The beautiful Isle of Iona

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Southern Mull (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On our last day on Mull we decided to explore the southern part of the island. We’d heard we might see golden eagles and thought it would be a wonderful bonus if we did. It was another long and winding drive on narrow roads, but again we spotted people on the roadside using binoculars … and when we stopped to ask what they’d seen, they said a golden eagle had just flown down the valley and they were going to catch up with it further down the road.

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Iona (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We decided to break here for a while, relax and watch the skyline … we were rewarded with not one but two golden eagles soaring above the trees. They were too far away for pictures and they didn’t stay very long anyway. But what a joy for us to see them – again – in their natural habitat. I looked at the map and decided to navigate us on a magical mystery tour, but as we drew nearer to the port, the poet realised I was taking him to Iona.

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Iona Abbey (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Although we were on foot, a car ferry was to take us across to this other island, but it wasn’t ready and so we were taken in a smaller fishing boat instead. And in less than 10 minutes we were on the beautiful Isle of Iona, and we both fell instantly in love with the place. We’d like to go back and spend a few days on the island, and maybe take a boat trip to see the puffins and the seals. They also have dolphins and porpoises in this part of Scotland, but we didn’t see any this time.

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Getting arty again … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We walked to one end of the island, walked back to the village, had lunch and then wandered over to the abbey to take some pictures. We didn’t go in as there was an admission charge and we didn’t know how long it would take, and we needed to get back. Then it was back to Mull and then back to Tobermory for our last night. The following morning we were up and off for the drive and ferry to Oban, and the last leg of our Scotland trip.

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Duart Castle (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

As we left Mull we caught sight of Duart Castle, which we hadn’t had chance to see properly while we were on the island. Maybe next time …

In just over half an hour we were in Oban and looking for our hotel, which we found almost straight away. And what a lovely little hotel it was, probably our favourite of all the holiday. They’d upgraded us to their honeymoon suite and even left us a congratulatory gift.

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Our lovely little hotel in Oban (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Next door was a passenger terminal for something, but it wasn’t until the last day that we found out this was a helicopter that goes out and maintains the lighthouses. There’s also a lighthouse ship based at Oban too.

We only had 2 nights in Oban so we didn’t get much chance to explore, particularly as we knew we were up early on the Sunday to get to the airport. We did manage a day in Inverary, though, and I’ll share those pictures next time.

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What was waiting for us when we arrived (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Last night the poet had band practice and I did the shopping while he was there. When I went back to pick him up, they were still rehearsing one of their new songs. It sounded really good and I’m looking forward to hearing it tomorrow night at their first and last gig in a while (next one is August). They’re almost full for gigs now this year with only a couple of free dates. But there’s a lot to pay out just now for the van, so they need the cash.

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The helicopter next to our hotel in Oban (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Today I’m still editing and still writing, but I’m hoping to be in a position by the end of the day to go to the write-in in Leeds tomorrow. I need to get back into the swing of going to a writers’ group and the poet needs to get back into the swing of going fishing. We have to organise and plan our time and our outings a lot better. We also want to go and see some trailer tents on display in Manchester and he wants to buy a new fishing pole.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the pictures. 🙂

Calgary Beach and Tobermory

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Diane on Calgary Beach (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

After Glencoe we drove up to the western highlands and took the scenic route, and a ferry, to Tobermory on the beautiful Isle of Mull. We adored Mull and plan to go back again very soon. The roads are quite minor, for A roads, and very twisty and narrow in places. But everyone drove with respect and consideration.

On our first day we did an orientation drive of northern Mull and discovered, quite by accident, Calgary Beach.

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Ian on Calgary Beach (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

This is an area of scientific interest. There are rabbit burrows and quite a variety of birds. We saw meadow pipits and heard a cuckoo. If we’d taken a picnic we could have spent a day just exploring here. But we already had a mission … we were going looking for sea eagles.

In Tobermory one of the shopkeepers told us the best place to go to see the eagles – if we were lucky. We didn’t expect to see any …

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There’s a sea eagle in one of those trees … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… but when we saw a bit of a crowd gathering at the roadside, we thought, eyup … What’s going on here, then? They were all looking at this clump of trees on the road side of the loch. but all we could see was the picture left.

Some had binoculars, some had cameras, and one had a telescope. So we parked up and joined them and asked what was happening. And they let us use the telescope …

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… see … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… and sure enough, there was a sea eagle.

The poet’s biggest lens isn’t quite strong enough to show what we could see. But I think you get enough of the picture. He was beautiful. And huge. (That’s the eagle, not the poet … although he’s a bit beautiful too.) And we felt honoured to see such a majestic creature in its home territory.

That made our day. We didn’t care now if we never saw anything else. We’d seen a sea eagle. Live. 😀

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

Reluctantly, we tore ourselves away and continued on our orientation drive around northern Mull, slowly heading back to base at Tobermory. We drank in everything we saw, committed it to memory, and took lots and lots of photographs.

This picture on the right is one of two the poet took that he’s using as the basis for a painting. He’s already started it, in acrylic, and it’s already taking shape.

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Sir James Dyson’s yacht, Nahlin, stayed at Tobermory while we were there too (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

When we originally arrived in Tobermory this rather splendid yacht followed us. After some research (and checking the name of the boat through the binoculars) we discovered it belongs to Sir James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame. It stayed there the whole time we were there and this was, apparently, the first time they’d seen her in Tobermory. We really, really loved Tobermory. Each of the buildings is painted a different colour, with the post office in post office red and the chocolate shop in chocolate brown.

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We loved Tobermory (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

It’s also a mini-fishing village. They don’t land much fish here now, most of that is done in Oban. But they do still catch shellfish and specialise in langoustine, a prawn- or shrimp-like small lobster.

In the height of the summer season, one of the fishermen’s grandsons cycles his bike to the top of the hill and sells languoustine he’s caught himself to tourists and other passers by.  This fine young man is aged “about 8” (when we asked at the chip shop on the pier), and he apparently has quite a trade going.

The weather was quite fine while we were there, but it was very, very chilly. And we’d left our hats and gloves at home. But we found a little shop in Tobermory where we could pick some up quite cheaply.

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Tobermory pier (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We also bought a pair of binoculars there to replace a set we’re convinced we left in the car park at Haweswater in the Lake District. It was the chap in the binocular shop who told us where to see the eagles.

On our first evening we ate in a restaurant in Tobermory, but on the second evening we ate fish and chips out of paper on the pier, and were accompanied by this mighty handsome seagull, below.

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

We had just one more day on Mull, but those pictures will appear next time.

Today I have gig list and Monkey Dust admin to do. Then I move away from the computer to do writing and editing work and, fave activity, diary work.

The poet has band practice this evening and I’ll be doing the weekly shop while he’s there.

Enjoy the pictures.

Nevis and Culloden

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The Commando Memorial, Great Glen Way (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

As it’s a Wednesday, I’d normally be writing my diary of a scaredy cat today, and I did promise one this week. However, I’ve not done a lot of actual writing work in the week since we got home (although I have been reading lots and making copious notes), so here are some more photographs from the Scottish leg of our honeymoon.

On the Monday we decided to drive through the Nevis range of mountains to see the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness, and we took the “scenic route” along the minor roads that run parallel to the canal.

The scenery was stunningly breathtaking and we were additionally rewarded with little surprises here and there, such as the Commando Memorial that stands overlooking the landscape in which our first commandos did their training in the Second World War.

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Caledonian Canal (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I particularly wanted to see the Caledonian Canal, having seen it featured on the BBC’s Coast series. This beautiful stretch of water links several lochs, rivers and lakes so that boats may take a short cut from one side of the country to the other without having to sail around the top.

But once we’d seen Loch Ness (and no, we didn’t see the monster, funnily enough), we wondered where to next.

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The Nevis Range (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Then the poet remembered his parents taking him to see Culloden when he was very young, and as I’ve always been interested in Scottish history, that’s where we decided to go.

When we arrived we were delighted to see that it belonged to the National Trust for Scotland and, as National Trust members, we not only saved our admission fee, but also our car park fee – a total of £25.

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Loch Ness. And no, we didn’t … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The poet said that it had changed a lot since he’d been – a very lot. And we spent a good while exploring the visitor centre and then part of the battlefield. But it was already late in the day and we had to do battle with the Inverness traffic at rush hour on our way back as well.

So off we headed, back to our hotel, getting something to eat on the way. The food really was delicious at our hotel, but we fancied something a bit less … fancy for our last evening in Glencoe.

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Culloden battlefield (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The next day we were up early and off on the next leg of our trip … but more on that when the pictures are posted …

Yesterday I did quite a lot of work but I was feeling a bit rough. So when the poet called and asked if I wanted to ride shotgun with him on a visit, and get lunch while we were out again, I jumped at it again. This time our sandwiches came from the Co-op, but I had a nice prawn salad and he forced us to have chocolate covered doughnuts …

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Diane at the MacDonald memorial on Culloden battlefield (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’m still washing, washing, washing – and drying it indoors and out, depending on the weather. And yesterday was no exception. I had a packed, full washing line and bedding in the tumble dryer. But yesterday I also had to tidy up the gig list and put out the shout for this weekend’s gigs as well as plug the next Monkey Dust gig too.

I also caught up on the daily competitions and did yet more name change admin online.

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Graves on island in Loch Levin, Ballachulish (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

My lovely business manager suggested I take the afternoon off. I argued at first, but then decided to heed his advice as I had lots of reading work to catch up on as well. So I was still working, even if I was taking it easy. When he got home he brought the washing in too, bless him, before cutting the grass.

Today I’m back at the washing – there’s another line-full and more bedding drying in the tumble dryer (just call me Widow Twanky …).

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Loch Levin, Ballachulish (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’m going to surf the job boards and catch up with emails and invitations there. I also have that new edit to continue with and more reading, writing, research and note-making work to do.

This last picture is one of my favourites from all the Scotland holiday. This was the view from our hotel room. I think the poet has done a lovely job with the light, the colours and the perspective.

I hope you enjoy all of the photographs.

Gretna to Glencoe

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Falls of Falloch, on the banks of Loch Lomond. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

To illustrate today’s blog, here are some pictures of our journey from Gretna Green to Glencoe. It took us about half a day, driving via Glasgow, along the banks of Loch Lomond – where we picnicked at the Falls of Falloch and had our picture taken by one of the national park rangers there – but we made very good time.

Our hotel was “okay”, drawing on its stunning location for its 4 stars rather than its own service. It was very clean and tidy, but the bed (or 2 pushed together) was a bit uncomfortable down the middle and we had a 5-mile hike to anywhere in the hotel – pool, restaurant, reception, etc – and the room was a bit chilly. But the location was faultless and the food was very good. (Postscript: Okay, so it may not have been quite 5 miles really …)

We stayed in the Isles of Glencoe Hotel in Ballachulish for 3 nights and I’ll write more about our few days there when I post those pictures. Meanwhile, back to the blog …

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Our first picture as a married couple, after the wedding.

We’d promised ourselves at least one do-diddle-day over the weekend and that day turned out to be Saturday. We’d worked out that we hadn’t had a lie-in for about 4 weeks, because even on holiday we had to get up for breakfast. But we were still up by 10am, pottering around.

We nipped out to get some bits and bobs, and when we got back we walked up to the lake with the dog and had a chat with the one and only angler there that day.

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Our first sight of Glencoe. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Saturday evening we headed off to find a cinema we’ve never been to before, Cineworld at Sheffield, and decided we’d definitely be back. Parking was difficult, but there were plenty of restaurants to choose from, and we ended up in our old favourite, Pizza Express, because our film was starting at 8:20pm and we know we can always rely on them to get us in and out in time whenever we go.

We went to see Big Game, starring Samuel L Jackson, and had to go there because it wasn’t on at any of our other regular cinemas. We were very impressed with the amount of seating room we had, and the cleanliness of the place and general good service.

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Our hotel. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Sunday morning we were up and off to Birmingham to see my parents, to take them our souvenirs for them from Cyprus, and to do the same on the way home for the poet’s parents in Doncaster.

This also gave us the chance to show them all both the wedding pictures and the holiday pictures, as I took the tablet/notebook switch.

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Around the loch outside our hotel. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Yesterday was a bank holiday for us, and so we went “window shopping” for new settees (as the old ones are nearly 10 years old now and not doing our backs any favours), a new bed (as I think we both need a proper divan now to support our aching, ageing bones) and a trailer tent (because we want to hitch up and take off at a moment’s notice and I can’t really sleep on the floor in the dome tent for longer than 1 day).

I say “window shopping”, but we ended up buying 2 out of 3, and they should be delivered in 7 – 10 days. That’s the bed and the settees. We couldn’t find a single showroom in the area for trailer tents so may go off to Manchester next weekend to have a look there instead.

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The view from our hotel window, at night. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Saturday my lovely new 2015 – 2016 academic year diary arrived, and when we got home I spent a few hours filling that in with birthdays, bank holidays and Monkey Dust gigs we already have in.

And so to today, when we’re both back at work. It’s a short week and I have a lot to pack in. I’m starting a new edit, which has a deadline date of 3 June, and I’m cracking on with the writing. So keep an eye on those progress meters in the sidbar.

Enjoy the pictures. 🙂

3 weeks ago

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

Three weeks ago today the poet and I tied the knot in Gretna Green, in Scotland.

We decided to go to Scotland because we already wanted to honeymoon there and we didn’t want our friends or families to feel obliged to come to yet another wedding – this is my 3rd wedding and his 2nd.

Two of our friends, however, wouldn’t let us get married either on our own or without them. And so they travelled with us and helped make our special day so much more special. (Sharon made the dress too, by the way.) We had a lovely ceremony, performed by a registrar who hailed from Barnsley too. So it was a nice little local celebration anyway.

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The Chapel at the Mill Forge. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’m not going to bang on and on about the wedding. I’m sure all of you know how they go. But here is a small selection of photographs to give you a feel while I carry on with the rest of today’s blog post.

It’s been a stupidly busy week not helped at all by the torrential rain that greeted us when we got back. I have piles and piles and piles of washing still to do, from both the 2 holidays but also what we left before we went and what we’ve used since we got back.

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Hand pump. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The tumble dryer has been in action, but the washing line has only been filled once this week, and still the laundry basket overflows.

I’d allowed myself half a day to do the washing, but I should have allowed (a) much longer, and (b) more time just to change my name online. I’ve had to change all of my contact details as well as username where I can, and I’ve had to find out who to write to if they need to change username.

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Waterwheel. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

This includes WordPress (for this blog), Blogger (for the gig list), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo (for the email address) …

It includes notifying everyone and hoping the email hasn’t gone into their spam. It includes 3 job boards I’m registered on. And it includes a lot of the daily competition auto-complete information. It’s taken the best part of 3 days, and still it’s not all done.

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Man of steel. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

What it doesn’t include so far is my banking details – which is the important thing – my driving licence, and my passport. But I can’t do those until the marriage certificate arrives. So I still have tons and tons to do on the name change front. And a marriage certificate to chase …

Also this week I’ve launched the new website. I’d already done the bulk of this work in downtime earlier in the year. But being a superstitious kinda gal, I didn’t want to officially launch it until after the official name change.

The website is still very much a work-in-progress and some of you have already started to give me feedback – all of which I will attend to, digest, and apply if desired. Thanks for all of the messages so far.

One new thing I have created this week is a Facebook page.

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Diane and Ian signing the register. (Picture: Billy Rodgers)

My old Facebook profile is now a joint one as the poet decided he didn’t want a FB presence any more. But as he still needs to administer the gig list (both the website/blog and the Facebook page) and his Monkey Dust page, he’s going in on mine.

The new page, which I’ve resisted creating for so long but now seems the natural thing to do, can be found here. I don’t know what it will include as yet, but presume it will be all the writerly/editing/workish stuff I already share on the profile, but which I’ll be doing less of now it’s a joint profile. Again, it will no doubt evolve.

So that’s all the admin stuff …

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Our lovely friends, Billy and Sharon, who wouldn’t let us get married on our own. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… what about the writing side of things?

Well, I’ve been stupidly busy there too, furiously brainstorming a million and one article ideas following our recent travels. I’ve filled in pages and pages of my notebook and selected 5 – so far – to maybe concentrate on for now.

I’ve always been a natural feature writer, and while I’m desperately trying to get back into fiction (long and short), I may as well exercise the writing muscle anyway. So I’ve been very busy with that as well.

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(Picture: Ian Wordsworth – he has a remote control)

And, of course, the brain has been percolating quietly away on the fiction side of things too. Next week I start work again on CATCH THE RAINBOW.

[PAUSE]

My lovely husband just came home and treated me to lunch “out” (aka sandwich and cake from Gregg’s), and before he got here the postman brought … (ta-daa) our marriage certificate.

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Picture: Billy Rodgers (although you can see his remote in this pic)

This was particularly useful because we needed it as we were registering at our local doctor’s. He’d already tried to register several months ago online and had also returned a questionnaire to them. But it somehow got lost in transit and he needed to register in person.

So that’s where he took me during his lunch break. That’s what I like to see – a man who knows how to treat his wife! 🙂

Of course, now the certificate has arrived, my workload has just jumped up again. But I think I’ve had enough this week. I’ll start again next week.

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I love this picture from the end of the evening. They’d both made speeches and everything, and I think Ian looks really relaxed. (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Today, then – or what’s left of it – I had planned to start a new edit that arrived on the very same day that I started back at work. Unfortunately, it sat in my in box for 2 days before I spotted it. Fortunately, they knew we were going away and hadn’t offered it anywhere else yet.

I also have at least one more to do for lovely already boss, with another 2 potential jobs hopefully on their way. I already completed proofreader and author revisions on another yesterday, and we delivered it by hand yesterday evening on the way back from band practice.

We’re having at least one do-diddle-day over this coming bank holiday weekend, we’re visiting the parents in both Birmingham and in Doncaster, and we might go to the pictures. Other than that, we’re having the weekend off.

Enjoy the pictures. 🙂

We interrupt this broadcast …

website thumbnailYes, yes, I know I promised pictures and mini travelogue, but the new website is now up and running. And I even have a shiny new domain name anorl.

I think I’m happy with it, although there are still some tweaks that need doing. But there’s a “latest news” page where today’s “news” asks for audience participation – or interaction. That means you lot.

If anyone has the time or the inclination, I’d be very grateful if you could hop along to the website and/or the news page and let me know what you think – what you like, what you hate, what you think should be included/excluded, and how user-friendly (or not) it is (or isn’t).

The pictures and travelogue will follow, once normal service has resumed. I can’t believe how time-consuming it is to change one’s online presence.

Thank you for joining in! 🙂

Lots of news today

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Picture: Billy Rodgers

Such a lot has happened in the past few weeks, I hardly know where to start.

We got back at just before 2am Sunday night/Monday morning after a 4-hour  non-stop drive from Glasgow airport in pouring rain. The poet was straight back to work for 8:45am on Monday, and while I’d given myself the morning off to empty cases and do the washing, that clearly wasn’t enough and we’ve been in a bit of a tired whirl ever since.

So, from the beginning …

On 30 April my dad and my sister arrived to look after the animals and for Dad to have a bit of a break. The poet was at work until 5pm and I’d spent the day changing beds, washing crocks, packing suitcases, etc. By 5:30pm we were on our way to Gretna Green for our wedding the following day.

At some point along the A66 we wondered how our friends Billy and Sharon were doing. From the moment we told them we were getting married they’d said we weren’t getting married without them, and while we wanted a small, private ceremony, we were happy to have 2 friendly faces with us and the poet gave them a job each – best man and maid of honour, and also our witnesses. At almost the same moment we had a phone call from Billy. They were only in the car in front!

We all arrived just in time to have dinner in the restaurant, and we arranged to meet at breakfast the following morning too, which the poet and I managed with about 5 minutes to spare. At about 10am we all went off on an orientation drive of the area and were back by 3pm because the flowers were due at 3:30pm.

Ian and Billy went off at 5pm to be collected from the bar at 5:15pm, and we were to be collected at bang on 5:30pm. They came to see how we were doing at 5:20pm, and as we were ready and there wasn’t a ceremony before ours, they were able to fit us in a little early. And one of the nicest things of all was that our registrar’s home town was Barnsley, the same village as Sharon and Billy, in fact. So that made for a nice atmosphere.

Ten minutes later we were married.

We weren’t married in the usual centre of Gretna Green but a smaller hamlet just outside. But we all agreed that the ceremony was lovely and the accommodation and food was great.

On Saturday morning, we waved Sharon and Billy goodbye, and Gretna Green, and while they went home, we headed further north for the first leg of our honeymoon. We had 3 nights in Glencoe, 3 nights on the Isle of Mull, and 2 nights in Oban before driving down to Glasgow at 5am the following Sunday morning and catching our flight to Cyprus by the skin of our teeth. (The parking people had sent us directions from Yorkshire, not knowing we were coming from the north west of Scotland, and the M8 doesn’t have a J28a coming that way, so we got a bit lost.) Then we spent a lovely, sun-filled week in the Protaras area of the island, squeezing 3 day-long excursions in as well.

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Detail from the bouquet. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

There will be more about the places we visited, and lots of pictures, over the coming days. But, for now, I need to crack on with some work.

Yesterday, instead of my half a day I managed to spend the entire day sorting out washing into piles – we had 2 lots of cases from 2 completely different types of holiday – and I only did 2 washloads that could also be tumble-dried. Late afternoon I had to nip out to get some food, and that put paid to doing any work in the afternoon after all.

This morning has been spent mostly changing my name on as much of my online presence as I can think of. And I still need to do the official stuff, like banks, yet. I’ve also done 2 more washloads, but unable to hang any of it out.

So a busy few days ahead still, catching up on work and washing – if the rain lets me.

Publication day!

coverI am delighted to announce that not only is it my wedding day today, but it’s also the day I publish TWEE TALES TOO.

TWEE TALES TOO is a collection of fifteen short stories by Diane Wordsworth, previously Diane Parkin. Most are brand new, but some have been published before – either in the UK or in India – or have won prizes in competitions. This is the second volume of short stories I’ve published, but the first book with the new name.

It’s only available in paperback at the moment, but you can buy copies here. As soon as it’s available on Amazon, I’ll let you know.