Thursday, 27 September 2018

Ferries from the Mersey to the Dardanelles

Image result for Mersey ferryboats

All my life I've loved going on ferries. As a child, crossing the Mersey from Pierhead in Liverpool to Wallasey or New Brighton was a weekend treat. My father used to make up tales about some of the more colourful passengers, so it seemed like a trip into another world, as we chugged across that estuary.

Later on I made Channel crossings on ferries that were often old tubs, just about seaworthy. However, it was always an adventure to step on board, leave one country and disembark in another.

The next step up was travelling to Turkey, and taking the ferry in Istanbul to travel between Europe and Asia. What a thrill to travel from one continent to another, enjoying spectacular views of famous buildings all the way. At the same time, the small, bustling two-deck ferry boats reminded me of the Mersey ferries, with the same vwoop-vwoop of their horns as they cast off, the swirl as they spun round to dock or set sail. On the Turkish ferries it's an additional pleasure to buy a tulip glass of tea from the nimble seller holding his round tray by its long handle as he threads his way through the passengers.

Image result for Turkish tea seller on Istanbul ferry

This summer my ferry travels were even more exciting. Arriving from the Asian side, we crossed the Dardanelles to reach our holiday villa near Gelibolu. During the next few weeks, we crossed and recrossed the Dardanelles to visit Troy, Canakkale and so on. There are ferries at many points along the coast. Some take forty minutes to do the crossing, like the Lapseki-Gelibolu ferry. Further down at a narrower point, the ferry crosses from Kilitbahir to the centre of Canakkale in fifteen minutes. Only just enough time for that glass of tea. Sitting on the upper deck, in the sunshine but always with a cooling breeze, the journey was so pleasant I felt tempted each time to stay on board and repeat the crossing until the end of the day.

                                            Lapseki Ferry, from Lapseki to Gelibolu

 Approaching Canakkale

Koz Kahve
In Canakkale, Turkish coffee prepared in the traditional way - by heating the coffee in a brazier of hot charcoal and ash. It takes twenty minutes to heat the coffee to boiling point but worth the wait for the rich flavour.

Friday, 24 August 2018

A Mission to Troy

The wooden horse stands in front of the city of Troy, in a vast square near the shop and cafe. Fortunately it was a very quiet Monday morning when we arrived and only a couple of children were running about inside the horse. 'Hector', in his leather breastplate, little red skirt and red cloak, tried to entice us to dress as Helens, so we could be photographed with him in the red war chariot. The jewellery was tempting - diadems, bangles and earrings, and the gauzy robes were pretty but it was rather too hot and anyway, I couldn't wait to carry on to the actual site.

So after this quick snap, off I went, through a shady grove of cypress then out into the heat of a July day. All worth it, to walk past these towering walls and into the actual city of Troy.


Inside the walls I followed the well-marked route ..... past temple after palace after theatre, until the sheer size of the place became amazing. The restoration work continues, and there are many panels with information and pictures of what the various buildings looked like originally.

Walking around a place of such antiquity and legend is extremely moving. Scraps of the story, thoughts of Hector, Priam, Helen and Paris occur, as well as pictures of the Greek army surrounding these mighty walls. The only way they could get into the city was by their ruse with the horse, and only after ten years of war.

However, I was also on a personal mission. In Scandalous Lady, Olivia also visits Troy. I wanted to check on whether I had described what she saw accurately. It was a thrill to find the scene was indeed more or less exact.

 She smiled in delight and sprang up to get a closer look at the boy and his goats, streaming along the lower part of the slope. Further away, she could make out a cluster of tents. Two horsemen were speeding across the rough plain below. Olivia drank in the scene. It was all so different from Gloucestershire. These open spaces and the sunshine seemed to fill her with energy. 
There was silence for a while.  Olivia carefully drew each of the tumbled columns and lumps of marble on the hillside facing her.  Then she moved to another vantage point and set to work again. The goatherd’s voice faded as he led his flock further away. Olivia smiled. Had Helen sat here, enjoying this splendid view and listening to people singing as they went about their business? But Helen had run away with her lover and Olivia had sworn never to trust a man again. Of course, she did not include Richard in that; he was the kindest of brothers. But even so, it was going to be difficult to persuade him to allow her to stay in Constantinople.
            Her sketches finished to her satisfaction, Olivia idly watched a lizard dart across a bit of wall. The sun beat down, sharpening the already vivid greens and reds of the landscape. The pieces of marble had a pearly sheen in the brilliant light. Perhaps she should join Nessie in the shade while they waited for the rest of their group to return.

            She stretched out a hand for her bag. And froze as a man's voice behind her rapped out, 'Stay absolutely still.' His sharp tone said danger. Olivia could hear his breath coming in gasps, as if he had been running uphill. Her own heartbeat quickened and a tingle ran down her spine. The next instant the stranger spoke again. 'Whatever happens, do not move.' From right behind her came a scrape, a swoosh and a thump, followed by a spitting noise. 'Now you can move,' he said more loudly. 


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

A new, fresh website

It took a while to make myself a new website. Goodbye to my olde booke format, which served me well, but had done its time.

Over to 

for a fresh new look at my writing life, from Books to Byron to Brighton and Bath;
from Lady Hester Stanhope to Lisbon or London and more, in an exploration of life [as my characters live it] in the wider Regency world.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Delicious gossip. Read it in The Teatime Tattler

"My virtue was saved by the language of the fan"

                      Such is the latest whisper to reach the ears of our Reporter !

The Bluestocking Belles' own scandal sheet, The Teatime Tattler, allows us to glimpse some of the more scandalous events of society life during the Regency period. Is it even necessary to say that the Prince Regent is often involved....?

  [ digital image of Castle Tavern owned by the Society of Brighton Print Collectors.]                                                           


Parkland House,    

Marine Parade,


                                                31st August 1814
Dearest Emily,
Today I shall not be present at Donaldson’s for the teatime meeting. It is a great pity when the weather is so mild and the sea is calm. However, Lady Fording is fatigued and so we must remain quietly at home. She won quite a large sum at cards last night, and continued playing longer than usual, encouraged by her success. I do love her for being such a sprightly old lady. And she is very kind to me, but even so, I cannot tell her anything about the Events of last night, even though it is thanks to her that I had the means to escape a Horrid Fate.
Emily, you swore to me you would keep anything I told you a Secret and so I will set down what happened. It will unburden my mind to share it with you. Let me begin from the moment when that odious Mrs Chetwynd interrupted our little gathering at the Castle Tavern last night. By the by, did you see how low cut her gown was? If she had so much as sneezed…! She took me into the other salon, into an alcove and [I shudder as I write his name] that horrible roué, Sir Bilton Kelly, was there, with his dissipated face and oily manner. Between the pair of them, they thought they had me trapped, so that I would submit to being taken to the Prince Regent’s private party.
My dear Lord Longwood had warned me repeatedly against accepting any such invitation, and indeed, I was very Angry, but could not push my way out of that narrow alcove with Mrs Chetwynd blocking the way. It was most humiliating to see that many people in the room were watching, some more discreetly than others. And, oh, thankfully, at the far end of the room was Lord Longwood. He noted the general silence and turned in my direction. Lady Fording has been instructing me in the language of the fan, and so, even though my hands were shaking [with anger, not fright, you understand], I hastily took mine in my hand, waved it, then snapped it shut, laying a finger on the top of the sticks. That signals ‘I wish to speak with you’, and Lord Longwood understood.
At once, he made his way over toward me. Mrs Chetwynd was angry and tried to distract him, but he ignored her. When Sir Bilton Kelly blustered, he stared at him through his eyeglass in a truly Terrifying manner. Then he offered me his arm and so I made my escape. Once we reached the hallway, my knees began to shake. You know how Lord Longwood’s face goes dark when he scowls, and his black hair falls over his forehead. He assured me he was not angry with me and suggested we should take a turn along the path up towards the Pavilion and back, so I might compose myself.
In his company I soon felt calmer. But then he announced that he would be leaving Brighton today to return to London. That made my heart sink into my boots, for he is always so kind and helpful towards me and, as you have suspected, I do love him with all my heart. On an impulse I begged him to kiss me goodbye. But I asked for a proper kiss. He was shocked and then, his face changed, those wonderful green eyes glowed and he did, indeed kiss me. In those moments, I went to heaven. But now I am Wretched, for I want more of those sensations. Oh, Emily, I depend on you to support me through the next days as I struggle to appear calm. At least, until we can meet for a conversation, I have my copy of Lord Byron’s Corsair, to divert my mind from its sorrows. Truly, Emily, I cannot decide if being in love is a blessing or a curse.
                                         Yr friend,  Anna 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

With thanks to Jessie Cahalin and her wonderful Books in my Handbag Blog


Fancy a trip to the Ottoman Empire? Take a peek at this . Beth has packed a guide book to accompany you on the journey through her novel.


Very proud to be featured in the Handbag Gallery this weekend.

Readers and writers will find lots of treats at

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Delicious yogurt

Turkey is the land of yogurt in all its glory and variety. It can be made from cow, sheep or goat milk. The enormous variety of yogurt in this supermarket section shows what an important item it is in the Turkish diet.

The meal could start with a bowl of yogurt soup, [called yayla corba = mountain soup], perhaps with a dash of fiery red pepper and dried mint to garnish it;

Related image

Iskender Kebab is a dish of spit-roasted lamb, served on a bed of pide, with tomatoes, long green peppers and a buttery spicy pepper sauce, together with a generous dollop of thick, creamy yogurt.

 Yogurt is served as a salad with chopped cucumber in it or mixed with aubergine and garlic as a mezze. It may be cooked with rice and spinach. There is also a mouthwatering salad of grated, cooked carrots tossed hot in yogurt. In addition, many cakes and desserts have yogurt as an ingredient. Laz Borek is one, made from simple ingredients but pretty to look at and a delight to taste.

And then there is ayran, a drink made of yogurt mixed with water and a tiny pinch of salt. This is the most refreshing drink in the scorching heat of summer. The yogurt can be made from cow, sheep or goat milk. 

The photo shows the size of pots and pails of yogurt which would last a Turkish family two or three days. I put a four-pack of western style yoghurts [with the pink tops] next to one pot to compare....

Kaymak is the cream skimed from the top of freshly made yogurt. It is ften served instead of butter at breakfast, or perhaps with some fruit or honey as a dessert.

Kaymak in Turkey.jpg

Sütas, Icim, Pinar, Yorsan,.... They are all good brands of Turkish yogurt.

Milk from the water buffalo is mainly used to make the heavenly tasting Marash icecream, much more consistent than normal ices.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Summer in Brighton, 1814

The Rake's Challenge is set mainly in Brighton in summer 1814, after the grand Peace Celebrations in London, to mark the defeat of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbon king, Louis XVIII to the French throne.
In Brighton, the mood is relaxed - the long years of war are over and people want entertainment. There were visits to the races, to the theatre, sea bathing, promenades along the Steyne, card parties, and for the lucky ones, [or not always so lucky] an invitation to an evening at the Prince Regent's Pavilion.

 Below are some of the places visited by Anna during her seaside holiday.

The Beach at Brighton by Henry Edridge

[ Photo © Tate ]

The Steine in 1805

Image result for Brighton in 1814

Photo:Brighton Race Course, 1805: Painting showing the race course on the Steine with the original Royal Pavilion in the background. Featured in the picture are important local people of the time, including George, Prince of Wales, on horse back.

The Castle Tavern

               [ digital image owned by the Society of Brighton Print Collectors.]

As it appeared 1814-19

Image result for Brighton in 1814

[ ]

Anna does try sea bathing but she ends up in hot water with Giles.

and in one of her dashing new gowns

1814 - Ackermann's Repository Series1 Vol 11 - June Issue
[from Ackermann's Repository series 1]