Diary

This diary works the other way from most - newest entries are at the bottom. I have deleted many old entries, so it starts rather abruptly, as I make space for new entries by deleting early ones.

 Still lots of copies of SABINE BARING-GOULD; THE MAN WHO TOLD A THOUSAND STORIES in my back bedroom. Might have to drop the cover price a bit...Please think about buying a copy. It's very readable!!

 


  17th December 2021

I finished BETRAYAL IN THE COTSWOLDS at the end of November, and am having a lazy month now. My printer developed a small fault back in October and I still haven't got it back from the very dilatory and annoying repair people. This meant that all my Christmas letters have been hand-written, and are a lot shorter as a result. Perhaps that's a good thing.

Reading my old diaries has awakened many memories from the 50s and 60s, and some rather startling insights into the life we led then. There is a very dark underside to it all which I have been only dimly aware of for much of my life. Better late than never, I suppose. My friend Liz and I have finished our joint memoir FOREVER FRIENDS, but I am going to rewrite some of the early part, in the light of these new realisations. We will be seeking a publisher for it, and ideally for the three or four volumes of family history and autobiography yet to be written.

Outside there are stacks of firewood to cut up, dead bracken to clear, and snowdrops to watch out for. I recently met a wood carver who will happily take some of my larger pieces of oak, cherry and willow to turn into lovely objects.

As always the Christmas cards with news updates and reassurances that life goes on much the same for real people regardless of their attitude to lockdowns, etc, are the best part of this time of year. I have to wince a bit at those who boast of wearing masks all day long and staying clear of their unhappy old relatives, but they are the minority. Plenty have had the virus with no ill effects and wonder what the fuss has been about.

The New Year will see me heading north to look at Askham, and perhaps meet a long lost relative in Scotland. Also having some more of my regular trips to central London, which never fails to delight me.

Have a good Christmas, everybody!!

  3rd March 2022

Really no excuse for this extra-long gap. The winter passed reasonably smoothly, although the persistent restriction on life in Wales is very tiresome indeed. I live in England, but only a mile from the border, and would like to do my shopping in Wales. But it's too depressing, so I go the other way.

 FOREVER FRIENDS is now actively looking for a publisher. It's a 'quiet' sort of memoir by many standards, and a very 'British' sort of friendship. But it has survived for 60 years and more, so we must have been doing something right. We're both writers and I think we've captured the times as well as our individual lives rather well. We did a lot of travelling, both separately and together.

THE ASKHAM ACCUSATION is in full swing, and I'm enjoying it. Simmy is having a very challenging time, poor girl. THE THRELKELD THEORY looks to be attracting quite a lot of favour, which is pleasing. And BETRAYAL IN THE COTSWOLDS is scheduled for July. ECHOES IN THE COTSWOLDS is shortly out in paperback.

The diary is tentatively filling up and I've rashly booked flights to America in June for myself and grand-daughter. What could possibly go wrong??

The log fires have been as blissful as I hoped, and the steady supply of wood carries an ancient reassurance - heat, light and cooking are all guaranteed thanks to a big stack of logs. Well, not much light, but a cheery glow is much better than nothing. The power went off a few times in the gales, and drove my poor dog to a frenzy.

March so far is dark and damp. Good writing weather...

  2nd May 2022

Not sure where the past two months went. Very variable weather but hardly any sitting outside. Easter Day was dry and mild, as it has been every year I can remember, certainly since I had children and they hunted for chocolate eggs and made nests for the Easter Bunny. This year, as usual, we ate roast lamb outside.

No response from the publisher I approached regarding FOREVER FRIENDS. In earlier times there would always be an acknowledgment, even if a decision took a while. Rudeness is clearly the norm now - says this grumpy old lady.

 THE ASKHAM ACCUSATION is going rather slowly, but it's good fun, all the same. I discovered by accient that I'm on the longlost for the Dagger in the Library, again. Not holding my breath, even if I am one of the most borrowed authors on the list. 

My first seven titles (loosely known as The Westcountry Series) are being reissued as e-books this summer by Joffe Books, which I gather should be a boost to sales. Exciting! I have to provide synopses and character lists for them all, which is a challenge after 20 years or so.

Still hoping to be allowed to fly to America in a month's time. Nothing is certain, of course. At least I think there's still three years to go on my passport - what a fiasco that is at the moment!

I am aware that this poor website is badly neglected. I should get somebody to do it for me, really. It's never very high priority.

  15th July 2022

St Swithin's Day! If the folklore is right, we're due a perfectly wonderful summer for a change. It can't get too hot for me. Unlike many people, I thrive in it, and sleep better on hot nights. I had two weeks in the American Deep South in June, where it was gloriously hot, especially Montgomery, Alabama. I took my eldest grand-daughter, aged just 20, and we had a great time being simple ordinary tourists. People kept asking us why we were there....tourism has not got going again since covid. 

Books are going well. Just delivered THE ASKHAM ACCUSATION due out next spring. The Joffe Books reissues are due to start early August. Having gone over them again, I have to say that two or three of them are perhaps my very best work. The plots get rather convoluted, but the characters are engaging - and often pretty funny.

I'm aiming to devote the next 8-10 weeks to CLARE TAKES CHARGE. I have a vast quantity of material for it, which has to be organised and selected to make a proper narrative. It is the 1950s, and the roads of Britain are lethal. Fatal accidents are routine occurrences for most families, it seems. I lost an uncle and a half-sister within a few months.

I'm toying with the idea of going to Bouchercon (international crime convention) in San Diego next year. I'd combine it with another road trip, to which I am addicted.

Just freshened up the website a bit...it wasn't as bad as I thought.

As always, I'm reading voraciously. In the 1980s I read most of the novels of Joanne Greenberg, who is now almost forgotten. I've started reading them again. She is extremely good. I'm still enjoying Dorothy Whipple, as well as Beatrice Kean Seymour. These writers all deserve a contemporary readership. They have a lot of wise things to say.

  30th August 2022

Lovely summer - like three months of free holiday, with so much blissful sunshine.

Writing is a bit slow, as a result. Still hoping to finish the first draft of CLARE TAKES CHARGE by the end of this month. Then it will be all systems go for A DISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS where I think Stephanie will play a central role and Drew's business is floundering. Alternative funeral services are becoming rather a crowded field these days.

I was scheduled to give a talk in Ledbury next month, with Suzette Hill. But it turned out that 'Ledburied' is a new venture, run jointly with the local bookshop, which somehow assumes that writers will show up and perform for no fee. No expenses either, and not allowed to sell books. Having agreed to do it before realising this, I stuck to the agreement quite willingly. However, the mere fact of asking the question - Is there a fee? seems to have infuriated the organiser, who cancelled me. I did also ask if I could bring books to sell. No - the bookshop gets all the profits from the event. The whole exchange (via email) was perfectly representative of how little one has to do to become 'troublesome' nowadays. It came as quite a shock. In the olden days (and with many organisations still, I hope and believe) there would have been a far more open and accommodating discussion. I'm left wondering how Ledburied can ever hope to succeed - where is funding going to come from to pay writers to appear? I also wonder if the people in the audience realise how it's all been set up.

As of yesterday I have a new faster internet system, running off the nearest satellite mast. Seems fine so far, but I've become so used to 0.5 mps that I hardly know what to use the new service for!! Can't talk myself into Netflix, and the idea of Zoom horrifies me.

The dominant theme of my life just now is Family. Two seaside holidays with grandchildren, a newly-discovered nephew, and the endless mountains of old letters - and every day I see more clearly how the mechanism works. The patterns, repeated down the generations, the damage too. The unbearable responsibility of parenthood - and the surprising redemption to be found in GRANDparenthood. All good stuff.

I'm making a lot of warm woolly things for the winter, as well.

 29th September 2022

A much busier month, mainly devoted to the family history stuff, but A DISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS is finidng its feet. My 'discovery' was what a lovely village Baunton is. After Oddington (Upper and Lower) it has a refreshingly welcoming and open atmosphere, plus some intriguing nooks and crannies.

I have four talks coming up. Minehead Library is the furthest afield, on the 12th Oct at 2.00pm. Libraries are my favourite venue - always grerat audiences. I was on the shortlist for the Dagger in the LIbrary again this year, but didn't win - again. Sales seem to be more or less steady, and the Joffe Books reissues will all be available during October. They're ebooks, with 'generic' covers. Very pretty, but don't bear much relation to the actual stories.  As I often recount in my talks, my whole attitude to book covers is coloured by what happened with my very first published novel. 'A Dirty Death' takes place on a farm with Jersey cows. The cow on the cover is black and white, which I found very upsetting. Since then I've pretty much kept out of any discussion about the cover. Anyway, the ebooks are impossibly cheap, so the point, I suppose, is to get my name known to a new swathe of readers, rather than to make any money...

The local auction is finally allowing people in, rather than restricting all the bidding to online, so I'm back with a vengeance, buying all sortf of treasures, which my family regard as junk. It's great fun and I've discovered that there are a great many magpies like me, who buy things because they might come in handy, or might sell at a profit or make good Christmas presents...always some justificvation can be invented!

I have registered to attend the 2023 Bounchercon, next year. It's in San Diego. I haven't been to one for several years, and might find it a bit of a shock to the system. But I'm combining it with another road trip, this time with my elder son. Meanwhile I'm going to Alice Springs and Uluru in a few weeks' time. Very extravagant of me, but I figured it might be now or never.

For exercise I'm digging up a lot of hogweed and sawing up a lot of firewood.

  28th October 2022

Shortly off to Australia for much of November - Alice Springs and Uluru. Counting the minutes...

THE ASKHAM ACCUSATION is in production now, my part all done. I'm aiming to get almost a third of the way through A DISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS before I go. It'll be a while before I embark on THE BORROWDALE BUSINESS.

Yesterday I deposited another load of family letters and other material in the University of Gloucester archive in Cheltenham. I set a deadline of October 2023 by which to finish processing everything I have and handing it over to the archive. I am very behind schedule, because there are thousands of letters and I'm intent on reading and at least summarising all of them before I part with them. The idea is to construct an autobiography, as well as the titles about my mother, aunt and grandmother. I've been too ambitious. Whatever happens, this coming year is going to be very busy!

There's been a run of talks and it's nice to be in such demand. There's another next week, locally, and two booked for January. One is about Baring-Gould, for which I need to read two or three of his novels again.

After the glorious summer we're enjoying a magnificent autumn. Huge apple harvest - they're bigger and sweeter than I ever remember. The colours of the leaves are fabulous, too. And there are lovely exotic mushrooms and toadstools everywhere. I have eight or ten different sorts just along my driveway. I've eaten a few of them.

And for good measure a magpie decided it liked my house and kept coming in to explore. It wasn't scared of me or the dog. Then I caught another magpie attacking it outside and it hasn't been back since. I suspect it was unpopular with its family and friends for identifying as a human.

  17th December 2022

Australia was a lovely change of scene - several scenes, in fact. Sydney, Alice Springs, Uluru and Orange (NSW). A relaxed schedule, on the whole, by my usual standards. Uluru was like something in a dream. I could hardly believe I was really there. The 'resort' where tourists stay is very basic, as well as very expensive!! Awful food. It was still quite post-covid, with very few attractions. No camels at the camel farm...The birds were lovely and we encountered a very exciting big lizard sunning itself. In Alice Springs there was obviously a lot of social unrest, with the indigenous people visibly unhappy. There has been a crime wave there this year, which is still ongoing. Nearby is an amazing place called 'Ross River Resort'. Also basic, very remote, not too expensive and probably utterly unque. We called in for lunch one day, driving 100 miles or more to get there and back.

THE ASKHAM ACCUSATION is out very soon now. Also the paperback of BETRAYAL IN THE COTSWOLDS . For the first time I did not do a final proofread, due to being in Australia, so there will be small mistakes - more than usual. A dISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS is well over halfway now. A very tangled plot so far!

I have found the 'Dictate' facility on my computer and am now working very much faster on preserving the contents of the family letters, etc. The very cold weather has kept me indoors, so I've made excellent progress lately. But there is some outside work to be done, such as cutting up firewood. The logburners are deliciously cosy and the house keeps warm at almost no cost.

I must mention a forgotten author. Joanne Greenberg is (was?) American, with several novels to her credit, published by Gollancz in the 1970s and 80s.  I read most of them then and am now reading them again. 'Founder's Praise' is the latest. A real tour de force! A most excellent piece of writing. 

Christmas is not far off now. The postal strike has been deeply frustrating. Not just delays, but things lost completely, and one package badly mangled.

  18th February 2023

Oh dear - another long gap! A DISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS is now in the pipeline, scheduled with luck for this summer. Meanwhile the family papers have continued to absorb me more and more. I've made contact with cousins for the first time, rekindled an old friendship and immersed myself in the long-ago days of the 1970s. But it is salutary to realise what a high proportion of events and people have been completely and irrevocably forgotten.

I'm reading MATILDA AND THE CHICKENS by Mrs Robert Henrey this week and absolutely loving it. In fact I'm buying extra copies to give to people, as I know several who will love it as much as I do. It depicts life on a Normandy farm in the late 1940s.

Grandson Luke is forging ahead at Durham, getting involved in politics as well as his studies. He enjoys the Union debates.

I am assured by readers that THE ASKHAM ACCUSDATION is fine, and my lack of proofreading doesn't show. The paperback will be along fairly soon, I expect, and I'll check that version carefully.

Bookings for talks are healthy, sending me all around the country. In Waltham Forest I am giving two in one day, which will be interesting. I'll be tempted to try to avoid repeating a single line, joke or fact. As I speak without notes, that might not be too difficult.

Most of the family are joining me in a holiday in Germany this summer. It has been top of my list for a while now.

 12th April 2023

 Oops! Where did March go? Half of it, actually, was devoted to the Hereford Film Festival. I saw 16 films and missed two, due to snow. Favourite with everyone was 'Lunana', set in Bhutan and a perfect little gem. There were more lemons than usual - slow, contrived, plotless and tedious. Like 'Godland'. That was very hard going indeed.

Some days were spent checking copy edit and then proofs of A DISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS, which is now in the pipeline for September, apparently. It's hard work these days, because apart from a few trivial queries made by the copy editor, the entire job is down to me. 'All mistakes are my own,' as they say. I'm told it's because I don't have an agent - agents are the new editors. Meanwhile there has been a flurry of enthusiasm on Twitter for my serieses to be turned into TV drama - but no actual movement in that direction.

The big Baring-Gould anniversary (100 years since he died) is being handsomely celebrated in Tavistock next April, and at other places in Devon over the year. My biography is selling sporadically, and soon there'll only be a few boxes left.

I'm still in demand for talks and did one recently in Ledbury, which I enjoyed a lot. My 'style' always goes down well - it's not so much a 'talk' as a 'chat' and the audience participated wonderfully. They asked deeply intelligent questions!! 

Now I have three books on the stocks. As well as the Cotswolds one, there's CLARE TAKES CHARGE all finished and on its way, as well as FOREVER FRIENDS following closely on its heels. I am processing family letters at a steady pace, reliving my past so vividly it's often a bit disconcerting. I continue to make contact with distant relatives and connections, who are almost always enthusiastic about the project of preserving as much family history as possible. I have just done a secoind DNA test with a different outfit, hoping to scoop up more distant cousins.

Next month I'm off to Cumbria again to look at Borrowdale, where Simmy's Christopher has a magically thrilling house clearance commission. 

My garden - well, gardens, plural, strictly speaking - are at their best in the spring. The daffodils are fabulous, and I've got a lot of patio pots all planted up. There's masses of toad spawn in the pond, more than ever before, and the wildlife out in the fields is burgeoning. No nightingales yet, though...There's a lovely big cock pheasant with a limp who lives near the house. He has a very elusive wife who I seldom see.

I've booked myself into BOUCHERCON this year. It's San Diego at the beginning of September. My son Adam is coming with me and we'll drive around the South for a week afterwards. We're going to the Zoo as well, of course.

The local auctions are now back to full strength, more or less, and the house is again full of beautiful rubbish.

  5th June 2023 

The second half of May was spent quietly at home, enjoying two weeks of sunshine and long days in which to pursue all my favourite activities. Except travel and one or two other things. THE BORROWDALE BARGAIN is now started, thanks to a very pleasant research trip a month ago. The place itself is most inspiring.

CLARE TAKES CHARGE is finally being printed, many weeks later than hoped. The experience of self-publishing has ceased to be any fun at all. Printers were always my favourite people, co-operative, intelligent, flexible. Not any more! They are slaves to the computer, can't understand the age-old universal proofreading symbols and for every correction they make at least one new mistake. I have not experienced such frustration for a long time. And it will all have to be done again for FOREVER FRIENDS and, next year, SYBIL SURVIVES, which is the torrid story of my parents' marriage. It raises questions about how much truth to reveal, but I am confident that my mother would have wanted the whole story to be made public. She kept one big secret, which was blown the moment my father died, but was not slow to talk about her personal issues to anyone who would listen. And she wrote it all down.

Holidays are coming up - Germany and the USA. But first I have another spell at home for writing, gardening, car boot sales and reading. A string of family birthdays through the summer, as well.

  15th July 2023

St Swithin's Day - and as inauspicious as it could possibly be. 

CLARE TAKES CHARGE had to be pulped and my money refunded, because the printers made a perfectly horrible mess of it. I started again with a local outfit, and collected the books yesterday. Busy sending copies out to friends and family now. Orders taken - £7 plus £2 postage. Today I have my advance author's copies of A DISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS, so some people are getting two books in one parcel.

A lot of time is spent on making travel plans at the moment. My ESTA visa for the USA is causing a headache, since it has gone so digital I can't make it work. Have to summon a daughter or grandchild to do it for me. This makes me very cross. So far things look fairly straightforward for Germany, coming up soon. I've also devised the Programme for my day about Sabine Baring-Gould in Tavistock next year. I've got a lovely group of speakers, a room at the Bedford Hotel, and now all I need is an audience! 20th April. It will be fun. Bookings taken - fee £20, probably.

The San Diego Bouchercon looks very very good - having seen the list of panels and participants I'm very much looking forward to it. I'll be there 31st August to 2nd September.

I'm well over halfway through THE BORROWDALE BODY now. The title kept changing, but this is the final one, I hope. There is at least one body, in Borrowdale...

One of my oldest friends is in hospital, causing considerable concern. All part of growing older, of course. I sometimes think we're all watching each other, wondering who's going next. I have five years' worth of writing to do, at least, which should keep me going.

 28th August 2023

Preparing to leave for the San Diego Bouchercon this week. The moment I get back, I have my daughter's birthday and then a dash down to Okehampton in Devon (where I went to school) for a rather brief talk about Baring-Gould. The motivation, partly, is to arouse interest in the Baring-Gould Day in Tavistock - the 20th April 2024. I have a dozen bookings already for that and it promises to be a pretty impressive event. Fun, informative and affordable. I'm charging a maximum of £25, in cash on the day - reduced if a lot more people come along. Discount for couples. One of the people attending (an attender, not an attendee, by the way) is a keen campaigner for cash, which appeals greatly to me.

THE BORROWDALE BODY is finished and delivered, and the next months will be devoted to SYBIL SURVIVES which is the story of my parents' marriage. Not a happy business. After that I'll get down to THE DOCKRAY DILEMMA (provisional title).

Meanwhile two of my books were published last week. A DISCOVERY IN THE COTSWOLDS which leaves open the question of whether Thea is ever going to house-sit again and if not - what? Suggestions welcome. Plus FOREVER FRIENDS which has been a long time in the writing, and which spills rather a lot of beans about my earlier life. Was it wise? Will anyone be interested? Will I get sued? I don't think I've actually defamed anyone. Feedback for CLARE TAKES CHARGE has been good, from family and friends alike. These books are available directly from me, but they're also (theoretically) in the system - publisher is Praxis Books. You'll get them cheaper from me.

I am increasingly interested in the whole subject of forgotten authors. Obviously there are far too many, even since 1900, for anyone to read them all. And their work is preserved in the British Library and will be for centuries - but some deserve to be known now. For example, I have just finished 'The Hour and the Woman' by Constance Nicklin. No idea where I got it - a Methuen hardback from 1911. It's a compelling and original story. Can't find any mention of her online. Who was she??

The family holiday in Germany earlier this month went very well. Two weeks - the first with eight of us in a rented house in Xanten, then a road trip with grandson Luke. We got as far as Poland. Favourite place (and best hotel by miles) was Bochum. Luke got terribly bitten in Paderborn, we suspect by bedbugs. He reacted very badly and looked ghastly.

My watercolour painting has not been neglected, but my pictures are sadly pathetic. I had a table at the local art exhibition this weekend, which was embarrassing. Oh well - I still like doing it and can only improve - right?

14th September 2023

Back from America, where Bouchercon was friendly and efficient and very enjoyable. I met with friends old and new and was happily occupied for three days. Then my son and I drove across the far south, following the Mexico border, as far as San Antonio. We saw a lot of desert, visited numerous museums, got very hot and had a magical time. Everything went smoothly despite the early panic caused by the UK air trafic control chaos.

I have two new speaking engagements, in Basingstoke and Yate (Gloucestershire). THE BORROWDALE BODY is scheduled for next spring, and FOREVER FRIENDS is now available. Feedback so far has been slightly stunned by the 'unexpurgated honesty' as one or two people have put it. I have a feeling I've said a bit too much about my sex life. The British especially seem to be perpetually confused about sex in books - unable to decide whether they approve of it or not. They seem to prefer it to remain on the internet. My novel (ebook only) about a brothel in 1840s Oregon doesn't sell well at all. THE SPOILS OF SIN, if anybody's tempted.

Next excursion is a few days in Yorkshire, and then I'll be staying at home for the winter. The blackberries are even more prodigious than last year, and I need to spend days picking and preserving them. Likewise the apples, which are not quite ready yet. Auctions and car boot sales will provide diversion, but the main project now is SYBIL SURVIVES.

12th November 2023

Where did October go? Much of it was devoted to visitors, and short trips - Yorkshire and France. I copied about 100 more family letters and tidied small areas of the garden - which isn't so much a garden as a piece of wilderness.

The talks are over for 2023, having done the one in Yate yesterday. This was a brilliant high spot of the year, with a big responsive audience and a lovely bunch of flowers at the end. The attention to detail, and sense of being valued and looked after, were unusually good. I had little idea of where Yate actually was - my satnav has died and google advised an alarmingly convoluted route. But the library lady calmly talked me through it. Looking back over the year, Stowmarket was also extremely good - others fell short somewhat.

Writing-wise, my efforts now turn to SYBIL SURVIVES and a new Lake District title scheduled for the end of next year. Probably entitled A LAKELAND CHRISTMAS MYSTERY. Have doodled a few ideas for it so far. And the Baring-Gould centenary celebrations next year. My Day of Talks on 20th April in Tavistock is attracting a lot of interest - and there are other events that week. More information can be had by emailing me. rebeccatope@btinternet.com  

The family are all doing well. The house needs a builder for far too many small and not-so-small repairs. I am working up to getting a new car, and might give in to the temptation to get another dog. My Christmas cards will, I hope, mostly contain long letters, as is my habit. Anything posted to Australia either takes six weeks or never arrives at all. South Africa is even worse. In fact overseas postal services in general appear to be very sick. It was a lot better a century ago.

23rd December 2023

My sitting room is festooned with Christmas cards - easily as many as in previous years, so reports of the demise of old-fashioned cards are greatly exaggerated. Many had letters inside, which is one of the great joys of the season. I've written a lot, too. I am still making new friends, even at my advanced age, several from America and Canada.

In November my dog and I went to stay at Lewtrenchard Manor for three days, while I did some strenuous networking to 'raise awareness' of the Baring-Gould events next year. I am involved in a week of talks, walks, competitions and exhibitions associated with the centenary of BG's death. A website has been created, listing evewrything that's going on. www.sbgcentenary.co.uk   

The enthusiasm I found was very gratifying - and the hotel was a unique place to stay. BG reconstructed the house with such skill that many people assume it to be an authentic Elizabethan manor. It is nothing of the kind - he added wings, a ballroom, staircase, panelling, gallery, mostly taken from other houses that were being demolished. As a child we went there regularly, with all the big family celebrations taking place there.

I am currently writing two books at once. A LAKELAND CHRISTMAS CRIME (or is it MYSTERY?) is well under way now and I am enjoying it. Likewise SYBIL SURVIVES is coming together - at this rate it's going to be quite a substantial volume. I'm aiming to cover the years from 1965 to 1990, and am still only in 1968.

Happy Christmas, all.