The Amazing and Versatile Jane Risdon.

Please welcome Jane onto my blog.  Jane has had a varied life, with careers in the music world and even working for the Foreign Office. 

Carol, thanks for asking me to tell you something of the background to writing Only One Woman with Christina Jones. I didn’t want to repeat other interviews and pieces I’ve written, so even though I’m writing about writing the novel, I’ve decided to go ‘off the beaten track’ somewhat.
Our novel begins in 1968 in a rural community in England at the height of the Cold War and the Swinging Sixties, where one of our main characters, Renza, lives with her many siblings and domineering mother. Her father is working overseas and the family will join them in the summer.
Renza is 16 and a music fan, she lives for Top of The Pops and Radio One. There’s little else to bring her joy; she has few friends and her time is spent mostly looking after her siblings and helping her mother. And then Scott, lead guitarist with Narnia’s Children, enters her life. I won’t give the plot away but suffice to say that writing about Scott and Renza was like flashing back to my own youth, in many respects.
The story is fictional but the locations for the music venues (gigs) and many of the bands and music mentioned, is based upon real places and musicians. Many are still around. Others are a complete figment of my imagination and have been based upon a combination of musicians I’ve known and situations I’ve experienced during my many decades involved in the music business – write what you know they say.
As some of your readers might already know, I’m married to a musician whom I met when I was 16. Eventually we went into artiste management -musicians, singers, and song-writers and record producers - internationally. I could write several books about our life working in the music business and I guarantee it would make your hair stand on end. Some of my crime stories hint at it.
All my experiences garnered as the girlfriend, later wife, of a musician living through the crazy, amazing time which was the 1960’s, have been pillaged and plundered whilst writing Only One Woman. Mixed with our life experiences later-on, working with mainly male musicians, it was easy to write what I’m told has been a realistic description of life with, and as, a musician. Both Christina and I used our experiences, of course.  She was, in real life, the fan-club secretary to my husband’s band - which is how we know each other. She wrote Stella using some of her experiences with the band, I am sure.
Back to 1968 and my husband’s band who’ve been such a great source of material for me over the years. I took various events during 1968/69 and stretched my imagination and used loads of poetic license when writing various chapters. For example, the other band managed by ‘Stephan,’ is based on a real band and they did indeed make their lead singer’s life hell back stage and on stage. They were mega successful and their records are still played today. Back stage was a nightmare – open warfare - when his band (named for him by the way) wanted to have a go at him. Remember the stories about Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend (The Who) fighting back stage and in hotels – physical fights – well, this was how it was with ‘Stephan’s’ other band. It used to get so violent threats of calling the Police was about the only thing to stop them killing him. And on stage they were horrid to him in front of audiences; they’d mock him, berate him, and often left him singing with his microphone switched off for ages before it dawned upon him. Wonderful material for a writer, but actually how dreadful to be in a band like that. All bands fall out of course, but I’ve never experienced anything remotely like that since.
‘Narnia’s Children’ had an army of faithful – mostly female –fans following them up and down the country, covering their van (Bessie Bedford) in lipstick messages and writing quite salacious fan-mail to them, which, going through my husband’s memorabilia containing similar material, I delved into for my research for Only One Woman. I found it quite sad reading them, all these decades later; letters filled with such love and optimism and joy. What were those girls doing now? Did they find happiness with another ‘rock god,’ or did they settle for Fred from the local Council road crew? Some followed the band for years and would show up at gigs, album launches and autograph events, knowing everything about the band, or their desired musician, whilst the band knew little or nothing about them other than their names and by then, familiar faces. Wives and girlfriends of the band  kept a low profile as it wasn’t ‘cool’ for them to be seen or for the band to be ‘taken,’ and the record company and management went to great lengths to keep up the pretence of the band being ‘available and attainable.’  Such tosh, and no-one really believed it I am sure. Nowadays, does anyone care if their adored band or musician is married or has a partner? I think not.
The scene in Only One Woman, at the Army camp, where Narnia’s Children are playing when Renza is confronted by hordes of female fans all throwing themselves at Scott, was quite common. Many confrontations took place in the loos at these events, and the one with the two female soldiers actually happened, to me.
The after gig party is written from memory of several such parties over the years. The fashions and music have changed but the ingredients all making up the ‘party’ at the support band’s home – or ‘dump’ as Renza called it – could have happened any place, anywhere in the world, any time since.
Quite a few ‘group’ vans – in the late 1960’s - were to be seen regularly driving through towns and villages on the way to gigs in venues, large and small. One could pay to see several Chart topping bands and singers for next to nothing and without all the booking nightmares of recent times. The live scene was vibrant and varied. Bands didn’t have such an entourage with them, no security – unless you were The Beatles etc – and access to them was unfettered usually. A fan could walk into a dressing room (or what passed for one back then) and even turn up outside the band’s home with ease. It was not unusual to find a half-naked girl in the dressing rooms so the band told me many times. I wasn’t surprised.
I recall bumping into various fans who’d managed to secret themselves in the back of the van, hidden behind the drums and stacks (speakers, amps etc), only to be discovered upon reaching home as the van was being unloaded by the roadies. Few people had phones at home, there wasn’t internet, so unless someone was near the local phone-box there was no way to call a taxi for them or to notify their families that they were safe and well, often hundreds of miles from their homes. The fans came into the band’s home, were fed and watered, and sometimes allowed to sleep over, until the roadies could get them to the nearest bus, coach, or railway station and sent home. In recent times ‘security’ check the trucks (no vans these days) for stow-away girls and of course, illegal immigrants. How times have changed. And of course bands no longer get in to their Ford Transit or Bedford van to drive all over the country and Europe; most fly or travel in tour buses. I must admit I do prefer the latter forms of transport. Vans were fine back when, but these days comfort wins every time over the ‘fun’ of slumming it on the road.
I could ramble on forever about ‘those days,’ but I won’t. If you are curious about the life and times of a UK band in the late 1960’s, do please consider reading Only One Woman. And if you do, please let us know what you think. Better still, leave a review on Amazon and GoodReads for others to read – every little helps.
Jane Risdon

The Paperback (Worldwide) and Audio will be published May 24th 2018 for stores and libraries etc.

Renza’s Diary
June 29th 1968 – Merryhill Base
The gig was amazing. It was packed – lots of kids and soldiers of course – full of screaming girls, so noisy. Scott’s band was the star attraction, having come from overseas (well, Jersey), and, as Rich told me during the evening, they had proper management and an agent, plus as well as writing their own songs, they had songwriters working for them too. Serious stuff.
Narnia’s Children, I soon discovered, were professionals, unlike the support act, The Fulcrum, a local amateur band looking for a record deal but so far hadn’t got any interest. They had a big local following, but Scott’s band had a national following and some fans came to all their gigs, wherever they played. It was great, learning all this. Rich said that Narnia’s Children even had several record companies interested in them and there was talk of overseas tours, and they were recording soon with a famous company. They had lots going for them. Going to one of Scott’s gigs for the first time was so thrilling – and I basked in the glory.
Mind you, it had got a bit scary when I went to the loo. Being an Army base there were lots of women soldiers and I have to say some of them were real hard cases by the look of them. Anyway, I found my way through the heaving crowd to the ladies and waited in line for a cubicle to become free. Several mini-skirted girls were ahead of me, chatting and giggling and discussing which one of the band they fancied and which one they were going to get off with given half a chance.
There were a couple of female soldiers behind me, chatting and passing remarks about the girls in front. I didn’t think anything of it. I’d been thinking about how sexy Scott was, the way he held his guitar so low and moved on stage.
The girls in front of me went into the cubicle and one of them shouted to me to hold the door because the lock was missing. I grabbed the door as best I could and tried to keep it shut. But all the time she chatted to her mates about how she fancied Scott and went into great detail about how she thought he was eyeing her up all night and how she was going to go backstage and make a play for him. Over my dead body, I thought, and was tempted to let go of the door and expose her.
‘Are you going to be all day?’ I wasn’t going to hold it much longer and all the other cubicles were full so this one was going to be mine, if she ever came out. It sounded like Niagara Falls on the other side of the door.
‘Go play with the traffic,’ came the reply. Girls tittered behind me.
‘Come on, you’ve been in there ages. What’re you doing?’ said the soldier behind me. ‘Need any help?’ Everyone laughed again.
The door flew open and a Phyllis Diller look-alike shoved past me, giving me the evil eye.
‘No chance,’ I muttered, thinking of her plans for Scott. Before I could move she turned and pushed me into the cubicle. ‘It’s all yours.’
I turned to the soldier behind and asked her if she would hold the door for me, at which she smiled sweetly and nodded. Her friend giggled. I was getting myself organised when the door flew open and the two soldiers stood grinning at me.
‘Please shut the door,’ I said, my hipsters almost at my knees. I held my hand out to push the door closed again, but the blonde soldier who had agreed to hold the door pushed the door open again.
‘Don’t be unfriendly,’ she said, moving closer to me.
‘What?’ I moved as far away from her as I could in the tight space and nearly toppled into the loo.
‘Please go away.’ My hipsters fell around my ankles.
‘You want to be nice to us, don’t you?’ Her tubby freckled faced friend was trying to get into the cubicle as well.
‘What are you on about?’ I started pulling my hipsters up. ‘I want to leave, let me leave.’
I felt threatened. I couldn’t understand what I had done to upset them. I didn’t think I’d been unfriendly, why did they want me to be nice to them? I struggled to zip my hipsters up and tuck my skinny rib in.
Something about their faces and their stance made me frightened and I could feel my heart pounding and my face getting red. I tried to get past again, but they blocked my way and the blonde one made a grab for me. She got hold of my shoulders and pushed me against the wall, as her friend tried to get in far enough to shut the door, but thankfully the space was too small for the three of us.
‘What do you want?’ I yelled at them, struggling against the hands holding my shoulders. ‘What have I done to upset you?’
My captor laughed and bent her head towards me. The penny suddenly dropped: bloody hell! She was going to kiss me. Oh my God! My mind went blank with shock. I turned my head away and my hair covered my face.
She grabbed my head and forced it round and her friend leaned over and pushed my hair out of the way. She grabbed my left boob and squeezed. I struggled and kicked and yelled at the top of my voice, ‘Help! Help!’
The tubby girl looked over her shoulder and checked no one had come into the loo. Then she held my face in her hands whilst her friend tried again. I twisted and turned and wriggled about, I was in a panic. I couldn’t for the life of me think why they were doing this to me. At first I thought they were going to beat me up, I’d heard about girls who did that to other girls, but kissing me!
That was really weird.
‘Scott! Scott!’ I yelled at the top of my voice, though how he could help me in the ladies loo, I had no idea.
‘Shut up you stupid bitch.’ The blonde girl twisted her face up and grabbed my hair, pulling it really hard. I yelled louder, the pain was terrible.
‘Hey, what the hell is going on in there?’ a female voice asked from the other side of the cubicle wall, and both girls stopped and stood quiet.
The blonde one put her hand over my mouth. I thrashed about with my legs, kicking her and biting her hand. She yelped and jumped back, her hand falling from my mouth.
‘Help! Please help me,’ I shouted and kicked out again so that the two girls had to back out of the cubicle to avoid a good shin kicking.
‘What is going on in there?’ the woman outside shouted again. ‘I’ll get someone to sort you out if you don’t stop it and come out.’
‘I’m being attacked, please get help,’ I yelled as my assailants backed out of the cubicle and left me, panting hard and holding on to the wall for support.
I heard the door bang as they left and a middle-aged woman appeared in the door.
‘Are you OK, love?’ she asked kindly, holding her hand out to me. ‘They’ve gone now. You can come out.’
I took her hand, emerging slowly, looking around to check they’d really gone.
‘What on earth was going on?’ the woman asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I trembled, hardly able to get the words out. ‘They forced their way in and grabbed me and tried to kiss me… I don’t know why they’d do that. I was terrified.’
‘Well, they’re gone now so don’t worry anymore.’ The woman smiled at me kindly. ‘They won’t try it again, they’ll get into serious trouble if they’re reported.
I was still bursting to spend a penny (well more like half a crown by now) and the woman held the door whilst I relieved myself. What Mum would call the ‘Relief of Mafaking’ whenever she was that desperate to go.
Hang on whilst I go to the loo and I’ll come out with you and check they really have gone.’
‘Thank you.’ I held the door for her, my heart at last beginning to slow. ‘You with anyone, love?’ the woman asked, pulling the chain. The door opened and she came out moving towards the sinks.
‘My boyfriend’s in the band,’ I said and stopped her trying to wash her hands before she tried the taps. ‘Nothing works.’
‘Ah, thanks.’ She opened the door to the hall and the noise of the crowd and the support band nearly deafened us. She looked around and then beckoned me out. ‘All clear love. You go and find some friends and stay with them.’
‘Thank you so much,’ I shouted as she walked away waving over her shoulder.
Music has played a large part in Jane's life and she uses her knowledge and love of it in the novel, 'Only One Woman'.  

 Jane Risdon Bio:
Following a career in the International Music Business I’ve turned my attention to a life-long ambition – writing full-time.
Now I fill my days writing and concentrating on developing my own career instead of those recording artists, song-writers, and record producers whose careers filled my every waking moment for decades.
I write Crime and Thrillers mostly and have been published in numerous Anthologies, Online Magazines and Newsletters.
In addition to my short stories and crime novels,
(I’ve broken away from a life of crime – only temporarily)
I’ve co-written a novel
with best-selling and award-winning author
 published on 23rd November 2017
by Accent Press


Thanks for coming along Jane. You've certainly lived a life most of us could never dream of!  I hope you visit again soon to tell us all about your crime thrillers and Mrs Birdsong.  I look forward to hearing all about it.

Susan Clayton-Goldner: An amazing author and fellow Tirgearryan

I'm delighted to welcome to my blog, fellow Tirgearryan author, Susan Clayton-Goldner. Susan's latest novel, A River of Silence , was published on 24th January 2018 and is already receiving 'five star' reviews.
I've read two of Susan's books so far - A Bend in the Willow and Redemption Lake. I loved both of them and look forward to reading more.

Let Susan tell you a little about the book:

When Detective Winston Radhauser is awakened by a call from dispatch at 12:45a.m., it can mean only one thing—something terrible awaits him. He races to the Pine Street address. In the kitchen, Caleb Bryce, nearly deaf from a childhood accident, is frantically giving CPR to 19-month-old Skyler Sterling. Less than an hour later, Skyler is dead.
The ME calls it a murder and the entire town of Ashland, Oregon is outraged. Someone must be held accountable. The police captain is under a lot of pressure and anxious to make an arrest. Despite Radhauser’s doubts about Bryce’s guilt, he is arrested and charged with first degree murder. Neither Radhauser nor Bryce’s young public defender believe he is guilty. Winston Radhauser will fight for justice, even if it means losing his job.
I asked Susan for a short biography:
Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She has been writing poems and short stories since she could hold a pencil and was so in love with writing that she became a creative writing major in college.
Prior to an early retirement which enabled her to write full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. It was there she met her husband, Andreas, one of the deans in the University of Arizona's Medical School. About five years after their marriage, they left Tucson to pursue their dreams in 1991--purchasing a 35-acres horse ranch in the Williams Valley in Oregon. They spent a decade there. Andy rode, trained and bred Arabian horses and coached a high school equestrian team, while Susan got serious about her writing career. 
Through the writing process, Susan has learned that she must be obsessed with the reinvention of self, of finding a way back to something lost, and the process of forgiveness and redemption. These are the recurrent themes in her work.
After spending 3 years in Nashville, Susan and Andy now share a quiet life in Grants Pass, Oregon, with her growing list of fictional characters, and more books than one person could count. When she isn't writing, Susan enjoys making quilts and stained-glass windows. She says it is a lot like writing--telling stories with fabric and glass.

Is There a Message in Your Novel That You Want Readers to Grasp?
A River of Silence is about a hearing-impaired man, Caleb Bryce, who is falsely accused and imprisoned for the murder of a 19-month old child. This is the 3rd book in my Detective Radhauser series. Because of pressure from both the small community of Ashland and his boss, Captain Murphy, Radhauser makes the arrest, but remains convinced Caleb Bryce is innocent. With the help of a young public defender, who wants to prove herself to her father, a world-renown criminal defense attorney, they set out to find the real killer and free Bryce.
The novel deals with issues of abandonment and the effects it has on the child even after he reaches adulthood. It also deals with alcoholism and its aftermath which can cling to the lives it affected for decades. Mental illness and disabilities is also a theme. And the book shows us that sometimes a person who is mentally challenged sees life in a more beautiful way than those of us who are “normal.”
I’d also like to say that I’m so grateful to my readers. I had no idea how much it would mean to me to have a reader write a review or send me an e-mail about how much they enjoyed the book. It means more to me than royalties—just to know someone enjoyed and was moved by my story.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
 Writing is hard work. It takes dedication and a willingness to spend long hours in isolation. There are times when family issues get in the way. Balancing can be difficult. And I’m often torn. I want to be the best possible wife, mother and grandmother. But I’m also driven to be the best storyteller I can be.  

How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
 I’ve written 8 novels so far. I’d say my favorite is A Bend In The Willow because, more than any other of my books, this one draws from my life, what I’ve learned, what I’ve loved and what I regret.  

 If You had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
 I would choose Timothy Olyphant (from the Elmore Leonard Netflix series, Justified) to play Winston Radhauser because of his rugged good looks and the way he fills out a pair of jeans and a Stetson.

When did you begin writing?
 I don’t think I decided to become a writer. I believe I was born a writer. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. Let’s face it, writing is isolating and doesn’t pay very well. I’m not sure many people would choose to write if they could avoid it or were of sane mind.  When I was a little girl, my father won a Smith Corona portable typewriter in a poker game. He gave it me. It came with 45 rpm records guaranteed to have you typing. It was the beginning of my life as a writer. I taught myself how to type with the help of those records and starting writing poems and stories. I’ve never stopped. I went back to college after my children started school. This time I majored in creative writing.
How long did it take to complete your first book?
 It generally takes me about a year to complete a novel. I’m trying to work faster these days because I now have a publisher and that has changed everything. I recently read a book about a woman who’d taken her productivity from 2,000 to 10,000 words per day. She gave me some very helpful hints about writing faster. And I strive to get 2,000 words a day now. It doesn’t always happen, but I am writing faster than in the past.
Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
 I believe the first book I ever read that inspired me to be a writer was To Kill A Mockingbird. I was a child when I read it, but it remains my favorite book. Atticus Finch was such a wonderful character. He fought hard for what was right, for what he believed in, even though he knew victory was impossible. He was a man you never forget. He touched my life. I wanted to touch the lives of others by creating my own memorable characters.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
 The best part of the writing process for me is when I get totally immersed in the fictive dream and all concepts of time disappear. People ask me if it is lonely being a writer and sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end. Yes, it can be. But once the dream has captured you, it is thrilling, filled with excitement and adventure, and there is absolutely nothing I’d rather be doing.
Describe your latest book in 4 words.
Mysterious, heart-wrenching and human.

Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?
 I have just completed the edits and handed off a stand-alone novel to Tirgearr Publishing. It is entitled The Good Shepherd and is the story of a priest who falls in love with one of his parishioners and she ends up being murdered. I suspect it will release sometime in the summer of 2018.

I’m also working on the 4th book in the Detective Winston Radhauser series. It is entitled, A River of Shame and it is about the murders of two high school students in what appears to be hate crimes.

To  wet your (and mine) appetites here is an excerpt from the A River of Silence:
In only eleven minutes, Detective Winston Radhauser’s world would flip on its axis and a permanent line would be drawn—forever dividing his life into before and after. He drove toward the Pima County Sheriff’s office in Catalina, a small town in the Sonoran Desert just twelve miles north of Tucson. Through the CD speakers, Alabama sang You’ve Got the Touch. He hummed along.
He was working a domestic violence case with Officer Alison Finney, his partner for nearly seven years. They’d made the arrest—their collar was sleeping off a binge in the back of the squad car. It was just after 10 p.m. As always, Finney wore spider earrings—tonight’s selection was a pair of black widows he hadn’t seen before.
“You know, Finn, you’d have better luck with men if you wore sunflowers in your earlobes.”
She laughed. “Any guy intimidated by a couple 14-carat web spinners isn’t man enough for me.”
He never missed an opportunity to tease her. “Good thing you like being single.”
The radio released some static.
Radhauser turned off the CD.
Dispatch announced an automobile accident on Interstate 10 near the Orange Grove Road exit. Radhauser and Finney were too far east to respond.
Her mobile phone rang. She answered, listened for a few seconds. “Copy that. I’ll get him there.” Finney hung up, then placed the phone back into the charger mounted beneath the dashboard.
“Copy what?” he said. “Get who where?”
She eyed him. “Pull over. I need to drive now.”
His grip on the steering wheel tightened. “What the hell for?”
Finney turned on the flashing lights. “Trust me and do what I ask.”
The unusual snap in her voice raised a bubble of anxiety in his chest. He pulled over and parked the patrol car on the shoulder of Sunrise Road.
She slipped out of the passenger seat and stood by the door waiting for him.
He jogged around the back of the cruiser.
Finney pushed him into the passenger seat. As if he were a child, she ordered him to fasten his seatbelt, then closed the car door and headed around the vehicle to get behind the wheel.
“Are you planning to tell me what’s going on?” he asked once she’d settled into the driver’s seat.
She opened her mouth, then closed it. Her unblinking eyes never wavered from his. “Your wife and son have been taken by ambulance to Tucson Medical Center.”
The bubble of anxiety inside him burst. “What happened? Are they all right?”
Finney turned on the siren, flipped a U-turn, then raced toward the hospital on the corner of Craycroft and Grant. “I don’t know any details.”
TMC was a designated Trauma 1 Center and most serious accident victims were taken there. That realization both comforted and terrified him. “Didn’t they say the accident happened near the Orange Grove exit?”
“I know what you’re thinking. It must be bad or they’d be taken to the closest hospital and that would be Northwest.” She stared at him with the look of a woman who knew him almost as well as Laura did. “Don’t imagine the worst. They may not have been in a car accident. Didn’t you tell me Lucas had an equestrian meet?”
Laura had driven their son to a competition in south Tucson. Maybe Lucas got thrown. He imagined the horse rearing, his son’s lanky body sliding off the saddle and landing with a thump on the arena floor. Thank God for sawdust. Laura must have ridden in the ambulance with him.
But Orange Grove was the exit Laura would have taken on her drive home. The meet ended at 9:00 p.m. Lucas always stayed to unsaddle the horse, wipe the gelding down, and help Coach Thomas load him into his trailer. About a half hour job. That would put his family near the Orange Grove exit around ten.
The moon slipped behind a cloud and the sudden darkness seemed alive and a little menacing as it pressed against the car windows.
Less than ten minutes later, Finney pulled into the ER entrance and parked in the lot. “I’m coming with you,” she said.
He shot her a you-know-better look, then glanced toward the back seat where their collar was snoring against the door, his mouth open and saliva dribbling down his chin. It was against policy to leave an unguarded suspect in the car.
“I don’t give a damn about policy,” she said.
“What if he wakes up, hitches a ride home and takes out his wife and kids? Put him in the drunk tank. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.” He ran across the parking lot. The ER doors opened automatically and he didn’t stop running until he reached the desk. “I’m Winston Radhauser. My wife and son were brought in by ambulance.”

Amazon UK:

Many thanks for coming along Susan.

Out of Africa 4 - Kruger National Park - On safari

sitting and dining area
This was the most amazing part of our African experience.  The park is huge, around the same size as Wales. We stayed on the Imbali Game Reserve. There are twelve lodges on the reserve, plus a central reception, lounge and dining area. It is beautiful.
Our lodge
The stunning central areas
Our gorgeous room
Bath with a view!

  A dry river bed separated us from a water hole where we saw elephants every day coming to drink.
Twice a day we went out in the jeeps. The first start was 5.30 in the morning, returning around 9am for breakfast. For the rest of the day we were at leisure. The second safari was at 4pm until around 7pm when we returned for dinner.
Once dark we were escorted to and from our lodges, as there was always a chance of leopards roaming around.
elephants come for a drink

Our guide, Bradley, looked after us very well. His knowledge of the animals, the information shared, the humour and fun was second to none. 

Every morning he would set up a table, (plus cloth!) to serve teas and coffees. Every afternoon he would do the same but this time there was a choice of wine, beer, G&T, or whatever you wished.
Bradley serves the tea and coffee

There were nineteen of us all together and we divided into two jeeps. We all got on extremely well, lots of banter, sharing photographs and living an amazing adventure.

Always ready for a cuppa

We saw many animals, so close, it was unbelievable.
Not a Zebra crossing but a giraffe!
The Imbali Pride, about 18 of them

Beautiful Impala.

Out of Africa 3 - Victoria Falls

We arrived at the Victoria Falls hotel, in Zimbabwe, to discover we were so close to the falls, we could see the plumes of vapour rising from them. The African name for the falls is The Smoke that Thunders. 
A rainbow effect from the late afternoon sun.

Our hotel was build in the early twentieth century and had a strong colonial feel to it.  The gardens were beautiful. Most days we were greeted by wild Warthogs, monkeys and Mongoose running around. The Mongoose were hilarious, very much like Meercats.
The mongoose gave a comedy show every day!

 The next day we had a guided tour of the falls. They are stunning. The falls are roughly twice the height of Niagara and nearly two kilometres wide. I found Niagara very commercialised but not so here. You go through a gate into the park and then the place is as nature intended.

About to get very wet
We were given capes to wear but still got totally drenched.

The following day we went on a short cruise on the Zambezi. We were hoping for a stunning sunset but it was too cloudy. However it was interesting to be on the river. We saw lots of Hippos and a couple of crocodiles.  We didn't get close enough to them for me to be able to take a decent photo. The boat took us to within 800 metres of the actual falls - definitely a wobble moment!

Hippo eyes popping up

We found Zimbabwe an intriguing place. On the whole the people we met we optimistic and cheerful, looking forward to a better future. They have very little and over the three days we were there, we watched many of them waiting outside the banks in the hope they would open - they didn't.
The American dollar is their base currency now and they were so grateful for cash tips in that currency.

The border between Zimbabwe and Zambia

At the end of the visit we were bused across the Zambezi into Zambia to catch our flight back to South Africa and into the Kruger National Park to go on safari...more of that soon.

Out of Africa 2 -Cape Town and Robben Island

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront at Cape Town was as lively and as cosmopolitan as everyone had told me it would be. We were lucky that our hotel 'The Table Bay' sat right on the waterfront, minutes away from all the bars and restaurants.

It's a beautiful, modern development and I enjoyed visiting it very much.
We didn't just sit eating and drinking - although we did a bit of that! The food is good, the beer is great and the wine is, well, excellent.
We toured around Cape Town itself and the surrounding areas. 

Once you get out of the city there are some fabulous beaches.

We didn't manage to get up Table Mountain.
A clear view as we sailed in.
Although the top was clear when we arrived, the 'table cloth' soon came down.  However we had plenty of other things to keep us busy

The table cloth descends
Four famous South Africans including Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

High on our list of 'must do' was to visit Robben Island, the prison that housed Nelson Mandela for eighteen years.
You need to book a ticket well in advance and be prepared for days when the sea is too choppy and the ferry won't sail.  This is difficult when you're only there for three days.  Fortunately on the third day we made it across.
After disembarking from the ferry, you are ushered into coaches for the last few minutes to the prison. This prison was only for political prisoners.To be honest I could have walked it but it didn't seem to be an option.
At the prison gates, we had quite a long talk by a former inmate. He told us about his own experience: arrest, torture and incarceration.

While interesting the sun was very hot and there was no shade. I think most of us were glad to go inside, where it was cooler.
We were taken to one of the communal cells that a number of prisoners shared. He told us about life there and how they managed to outwit the guards.
A communal cell.
Mandela's cell

Classes were given in politics and current affairs, by some of the prisoners to the others.  They threw covers over the spy cameras in the cells.
Mandela would write notes, which could be surreptitiously passed around.
I was disappointed that we weren't given the opportunity to wander around, by ourselves, and look at some of the photographs and information boards that were there.
After a brief visit, we were back on the bus for a tour of the island and to see the limestone quarry where the prisoners were forced to work. I hadn't realised that there was another prison on the island which housed convicted criminals.
So after a fascinating three days we were taken to the airport for our flights to Victoria Falls. We were going to the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  More of that later...

I've been away.- Out of Africa 1.

You may have noticed, I've not been around for a while.  At least I hope you noticed.
On January 9th we left Southampton on the Queen Mary 2, bound for CapeTown, a 19 day journey away.  This would be followed by ten days, in South Africa and Zimbabwe, before flying home.

I decided to break my blog into 3 sections.  The first part shows a little of the traditional style of the Queen Mary. Rather than a cruise ship, she is an ocean going liner. The difference in the layout of the ship is noticeable. Most of the public rooms - theatres etc - are in the centre of the ship rather than at the aft or stern. Did you notice my sailing terms!!  Its the pointy bit and the blunt bit for those uninitiated. The ship still likes to have much of the old style grandeur, missing from many others. The steamer chairs were put out every day, once the weather was fine and the restaurant was very elegant.

She is a very steady and smooth ship as her ballast is engineered differently -- don't ask, I haven't a clue!  Her lower decks have sheltered balconies. I imagine you could need these is rough seas, should you choose to actually go out on a balcony at such times!

Three days into the voyage we stopped at Madeira, a place I love and Tenerife. I can't tell you much about Tenerife. I don't know the island and we had torrential rain while there, so I still don't know it.

Eight days of sailing later, we stopped at Walvis Bay, Namibia. This was a place I never expected to visit.  I't's beautiful in a strange way. This county is mainly desert, the Namib desert, which means Vast Place, and it certainly is. We went off on a trip to see the desert. It was intriguing and amazing.

One of our first stops was Dune 7. It is one of the highest in Namibia and and is simply called 7 as it is the seventh dune that was encountered on a trade route.  Many people try to climb it. It is very steep and the sand soft, needless to say I didn't get very far! My legs are too short - that's my excuse!

These plants, the Welwitshia, which survive in the desert, are known as living fossils. I asked our guide how long our footprints would last on the sand. He said at least five years maybe ten!

One of the places to visit, in the desert, is Moon Valley. It has been used to represent the moon's landscape in many films 
We visited the local and colourful town Swakopmund, where Spring Boks are a different sort of hazard on the golf course!

On my next blog, I'll be visiting Cape Town and Victoria Falls, on the Zimbabwe side.

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