Fish Shack, ‘bay-bee’, Fish Shack

Books in my Handbag Tour

Fifteen miles from nowhere, we saw a faded sign for ‘Fish Shack’.  We followed a road to the middle of the beach desert until we reached a decaying old boat that was almost as big as a whale. Yes, and the B52’s track was playing in my head…

Parking the car on the uneven tarmac, we hobbled over the pebbles to the shack.  Luckily, I found a table overlooking abandoned boats and Dungeness Power Station.  Optimistic that my husband had reserved a love shack to celebrate two decades of marriage, I congratulated him on this romantic setting.  Alas, always thinking of his stomach, the Fish Shack was the destination.

Expecting greasy fish and chips, I was handed plaice and salad with a large cup of builder’s tea.  The food was absolutely delicious!  The plaice, caught only hours earlier, was cooked in olive oil on a hot plate. The fresh salad had an olive oil and lemon dressing. It was served in a small cardboard box, but they will probably steal this idea on the Great British Menu. And builder’s tea could be the new Pinot Noir.  I must confess that I declined the bread roll, but understood that it was a nod to the fishermen who eat this food.

Seizing the moment, we decided to go for a walk on the beach.  We were told it was fine to walk on the beach if we didn’t touch the ‘fishing tackle’!!  Forget visiting a maritime museum, there were artefacts on the beach such as rusty anchors and abandoned nets.  These savvy people are obviously protecting the objects d’art to prevent art galleries and Michelin starred restaurants from displaying them in their gaffs.  The food and the setting were perfect: The Fish Shack is indeed a funky little shack. Get yourselves off to the food getaway!

Who knows? Maybe this place will become either the Dungeness Modern Art Gallery or even the Derek Jarman Modern.  An art gallery and restaurant without walls could be the new concept of the 21st century.  Visit now as in the future you may need a credit card without a limit.

Funky Fact

Derek Jarman, the artist and filmmaker, lived in Prospect Cottage, Dungeness.


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Wine tasting in Blighty

Au revoir France and goodbye ferry. Hello, White Cliffs of Dover. Where are the bluebirds?

Have you guessed? We stayed in Blighty for our holidays. But I feared that we would miss the sunshine and the dégustation. A ‘Blightycation’ ahead of us, we visited: castles, gardens, castles, seaside towns, pubs and yet more castles.


Barnsole Vineyard

Travelling the roads, in search of another castle, I spotted a brown sign for a vineyard. Barnsole Vineyard was perfectly situated in a picturesque Kentish village. The entrance to the bijou vineyard took us straight to the vines. Alors! We were en France. We were invited to sit on a terrace surrounded by flowers. My mind wondered back to those many, many heady days of wine tasting en France. I wanted to say, ‘Bonjour. Dégustation s’il vous plait?’ But my schoolgirl French wasn’t required. The only headache that threatened was from the wine, rather than trying to dredge up my language skills.


Proprietors of Barnsole Vineyard

The proprietor gave us a warm welcome. She was passionate about the vineyard and keen to point out that ‘nature throws its challenges’ at the winemaking process. This vineyard oversees the whole process from the grape to your glass. Despite the hard work, the proprietors were relaxed. They had learned the art from the previous Polish owners. On the day that we visited, their friends were bottling the sparkling wine. I felt like I had walked into a scene of the many romance novels that I have read. However, I was concerned that the lovely proprietor was spitting out the wine onto the grass. I didn’t like to comment at the time!

We were welcomed with a tray full of bottles to taste. No complaints were heard from me as I wasn’t driving. The only hint of Blighty was the cool breeze that threatened to bring a few drops of rain.

The wine was delicious! We enjoyed the fresh citrus flavours of the white and another had a slightly floral taste. The red wine tasted of berries. My tasting senses were working! According to the experts the Red Reserve 2013 had ‘redcurrants and sense of delicious spice’ while the Recheinsteiner was ‘complex with a great body’: I don’t remember him but I was right about the berries. We also bought some sparkling English wine for Christmas. I did feel a warm glow from the effects of the wine tasting. However, I could walk in a straight line to the car. Feel free to congratulate me on this because I concentrated with all my might! Apparently, I am lined up for an award.

Nodding off on the journey home, I did see the bluebirds. This Francophile may have been converted. We will all be delighting in ‘Blightycations’ very soon – just you wait and see. Meanwhile, I am thinking of organising a pre-Christmas wine tasting celebration. Would you care to join me?


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‘Winestorming’ in Broadway

Broadway, Cotswolds

Broadway village, in the Cotswolds, is constructed of honey coloured stone.

Dripping with charm, this village always makes my heart glow and coaxes me to find souvenirs for the senses – and not the bric-a-brac variety.

Broadway Delicatessen and Broadway Wine Company are always essential destinations on our culinary compass.  Broadway Wine Company is a boutique wine shop. The wines are displayed like precious books and each bottle has a blurb.  Every label tells a story, and the wine merchant invites you into the narrative. Then like a conductor, he throws his arms around until he finds the right melody of flavour for you.


Drunk with enthusiasm, his mind travels to the various wine regions.  His words ramble down the dusty tracks to the vineyards, until you reach some possible destinations for your wine choice. Oozing knowledge, he tells you where and how the wine is produced.  Listening to your preferences, he starts ‘winestorming’ as he searches for the correct notes of flavour.   Speaking, without pretention and without pausing, he finds the perfect match for your taste.

On our last pilgrimage, the wine evangelist helped us to select a trio of wines from the Old World and New World.  We paired the Sidewood Reserve from the Adelaide Hills with some Gloucester Old Spot Sausages, served with Worcester apple sauce.   Low and behold, it was a perfect match!




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A spooky tale for my handbag

Elizabeth Clark




Elizabeth Clark is a debut novelist.  I was delighted to be asked to chat with Elizabeth about her new novel, ‘Lay me to Rest’, was released on 29th September.  It is always an honour to support a new author. I organised to meet with Elizabeth at the suitably spooky location of Tredegar House, Newport.  It is a 17th century country house now owned by the National Trust, and it has a great atmosphere.  One can imagine the ghosts of past inhabitants moving around the long corridors.

We met in the teashop, located in the courtyard. Prior to Elizabeth arriving, I had ordered a selection of cakes. Elizabeth was delighted with the array of cakes and instantly grabbed herself a slice of very rich-looking chocolate cake while I poured the tea.  Elizabeth travelled from the Midlands.  She was wearing faded jeans, a brown faux leather jacket and ankle boots. Her handbag was a brown faux leather tote.  Elizabeth was cheerful and excited to be meeting at Tredegar House.

“I love antiquity and can spend hours poking round old houses. I love the atmosphere – I find it very calming – apart from finding endless inspiration for future stories!”

We sampled the cakes before settling down to chat about the book.

Jessie:  It’s lovely to meet you here.  Tell me a little about yourself.

Elizabeth: I was a stay-at-home mum whilst my three children were small. I’ve worked part-time for twenty years now as a specialist teaching assistant, producing modified large print and Braille resources for visually impaired and blind students in both primary and secondary education. I have always enjoyed writing and often find my imagination running away with me, so it’s a great outlet! I have written poetry and short stories for many years, and have had a few things published, but ‘Lay Me to Rest’ is my first attempt at a novel for adults.

Jessie:  Can you capture the essence of your novel in a few sentences?

Elizabeth: ‘Lay Me to Rest’ is the story of the newly-widowed, pregnant Annie’s attempt to overcome her depression, by renting a remote cottage in Anglesey. Her arrival, however, triggers violent, unexplained disturbances within the house and the “holiday” soon becomes the stuff of nightmares.

Jessie:  Was it the setting of Anglesey that inspired you to write the ghost story?

 Elizabeth: Yes – my father’s family hails from there and I spent much of my childhood staying with relatives in Anglesey. The whole island is steeped in history and legend. My auntie’s farm had a resident ghost in the barn plus the ghost of a Cavalier that was seen trudging across the field, and my great aunt’s home had three restless spirits, apparently, so I always associated their houses with supernatural activity!

At this point we decided to break to admire Tredegar House.  The house is organised so that the visitors can interact with the displays.  It was fun to sit at the table, set for dinner, and imagine the ghosts of the people walking the corridors.  The portraits around the room gave us some excellent inspiration.  We sat at the dining room table to finish our discussion.

Jessie:  What have the reviewers said about your novel?

‘I received a copy of “Lay me to rest” in exchange for an honest review, and all I can say is that I really love it! It just keeps getting better. The story is beautifully written, sad, dark and full of nostalgia. I will definitely follow the author’s future work.’ Hannah K, Netgalley Reviewer

‘Let me start by saying this, if I ever find a mysterious box I would think before I opened it. This is an excellent addition to the paranormal and mystery suspense genre. I was glad when I started reading it that it wasn’t very late and it was still light outside; definitely gave me some chills. I love to be surprised when I am reading so E.A. Clark did an amazing job keeping me guessing from one page to the next. Annie is an amazingly strong female lead that I can’t wait to find out more about.’ Laurie Beemer, Goodreads

‘So…so creepy! The author wastes no time in setting up the action, without neglecting the environment. The description of the fields and cottages is so vivid that it feels like being there. More importantly, the cast of characters is excellent, since we can’t really see all the sides of everyone and some turns surprised me.’ Elisa, Goodreads

Jessie:  I do not usually read ghost stories but I do like stories with a distinct atmosphere.  Give me an extract of the story to tempt me to read the story.

Elizabeth: “I stared helplessly at the apparition; through the gloom, its body resembled the shimmering negative of an old photograph; but the eyes receded deep into their sockets, as black and fathomless as a calm lake.”

Jessie:  The extract certainly invites the reader into the mystery and makes you shiver.  I am now wondering what the apparition is and why it resembled a photograph negative. Can you tell me a little more about how the story draws in the audience?

Elizabeth: The main character, Annie, is at a mentally fragile point in her existence, and I wanted the reader to wonder initially whether the apparitions were a figment of her imagination. The apparently tranquil setting lures the audience into a false sense of security, so I think that as they become more absorbed in the story they start to feel more than a little unsettled!

Jessie: It must be challenging to absorb yourself in another world – you need a vivid imagination.  How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Elizabeth: Initially elated; then I kept turning the plot over in my mind and wondering if I should have changed anything! I did miss Annie and am planning a follow-up to show how she has moved on with her life.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family. 

I wish my mum could have read the book – she passed away almost three years ago. She always hoped that I would pursue my childhood dream of becoming an author and I know that she would have been delighted to see me finally get into print. And she would have loved the book’s theme and setting.

Jessie:  How long did it take to write the book, and was it a challenging writing journey?

Elizabeth: I actually started writing the book back in 2011 and then filed it away. I picked it up again last year after revisiting and thinking that maybe it was worth finishing! I suppose it probably took about two to three months to write altogether. I had days when I could rattle off a couple of thousand words with ease and then there were others when I sat staring into space and wondering how to proceed at that particular juncture – so yes, I suppose it was a challenge!

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

You’ll want to keep the book to hand – there are several momentous events throughout, so you’ll probably want to keep turning pages!

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

I tend to have lots of notes scribbled on random bits of paper tucked inside the notebook and in no decipherable order – the last one I came across said ‘I sat at the edge of the bed, twisting my fingers together nervously as I watched Leo perfecting the knot in his colourful tie before the bedroom mirror.‘ -: a self-prompt for the follow-up to ‘Lay Me to Rest’ – the book I’m currently working on has different characters and is in a completely different location, so I wanted to remind  myself where I wish to begin when I eventually resume writing about Annie et al!

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Making your story stand out from the crowd! There are so many excellent novelists out there and the competition is fierce. It’s particularly challenging as a hitherto unknown author, as readers often stick with established writers with a proven track record.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Never give up! Believe in yourself – don’t be put off by rejection letters and always remember, there may just be someone out there that will LOVE your work – one person’s trash is another’s treasure! Stick to your guns and it will pay off in the end. And make time to write every day – eventually it all adds up!

More about Elizabeth…

Elizabeth is passionate about animal welfare – she abhors animal cruelty and dreams of a world where one day the rights of animals will be taken as seriously as those of human beings.

…always about to embark on that diet and exercise regime – but the time never feels quite right – especially when there’s a particularly fine cake on offer!

…a perpetually anxious mother and grandmother!

The debut novel is released on 29th September.  I haven’t read this novel but it sounds like it will have the reader on the edge of their seat.  It looks like I will be making room for a spooky tale, in my handbag.  The best of luck to Elizabeth with her debut novel.


Contact details here

Twitter: @EAClarkAuthor

Facebook: Elizabeth Clark


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Chase away writer’s block in the real world

During the last couple of months, I have been immersed in a virtual world of social media. Yesterday, my family insisted that I visited the real world of the Brecon Beacons.

Initially, I complained that it was another rainy day in Wales and it wasn’t worth braving a potential storm.  I was happy to admire the colours of the garden, from my writing room, but the writing wasn’t flowing.  Finally, I left my handbag at home, retrieved my walking gear and went to the Brecon Beacons.  The beep, beep, beep of my phone was left behind as we drove into the heart of the impressive mountain range.

Always one to admire the cloudless blue sky, I was surprised by depth of the grey sky.   I had been adamant that I needed the blue sky for some ‘blue sky thinking’, but I was wrong. I needed the reality of a dramatic landscape to chase away the writer’s block.

We stood in the landscape as the colours were dissolved by silver, grey and bronze tones.  We discussed how the scene was changing before us, and how the moving clouds were like the curtains opening and closing on the stage.  This very real experience made me aware that the weather re-writes the landscape in the same way that a writer changes the shades of meaning in a story.

Rather than staring at the computer screen for inspiration, or peering into the same garden – why not immerse yourself in the real world?  It is good to hear the real tweets of the birds rather than the computer-generated tweets.


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A table for two and a notebook

On arrival at Restaurant James Sommerin, we ordered a good Pinot Noir. We noted that the ambiance was calm, staff attentive and the other guests were very well attired.

Feeling relaxed, in our jeans and T shirts, we discussed the merits of the food; each dish looked elegant like a work of art.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I started to make notes about the food.  The guests on the neighbouring table were intrigued by the notebook.  Clearly, I wasn’t a restaurant critic as I was wearing jeans.   We sipped more of the wine that was so beautifully flavoured with summer fruits that it could have been a soft drink.

The delicious food improved with each course.  Buoyed by this tasting experience, I was determined to write an analysis of each dish. I scribbled furiously between each morsel and took photographs of the dishes.  More delicious wine was poured into a glass that could happily home several goldfish.

Alas, I cannot read the scribbles in my notebook.  Throughout the notebook, I had repeated the words ‘great textures’ and ‘explosion of flavour’ albeit in various styles of handwriting. ‘Desert’ was underlined enthusiastically. Did I go to the Sahara to eat pudding? Other words were incomplete and I hope that they didn’t run off onto the beautifully laundered table cloth.  I circled ‘black pudding’ purée several times because I didn’t have my highlighter pen. I do remember that I was offended by the puréed texture but I am a northerner.

Undeterred by the black pudding, I did note down Picasso’s poetry on a plate.  Obviously, Pinot Noir should come with a cliché warning on the label. Mysteriously, the notebook has splashes of wine and food inside of it but I will keep it as a tribute to the Picasso chef.

James Sommerin is a chef and an artist.  The restaurant was like a theatre of food and next time I will dress up for the occasion. The food was so good that I can forgive the corruption of the black pudding texture.  I will wish on a star for the restaurant!



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A ghostly extract in the pocket of my handbag

Lay Me to Rest, Elizabeth Clark








What is the book about?

Lay Me to Rest’ is the story of the newly-widowed, pregnant Annie’s attempt to overcome her depression, by renting a remote cottage in Anglesey. Her arrival, however, triggers violent, unexplained disturbances within the house and the “holiday” soon becomes the stuff of nightmares.

Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

You’ll want to keep the book to hand – there are several momentous events throughout, so you’ll probably want to keep turning pages!


Again, the same line, yet louder and more persistent. It seemed to reverberate round the walls. I was in no doubt now that the words had been uttered with venom; that someone – or something – meant me harm. My breath came in shallow, rapid gasps. I was filled with a feeling of unreserved dread.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the dimness, I could discern a silhouette, apparently seated at the foot of my bed. I opened my mouth to scream but the power of speech seemed to have deserted me. I could do no more than watch in sheer terror, as the mattress rose slightly and a nebulous figure drew to its full height, releasing a rush of icy air. I could not – dared not– conceive of what might ensue. I was petrified.

I stared helplessly at the apparition; through the gloom, its body resembled the shimmering negative of an old photograph; but the eyes receded deep into their sockets, as black and fathomless as a calm lake. My stomach lurched as the spectre brushed past me, only to vanish into the wall. I sat, rigid with fear, hardly daring to breathe. My heart pounded so loudly in my chest that it seemed to fill my whole head.

The tension shines through in this extract and involves the reader. Elizabeth’s debut novel is receiving very positive reviews. This is a gripping thriller; perfect for fans of Kerry Wilkinson, Sarah Wray and Stella Duffy. 

E. A. Clark

The novel is currently on offer.  Find out more about the book at:

Bag a Bargain

Elizabeth will talk more about her book in an interview on Friday. This ghostly book is released on Friday, 29th September. Warning!  You won’t be able to put this book down.


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