Great Expectations!

So I’m over at Jason’s blog again, talking about my all-time favourite book – surprised I’ve been asked back?  Hmnn, I don’t have a gun this time,  so maybe that has got something to do with it?  I’m talking about my favourite novel, the fantastic Great Expectations by the tremendously talented Charles Dickens.

Jason asked me some interesting questions, and I did branch out little, discussing themes and Victorian social problems and other great works of literature. Jason has added some great illustrations too, and the blog is gorgeous, take a peek!

I did manage to slip in, ever so subtly mind you, a discreet mention of my new book, Nightmare Asylum & Other Deadly Delights which is out with marvellous NTTK in February 2019!

 Over to Mr. beech…

So, a classic of English literature. What do you love about it?

I do believe that Charles Dickens was a genius, but there are a couple of reasons I like the novel so much. Firstly, I think it has the best plot of any book I have ever read – it’s so engaging, complicated and has a fabulous revelation, which ties up the actions of the seemingly unconnected characters and different strands of the plot! Not only has Pip been deluded about his benefactor; he has placed his trust in a future which doesn’t exist, believing that steel-hearted Estella was meant to be his wife…read more

 

A Weekend retreat at the Salamis Bay Conti Resort & Casino Hotel ∼Northern Cyprus

How often have I heard people ask “Why do you need a holiday when you live in Cyprus?” Will you please cut me some slack? Everyone needs a break from their daily routine. For years my friends have been telling me about this great hotel on the northern side, which is only a 50 minute drive from my village of Oroklini on the Greek side of the island. Having got a great all inclusive deal, (£210 English pounds – via Travel republic for both of us for 3 days), we were looking forward to a relaxing long weekend.

I must admit I that my expectations were moderate as 5 stars can defer greatly, depending on the location, but I had underestimated the quality of holiday experience on offer in this lovely hotel. Our room (I am married to Derek, if you don’t know me personally or are new to my blog) is on the top floor,  and it is a family room with an extra bed. We are very happy to have the extra space and the view from the balcony is gorgeous!

The food is excellent too, with every type of salad leaf imaginable in the buffet. I spent so much time trying new and unusual looking salad dishes that I didn’t bother with any meat at all. For someone who has food allergies, like me, being able to select your own food is a godsend and I would always choose this over a formal sit down arrangement; but we are all different…

nailsI think this only the second or third time I have gone all inclusive, and I must admit it does feel a little Benidormish, having that plastic band around your wrist (spoilt – who me?)  So I decided that the best way to tackle this situation was to have my nails painted the same shade of purple  as the band in the  super health spa on the  lower ground floor. So, now that I am perfectly co-ordinated, I feel a lot better. (You can take the girl out of Hartlepool…)

Is there much to do? Well apart from a pharmacy run, as the prices of prescription medication are considerably less over here, we have just chilled out so far, but I can tell you that the dry white wine is really nice and they make a mean gin and tonic; so it’s so far so good. We are thinking we might actually do something tomorrow… but best not over-do-it eh?

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Here is my interview with Sonia Kilvington

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Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

I’m Sonia Kilvington and I’m 53.

 

Fiona: Where are you from?

I was born in Hartlepool in the North East of England. My family on my dad’s side came from the Headland. My mum and her family lived in the museum, where my granddad was curator. I havelived in various locations around that area for most of my life, before moving to Cyprus 11 years ago.

 

Fiona: A little about your self (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

Icurrently live in a lovely Cypriot village called Oroklini with my husband Derek. I have been working as a journalist and freelance feature writer/editor on local and glossy magazines for the last 9 years; but writing fiction has always been…

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Last Cruise ∼ Turkey

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After the stunning Santorini our next port of call on The Thompson Spirit was Marmaris in Turkey.  I hadn’t been there before and I must admit that my expectations were not that high. I had imagined a pleasant enough seaside resort, filled with budget bars, and shops in which you were hassled to buy stuff you had merely taken a passing glance at (my experience of Turkey years ago when every second shop sold handbags and if you dared to venture into a shop you would be lucky to get back out without buying anything).But I was in fact, very surprised at what I found.

The resort itself is gorgeous. There is a cosmopolitan feel to the place, with upmarket shops restaurants and very nice bars with clean toilets (another of my personal gripes from previous years). The area of the Datça Peninsula has a distinct lakes and mountain feel to it, which I had not expected, and it was really beautiful!

The town was quite vibrant, even for this early in the season, and had we had more time we would have visited the recently restored castle of Suleyman the Magnificent, which was only short bus ride away. I was on a bit of a shopping mission as the textiles in Turkey are amazing and the prices unbelievably low, and I bought a wonderful silk scarf a and cashmere pashmina; both of which are lovely.

Turkey is only a short flight away from us in Cyprus, so yes, I would definitely visit Marmaris or our second Turkish port, Alanya, which was also a very attractive seaside resort, with one of those cute miniature trains that transport you around areas of interest in the resort(for two euros amazingly!)

I would definitely recommend a boat trip from Alanya; ours cost only ten euros and for just over an hour on a very smart boat and it was wonderful experience in the sunshine, viewing the smugglers caves and a special “love cave” (heavens you would have to be desperate!) set deep into the cliff face, which a local young boy climbed up to, doing an extremely high dive back into the sea: to the delight of the tourists on board various sized boats, many of whom were having on board barbeques and having fun dancing.

It’s really sad that the Thompson Spirit will no longer be docking in Limassol, Cyprus, after the end of this season. The companies docking rites are due to expire. There have been rumours that the ship will dock at my own nearby town of Larnaca; but that was more of a case of wishful thinking on our part, unfortunately…∼∼∼

Afternoon Tea at the Plantation∼ Jamaica

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Elizabeth is buried under the large stone on the top left hand corner of this room!

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If your ideal holiday is an endless daze of sun drenched, rum soaked days full of wall to wall reggae, then Jamaica will not disappoint; but perhaps you are interested finding out a little about the history of the island? There is nowhere more enjoyable than a trip up the mountains to Good Hope, an original plantation house which has a strange, sad history and is surrounded by amazing scenery!

The first owners of the plantation was Colonel Thomas Williams in 1744 who was granted the right to the land. He built a small house there but in preparation for his marriage to his young English bride Elizabeth, he had the “Grand House” built in 1745. Elizabeth adored her home and relished her new life in Jamaica, but unfortunately it was short lived as she died a terrible death from yellow fever at the age of 24, seven years after arriving in Jamaica. She was buried under the stone floor of the entrance room to the house. Her grave is marked with a simple stone.

Colonal Williams was apparently devastated after Elizabeth’s death and his health and fortune went into serious decline as he descended into debt and then sold the plantation to a neighbour John Tharpe, who was an astute in business made a huge success of the estate. Tharpe and his wife, a rich heiress called Elizabeth, had 5 children, but Tharpe did not trust his estate with over 3, 000 slaves to any of  andnstead he left it to his grandson, who was forced into a quick marriage that he didn’t want, and was said to have become hysterical on his wedding night and subsequently went insane.

John Tharpe suffered from severe arthritis and had a special copper bath, the first of its kind on the island, installed on doctor’s orders, although the bath unfortunately also contained lead, and many people believe that he was slowly poisoned to death by it.

As well as his four sons and a daughter with wife Elizabeth, John Tharpe also had an illegitimate son with one of his slaves, called John Harewood, who was his favourite child and whom he trusted to manage all of his properties. John Harewood was considered to be a kind man, and continued to run the plantation successfully after slaves became emancipated in 1833.

The plantation house had been beautifully preserved and offers guided tours with lots of history and special afternoon teas with Jamaican delicacies, which were really delicious!

 

 

 

 

Jungle River Trip ~ Costa Rica

 

We took a jungle boat trip down a river in Costa Rica, and were fortunate enough to see a  Great Blue Heron!  At over a metre and half in height, the Great Blue Heron is a very majestic sight. This stately bird, with its subtle blue-gray plumage, often stands motionless (as seen in the photo), while it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. Although these birds seem to move very slowly Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a poor gopher. Other exotic creatures we saw included several iguanas and a lovely lazy sloth! After the trip my husband went ziplining through the jungle, but I decided to give that one a miss…

After the boat trip my husband went ziplining through the jungle, but I decided to give that one a miss…

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Spot the Sloth?

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Havana ~ The Highlights

Cuba is very popular at the moment, with restrictions being lifted in the near future for American tourists, travel articles the world over are urging us to visit the “real” Havana before its unique qualities disappear under the weight of the mighty American dollar. But how fast could this actually happen? Islanders seem to think this is gross misrepresenting the situation as nothing ever happens quickly in Cuba; probably due to a crumbling infrastructure and the sheer scale of improvements needed to renovate this once beautiful city to its former glory.

There is no doubt the place is amazing, charming and very special, the islanders seem so friendly, but some of the living conditions and levels of poverty that you witness can take your breath away. I was told that the main income of the island is already extremely focused on tourism, ( approx 1.2 million tourists in the last year), but there is still a long way to go for this semi-isolated island to be able to offer anything that approaches the luxurious standards that most of us expect these days…

Still an injection of cash could help raise living standards, but as always with commercial tourism – at what price to the islands cultural heritage? Overdevelopment can be as damaging as underinvestment. How this once staunchly Communist Island will cope with the imminent changes will be interesting to watch; not from just an economic viewpoint, but for those of us who have seen the “real” Cuba in all of its crumbling glory and uniqueness.

 

 

Hemingway’s Hangout in Havana!

Currently travelling in South America – and visiting Cuba has always been my dream. Here in Havana a place which has exceeded my expectations, at the moment I am visiting La Floridita, Ernest Hemingway’s favourite bar and on an eventful Friday night, and the place is bouncing; the bar is packed and the live music is fabulous!

Having a blast … after a few drinks that the gorgeous, bronze statue of the man himself, takes on a life of its own, and I swear n that “the man of the sea” has a special twinkle in his eyes for his fellow writers, (not so hard to find in a place like this!) lovely friends , lovely night.

Please excuse the brevity of this post, my internet connection is sketchy at best, I hope my photos get out to you – they were taken during the day when the bar was full of tourists , but at night it was a very different atmosphere, with the salsa , the daiquiris and lingering cigar smoke…

 

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Durty Nelly’s ∼ One of the Oldest Pubs in the Republic of Ireland

A wonderful old tale of whisky and intrigue at this gorgeous pub in Bunratty, Reblic of Ireland! (please note this old story contains its original spellings)

Who was Durty Nelly?

Many, many moons ago, in the misty past of Cratloe’s rolling countryside, there lived a buxom lady, tall in stature, but shapely and appealing to all.  She was known simply as Durty Nelly, a name that puzzled all who had the good fortune to meet her – but soon became apparent!

Times were hard in Ireland but the wily Nelly always found a way to make ends meet. She was keeper of the toll-bridge over the river Owengarney, which flowed outside her window on its way to join the Shannon.

All visitors who sought to cross the bridge had to pay their dues to Nelly – those who could not pay in cash paid in kind with the presentation of a chicken, a few eggs, a piece of home-cured bacon or even, legend has it, a bit of ‘comfort’ for the lady herself.

Durty Nelly was a woman of considerable charm, known to the virile men of the day from Galway to Cork, Dublin to Limerick. Nelly’s hospitality to the many travellers coming across the bridge gained her a place in many a man’s fond memories, and the legend of Nelly has been handed down through the centuries.

Durty Nelly was also renowned for her little shebeen – a special corner of the house overlooking the river where she kept a jar of whiskey, to warm the bellies of the tired and exhausted journeymen.

There came an unfortunate night when one of those travellers, a rogue from Kilrush, crept in during the night and stole poor Nelly’s savings, all the gold coins she had collected at the bridge.

The following evening, she went to bed broken-hearted and after a night of fitful sleep, awoke with a start. Occupying her mind was a clear impression of a new recipe for whiskey.  She set to work straight away, filling four of her best earthen jars from her distillery in the woods.  As she labored over the concoction, she became more and more convinced that there was magic to this brew.

Only a short time later, she came across an old Irish Wolfhound, on his last legs outside her front door. He was weak and feeble and was not long for this world. Nelly poured a drop of the poteen (her home-made whiskey) from one of the urns and carefully rubbed it into the dog’s muscles.  She left the dog to rest and took her place on the curved wall where she waited daily for the tolls. In the heat of the midday sun, she started to drop off.
Two or three hours later, she was disturbed from her slumber by a warm wet feeling in her palm: with a shock, she realised it was the Wolfhound, licking her hand.  He raced across the bridge exuberantly, showing no sign of his previous malaise.

This extraordinary occurrence had not gone unnoticed by Nelly’s neighbours in Bunratty, and news quickly spread that she had a special potion, one which would bring the gift of new life.

And so they came in droves from all over the country seeking “the cure” for that lame horse, the sick piglet, the slowing greyhound or the muscle-bound athlete.  Each visitor left with a renewed vigor, cured of all ills.

The Little House by the bridge grew with the increased trade and became a landmark in Munster for the high quality of its refreshment – both food and drink.

One day, a young woman from Rineanna (now Shannon International Airport) came to see Durty Nelly with a broken heart. She was married for three years but sadly remained childless.  She confessed to Nelly that she believed it was because her husband lacked any warmth in his attentions. She wanted to try the cure on him, to see if he too could be brought ‘back to life’ within their marriage.

From the first sip of the smooth liquid, the woman’s husband was a changed man. His wife could never complain of his powers as a loving husband. His virility thrilled her and resulted in the birth of 3 sons and 2 daughters within six years – and she still retained her beauty in body and charm.

News of the miracle brew spread far and wide across Ireland and Durty Nelly’s ‘cure’ found a place on the shelves of her hostelry as the drink to cure all ills – with a tot of the powerful drink, men became virile and strong, thrilling their women and gaining triumph in all battles.

Durty Nelly had discovered one of Ireland’s best-loved secret brews, famed for its purity, strength and health-giving powers – poteen.

Times have changed and poteen is no longer a legal drink in Ireland. Because of its unusual power and danger if consumed to excess, it had to be ‘officially’ outlawed.
But to this day, it is distilled among the hills and valleys of the land. It continues to relieve pain and restore new life – there is a many a champion hurler, footballer, athlete – and even racehorse – whose rubdown is well-laced with poteen.

Down through the years, the house of Durty Nelly has thrived. It has brought refreshment and comfort to many a weary traveller and it has remained the noted gateway to the stunningly beautiful West of Ireland.  Men and women who saw plantations, penal laws, great hunger and countless battles over time have traversed this famous bridge and stopped for a quick drop in the comforts of this famous tavern.

Durty Nelly’s hospitality, warmth and generosity of spirit have remained in this most welcoming of public houses for centuries since her death.  When you stop by some afternoon, think of her and toast her memory with a tot of the ‘good stuff.’

Nelly’s Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Nelly’s Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

 

Click to find out more about Durty Nellys.

Point of Infinity

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Point of Infinity

♦ 

You told me you saw,

The sea in the windows of

My beautiful house –

And I believed you.

Yet; you leveraged my love,

Beyond the point of infinity,

Past the horizon, where,

All seas collide

And passion dies.

Never for me

That perfect moment

Under the cherry tree,

Which flowers but once

Every hundred years;

You told me you saw

The sea in the windows of

My beautiful house,

But, I no longer believe you.

First published in Contemporary Literary Horizon in English and Romanian 2014