An amazing holiday in the stunning Lake District

We’ve been back from our holiday for exactly a week now and it already seems like a distant memory. Although the suitcases on the landing waiting to go back into the attic and the pile of walking trousers/thick socks/breathable T-shirts I’d bought for the trip and don’t have a home for in my wardrobes do keep reminding me it wasn’t that long ago.

The Lake District is one of my favourite places in the UK. I remember family caravanning holidays as a child, paddling in the lakes in flip flops or wellies, and visiting the gorgeous towns and villages around the national park. As an adult, I’ve visited many times.

I often dreamed of living there and, in my late 20s, I actually had an interview to be a trainer at an outdoor activity centre on the shores of Lake Windermere. I was gutted when I didn’t get the job. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason and there were other plans in place for me. If I’d got the job there, I’d probably never have become an author.

My husband and I have visited many times with our daughter and we also went on our own for a weekend to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in 2015 so we have many fond memories. Usually, we stick to the towns but this time we were determined to get walking. After 18 months of hibernating thanks to a certain pandemic, even the low fells were perhaps a bit ambitious but there was nothing to stop us walking round the lakes and what a treat that turned out to be.

Our holiday cottage was a gorgeous building in a small hamlet on the southern tip of Thirlmere which is a reservoir serving Manchester. We couldn’t see the water from the cottage because of the woods but it was very close by. The views out of the lounge window were stunning.

DAY 1 – GRASMERE & RYDAL WATER

The weather was stunning for our first full day so we had a wander round the pretty village of Grasmere then set off towards the lake. It’s quite a walk from the village to get to the edge of the lake but it’s absolutely worth it. At every turn, there was a new photo to take.

I’m proud to say that all of these are mine taken on my phone and the only one my talented photographer husband took is the bottom one in this batch.

We continued from the northern part of Grasmere towards Rydal Water where we’d heard there were some caves in hills which we’d never visited before. It was a bit people-y around the cave but I was keen to have a go crossing the stepping stones, praying I wouldn’t be the one person who went splat in the water. (Thanks to hubby for the batch of pics below):

It was worth making the crossing as the cave was fabulous although I was too embarrassed on my own to do what I normally would – a deep ‘mwah ha ha ha ha!’

Outside the view was gorgeous and there were loads of amazing stacks of stones. We were pretty hot at this point so didn’t stop to create our own.

We’d covered a lot of miles in the heat by this point and stupidly weren’t prepared as we hadn’t packed any lunch or brought enough water with us. Thankfully, the pathway at the northern tip of Rydal Water opened out onto the road immediately opposite The Badger Bar so that was us sorted for lunch and drinks. It didn’t take much (any) persuading to get the bus back to Grasmere instead of walking!

From there we drove onto Ambleside for something a little more leisurely – a game of crazy golf. Hubby sat on a bench with Ella (the dog) while the munchkin and I played a round. She would claim she won, but she cheats!!!

DAY 2 – FERRY TRIP TO BOWNESS-ON-WINDERMERE

We decided to take a catch the big steam ferry from Ambleside to Windermere on the Sunday which, with hindsight, was a bit of a mistake because Bowness on a bank holiday weekend was crazy busy. I’ve seen it busy many times but this was something else. It was so calm before we boarded the ferry, and the boat itself was fairly empty but we disembarked in Bowness and there was a sea of people everywhere and a wall of noise. Eek!

It was a grey day but still really warm (although a bit chilly on the ferry itself). We had lunch followed by a wander round a lovely market and the town, but we were keen to get back on the ferry and return to some peace and quiet (and an ice cream) in Ambleside.

DAY 3 – BUTTERMERE

Bank Holiday Monday was another grey day but there was no rain forecast so we decided to drive up to Buttermere. We’d heard it was a lovely walk around it. At 4.5 miles, that seemed do-able. And we were prepared with a packed lunch this time!

The sat nav directed us on the terrifying route via Honister Pass or, as the munchkin kept calling it, Hoisin Pass. OMG! If you’ve not done it, it takes you high – very high – past a slate mine with sheer drops and extremely narrow roads. My knuckles were white as I clung onto the door handle! (I will point out that hubby was driving!)

The photo opportunities were very different from our previous lake walk and I even turned on the black and white filter (get me using the tech!) to catch some moody shots!

The walk was lovely and I certainly brightened up a dull day in my red fleece!

We had a lovely treat on the route back up the other side with a few cows lying down by the side of the footpath, taking it all in. Aren’t they gorgeous? And there was an amazing waterfall too which hubby scrambled up to it while the munchkin and I had a little rest. The single cow and waterfall pic are courtesy of hubby.


DAY 4 – LAKESIDE, HAWKSHEAD & BROCKHOLE

It was publication day for me for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café but we had no WiFi at the cottage so I drove out to a lay-by near Grasmere first thing to pick up 4G and do some sharing of social media posts! After that, we all headed down to Lakeside at the southern tip of Lake Windermere and hubby and munchkin took Ella for a walk while I met my fellow Write Romantic and fabulously talented crime writer Helen Phifer. Helen lives in Cumbria so it was such a great opportunity to catch up with her. We were so busy chatting, we completely forgot to take a photo. Oops!

The family and I then headed up to Hawkshead which is one of my favourite villages and had a wander round and a delicious publication day lunch outside a pub called The King’s Arms.

Although we’ve visited HillTop before, I thought it would be fitting to visit Beatrix Potter’s former home on the day one of my books was released but they were taking bookings only which had never even crossed our mind so that was a no-go.

We caught the car ferry from Hawkshead and headed to Brockhole on the shores of Windermere instead. The munchkin had a freezing cold paddle with Ella (as you might be able to tell from her facial expression on the first pic) and a go-cart ride so she was a happy bunny.

DAY 5 – THIRLMERE

Our plans to do the walk around Derwentwater were a bit scuppered today when munchkin woke up complaining of stomach ache and feeling sick. We stayed at the cottage for the morning hoping it might wear off but she was sick and definitely couldn’t go out and about.

I read and hubby went off for a walk with the dog but I was going a bit stir crazy after lunch so, with munchkin being at an age she can be left alone, we left her sleeping and walked to Thirlmere.

The reservoir was very low after a lengthy dry season and we came close to a stuck-in-the-mud disaster, fooled by the crusty surface! (Top 3 pics are hubby’s).


DAY 6 – KESWICK & DERWENTWATER

It had obviously just been a 24-hour bug as the munchkin woke up feeling much better and, although we decided it would be pushing it to walk the full perimeter of Derwentwater as planned, we reckoned she could manage partway.

We’ve always loved the walk past the theatre and down to the lake shore but have never done the walk round the lake and we can’t believe what we’ve been missing out on because it is stunning. It helped that we had the same gorgeous weather from the start of the week. Just like our walk round Grasmere, there was a photo opportunity with every few paces.

We were so sad to have to say goodbye to our cottage and head back home. We all agreed that, even with the munchkin being ill one day, it was the best UK holiday we’d ever had. I think that was for a combination of reasons – the gorgeous weather, the stunning scenery, properly switching off from work (no WiFi certainly helped) and a break for the first time in nearly two years. Perfect.

I can’t wait to start writing my new series set in the Lake District which does, of course, mean lots more trips there are needed. No hardship whatsoever!

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the pictures. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been to any of these places or you have recommendations for others. Our holiday cottage was gorgeous but it had a few shall we say ‘interesting’ decorative touches. I leave you with the fish vase, the squirrel bin (which weighed a ton), the frankly terrifying ‘Catbells’ artwork (Catbells being a famous fell overlooking Derwentwater which features in the top photos on the above section), the scary rabbit dish thing and the disproportionate squirrel acorn situation.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it’s all a bit strange

There are some pivotal moments in recent history where individuals, depending on their age, can recall exactly where they were/what they were doing when they heard the event happened. Some examples include:

  • The shooting of John Lennon
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The death of Princess Diana
  • 911

But this is probably the first time in my lifetime that we can add an entire year to the list. 2020. The year where everything and nothing happened. We might want to forget it but we won’t be able to because the global pandemic has impacted on every part of everybody’s lives.

How much of an impact there has been will massively depend on an individual’s circumstances and their mental health. What I might consider disappointing/inconvenient based on my circumstances might have a tremendous impact for somebody else. Therefore, what I’ve written below is very much how I might view things but I do recognise that the events may fall into an entirely different category for someone else…

For some, the impact has been disappointing and inconvenient but not necessarily life-changing or devastating – the annual holiday cancelled, a birthday not celebrated in the usual way, missing face to face contact with friends and family, a new alien work environment based from home. 

For others, the impact has been more significant – job loss or reduced hours leading to financial worries, a holiday of a lifetime/ wedding/ anniversary/ big birthday cancelled, being kept away from a loved one in a care home.

And there are those for whom this year has been a tragedy – illness, cancelled operations, bereavement, not able to properly say goodbye to loved ones, businesses failing, acute loneliness and depression and, of course, exam results and the impact of that on college/university places or employment.

My immediate little family of three has been fortunate so far, falling mainly into that first category of a disappointing and inconvenient year: holidays, theatre trips, celebrations for my hubby’s 50th birthday and my birthday all cancelled. Zoom has been a weak alternative to meeting family face-to-face but we still have our jobs and we’ve both worked from home for several years so haven’t had to adjust to that. We have, however, had an unexpected family bereavement – not to Covid – and that was hard, not being able to rush round and give hugs. But we have been lucky and I count my blessings every day for that.

But today feels odd. Strange. Wrong. Because today I should be at my graduation ceremony.

I achieved my Masters in Creative Writing at the back end of 2019 but it was through Open University so ceremonies take place all over the country, with lesser frequency in the north. I’d hesitated as to whether to bother when the ceremony at the nearest venue to us – Harrogate – would be almost a year after graduating but hubby and the munchkin said I should definitely do it and they would be there cheering me on, as would my parents. When Covid hit, all graduation ceremonies were understandably cancelled for the foreseeable future. I have no idea when it will be considered safe to have an event like this again or how they will catch up with the backlog. Will there be any point in attending a ceremony two or three years after finishing? It feels like the moment has passed.

This weekend, I would also have started getting organised ready for our holiday over the October half term. At the start of the year, we booked a week in Portugal for May half term and a holiday cottage in Lancaster to be in easy reach of both Blackpool and the southern Lake District. Portugal was cancelled and, with Lancashire moving into a Tier 3 lockdown yesterday, that’s also cancelled. We had already made the decision not to go while they were Tier 2 as it made no sense to travel from a Tier 1 part of the country into a higher-risk zone, especially knowing we wouldn’t be able to do what we’d planned for our holiday anyway.

What am I doing instead?

I’m staying at home as usual, waiting for a courier to collect the swab kit for my Covid test. I was randomly selected and invited to do this as part of the research survey undertaken by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Dept of Health & Social Care. I agreed I was happy to participate and, yesterday, my kit and instructions arrived in the post.

Also in the post was a box of author copies of Making Wishes at Bay View from the print-run that has gone into The Works. A case of normality arriving alongside this strange new world.

It all feels very surreal. If someone had told me last year to guess why I wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony and what I’d be doing instead, I’d never in a million years have predicated this. Yet this is the new normal.

And seeing as ‘normal’ is different, is it too early to put up the Christmas tree this weekend? Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I need to wait until November. Ooh, 1st November falls on a Sunday. Could I…?

Sending hugs to anyone whose 2020 has hurt/is still hurting. Hang on in there.

Jessica xx 

The one where I look back on an unusual May

I always think there’s something extra special about the start of a month being on a Monday – fresh week, fresh month, fresh start. Lovely.

And as we step into June, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on May because it’s been an unusual month with a few disappointments but, oh my goodness, what a delicious set of delights. Which is perhaps a little odd considering the whole of May was spent in a COVID-19 lockdown.

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Definitely not me celebrating my birthday                                               Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

 

DISAPPOINTMENT – I hate to start on a negative but the month started with a disappointment. I’m a May Day baby and I really didn’t respond well to a lockdown birthday and had a little strop about it which actually surprised me as I don’t really both much with my birthday. I tend not to work, I love gifts, and I like to go out for a meal with my husband and daughter to acknowledge the day. The fact that we couldn’t go out made me unhappy and my reaction was to ignore my birthday rather than have a half-hearted non-event. I made a ‘no gifts’ rule and sort of regretted that when the day arrived …. although I then broke it by ordering myself a stunning Lucy Pittaway print for my office. I can’t put it up yet because I can’t get it framed but it will make my heart sing when I can. And, actually, I might have ordered two. Well, there was 25% off and it would have been rude not to!

Screenshot 2020-05-11 at 22.17.16DELIGHT – I worked in the day job on my birthday but I took the following week off – a much needed break after working some extremely long hours since the start of March. When I returned to the work as a home-based HR Tutor, it was to a big delight because I handed in my notice. I really enjoy my day job but to write full-time is a dream come true and, whilst I will not be matching the income from the day job, I will be doing what I love and finally have a work:life balance; something I haven’t had for well over five years. Six days and counting…

DISAPPOINTMENT – There’ve been a couple more disappointments. Like so many people, there were plans in place which had to be cancelled in May – a shopping and theatre trip to Leeds to see Sister Act with the munchkin and a family half-term holiday in Portugal.

IMG_7561DELIGHT – I’ve missed my fortnightly meet-ups with my very good friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth, but we had a lovely virtual catch-up this month and it was so good to see her/speak to her. Last week, I also caught up with a really good friend who I met when I was on TSB’s graduate programme in the mid-90s. We haven’t seen each other since I had my daughter (who will be 14 in December) so it was great to see/speak to her online too although that’s a lot of years to try and catch up on! One of the things that has come out of lockdown for a lot of people is reacquainting with old friends and that’s definitely a delight.

 

DELIGHT – I’ve received lots more delights this month with readers getting in touch with me. I’ve had tweets, emails and messages on Facebook from readers thanking me for writing my books which they say have seen them through lockdown. Every single time I receive a message like that, it humbles and astonishes me. I’m so grateful that (a) my stories have helped provide escapism during these challenging times and (b) that they’ve thought highly enough of them to take the time to find me and contact me. How lovely is that? Thank you to everyone who has made contact in May or prior to that. It really is so kind and thoughtful of you.

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Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

DELIGHT – And the month of May finished on an absolute delight. One of the things that many readers have been saying is that they’ve binge-read my entire back catalogue. My fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have re-released five of my books (two shorter ones were packaged together as one to make it a four-book series release) and I’ve signed a contract with them for my remaining four but, for now, those four are out there as indie releases. I can therefore log into the author information on Kindle and see how many eBooks have sold each day and how many pages have been read.

Prior to the re-release of the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, I had a steady but not impressive number of pages read and eBooks sold. Nothing to make me particularly visible in the charts. Nothing to write home about. Nothing to make me feel I could ever do this full-time. But the re-release, the promotion on these books and the lockdown scenario have steadily boosted sales and pages read of all of my books. This morning, my Kindle stats told me that I had well over 1million pages read during May from readers borrowing my four indie books on Kindle Unlimited (Bear With Me and my three Christmas books). Eek! I have never come close to that before. I had a look back at the same month from last year and we’re talking just shy of 197k pages and that was for nine books, not four! And even if I just go back one month and look at April, pages read were 443k so they have more than doubled in one month and increased nearly six-fold in a year. Wow!

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For years, I’ve felt invisible. I’ve felt I was failing. I always believed in my ability to write but I just couldn’t seem to make an impact. And now it’s happened. I cannot thank my publishers, Boldwood, enough for helping get my name out there and to all the readers who have bought or borrowed my Boldwood and my indie releases. Because of you all, I will be a full-time author this time next week. If I didn’t have writer’s bottom, I’d be doing a happy dance round my office right now! I hope to make you proud with more time to write and therefore more uplifting stories to read.

I know that June is going to bring a couple more cancellation disappointments but hope it brings another box of delights too. Hope it also brings delights your way.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where my series does me proud and my publisher has a fabulous offer

Screenshot 2020-04-09 at 22.46.22Yesterday started with disappointing but very expected news. Our family holiday to Portugal over May half term was officially cancelled. But the day ended with two bits of excellent news. Firstly, the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, came out of intensive care which is wonderful news and also a beacon of hope to show that people do recover from this horrific virus. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to invade parks, beaches, villages and beauty spots this bank holiday weekend, though, people. Stay safe. Stay at home!

Secondly, something really exciting happened for my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series of books. During the week, three of them had gained the little orange Bestseller tags over on Amazon but the final book in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage, did me proud and obtained its own little flag meaning all books in the series became Bestsellers at the same time. Woo hoo! And another two of my books – Bear With Me and Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe – also had orange tags bringing that up to six bestsellers at one time. Such a dream come true.

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And they’re not in random categories either – all of the categories do have a direct link to a key theme in the book e.g. Making Wishes at Bay View is set in a care home and is about family relationships across generations so ‘aging’ and ‘aging parents’ [USA spelling on Amazon] is the category. New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is set in a florists so ‘floral crafts’ is appropriate.

All four books have broken through the Top 1000 on Amazon at some point this week with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms reaching #352 this morning which was a lovely Easter gift. Better than chocolate any day. Or is it? Mmm. Chocolate…. Is it too early to crack my Easter egg open?

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I know there are many people around the world who are understandably struggling right now and many have turned to books for comfort and escapism. It’s been so heartwarming to receive messages and reviews to say that the stories I’ve created have helped readers through lockdown. When I wrote the series, I always hoped that readers would find the stories uplifting but I never, ever dreamed it would be in an unprecedented scenario like this. When the world needs warmth and comfort, I feel so honoured to play a very small part in that.

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Scarborough – the main inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

If you would like to take a trip to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast this weekend, then please do it through the written or spoken word. You can visit the world of Whitsborough Bay on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and audio formats here. Some of the eBooks are 99p just now and they are, of course, free if you’re in KU.

You can find me on Apple and Kobo too. Apple are running an Easter promotion on The Secret to Happiness for 99p and Kobo are featuring the first two books in the series in their Easter sale. If you have access to the uLibrary App through your library, The Secret to Happiness is available on there.

Finally, if you are or know someone who is a hero right now, whether in the NHS or other key worker roles, then my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, are running an offer over on Twitter to gift a book by me or any of their other fabulous authors to a #NHShero or #Localhero. You need to DM Boldwood on Twitter by midnight tonight (10th April 2020). Don’t worry if you miss tonight’s deadline as it will be running weekly and there’ll be other amazing offers to thank all those amazing heroes for what they’re doing. You can follow Boldwood on @BoldwoodBooks

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Wishing you all the best, with love and virtual hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I went to Lapland to meet the real Santa

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Lapland is the largest and most northerly region of Finland and, of course, the home of Father Christmas. And, last week, my family and I had the bucket-list experience of spending three days there. We flew out on Ashleigh’s 13th birthday – pretty amazing way to spend your first day as a teen!

IMG_7648We’d booked a Santa’s Lapland holiday, flying from Leeds Bradford to Ivalo airport which has to be the dinkiest airport I’ve ever been in. With Christmas songs on the plane, elves running riot round the baggage collection, and lots of snow, it was certainly beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas. As we went out to our coaches, there was a Sami with a reindeer for a perfect photo opportunity.

We were staying in a beautiful village called Saariselkä 250km north of the Arctic Circle so it was cold. Very cold. But completely fabulous. First stop was to collect the snowsuits, boots, mittens and socks that we’d need to keep snug in the double-figure minus temperatures. I was a little bit worried that, being very overweight yet vertically challenged, they wouldn’t have a suit to fit but I needn’t have stressed. They had suits for all sizes and were very good at looking at someone and selecting an appropriate size with no fuss.

We’d booked onto a snowmobile experience which we were expecting to do the following evening and were a little surprised to discover that it was actually happening on our first evening instead so it was a case of checking in, quickly unpacking, swapping Ashleigh’s snowsuit (as hers didn’t fit) then heading out for our first activity. The snowmobiles would seat 2 x adults who’d have the opportunity to swap over driving halfway if they wanted. Small children would ride in a sleigh pulled by one of the reps on a snowmobile, snuggled under blankets.

With Ashleigh being significantly bigger/older than all the other kids, we asked if there was any chance of us having a snowmobile each and Ashleigh riding pillion. She was thrilled when they confirmed we could do this and decided to be Mark’s passenger for the first stretch.

Oh my goodness, how much did I love driving a snowmobile? I’ve driven a quad bike a few times so the controls were very much the same principle, although you did have to grip harder to keep the snowmobile going the way you wanted. We followed a winding track through the forest. It was so peaceful and the snow-laden trees flanking us were absolutely beautiful. Halfway through, we stopped by a campfire for hot berry juice and cookies. This would  have been the perfect opportunity to check out the Northern Lights but, sadly, we didn’t see them because there was too much cloud cover. Gutted. The closest thing we got was pictures in front of giant posters of them at the airport!

Ashleigh became my pillion passenger for the final stretch. I was at the back of our small group and, even though my snowmobile had behaved perfectly on the way out, it conked out twice on the way back. The rep behind me needed to start it up again but I was secretly pleased it was playing up because this meant that I needed to catch up with the rest of my little group which meant I could speed up significantly. Woo hoo! Ashleigh absolutely loved it although I was conscious of having her on the back so didn’t dare go quite as fast as I might have done on my own.

The following day a coach took us further north for a series of activities in the snow. The temperature steadily dipped and we were told that the Artic Centre was actually minus 20 degrees. Brr! We were told to give the ‘high-five bear’ – the meeting point for the husky rides – a high-five to bring us luck. I didn’t need asking twice. Aw, isn’t he gorgeous?

There were five ‘big’ activities that we could only do once and several little activities that we could undertake as many times as we wanted. They were spread across two areas connected by a sleigh ride. The only set time was the husky ride so we needed to work everything around that.

We weren’t scheduled for our husky ride until the afternoon so we took the sleigh ride to the other side first to complete the activities there. The sleigh was pulled by a snowmobile and was great fun but it was so undignified trying to get out of it with low seats and a slippery floor from the snow. I thought I’d sussed it on my first attempt but we did four sleigh rides in total and I got worse at getting out each time, ending up completely beached!

Our first ‘big’ activity was a reindeer-pulled open sleigh. Mark and Ashleigh travelled together in front of me and I had a sleigh to myself. We travelled in a convoy of four or five reindeer and sleighs tethered together. My reindeer kept getting really close to Mark and Ashleigh and, at one point, he nearly hooked Mark’s hat off his head with his antlers!

There were various warming huts and tepees around the site and you could get hot berry juice and pancakes in one of them. Nom nom. We nipped into an igloo then attended a show where the children learned all about reindeers from a naughty elf and its trainer. The trainer was the spitting image of my oldest brother but he had a really posh voice and it was so strange looking at him and not hearing my brother’s Teesside accent.

Ashleigh had a go on a toboggan and on a mini-skidoo and we all tried a kick-sled which is a bit like a scooter on skis. I absolutely loved the kick-sled and would happily have played on it for ages but we had a date with a husky.

The husky ride was fabulous. We were told that the dogs would be really excited and barking a lot so we should just focus on getting into the sled at the start but that we could pet them afterwards. Mark was the first to drive and it was a heck of a squeeze fitting me and Ashleigh into the sled. At one point, I was worried that we might not be able to get in safely but we managed to wriggle about a bit and finally squash in. We set off in a convoy of twenty sleds and it was so exhilarating.

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There were six huskies in pairs and the middle pair pulling our sled started fighting. Or at least that’s what we thought they were doing. At first. One of them kept jumping on the other and it got quite fraught with the dogs coming off the track and us having to do an emergency stop! The rep behind sorted them out and we were back on our way.

IMG_7731Then it was my turn to drive. Mark had to stand on the brake while I got out and I had to takeover standing on the brake before he moved. That wasn’t easy because it meant I was tipping backwards and, having not been to the gym for a few years, I have no abs to help me do this!

IMG_7721When the dogs went down a hill, we needed to put one foot on the brake and, when they went uphill, we had to help them by scooting with one leg. Nearly came a cropper the first time. That ice stuff is slippy! Anyway, turns out our huskies weren’t fighting; they were being amorous. And they kept being amorous throughout the ride, much to Ashleigh’s amusement!

I can’t decide whether my favourite event was the snowmobile or the husky ride. Both were amazing bucket-list experiences and I’d love to do them again. The huskies were absolutely gorgeous and their fur was so much softer than I expected. The light was fading and it was so magical being surrounded by snow and being able to stroke such beautiful dogs.

We skipped one of the ‘big’ activities – an elf show – and spent quite some time queuing to 80838332_2698296666876283_6134827008095420416_osearch for Santa. A family at a time were taken on a snowmobile-pulled sleigh ride to find Santa’s cabin in the woods.

We were greeted by a couple of elves, one of whom was very naughty and pinched our hats then swapped them over, before going in to meet Santa. He was in a wooden cabin surrounded by presents and invited Ashleigh to sit with him. We’d discreetly handed over the letter she’d written to him before boarding the sleigh and she was quite astonished to discover he had that and that he knew it had been her birthday the day before. He asked her if she had any questions so she asked how old he was, then we posed for some family photos before boarding the sleigh again.

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Ashleigh had a couple more toboggan rides then we caught one of the coaches back to the village. It was a brilliant, packed day, full of amazing experiences.

When we got back to the hotel, we decided we might as well keep the snowsuits on and have a little wander round some of the gifts shops before changing for dinner. I was keen to get a couple of Christmas tree decorations from our holiday. I ended up getting seven items. Oops! And five Tonttu. These are my new love and I think I was pretty restrained to only come home with five. I’d have happily filled my suitcase with these gorgeous little fellas.

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We had a delicious hot chocolate back in the hotel and Hermann the bear was delighted to discover some beer especially for bears in the mini fridge!

The following day, we were leaving for the airport at 11.40am so we donned our snowsuits again and took Ashleigh to a huge toboggan run a short walk from the hotel.

Mark took a little wander to try to get some photos and to spot a good place for a family picture. We managed a lovely shot before heading back to the hotel to do the final bits of packing and bundle up our snowsuits.

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It was a really amazing couple of days. We’d have loved to have another day or two to explore a bit more. Our hotel room – Gielas at the Tunturi Hotel – was superb and the bathroom even had a small sauna in it but we didn’t have the time to use it. We’d love to go back one day and, from the pictures in the airport, the area looks stunning in the summer too.

Of course, I had to take the opportunity for a couple of promo shots while I was there!

If you’d like to find out more about Santa’s Lapland, click here. We went on Santa’s Magic and booked our snowmobile experience as an additional activity. It’s certainly not cheap but it was brilliant. Being somewhere where it’s only light for a few hours of the day was also quite extraordinary.

We may have a massive hole in our finances now, but we have several Tonttu, Ashleigh has a giant husky, and we all have some very happy memories!

Jessica xx

 

The one where I look back at May

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May started with my birthday, quite literally, as my birthday is 1st May. I don’t fuss too much about my birthday. In fact, most years, I can’t actually remember what age I am and have to work it out! I try not to do any day job work on my birthday and my preferred way to spend it is to write but I had lots of bits and bobs to sort out so didn’t get much writing done this year.IMG_6137

I did go out for a lovely meal with my daughter and husband on the evening, though.  I might have had some pudding. Nom nom.

IMG_6162Age has caught up with me and, for the first time ever, I now need glasses. Always one for bright colours (as you can see from the striped t-shirt), I opted for red frames and I love them. They’re only for close-up reading but it makes such a difference, especially when reading something on my phone. I hadn’t realised that my phone was actually blurred until I’ve looked at it through my new glasses and realised how sharp the words should be. I struggle to remember to put them on all the time, though, so I think that might take some adjusting to. Speaking of ageing, I found a white hair in my eyebrow. What’s that all about? Seriously unimpressed!

UntitledMay was another award-winning month with Dreaming About Daran, the final book in my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay trilogy, also receiving a Chill With A Book Readers’ Award. However, Daran just edged it over Searching for Steven and Getting Over Gary by receiving a Chill With A Book PREMIER Readers’ Award. This is given to books which receive “exceptional high evaluations from Chill readers.” It’s my favourite of the trilogy and one of my favourites of all my books so I was really thrilled by this.

60008898_2418952231667471_1873362763401658368_nMy fellow Yorkshire Rose Writer and good friend, Sharon Booth, and I attended the 2nd part of a social media workshop for authors in York run by the lovely Anita Chapman from NeetsMarketing. It was good to catch up with some of the authors from the part 1 in May last year and really great to have another of our Write Romantic friends, Rachael Thomas, join us on the course. Unfortunately I’d booked set train tickets before I knew Rachael was going or I could have stayed behind for a drink and a chat with her.

IMG_6153Sharon and I had another catch-up a couple of weeks later and, as usual, were the last ones in the café we frequent. They’re always really polite and we never stay beyond the official closing time, but we do feel a bit guilty for being there so late so we’re trying a pub next time where this won’t be an issue.

I was thrilled with the grade I received for my 4thassignment on the final year of my MA in Creative Writing. This involved 2k words of fiction, a submission letter to an agent or publisher and a synopsis of the fiction we’re producing for our final assignment. I hoped for a high mark as I didn’t think there was too much I could get wrong in a submission letter although writing a synopsis for a novel I’ve not written any words for yet was a bit of a challenge! I worked hard on the assignment and was rewarded with a high distinction of 94% which is my best mark yet. My previous assignment grade was a little disappointing, scoring just below the distinction barrier and I was beginning to think that I’d have no chance of securing a distinction at the end but the latest grade has made me a little more hopeful that it may be within my grasp.

IMG_6193I’ve done very little in the way of writing this month. I’ve done some final editing on my next book and have penned a couple of chapters on the one after but nothing significant. That’s mainly because I needed to get on top of the day job before I went away for holiday over half-term. We went to a resort called Albufeira onThe Algarve. 

It was our first time in Portugal and we loved it. It was a very relaxing holiday although the temperatures got a little hot for my liking halfway through (when they hit 37 degrees). I don’t tan very well, tending to get a heat-rash halfway through a week away, no matter how high a sun DSC00320cream factor I use so I’ve returned sporting a slightly darker shade of ‘pale and pasty’.

Our self-catering apartment complex was lovely (see picture above). We were the room just above the pool bar at the end of the photo which was ideally situated to be close to the pool but not right next to it.

DSC00310My favourite day out was a jet boat trip along the coast, visiting various caves and then an hour dolphin-searching. Sadly we didn’t see dolphins but it was still a fabulous trip and the marina was gorgeous with colourful apartments overlooking it.

I took my laptop with me but didn’t do any writing, even on my last day when I needed to stay indoors because my heat-rash was so itchy. I was tempted to spend the day writing but decided to DSC00294use the downtime to read instead. Although this boat could have given inspiration for a thriller. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black boat before. Talk about looking like an evil villain’s boat! Mwah ha ha ha!

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June promises to be another very busy month. I have another MA assignment due, significant progress needed on my current WIP, a family wedding, a gig, the munchkin in a show at the YMCA, and a trip to York with my mum and sisters-in-law on my side of the family. And June will start with some very exciting news which I can’t wait to share so watch this space.

Have a great June.

Jessica xx