The Miller’s Tale

The Miller’s Tale

It was one of those warm and overcast days threatening thunderstorms that saw us at Sculthorpe Mill near the pint-sized market town of Fakenham, about 25 miles north-west of Norwich. The mill sits astride the River Wensum and there’s been a watermill on the site since the time of the Domesday Book of 1086. These days they’re pulling pints rather than grinding corn. Outside, the grounds were trickling and luscious – at this time of year, Norfolk simply glows with bounty, even when the sun struggles to poke through. Inside, the mill was as quiet as a silent order. A little background music on a low setting would have lifted the mood a notch or two.

We were in attendance for the annual general meeting with Jo Parfitt, my partner in crime and the force of nature that is Summertime Publishing. Jo brought her delicious mother along for a light bite too. Lunch was nice and we quickly whistled through the agenda to get to the gossip. By any-other-business, the sun decided to put in a late appearance and we couldn’t resist a few snaps sitting on the old mill pond wall.

After lunch, Jo dropped us in Fakenham to catch our bus back to Norwich. Fakenham was once described as ‘the most boring place on Earth’ in a travel guide. Although the quote was actually taken out of context, it’s rather stuck. Fake news for Fakenham? Perhaps, but despite a few pretty buildings, it did have a one-cow-town feel to it. Sad but true.

Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside

Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside

Wells-next-the-Sea was the venue for this year’s works outing with Jo Parfitt, my partner in crime and the force of nature who is Summertime Publishing. We love a day out at the seaside when the weather’s set fair. Getting there was a bit of adventure in itself. The first stage was a stately railway journey through the ripe fields, reedy wetlands and sleepy hamlets of North Norfolk. My sedation was only interrupted when I spotted the large station sign at Gunton. Well, it didn’t look like a G to me. The two-carriage train deposited us at Sheringham, a bucket and spade resort where undertakers and vets never go out of fashion. Then onto a little bus for a white knuckle ride along the curvy coast, through flint and stone villages with impossibly narrow streets called ‘Old Woman’s Lane’ and the like. There was little time to admire the view. I held on for dear life, wishing I’d worn Pampers.

Well-heeled Wells is a gorgeous little resort and working port surrounded by pine forests, sandbanks and saltmarshes. We lunched aboard the Albatros, a genuine Dutch cargo ship serving up fake Dutch pancakes. They were delicious. The tide must’ve been out because the boat had a distinct starboard list; I felt quite tipsy even before a drop had passed my lips. Happily, I managed to regain my sea legs after half a bottle or so. We didn’t make it down the agenda to the 2016/17 marketing strategy. We got stuck on gossip. Can’t think why.

The train back to Norwich was packed with sunburnt kiddies and lively country cousins out on the lash. The painted ladies opposite shared shots of raspberry liqueur and a Bottecelli babe squeezed into the aisle next to me. As the crowd nudged past, the shapely Norfolk broad fell off her heels and tipped her ample rack into my face.

‘My, my,’ I said. ‘A total eclipse.’ How she laughed.

Springtime has Sprung

Springtime has Sprung

In my last post, I took a meander down memory lane and hinted that change was afoot. Well, my news is that I’m now a publisher, a bone fide purveyor of the written word. No, I haven’t bought out HarperCollins or picked up a Penguin. I’ve gone into partnership with Jo Parfitt, she who is the force of nature behind Summertime Publishing and Jane Dean, a super-talented eagle-eyed editor with a big red pen. The new publishing venture is called Springtime Books, and you’ll see that we have a few books on the books already.

Springtime Books

Summertime Publishing has been the expert in expat books for years. From now on, Summertime will specialise in expatriate families and third culture kids, while Springtime will focus on travel and the expat experience in general. We’ve even got a snazzy little video to promote our new enterprise.

Are you a current or former expat with something fresh to say about expatriate life? If so, it could be your time to shine.

And that’s not all. Today’s also the day Springtime publishes its newest title, Passage of the Stork, Delivering the Soul from the rather wonderful Madeleine Lenagh. Click on the book image to find out more.

Passage 3D

Now, I’d wager you thought that this post was going to be about the weather. You did, didn’t you?

Last of the Summer Wine

Last of the Summer Wine

Jo Jack and LiamFor a glorious tail-end to summer, the flip flops were dusted down and the shorts were washed out for a final flourish and a sunny bite with my publisher Jo Parfitt, the tour de force who is Summertime Publishing. Jo was passing through the county, visiting her folks before she sets sail on her latest expat expedition, this time to Malaysia. Jo treated us to a gastro-pub lunch at the Orange Tree in Thornham, on the north Norfolk coast. It was an unmissable chance to cruise through the bread basket of England during harvest time while it’s still above sea level. Thornham is a picture-postcard hamlet dripping with money, converted barns and upmarket holiday lets, the kind of place featured on those minor-channel relocation programmes like ‘Escape to the Country.’ Liam loves to watch these shows but since we don’t quite have half a million stashed away in an off-shore piggy bank, watching is all we ever get to do. The pub grub was delicious and Jo was delightful, as were her splendid parents who popped along for a glass. While Jo is sipping Singapore Slings on her latest posting, she’s asked me to join her small cohort of trusted confidantes, a huge complement and a nice little earner. So, to Ms Parfitt, I thank you. To Summertime authors, if your Kindle file goes tits-up, on my head be it.

Forced to Fly

Many years ago, I had a family of blue tits nesting in a bird box nailed to the back wall of my inner city garden. It was a one egg family. For weeks, I watched chick tit spend its formative days with its tiny beak permanently poking out of the little round hole as Mummy tit and Daddy tit embarked on a never-ending feeding frenzy of tit bits. Eventually, chick tit grew into a fattened teenage tit. I was lucky enough to be working at home on the day it got its wings and I watched the launch from the window of my back bedroom. The doting parents took up position on opposite fences, tweeting melodiously to lure their offspring from the warm comfort of the nest. Now and again, they would show off with a cocky cabaret of aerial acrobatics. Teenage tit tentatively balanced its body on the ledge of the box to watch the flypast, nervously flapping its wings and preening its new-season plumage. After an agonising wait – which had me with my nose pressed hard up against the pane – teenage tit took the plunge, firing itself into the air like a rogue missile. I swear that its eyes must have been firmly shut; it shot straight towards me and slammed into the window like a bullet, just inches from my face. I got quite a start. Unfazed by its unguided maiden flight, teenage tit flew off into sky, never to be seen again.

You may wonder why I mention this tit chick flick, tender and delightful though it is. Well, we’re all forced to fly at some time in our lives, none more so than the courageous souls who migrate to greener pastures. Some stay the course and some don’t, but all have a tale to tell. Those who have tried know that it’s not all wine and song. The best of us brave the blunders with humour and insight. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Forced to Fly, a delicious compilation of wit and wisdom from those in the know. And, I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. As writer and editor-in-chief, Jo Parfitt, says:

 “Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine, but Forced to Fly is more than a collection of funny stories about seeing the funny side of the day-to-day blunders we all make. It is packed with stories that resonate with anyone who has lived abroad. Its opening chapters, written by experts, counsellors and real-life expats who have struggled with culture shock, will provide support and advice to guide you through any dark patches.”

You can pick up your copy at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. While you’re thinking about it, why not take a look at the book trailer?

The Male Trailing Spouse

Calling all men who have followed their working partners (male or female) to a foreign field. How is it for you?

Colleen Reichrath Writes:

If you are a male accompanying partner we would love to hear from you and include your insights and tips in the 4th edition of ‘A Career in Your Suitcase’ by Jo Parfitt. Send an email to me at cjscareers@gmail.com and I’ll send you a list of questions. Looking forward to sharing your stories and helping others of your kind to not feel so rare.

Please respond to this request by March 15, 2012.

Perking the Pansies Book Trailer

It’s done and dusted. My World Book Tour across four continents has finally come to an end. The stage lights have dimmed and the sequins have been packed away for another day. I’m knackered even though I’ve not shifted from the sofa. Was it a sell out? No idea. Have I sold copies of the book? Certainly. To celebrate the end of the tour, I’m releasing my very first book trailer. BAFTAs here we come. Grab yourself some popcorn and a fizzy drink, sit back and watch:

Now to my acceptance speech…

Please extend a massive hand to the talented and generous supporting cast, stars in their own right, who took a back seat and let me take centre stage to strut my stuff.

Fittingly, the tour kicked off in my foster land with Soldier, Solder at a place in the country with rustic old sapper Archers of Okçular.

Next stop was a flying visit to the motherland for our London gig at cosmopolitan Aussie Gidday from the UK with Gidday from Turkay.

The third show, AussieBum was presented Down Under at A Life Less Ordinary with the far from ordinary Russell.

A long virtual night flight took me across the Pacific to the Eureka State – California – for Perking Across the Pond on Lick the Fridge courtesy of gifted wordsmith and family man, Jared.

My second Californian date was a camp inquisition on the pink sofa with the absolutely fabulous Impossibly Glamorous.

No time to dawdle. It was back on the virtual trail to Old Constantinople for a gig on the sharp and witty Istanbul Stranger telling my Yankee Tales, continuing the American theme.

Daft planning took my back Stateside to Provincetown in New England to be entertained by M’lady and the puppets review Perking the Pansies at cross-cultural Slowly-by-Slowly, no strings attached.

I flew the virtual transatlantic red eye for the Continental European leg of my tour. First stop, a chat of the This Morning sofa with my inspirational publisher, Jo Parfitt in the Low Countries.

Next up a trek across the Pyrenees to a campsite somewhere in southern Spain for my Trailer Trash show with the impossibly healthy Helen from Helen’s European Journey.

This was followed by another Dutch gig at Adventures in Expatland with the blogger with the big heart. She entertained us with Pansies Oh So Successfully Perked.

Safe on home soil saw me facing the questions again from the lovely Natalie at the top notch Turkish Travel Blog.

Last and certainly not least, my final interrogation was by Roving Jay on the Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide. Jay pins me down with questions about Bodrum.

Thank you to one and all, for letting me loose on your blogs, for the Facebook posts and likes, stumbles, tweets, retweets and mentions. Your support is heart-warming. Thank you also to those who followed me around my virtual world. Now the fun really starts…

By the way, would you like to buy my book?