Note Number 70…It was PARTYTIME…

I know, I know, third blog post in just over a week, I told you last time, it’s like the buses. But, I have to post about my brother’s (Tony Hatch) fabulous 80th birthday party, before it’s old news. We had a ball on the Erasmus, a river boat on the Thames. It was amazing!

The boat

Erasmus Coming to Collect us

Even though I was born in Ruislip, lived there for over sixteen years and went to London frequently, I have NEVER taken a cruise up the river. It was fantastic. We left St Katherine’s Pier at 7pm and went first up river towards Chiswick. What a great view of the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and MI5 (my sister assured me it was, because it was green, but what do I know?). We turned somewhere, not sure where but it was beyond Battersea and then proceeded down river. Past the London Eye, the 02, Docklands, and out through The Thames Barrier. I was mightily impressed with the whole trip and would do it again next weekend if I could. Only minor problem was that they dropped us back at a different pier…had to find our way back to Tower Bridge and the car. It was okay, except for a load of drunk people from another boat…or were they from ours? Only joking!

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We were treated to a three course dinner; prawn, smoked salmon and a fish mousse starter; tender lamb cutlets, spinach and some delicious potato concotion; summer pudding and cream. All served with lashings of red or white wine. I stuck to water, which was just as well because at the end of the evening, after my brother had negleted to blow out the candles quickly enough, and virtually set fire to the cake, he asked me to get up and sing that old song, Push A Little Button  recorded in 1966 (a flop) and then a minor hit in 2010 when the BBC used it for their TV Licencing advert. Yes folks that was me!

Among the other artists who performed were Claire Sweeny, Cassidy Jenson, Richard Kerr (he sang the wonderful song Mandy which he wrote), Jae Alexander, Michael Dore, Roger Greenaway. Hope I haven’t missed anyone.  I did see Tony Blackburn and Des O’Connor on board too.

Tony sang Downtown, Messing About on the River and several more of his wonderful hit songs. I am always amazed at how many he’s written. Of course the best thing was seeing my nieces, nephews and their siblings and other members of the extended family. Some from New Zealand. It was great to mix with the celebs for an evening but I don’t think I could keep up with the lifestyle for too long. Nice to dip my toe in though.

Some of the family …My apoligies to all those members of the family whose photograph I didn’t get…there are so many of us! Isn’t it always the way, you get home and think, ‘how come I didn’t take more photos?’

Thank you Tony and Maggie, for organising such a tremendous event. I for one, really appreciated your generosity. You are great party hosts.

I leave you all with this!

Note Number 69…Writing Conference Weekend…New Friends… New Inspiration…

Well, like the old saying about waiting for buses I don’t blog for ages now two come in less than a week, and there might be another on the way!

From Thursday 11th until Monday 15th July I became a student again…well kind of…I went to Lancaster University for the Romantic Novelists Association Conference. A long, long drive, but it was worth it I think. It was full-on, with workshops, lectures and one-to-one appointments with industry specialists. I met a publisher, agent and an editor. All three had different ideas about my novel, but the agent and editor showed enough enthusiasm for me to keep at it! Significant changes will be made over the next few months, and I feel inspired to continue with the story but make some massive cuts and re-writes. I have decided that the protagonist in my novel is a bit weak. She’s one dimensional and lacking in spirit. I’m going to give her a makeover and make her more exciting, someone that the reader will get right behind and will on to achieve her goals.

My room and the view (if I leant right out of the window) 

A great deal of food and wine was consumed, new acquaintances made, and old ones rekindled. I had a great time, although I came home exhausted. I slept in student accommodation, which was fine, but the single bed with springs and a thin mattress left much to be desired. Although everything was modern and it was an ensuite room, (one of about 8) with a shared kitchen, I could understand why some students feel a bit isolated when they first go to university. Thrown together with others they don’t know, and some may not have been away from home before. I said this to a few people who didn’t agree, but then on BBC Radio 4, just the other day, I listened to two students talking about how difficult it can be making friends at Uni. Many students hideaway and chat on Facebook, Twitter Instagram etc., to friends they’ve left behind. You can listen here 

Like I said, I made some new friends, one of them has an uncanny resemblance to me! Or is it just the hair? We’re all hoping to meet up at other writing events or just socially during the year. We sat together at the Gala Dinner. Wonderful.

ladies copy

My new friends from left, Suzanne, Louise, Me, Helen (my lookalike) and Jan.

Great to meet up with you lovely ladies…see you soon I hope! 

Note Number 68…Barcelona (or Barca as The Man calls it!)

The poor dog has been in and out of the kennels over the last few weeks because The Man and I have been busy, busy busy. He went off cycling in the Pyrenees (I think I told you that) and I went to meet him in Barcelona. I should, of course, have posted about this before now but, life got in the way, as it does.

Barcelona. . . I loved it and cannot wait to go back. Apart from all the beautiful architecture — Gaudi — and the fantastic food — tapas. I loved our hotel which had a roof terrace with a swimming pool — well more of a plunge pool really, but it was fandabulous!

Hotel Roof Terrace and View of Cathedral

We visited Gaudi’s house, and it was much smaller than I’d imagined and internally quite understated, which is surprising considering the decorative nature of most of his work. The furniture was ergonomic and modern. What a man! The gardens were beautiful but swarming with tourists — Yes, I know we were tourists too! We took a taxi to the house, which was just as well because it was all uphill and several kilometres. But, we walked back to the Sagrada Famiglia.

Click on Picture to see Caption

It was a hot, long walk and I needed a drink and something to eat. I ordered a Sangria as I thought I should try one but, I didn’t specify the size. Big mistake.

I assumed it would be a wine glass full. How wrong I was. I did my best but gave some away to the chap on the next table and left a quarter in the bottom. It cost 18euro as well!

Sangria

SANGRIA…ahh

I previously booked tickets, for the Sagrada Famiglia, which was a good idea — the place was packed with tourists, but that didn’t detract from the splendour of the building. I have visited many churches and cathedrals, and often it’s pretty much, same old, same old, but the Sagrada was a new experience. The light entering the nave through the stained glass windows was breathtaking. The shape of the roof, the sheer individuality of the architecture — unbelievable.

On one day, we took the tourist bus — what a good idea. Sitting on the top of a bus, with our earphones plugged in, able to relax and take in all the sights. By far the best way to see a city. Past La Pedrera Apartment block. World-famous, need I say more, except that apparently, it’s impossible to have bookshelves in them because of the ‘wobbly’ walls.

la pedera

La Pedrera (from the bus) 

The bus tour took a couple of hours and went out of the city to the Olympic Village from 1992. Around the Port and through the main city areas. I didn’t take many photos because I was too busy looking.

Bus Trip Views (I’ll try harder next time) 

We visited the Boqueria Market, which was impressive by size, the vast amount and the diversity of food, but we weren’t impressed with the restaurants and bars there. However, we discovered the Santa Caterina market quite close to the Cathedral. It wasn’t as big as Boqueria but on the side of it was a great tapas bar, Cuines. Can’t wait to go back!

Market Food 

More Market Food

Cuines at Santa Caterina Market 

We did visit the famous old Els Qatre Gats where Picasso, Gaudi, Hemmingway and probably many other artists, writers and musicians took their refreshment in their day. It is easy to imagine them all meeting and discussing various art fomrs, from the décor and arty atmosphere of the place. But the food? The service? Not impressed. Expensive and the meat was tough. The piano player was little better than Less Dawson and he wasn’t trying to be funny! We won’t go there again but we can tick the box.

Els Quatro Gats…sadly no photo of the piano player. 

Our favourite eating place was Alcoba Azul – we went twice. (I knew it was going to be good because my daugher recommended it and honestly she it very particular about restaurants. Thanks Emily.) A fantastic, crowded, buzzy atmosphere with locals and tourists together. Excellent service even though the place was busy. The tapas food delicious — we couldn’t decide what to eat so ordered far too much. The waitress from Italy couldn’t do enough for us…Sara. You could also eat out in the small square. It’s a tucked away place, not easy to find but worth it.

Alcoba Azul and Sara (We’ll be Back)

Next blog post — RNA Conference… watch this space.