I don’t get interviewed much these days. Back in my pansies heyday everyone wanted a piece of me; queuing up, they were. But now we’ve settled into county life, I’ve become old dog, old tricks, descending into idyllic rural obscurity. But then up popped a request from Nicola MacCameron, a voiceover artist at Mic And Pen, to drag me barking out of retirement. How could I refuse? This time, though, Liam got in on the act.
“What do you enjoy reading?”
“As a child of the media age, I tend to take my fiction visually. Most of the books I read are non-fiction – memoir, history, social commentary or politics – and then usually around a pool. That’s when I have the time. So I asked my husband, Liam, who is much better-read than me.”
“There are some wonderful books set in a ‘foreign’ setting. Sebastian Faulks’ gripping novel ‘Birdsong’ features an Englishman who moves to France before the outbreak of the First World War. ‘A Woman of Bangkok’ by Jack Reynolds is a thrilling and atmospheric classic set in Thailand. There are so many. What matters most is the story. Sure, the setting can add something – sometimes it becomes a character in its own right…”
What a year. Who would have predicted that 2020 would have brought a pandemic to strike us down and trash the global economy? Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus dominated the pansy charts this year. And there was death too but not because of the virus. Professionally, I lost a fellow author in a horrific murder and, personally, I lost my oldest friend to a sudden and totally unexpected cardiac arrest. But then came the COVID-19 survivor close to my heart and a birthday milestone, both of which brought some hope and happiness to a tragic year best left behind.
Despite the hurricane that swirled around us, Liam and I have been incredibly fortunate and life remains calm and peaceful. We know how lucky we are. The pansies remain forever perked.
Ladies and gents, both, neither and all those in between, I give you top of the pansy pops for 2020.
The most popular image of 2020 was this fuzzy black and white photo of my old primary school in Malaysia during my army brat years. Usually it’s something smutty or a hunk in the buff.
2020 was a write-off but do I see more hopeful times for the New Year? I think so but then I’m an eternal optimist. Clearly, the vaccine will be centre-stage. With a bit of luck and a fair wind, life should start returning to normal. Wishing us all a safe and sane 2021.
I don’t normally mix business with pleasure but I’m making an exception this week. Regular readers will know about the cruel murder of fellow expat author Lindsay de Feliz in December last year. We – that is Springtime Books – published her memoirs and we thought hard about a fitting tribute. And, so, with the help of a number of generous donors and freebies thrown into the mix by our own team, we’re launching the Lindsay de Feliz New Writer of Expat Memoir Award. It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know.
A mouthful it may be but the lucky winner will receive a bursary to cover the full cost of a full publishing package – big picture edit, proofread, design, production and distribution for worldwide sale – the full monty.
The competition is open until the end of July 2020, and the winner will be selected in September 2020 by a panel of expatriate authors and writers from the Dominican Republic.
I was badly shaken and much stirred to hear of the murder of fellow author, Lindsay de Feliz in December. Among her many qualities, Lindsay was very social media savvy and developed an impressive following. Her evergreen blog chronicled the many ups and considerable downs of her fascinating life in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, Danilo, assorted stepchildren and a menagerie of dogs, cats and chickens. Life at times was really tough but she always embraced it without complaint or regret. Lindsay wrote candidly about her journey in her remarkable memoirs, ‘What About Your Saucepans?’ and ‘Life After My Saucepans’.
I never actually met Lindsay in person but we talked on Skype and gelled immediately, sharing the same ironic sense of humour. When we first became acquainted, I was a rookie author and she was generous with her help. I was trying to make a shilling or two from my first book and her advice was spot on. I shall be ever grateful.
The manner of Lindsay’s grizzly death is plain but the circumstances surrounding it are subject to much idle chitter-chatter. What is known is Danilo and two of his adult children have been arrested, and, some say, charged with her murder. The story broke in the press and hit the headlines. As Lindsay’s publisher, a national newspaper came sniffing around for the dirt, particularly about how much money she’d made. Of course, I kept mum. My discretion was not repeated online with some people, many of whom had never even heard of Lindsay, heckling from the cheap seats and baying for blood. It was an ugly spectacle, reflecting the very worst aspects of social media. Let’s not jump the gun. If Danilo is tried (fairly) and convicted, then so be it but, in the meantime, I’m steering well clear of the bear pit.
My thoughts are with Lindsay’s family and actual friends at this truly awful time. Lindsay, may you rest in peace.
It was that time of year again when I joined my partner in crime and the force of nature that is Jo Parfitt for our annual general meeting to discuss this publishing malarkey and plan the road ahead. It also provided a welcome excuse to have a proper natter. Previous AGMs have been on this side of the North Sea and so Jo suggested we pop across the water to her elegant gaff in The Hague. We bit her hand off.
Not that it was all work and no play. That would make Jack a very dull boy. Naughty gossip was definitely at the top of the agenda, accompanied by tasty fare and free-flowing wine. Jo and husband were generous hosts. The ‘any other business’ involved a walkabout. As our lodgings were city-centre chic, we had plenty of time to amble round the cobbled streets of the tidy and graceful City of Peace and Justice. We had to keep our wits about us – looking left not right, eyes anxiously peeled for the trams and cyclists coming at us from every which way. We were lucky with the weather: warm and breezy with a few heavy rain clouds that failed to burst, and we took full advantage of the café culture spilling out all over the bricked pavements.
We even got the chance to hop on a tram to delightful Delft, a mini-Amsterdam without the reputation, criss-crossed with pretty canals and home to blue pottery and the House of Orange. The still waters were distinctly green in places: a quick dip would have been unwise.
Just to demonstrate we’re not total lightweights, cultuur-wise, we took in the cute and bijou Vermeer Museum to sample Delft’s most famous artist. Liam was definitely plugged in to the Vermeer vibe.
We flew the KLM City Hopper to and from Amsterdam’s manic Schiphol Airport courtesy of the rather sedate Norwich International which is more of a hut than a hub, but then we were home 30 minutes after landing, chilled white in hand.