Romans and Riesling – Our Trip to Trier

In my last blog post I mentioned that hubby and I had recently visited the German city of Trier. This was a surprise trip for me, and had been sneakily organised over Facebook by hubby and our friend Iris, who lives in Trier with her hubby Christof. (See, another example of the good side of social media!)

Trier is a Roman city, the oldest city in Germany, and an architectural extravaganza. Cue lots of photographs. Last lot until after our summer holiday, I promise!

We explored quite a bit over our three days there, starting with the very imposing Porta Nigra (Black Gate), the best-preserved of Roman city gates in the world.

The Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra

The Basilika started out as Emperor Constantine’s throne room, and is now a church, with a magnificent organ. There was no way to fit the whole exterior in the picture!

Trier Museum has so many Roman finds they can’t display them all, and if someone discovers something new in the city, the archaeologists take a photograph and say: very good, now put it back where you found it! 😀 I think if I’d found those coins I’d have sneaked a few away…

There are many Medieval buildings and remains in Trier, too. Note where the ‘door’ is on the House of the Three Magi. Yes, it’s meant to be up there. This house was built before the medieval city wall was finished, and so the door was accessed by a ladder which could be pulled up in case of attack. Clever, huh?

There was a lovely open air market selling all kinds of things, all gathered around the Market Cross. Poor Christof was chained to the Pillory by angry townsfolk! 😉 Luckily he didn’t have any rotten fruit and veg thrown at him.

The Cathedral displays architecture and artwork from 1650 years of history. Hubby and I spent a whole morning in there.

Trier Cathedral

Trier Cathedral


So, we’ve seen the Romans – where does the Riesling come in? Well, Iris and Christof know the owners of the local winemaker Zilliken. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon wine tasting at their lovely premises, with the expert knowledge of Patrick Zilliken to guide us. We sadly couldn’t bring any back as we only had cabin baggage, but rest assured we shall be ordering some!

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

I’ll finish with a pic of Iris and me. We had just finished eating schnitzel, after the wine tasting. Hence why I’m a bit pink. 😉 Hubby is taking the pic, and drinking the local beer.

I can heartily recommend a visit to Trier, especially if you love history (and beer, and wine)!

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

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3 Years Of Blogging!

Gosh, it’s 3 years since I published my 1st blog post! I can still remember my finger hovering over that ‘publish’ button, wondering if anyone would be remotely interested in my ramblings. To my astonishment, many of you were, and I found a community where I got encouragement, help, and advice – and made many wonderful friends. Some of you I’ve now met in person! Big thanks to all my readers, across all the social media platforms I pester you on. 😀
For those of you who haven’t known me since the beginning, here’s the story of why I started blogging, and writing ‘seriously’ (whatever that means 😉 ).

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Well I’ve finally done it! Set up this blog, that is. So what will I be writing about? My life, I guess. Trying to be a ‘career woman’ (ugh), a wife, a friend, read a lot, keep fit, go to gigs and shows, travel, and now write as well?! Obviously I’m crazy.

I also write fiction. That will probably appear on here at some point in the future.

I’ve used the words “light and dark and funny and serious” in the tag line for my blog, because I think my writing, like me, will be a mixture of all of these. Be warned, there probably will be funny pictures of my cats. Did I forget to mention I’m also a crazy cat lady? If you can’t handle that, best leave now. But to begin with, I thought I’d explain what led me to set up this blog, and that’s a little bit on the ‘dark’ side of things.

Pretty much exactly one year ago, my elderly father, who has suffered from dementia for a few years, took a fall down the stairs and was in hospital for several months. During this time, my mother went into hospital for a routine procedure which went wrong, and the upshot was that the doctors discovered she had oesophageal cancer. There was already some doubt about whether or not my dad could ever live at home again; this news about my mum was the deciding factor. My dad was admitted to a nursing home in the summer, and in the autumn my mum had surgery to remove her whole oesophagus. She came through the surgery, but is still recovering six months on; it was a major procedure.

Due to my mum’s ill health, it fell to my husband and I to choose a nursing home for my dad, deal with getting him moved there and all the subsequent paperwork (there’s a lot; it’s still ongoing). We also had to deal with my mum undergoing such a huge operation, visit her in hospital and help take care of her afterwards. The hospitals involved, the nursing home, our house and my mum’s house are in completely different towns, so we were run ragged. This inevitably led to a lot of strain between my husband and I, some major arguments, and on one or two occasions, nearly the breakup of our marriage. An awesome summer holiday to visit friends in the USA had to be cancelled, we hardly saw friends or went anywhere as we were either busy, arguing, or knackered. All in all, 2012 was not a good year.

But…it made me realise that I didn’t want to be in the position my mum and dad are in now and think “I wish I’d done that when I had the chance” – the chance is NOW. I’ve always enjoyed writing, I’ve done it for fun, for my company newsletter, that kind of thing, so NOW is my chance to take it a step further. I was also inspired last year by some of my favourite musicians – I know I sound like a teenager, but I found an album where pretty much every track seemed to suggest an idea for a story, or just be about my life at that time. I love music, and l believe that, like a good book, it can help get you through the dark times. So big thanks to…well, more on them later.

Phew, that was a bit heavy, wasn’t it? That’s quite enough of that! Anyway, that’s the story of what led me to start writing again, set up this blog, and in the process, become completely addicted to Twitter. Oh well, I suppose there are worse things I could be addicted to. Many thanks to the authors I’ve met on Twitter who have inspired or encouraged me to do this. Also, many thanks to my husband for all his support (yes, he’s still here, I did say we nearly broke up). I promise my next blog will be more light-hearted. Now, where did I put that picture of my cat upside-down in a saucepan?

Not in a saucepan, but in the clean washing!

Not in a saucepan, but in the clean washing!

Social Media Friends Are Really Real!

About three years ago I met a lady on social media who has become one of my best friends. Coral McCallum is a fellow writer (among other things like fellow cat lady and fellow rock chick), and today she publishes her second book, Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2). (Find out more about Coral’s books at the end of this post). I am a proud friend, and plan to spend a great part of today reading said book! Just for fun, here’s the blog post I wrote after our first meeting in person. We have met many more times since then, for gigs, for shopping, and for lots of coffee. 😀

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I took a jaunt down the west coast of Scotland this weekend, to meet a friend. Namely, one Coral McCallum, who I’ve been chatting to on Facebook and Twitter for months. Coral is a writer, and decided at the beginning of the year to join in the blogging world. Do visit her blog for short stories, poetry, and mad anecdotes involving rock music and cats (do you see why we get on? 😉 )

Coral and I met online through our shared love of rock music, and in particular, Mr Myles Kennedy, lead singer extraordinaire with Alter Bridge and Slash. Once we got chatting properly, we discovered we also both liked cats, coffee, and carrot cake. As we are only about an hour’s drive from each other, we started talking about meeting up in person. I hadn’t visited Coral’s neck of the woods for many years and thought a wee road trip might be in order. Coral had also been bigging up her local coffee shop, so with the promise of caffeine and cake, I pointed my little car west on Saturday afternoon.

The morning had been very wet and windy, but by the time I set off it was just windy. The sun was even making an attempt to come out. It was a pleasant drive down the edge of the river Clyde, even if the view was still a bit obscured by cloud. I followed Coral’s very clear instructions to the coffee shop, and was rewarded by the sight of her waving at me as I approached (I have a very distinctive car, covered as it is with bright yellow AA stickers). After parking on the sea front and nearly being blown away, we dived inside and began chatting. It’s slightly weird meeting someone face to face after you’ve only spoken to them online. We’d had some pretty in depth chats but it’s different doing it in person. Fortunately neither of us decided we couldn’t stand the other, so over a delicious Latte for me and Americano for Coral, we talked cats, music, family, and more cats. We both had carrot cake and I have to say, the coffee shop lived up to expectations. Yum!

Coral had very kindly invited me for dinner, and had obviously decided during our coffee shop meeting that I wasn’t a nutter (well, not too much), and I was safe to invite to the house. After a quick tour of the town shops (during which I bought the first of this year’s Christmas presents – go me!) we made a small convoy to her home. I got to meet the human family and three out of four of the cat family. The missing one was off on an adventure and hadn’t been home for a few days, the scamp. (He has since returned safe and sound). Cue more coffee drinking, listening to said rock music, and general chit chat about everything under the sun. I admired Coral’s book collection. Unsurprisingly, very similar to mine, with classics, time slip/historical stuff, and fantasy – including Mr Tolkien, of course. After being fed lasagne and two helps of cheesecake for dinner (not in the same bowl), I set off home after a very enjoyable, cake-filled day.

I like to think of this as one of the good examples of using social media. It’s unlikely Coral and I would have met otherwise, and we’ve each discovered a new friend. We’ve both made friends overseas due to our shared interests, and it may be that more of us will meet up one day. Several of the friends want to visit Scotland, so no doubt there will be more coffee and dare I say, wine drinking, if that happens!

Strangely enough, the one thing we didn’t chat about as much as you might think was our rock star crush, the lovely Myles Kennedy. So we’ll have to rectify that on our next meeting. I also completely forgot to take any selfies of our day together, so people will just have to take our word for it that we did actually meet. We’re going to a rock gig in Glasgow together next month, to see the fantastic Halestorm. Must take some pics then. Roll on many more coffee shop visits together!

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Happy Book Birthday, Coral! xx

Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2):

After a successful tour, Jake, Lori and the rest of Silver Lake are busy making plans for the future – new arrivals, new business ventures, new music and a new tour.
An unexpected turn of events throws these plans into turmoil.
Life for Silver Lake will never be the same again.
Can Jake and Lori maintain their relationship, gruelling schedules and overcome tragic losses?
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find how strong you truly are.
Friendship, love, family and music dominate this contemporary romance as the Silver Lake family rise from seemingly Impossible Depths.

To purchase Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2), click here (UK), or here (US).

Some stock pics above from the west of Scotland, since I neglected to take any photos. 🙂

On Recent Events: Thinking Too Much (Can Lead To Not Blogging)

Hi there folks, a friend commented the other day that I’d been very quiet recently. Online, she meant. I guess, like many others, I’ve been suffering a bit from not knowing what to say about recent events in Paris and other parts of the world. Should I say anything? Do I have something to say that others haven’t already said? I came to the conclusion that the answer to that last question was no. But it seemed frivolous to be waffling on about writing stories and what my cats were up to and all that stuff, when such terrible things were going on. So I kind of stopped saying anything about anything.

And that’s exactly playing into the hands of the terrorists. Yes, in a very small way, and I’m only one little person – but I stopped doing what I normally do. I thought it seemed wrong to keep having fun – and to be talking about it. Well, SOD THAT!

Hubby and I have always said that we won’t be put off from travelling or doing things. Hell, we were all set to still visit Tunisia in August until the tour operators stopped going altogether. We stand by that. And I’ll keep posting about cats and dragons, because that’s what I do. Others have made tributes and statements far better than I could.

So, here is a contented cat to cheer us all up. I’m off to write something spooky or sexy or scary…or maybe all three, who knows? 😉

Love to my friends all over the world.

Karen xx

Frodo reminding me of the little but important things in life

Frodo reminding me of the little but important things in life

The Best Of Both Worlds?

I was recently given the opportunity to write for Divine Magazine, by my Facebook friend and great writer of M/M romance, Susan Mac Nicol. Divine is an online magazine and social networking website, tailored for the LGBTQ community and anyone who supports the rights of its members. Check it out for info on books, music, lifestyle – you name it.

Follow the link below to read my piece. There’s plenty of humour, as well as some more serious stuff. The information in it may surprise – even shock – some of you. Some of my friends will know already – or have suspected. Ooh, piqued your interest now, haven’t I? 😉

The Best Of Both Worlds?

Creative Blessings (Or, Thank Goodness My Brain Works)

I heard some news from a friend this weekend, that led to this post. The friend in question is going through a VERY tough experience (not my place to say more). I guess as well as offering comfort, we all count our blessings when we hear of other people’s hardship. It got me thinking about the things I would call blessings, and of course I have all the ‘usual’ ones, and I’m very glad of them:

A loving and supportive (if occasionally annoying) husband 😉
An always-there-for-me best friend, and a little team of other great friends
Four mad cats that always cheer me up
A lovely house
A paying job
Pretty good health

But what blessing am I most grateful for? My MIND. Let me explain.
For a start, it works. Mostly. 🙂 It’s wired up reasonably well. I don’t suffer from any mental health issues.
I’m quite intelligent. (What? – long-suffering-hubby). Yes, I said it. I can understand forms and do sums and even fill in a tax return correctly!
But I’m most grateful for my IMAGINATION. It’s got me through some of the darkest patches in my life.
I didn’t have a particularly happy childhood. I was bullied at school for being clever and ‘different’. At home, I had an emotionally (and occasionally physically) abusive father. I escaped into books, but also into worlds I created for myself. Sometimes I wrote stuff down, sometimes I didn’t, but there was always a story being told inside my head.
Many years later, when I was forced by circumstances to deal with my father once more, I started this blog and began writing fiction again, and I swear that those things went a long way to keeping me sane during that time.
If I have money worries or job stress or whatever, I write down what I can do to sort the problem out (I’ve always been a great maker of lists). Then, I escape into my head and compose a story, or scribble something in my writer’s notebook, or type away on my iPad or computer.
I know there are many other ways to take one’s mind off problems: go for a walk, watch a movie, vent to a friend – and I’ve done all these. But in the middle of the night, when my brain won’t switch off, I can always escape into an imaginary world. Some of those worlds have seen the light of day on this blog, others haven’t. But they’re always there.

Occasionally, I got told off as a child for ‘having my head in the clouds’. Or a book. As an adult, I can balance the real world and my creative one. I like the real world, mostly. But sometimes, the one in my head is better. 😉

Image courtesy of news.stanford.edu

Image courtesy of news.stanford.edu

An Apology In Advance

I discovered last year that this is the time when blogging goes a little bit askew. For someone without a large family, I do a surprising amount of stuff over the festive season. I am lucky to have a group of lovely friends to visit and who come to visit me. Then there’s the usual round of gigs, shows, carol concerts (several friends, and my mum-in-law, sing in two separate choirs). This year, a couple of extra things are happening, one good and one not so good.

I’ll start with the not so good thing: my mum has to go into hospital for an operation in December. Now, it should be straightforward, but my family doesn’t have a very good record when it comes to illness. If something can be complicated, it will be. Fingers crossed.

The good thing happening is that my cousin is getting married at the beginning of December. So I’m going to a winter wedding. At a venue up in the hills of central Scotland, overlooking a lake – it will be beautiful, but definitely cold and possibly snowy! Think my outfit will involve a dressy-but-warm coat of some kind.

The only bad thing about this wedding is the timing – it’s the day after I see Slash, Myles and Co. in concert. Yes, again. The other one was an extra; this is the official tour date. Fortunately, I’m booked in for hair and make-up the morning of the wedding. Good luck to my beautician on making me look presentable after a night of dancing, sweating and screaming at a gig. 😉

Anyway, with all this going on, my presence in this world called the blogsphere may be a bit erratic. I’m also trying to get a short story completed for entry in a magazine, and I have vowed to myself I will have the first draft of my novel finished by February.

Fellow bloggers: apologies if I’m not around commenting and taking part in things as much as usual. I’ll be dropping in and out, just not as regularly as before. If I don’t speak to you, have a lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas and Winter Solstice and any other festival you celebrate. Or if you don’t, look after yourself and snuggle under a blanket with a good book. 🙂

Karen xx

The winter wedding venue. The Vu, pic courtesy of humanistweddingsinscotland.blogspot.com

The winter wedding venue. The Vu, pic courtesy of humanistweddingsinscotland.blogspot.com