, but one that will help you make some decisions, and help you feel happier about things too.

It could just be that you’ve enjoyed your time off and the idea of having to go back to the office (or wherever) and get your brain in gear doesn’t appeal. And that’s perfectly normal. But a few hours – or even minutes – into your first day, and for the majority of people that’s all forgotten and you’ll wonder what you were worried about in the first place.

get me out of here

For some, however, it’s a deeper problem than simply enjoying a bit of freedom. Could there be something about your job (perhaps even the job itself) that you dislike enough to make you not want to go back at all? If this is more than just a form of the Sunday evening fear, it’s time to take stock. If you’re not enjoying your job, you might consider moving on. If not immediately, then at some point, once you’ve done all the sums and weighed up the pros and cons of it all. There is no point in going to work for eight (ish) hours a day if it’s not something you like. There are many forms of deathbed regrets, and working too hard in the wrong place ranks right up there at the top.

You might even consider starting your own business.

If it is one aspect of the job that is making you miserable, why not speak to your boss? They might be able to help, and it could turn out that it wasn’t such an issue after all once it’s out in the open.

Have You Made A Plan?

If the feeling of dread doesn’t dissipate after a little while, if it’s there every morning and you’re coming home more downhearted every day, you know what you need to do. Finding a new job isn’t something that can necessarily happen overnight, especially when you’ve got commitments and a family to provide for. So make a plan. Give yourself a timeframe to get it completed by (three months is a good one – just long enough to feel comfortable, but short enough that you have to get on straight away). Create targets to meet along the way such as applying for a certain number of jobs each week, or tidying up your CV by a specific date. You might even want to invest in some evening classes to top up your skills.

make a plan

Me, Me, Me

If your job isn’t the problem and you’re happy doing what you do, where you do it, and the people with whom you work, then it could be a problem within yourself. If you’re not feeling 100 percent, book an appointment with your GP and chat to them about what ails you. It could be a physical problem (lack of sleep, a weight issue, general aches and pains), or it could be a psychological one (anxiety, stress, depression, for example). Either way, it’s good to discuss these matters and hopefully do something about them once and for all. As soon as you fix your body and mind, everything else will fall into place.

And for those who are simply feeling a little run down, you need to schedule some me time. Book a fancy spa day, go for a long walk on your own, read a good book, watch a terrible movie, it doesn’t matter as long as you can relax and zone out for a while. When you come back down to the real world you’ll hopefully be feeling a whole lot better for it.

have some me time

Titles announced for City Reads and Young City Reads 2017 as part of Brighton Festival

The debut novel by Sharon Duggal The Handsworth Times has been chosen for City Reads while A.F. Harrold’s Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) has been picked for Young City Reads as part of Brighton Festival 2017.

City Reads and Young City Reads are city-wide ‘big reads’ delivered by award winning literary organisation Collected Works CIC, designed to spread a love of books and ideas to the widest possible audience throughout Brighton & Hove. This year they launch on 2 March (World Book Day) and run until 14 May with a series of events themed around the books to encourage people across the city to get reading and start talking.

Brighton-based British Asian writer Sharon Duggal’s novel, published by Bluemoose Books, is set in 1981 where factories are closing, unemployment is high, the NF are marching and the neglected inner cities are ablaze as riots breakout across Thatcher’s fractured Britain. The Agarwal family are facing their own personal tragedy, but their pain is eased through humour, friendship and community.

The title chosen for Young City Reads, the ‘big read’ aimed at children, Fizzlebert Stump, is the story of a boy, a book, some very bad people, some very brave deeds, and the importance of rubber teeth for lions.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: ‘We are delighted that City Reads and Young City Reads are part of Brighton Festival again this year – building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. The importance of empathy and community is central to our Guest Director Kate Tempest’s vision for the Festival as a whole, making Sharon Duggal’s powerful debut particularly fitting as a choice for City Reads. And with this year’s Guest Director our youngest in the role to date we are particularly pleased to be providing an opportunity to encourage young booklovers to come together to discuss and share their love of reading – and hopefully nurturing a new generation of artists and art lovers for the future.’

Sharon Duggal (002)

Sharon Duggal, City Reads author says: ‘What an absolute honour to have my novel, The Handsworth Times chosen for City Reads 2017. It is quite a special thing to know that people from all walks of life across the city where I live and work will be coming together to read my book, just as I have done with many previous City Reads selections. The Handsworth Times is ultimately a book about the hope we find in other people and it will be such a pleasure to have the opportunity to get out there and share the story with so many different people across this city via the inspired City Reads programme of events. 

AF Harrold (002)

AF Harrold, Young City Reads author says, ‘Young City Reads is a fantastic initiative and it’s great to hear Fizzlebert’s been picked this year. Hopefully it’ll put a smile on some faces and an embarrassing snort of laughter in the back of the room every now and then when you’re supposed to be getting on with more serious things’. 

Highlights of City Reads include a Literary Salon at the Regency Townhouse (Wed 29 March), a riotous celebration of the music made during era of The Handsworth Times via a Stick It On Party at The Latest Music Bar (Fri 28 April), perennial favourite The City Reads Book Quiz returns on Wed 22 March, and Sharon Duggal is in conversation at Brighton Festival on 14 May. Young City Reads launches at Jubilee Library on 2 March, with a special Brighton Festival event on 23 May featuring the author and illustrator (Sarah Horne).

Primary school teachers and classes are being invited to register online (for free) at cityreads.co.uk and agree to read Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) together in class between 2 March – 23 May 2017. Throughout the project, participating classes will receive free weekly e-bulletins which will include bite-size Fizzlebert Stump quizzes, puzzles and fun activities to complete.

Paul McVeigh’s The Good Son was chosen for City Reads 2016 while Hamish and the WorldStoppers by Danny Wallace was the title for Young City Reads 2016.

For more information visit cityreads.co.uk.

Brighton Festival will take place from 6-28 May 2017.