novels

Bray to Greystones cliff walk is a scenic and historic delight

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Sometimes over the years I’ve missed out on trying something that is right on my doorstep. I used to work in Bray a few decades ago and I never thought back then of walking the famous 5.5 km cliff trail from Bray Head to Greystones. Better late than never though, so I gave it a go last week.

Directions were straightforward. An assistant in a local pharmacy told a friend and me to go to the beach, turn right and keep going. We had arrived on the DART (the urban electric train) from Dublin city centre and the beach promenade was right beside the station so finding it was no problem. The town of Bray was originally developed as a popular resort in Victorian times and features a long promenade. The bandstand dates back to the 1890s.

The railway was finished in 1856 and full marks go to the adventurous Victorian engineers for their tunnels through the rocky cliff face.

The railway was finished in 1856 and full marks go to the adventurous Victorian engineers for their tunnels through the rocky cliff face.

A beautiful coastLINE with wild flowers and sea birds

A variety of wild flowers scramble along the path and down to the rocks below.

A variety of wild flowers scramble along the path and down to the rocks below.

Some people think the east coast of Ireland tame compared to Connemara or West Cork but the views inspired me. The walk is what I would call moderately difficult. This has a rough stony surface in places and is also sometimes steep. Wicklow County Council has kindly added steps at the toughest parts.

Perhaps what I found most interesting was the way the railway line meanders along the edge of the sea. You can see how close the train goes to the water in one of the photos below. The cliff walk came into being to help men and materials reach the railway construction site.

The story goes that in the mid-nineteenth century the Earl of Meath refused to allow the railway to cut through the land of his Kilruddery estate but he handed over the cliff area for free. The line was completed in 1856 with adventurous Victorian engineers designing tunnels through rocks at the edge of the ocean. It was a costly and sometimes dangerous enterprise, with rocks falling and erosion by the sea. In the photo below you’ll see a second tunnel, now abandoned, on the outside of the one in current use. A dramatic crash took place here in August 1867 when a bridge collapsed and a train with passengers plummeted 30 feet. I’ve put the link below where you can read the history of Bray as a resort and the extension of the railroad, if you’d like to see some illustrations.



On the right is a second tunnel that was abandoned after a bridge collapsed in 1867.

On the right is a second tunnel that was abandoned after a bridge collapsed in 1867.

Greystones is a colourful Victorian village with a strong harbour wall

The town of Greystones features briefly in my novel The Neglected Garden as it is where Gilly goes with her sister when the secrets at Glanesfort and its walled garden are threatening to envelop her. In 2010 it still had a Victorian village feel to it, teetering on the edge of modernisation, with old colourful houses facing a grey stony beach. A new harbour wall had recently been constructed, which people could walk along.

The DART electric train runs along the sea at the bottom of the cliffs.

The DART electric train runs along the sea at the bottom of the cliffs.

I noticed as we rounded the bend and Greystones came into view that the new development is now almost finished. Honey-hued houses with balconies face towards Dalkey Island and Howth Head and their view must be breathtaking. The old village is still there and hasn’t changed much although we had to walk right through the housing estate to get to it. The marina and slipway has also had a face lift since 2010.


An interesting array of cafés and restaurants in Greystones

Greystones has interesting cafés and restaurants. We finished our walk with a bright plate of salad and dahl in The Happy Pear and then took the train back to Dublin. The good news for less active types is that you don’t even have to force yourself to walk 5.5 kilometres: the DART train goes all the way. If you ever find yourself on the train out of Dublin to Greystones, keep an eye out for Killiney Bay. The view is wonderful, especially if the sun decides to shine.

More information ON BRAY, GREYSTONES AND WICKLOW

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

A woman’s life stolen and reclaimed. A beautifully written story about betrayal and family secrets.

I’ve just returned home from a two week break in Ontario, Canada. My husband and I stayed with friends in London (built on the Thames River, of course) and we watched a musical in Stratford, Ontario, built on the Avon River. I can appreciate how nostalgic for home those early settlers in Canada must have been. London in Ontario also has streets named after areas in the British capital such as Kensington and Piccadilly. Back in the 1800’s, when people left home they left for good. This was certainly the case in my home country of Ireland.

When I was departing for my next destination, my Canadian friend pressed Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox into my hands. I’m so glad she did.

A literary novel that tells a good story

Maggie O’Farrell lives in Edinburgh in Scotland and I’ve read several of her novels. I loved The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which is definitely a literary novel but also has a good story at the heart of it. The character of Esme drew me in and her early years as a child growing up in India reminded me of that children’s classic much beloved by adults called The Secret Garden. Mary Lennox is orphaned by a cholera epidemic and Esme Lennox (they both have the same surname) loses her baby brother in a similar outbreak.

Iris, the young protagonist in the present, is contacted out of the blue by a psychiatric unit insisting that she has a great-aunt in their care who they want to release back into society. Iris has never heard of Esme, never even known she exists and the only person who should know, her grandmother and Esme’s sister Kitty, is in a nursing home with dementia and doesn’t recognise anyone.



Should she take responsibility for her great-aunt Esme Lennox when she’s never met her?

So what should Iris do? She’s reluctant to take responsibility for an elderly relation she has never seen and her step-brother tries to convince her it could be a dangerous step. Iris eventually decides to visit Esme and ends up taking her home to her apartment.

The story is told through the viewpoints of the three women: Iris, Esme and the grandmother Kitty. Kitty’s rambling and jumbled recollections gradually make the reader aware that something terrible is worrying her. Something she did in her past many years ago.

Esme’s thoughts flit from India to Scotland in the 1930’s. She was an unusual child who didn’t care about society in those days and its strict code of conduct. Esme grows up different to other young women who think only about marriage and she yearns to be allowed to continue her education. Her parents don’t agree and, after her baby brother dies, show little compassion for her truly harrowing experience.

At the age of sixteen, after a number of incidents that seem commonplace today, poor Esme is committed to a local psychiatric hospital, a family embarrassment who is locked away for sixty years. Her life and future are stolen from her.

It’s both horrifying and fascinating. It is also curiously satisfying. I couldn’t put the book down as I neared the end. I won’t say what happens in case you want to read it but I didn’t expect it to turn out the way it did. The events lingered in my memory for days afterwards. The novel is beautifully written with only the essential details sketched in. I would recommend The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell.

Reading transports us to another realm

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Books for children

Can you remember the books you loved as a child? The books your parents read to you and then, when you were able to, the books you read over and over again? I used to feel transported to another realm. I remember crying over the poor Mock Turtle when my mother read me Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because I really believed he would be made into soup. I remember feeling sorry for Eeyore on his own in that damp and gloomy part of the Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie the Pooh and I vividly recall the fascination I felt when Mary Lennox found the secret walled garden and when she heard the screams in the night in that dark, old house on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors in The Secret Garden.

Children's classic books

Winnie the Pooh is not just for children

The A. A. Milne books about Winnie the Pooh and his pals were a great favourite and I particularly liked the map inside the cover. I found one of my old Winnie the Pooh books the other day and discovered that I had coloured in the map with crayons. One of my treasured books is an old edition that used to belong to my mother and, thankfully, I don’t appear to have defaced that one. It has a dark green cover with small gold figures of the characters.

Much of the wisdom found in Winnie the Pooh can be applied to our adult lives. Such as: “If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear .” I need to remember that one.

And here’s a lovely sentimental quote: “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear. (A. A. Milne - ‘Winnie The Pooh’)
The Mad Hatter in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The madness of Alice in Wonderland

Were you a fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? This book is filled with off the wall characters and curious riddles. It was written by Lewis Carroll and first published in 1865. My mother loved reading us this and I vividly remember the Cheshire Cat who used to disappear slowly, leaving the smile until last. The Madhatter’s Tea Party was hilarious but I never blamed Alice for losing patience with them all in the end and flouncing off as the March Hare and the Hatter were trying to stuff the poor Dormouse into the teapot. The game of croquet amused me too where they used flamingos for mallets and hedgehogs as balls. The hedgehogs added another level of challenge as they kept unrolling and crawling away.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
”Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
”How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
”You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
(Lewis Carroll - ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’)


The key to The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden - for older children and adults of any age

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was first published in 1911 and is considered an English classic for children. Mary Lennox is orphaned in India when her parents and their servants die from cholera. She is adopted by her uncle who owns a large, rambling house on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. She’s only ten years old and has grown up spoilt and contrary from lack of parental attention; far too used to clapping her hands and servants jumping to serve her. She’s in for a rude awakening at Misselthwaite Manor. Through her friendship with local boy Dickon, who has a wonderful gift of taming wild animals and gaining their trust, and also her love of gardening, Mary begins to change. It’s a story about the redeeming power of friendship and nature.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” (Frances Hodgson Burnett - ‘The Secret Garden’)

She finds a secret walled garden that has been shut up for ten years and she resolves to tell no one about it and work in it herself to bring the plants back to life. The plot has a touch of Gothic when she hears loud screams in the night, echoing down the dark corridors of the old house. I won’t say who is screaming, just in case you haven’t read it. I recently listened to it on audio and it springs to life. My husband has heard it many times over.

If you have any favourite children’s books, I’d love to hear about them.

Winnie-The-Pooh by A A Milne


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

If you would like to read more about my own book, The Neglected Garden, a novel set in a walled garden in Ireland and seeded with mystery, romance and suspense, click the button below.

The path leading to 'The Neglected Garden'

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It has been a long path often strewn with obstacles but we’re nearly there now. The walk to the red door with the peeling paint is almost over. ‘The Neglected Garden’ will be published next week and I would like to thank all who have accompanied me on this adventure, especially my friends who encouraged me, the editors who pruned my overgrown words into shape and all the kind people who have joined my Facebook and Instagram pages. I’m really grateful to you all.

‘The Neglected Garden’ is a mystery with romance, suspense and a sprinkling of light humour. The story takes place in Ireland and London. I’ll let you know more about the launch in a few days’ time but first I’d like to share some of the photographs that inspired the walled garden setting when I was writing this book.

This old red door inspired the one in ‘The Neglected Garden’. The photo was taken at Duckett’s Grove in Co. Carlow in Ireland where two interconnecting walled gardens have been restored and are open to the public.

This old red door inspired the one in ‘The Neglected Garden’. The photo was taken at Duckett’s Grove in Co. Carlow in Ireland where two interconnecting walled gardens have been restored and are open to the public.

I loved this arch in the Colclough walled garden on the Hook Head peninsula in Co Wexford. The garden is attached to Tintern Abbey and has been beautifully restored. Another historic garden open to the public.

I loved this arch in the Colclough walled garden on the Hook Head peninsula in Co Wexford. The garden is attached to Tintern Abbey and has been beautifully restored. Another historic garden open to the public.

One of the herbaceous borders at the Colclough walled garden in Co Wexford. I took this photograph in August 2018. I like to imagine that when Gilly Townsend has finished planting up the garden at Glanesfort in the novel, it is might look something like this.

One of the herbaceous borders at the Colclough walled garden in Co Wexford. I took this photograph in August 2018. I like to imagine that when Gilly Townsend has finished planting up the garden at Glanesfort in the novel, it is might look something like this.

A lily pond with fountain. This photo was taken in Spain by my friend Anne.

A lily pond with fountain. This photo was taken in Spain by my friend Anne.

Detail of water lilies in a pond.

Detail of water lilies in a pond.

Unlocking the door of The Neglected Garden

I have a sneaking suspicion that authors get more excited about the arrival of a new book cover than readers. I’ve been waiting a little while for mine and I’m now convinced it’s been worth it. So… tah-dah, here it is! I am grateful to Stuart Bache of Books Covered for his wonderful design.


Welcome to an old walled garden

Let me tell you a little about the background. When garden designer Gilly Townsend first visits The Neglected Garden, she feels both nervous and excited. Paid projects have been scarce since the recession in Ireland in 2010 and her bank balance has reached depressing lows. When she’s shown into the overgrown mass of tangled briars and weeds at Glanesfort, she is overwhelmed by the walled garden’s potential.

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Family Secret

But the garden is not the only thing that has been locked away. Its owner, Marc Fletcher, a property developer from London, has a family secret that has been hidden for over a decade and now an increasingly aggressive blackmailer is threatening to destroy both his future and that of his four-year-old son.

If Gilly hadn’t stepped through that door and if she hadn’t found herself falling for Marc, her own future might have been very different.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but the story moves between County Kildare in Ireland and Marc’s property business in London, featuring eccentric characters, a ghostly woman from the old house and a sprinkling of humour.

Valentine’s Day, 2019 is the day The Neglected Garden will be unlocked - the day the action in the novel begins - so if you’d like to find out what happens, please come back.

Wishing you and your families a very happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Suzanne


See the full book description here:

Two versions of an Irish ghost story

A locked door at Ardgillan Castle in North County Dublin.

A locked door at Ardgillan Castle in North County Dublin.

One of the best things about living in Ireland is how eager people are, often complete strangers, to tell stories. I was lucky enough to be picked to work on a film set at Ardgillan Castle in North County Dublin earlier this summer and, in the quieter moments between shooting, we discussed the history of this beautiful demesne, now restored and run by Fingal County Council. The castellated house with walled garden and parkland has sweeping views of the ocean and is open to the public. As with most castles and grand old houses in Ireland, the stories inevitably involve a ghost.

The ghost who waits on the railway bridge is called The Lady of the Stairs

The Lady of the Stairs is the spectre who lurks on the railway bridge at the lower end of the property nearest the sea. The Dublin to Belfast railway line runs along the edge of the demesne and I was warned not to go near the bridge after dark. This warning was, of course, accompanied by laughter so I didn’t take it too seriously but I was inspired to find out who the Lady of the Stairs was.

It turns out there are two versions of this Irish ghost story. The first reminds me of a novel by John Fowles called The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which was made into a film starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep. You probably remember it: The beautiful social outcast Sarah Woodruff standing on The Cobb at Lyme Regis, gazing forlornly out to sea while she waits for her French Lieutenant to return. I listened to the audio version last week and it is well narrated by Paul Shelley and more humorous than I remembered. It is a classic worth reading, especially if you’re interested in the Victorian era and society. It is set about 1860.

An old unidentified railway bridge, possibly on the Dublin to Belfast line. This is not the one at Ardgillan Castle but it conjures up the right atmosphere. (Photo: National Library of Ireland)

An old unidentified railway bridge, possibly on the Dublin to Belfast line. This is not the one at Ardgillan Castle but it conjures up the right atmosphere. (Photo: National Library of Ireland)

A heart-broken wife gazes out to sea

The first version of the Lady of the Stairs is that, long ago, the husband of this woman was a keen swimmer and one day he went for his usual swim but never returned. His heart-broken wife searched in vain for him and waited day after day and week after week for him on the steps of the railway bridge from which she gazed out to sea. Eventually she faded away from grief and died. Locals will tell you that on dark Halloween nights you would be extremely foolish to go up on the bridge because the Lady of the Stairs waits there to hurl you to your death.

A new bride drowns

The second version is more plausible. A certain Lord Langford visited Ardgillan Castle with his new bride and left her to stay with the family while he travelled to Scotland to go hunting. Lady Langford was tempted to swim in the sea at the edge of the demesne and, in spite of warnings from others that this was a dangerous idea, she couldn’t resist the urge.

She drowned and it is said to be her ghost that haunts the railway bridge, dressed in her white wedding gown as she waits for her husband to return.

The ghost of a white lady in my novel

My own novel has just returned from its final editing stage and also mentions, in traditional Irish fashion, the story of a local ghost at Glanesfort. The white lady is rumoured to stand at the side of the lake as the daylight fades. She plays a small but puzzling role in the novel. Locals say that she was a daughter from the big house who waded into the water and drowned. Is she real or is she just a figment of vivid imaginations? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I’ll give you a hint: She might be more real than you think but for a different reason.

If you’d like to receive a reminder by email when THE NEGLECTED GARDEN is published, you can sign up here:

If you’re interested in reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles or watching the DVD, here are the links:

The French Lieutenant’s Woman - Kindle, hardback and paperback options

The French Lieutenant’s Woman - The classic DVD or Amazon Prime video

Old roses and romantic suspense

Old deep pink rose the neglected garden novel Suzanne Winterly

As the sun continues to beam down on Ireland, I'm working hard to finish another draft of THE NEGLECTED GARDEN in time to send it to the copy-editor. A cloudless blue sky and a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade are both difficult to resist when I'm used to summers that usually last about three days, so I'm allowing myself a few breaks with a mug of tea and a stroll around the garden.

The book description has arrived and, if you'd like to see it, click the link at the bottom. If you enjoy reading romantic suspense, why not sign up for the occasional update by email and I can let you know when the novel is published. There'll be an opportunity to buy it at a reduced price. 

 

Our roses are loving the sun

Our roses at home haven't been holding us in suspense. They've been loving the sun. We've certainly had seasons of extremes in Ireland this year. When I was writing my March blog with deep snow outside, I never could have imagined we'd get weeks of endless sunshine with up to 29 degrees. 

Our own well is holding up so far but families on mains water supply have a legally enforced hosepipe ban until the end of July. The drought is tough on local farmers who are struggling to feed their livestock. Irish grass is usually green and lush but this year it has turned brown and dry. Not even our lawns are growing.

Many of the old rose varieties in our garden originated in France so it's no wonder they're flowering with enthusiasm. Here are three of the best:

This is a rambler rose called Paul's Himalayan Musk and it's six or seven metres high. It needs a tree or a hedge to scramble up. I just leave it alone and off it goes. No need to prune if you have the space.

This is a rambler rose called Paul's Himalayan Musk and it's six or seven metres high. It needs a tree or a hedge to scramble up. I just leave it alone and off it goes. No need to prune if you have the space.

Great Maiden's Blush has never been as happy as in this summer's sun. It hates the rain and protests by turning brown but is magnificent this year. A beautiful, old-fashioned shrub rose.

Great Maiden's Blush has never been as happy as in this summer's sun. It hates the rain and protests by turning brown but is magnificent this year. A beautiful, old-fashioned shrub rose.

Madame Isaac Pereire is a Bourbon rose and was named after a French banker's wife in the late 19th century. I keep this one in a large container by a garden bench where I can sit and appreciate its huge, deep pink blooms and divine scent.

Madame Isaac Pereire is a Bourbon rose and was named after a French banker's wife in the late 19th century. I keep this one in a large container by a garden bench where I can sit and appreciate its huge, deep pink blooms and divine scent.

If you'd like to share your own rose photos, please send them by email or upload them to my Facebook page.  And if you've got any tips for keeping garden plants happy in drought conditions, I'd love to hear them!

May spring growth be with you

Gilly has been working on her design for the walled garden at Glanesfort (THE NEGLECTED GARDEN - due to be published in 2018)

Gilly has been working on her design for the walled garden at Glanesfort (THE NEGLECTED GARDEN - due to be published in 2018)

As I look out on my May garden, it's hard to imagine what it was like only two months ago but all I have to do is glance back at the photos in my March post to see several feet of snow. Unlike my hero in THE NEGLECTED GARDEN, nature never dwells on the past and, although spring plants are late arriving this year, they are just as beautiful and even more welcome than ever. I'm going to celebrate spring with plenty of photographs.

 

Gilly's design plan for the walled garden at Glanesfort

Leo our cat likes to think he has been helping my heroine to dream up some garden design ideas

Leo our cat likes to think he has been helping my heroine to dream up some garden design ideas

I mentioned earlier in the year that I would post my heroine's garden design plan for the walled garden in my novel THE NEGLECTED GARDEN. Here it is (see top). She's been working hard on it but has had a little bit of help. The garden has been divided into four sections or rooms. I'll go into more detail about these another month with a list of suitable plants.

 

Living in another world

THE NEGLECTED GARDEN manuscript is now back with the editor as I dream about how Gilly's plants will turn out. That's one of the best things about being a writer. I live in another world a lot of the time. Since last November, I have spent many hours at Glanesfort in Co. Kildare, the Georgian house bought by a London property developer. I have worked with Gilly in the walled garden and helped her choose suitable plants. I walked with her down to the lake and watched her employer's four-year-old boy feed his two favourite swans. I've worried with her about Marc's mysterious past that entangles her more each day and wondered what family secret he is trying to hide. 

Hopefully it won't be long before you too get a chance to meet these characters. I'll keep you posted so please come back soon or join my mailing list for updates and special offers.

 

Garden rooms add privacy and surprise

You don't have to have a walled garden to design garden rooms - use hedging instead

You don't have to have a walled garden to design garden rooms - use hedging instead

You can put garden rooms into any garden of a reasonable size. It's a great design idea for a large country garden or if you're starting from scratch with an open field around a new house. Garden rooms add privacy and surprise. We created them in our own garden but used beech hedging to separate the rooms as we had no walls. So, even if you don't have a walled garden, you can still create an interesting and unique space that flows from one section to another. 

 

Spring narcissus and tulips

Back to my own garden which is often an inspiration for my writing. April was cold and wet so spring flowers arrived late. Daffodils took a battering from the snow in March but bounced back to prove how tough they are. Narcissus poeticus "Old Pheasant's Eye" (a favourite of my grandfather's) is the last to flower with us and what a finale it provides! It has beautiful single white flowers with a round pheasant's eye in the centre. Its wonderful scent makes it a fine cut flower, if you can bear to pick it. If the weather is bad, it lasts longer indoors and gives you a chance to admire it close-up.

Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the white tulips (top right) but they open like stars to catch the sun and close again when the light fades. Like all white flowers, they add a touch of magic to a garden in the evening. The pink and white tulip Angelique (bottom two photos above) is a recent favourite. This peony-type opens like a rose and is one to plant in bulk so that you have some to pick as it is a charming and long-lasting cut flower. 

 

Spring wildflowers

Our garden cowslips have invited their family and friends to stay

Our garden cowslips have invited their family and friends to stay

Cowslips are enthusiastic self-seeders in gravel - or anywhere else where they feel at home

Cowslips are enthusiastic self-seeders in gravel - or anywhere else where they feel at home

An oxlip is a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and it is quite rare where we live

An oxlip is a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and it is quite rare where we live

And lastly the wildflowers. They've been fantastic this spring. Perhaps it's just because I really appreciate them after our unusually long winter here in Ireland. Clumps of violets and primroses peep at me from the hedgerows as I walk the dogs. Wild garlic along the avenue has burst into a mass of creamy flowers.

Yellow cowslips in the garden invited all their family and friends to stay and self-seeded in the gravel. Our one and only oxlip - a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and quite rare here in the Midlands - has grown in size since last year. 

I love to hear about other people's gardens and their plants, so please do get in touch and send photographs. You can reach me by email using the contact button at the end of every page or join me by signing up for my newsletter. I'm also on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. 

Take care and happy gardening until next time.

 

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling - The novel

Leo has that crazy look in his eye when he's really into a novel. "Touch it and I'll scratch you." I have the scars to prove it.   

Leo has that crazy look in his eye when he's really into a novel. "Touch it and I'll scratch you." I have the scars to prove it.

 

Aisling was born as a Facebook page and attracted such a huge following that she turned into a book

“Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling” is hilarious, moving and a little bit sad all at the same time. Written by two graduates of journalism, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, it’s an Irish internet phenomenon. Aisling was born as a Facebook group and attracted such a huge following that she turned into a book. There’s a waiting list to get into the Facebook group now. I should know, because I’m on it.

 

Reared to be thrifty without notions

Many of us have a little bit of Aisling in us: the country girl in the big city who is reared by her parents to be thrifty and without notions, but is led astray by others who prefer taxis to buses, designer handbags to the fakes and a bit of winter sun to escape Ireland’s monotonous grey winters. She’s disappointed with her steady GAA boyfriend of seven years because her friends are getting hitched and he seems strangely reluctant to pop the question.

 

A romantic holiday to Tenerife backfires

Aisling decides to take matters into her own hands and, with her usual efficiency, gets boyfriend John and herself onto a Ryan Air flight to Tenerife with the minimum amount of luggage (so as not to boost Michael O'Leary's bank balance). A visit to an Irish pub and it's all downhill from there when she tackles John about his matrimonial inclinations. Back in Ireland, disillusioned and tearful, she dumps the boyfriend and propels herself into a new life in a penthouse apartment in Dublin with a glamorous colleague. Will she find a new love in her life? Will she ever forget John? 

 

Aisling is like Bridget Jones but more Irish country

If I have to compare Aisling to another literary heroine, I’d suggest Bridget Jones. She’s the same lovable, vulnerable type but more Irish country. And did I mention the drink? Oh my God, there’s lashings and lashings of drink.

I also learnt to drive in a tractor as my father thought I could do no harm in a wide open field and, although I’m probably old enough to be Aisling’s mother, or Mammy, I’m loving this novel.

Find out more about Aisling and what other readers think of her here: 

 

 

Walled gardens - past and present

Hello and welcome to my blog. I've called it a scrapbook because some posts may be longer than others. I hope you enjoy it and if you'd like to share any stories or information, please get in touch. 

My debut novel, THE NEGLECTED GARDEN, is due to go back to the editor soon and, if you'd  like to be kept updated on progress, please sign up here

 

A walled garden in the past

I've always loved gardening and walled gardens. The setting for the novel is based on a house where my grandparents lived years ago. The walled garden at Glanesfort is much the same size as theirs was - about an acre - with vegetables and flowers. My grandmother loved her border for flower arranging and filled the house with her creations. My grandfather was an organic gardener - not so common in Ireland then - and I can still recall the flavour of his fruit and vegetables. I remember sneaking into the garden as a child with my brothers and devouring Royal Sovereign strawberries when no one was looking. We'd eat peas straight from the pod and juicy tomatoes, warm from the greenhouse. 

 

Favourite rambling roses

The garden was constructed in the Georgian era and roses scrambled over its walls. My grandfather's favourite rambler was Albertine. I still grow Albertine in my own garden and, although it only flowers once a year, its copper pink buds that open and fade to pale pink are beautiful. This rose needs lots of space as it is vigorous. Another rose that requires even more space, preferably a tree to scramble up, is Paul's Himalayan Musk. Ours grows up a hawthorn and is twenty to thirty feet tall. Fabulous in the summer against a blue sky. Again, it only flowers once but when it does, it's spectacular. 

 

The heroine's garden design

When Gilly Townsend comes to Glanesfort, her brief is to design a more formal garden for the owner's tenants. She decides to divide it into four sections, with a pond and fountain, a rose garden, yew hedging and gravel paths. I asked a garden designer to draw up some ideas and this became Gilly's plan in the novel. I'll post a copy of her design later on and, who knows, you might even be able to use some parts of it yourself. 

The walled garden is a huge challenge for Gilly and she's excited about the project. She makes good progress but unfortunately Denys Fletcher, the London property developer who owns Glanesfort, has a secret past that begins to overtake them both. Perhaps I'd better not tell you any more. You'll have to read the novel to find out what happens!

 

Pauls Himalayan Musk.jpg

Paul's Himalayan Musk

A rose that loves climbing and easy to grow. Just point it at a tree and off it goes.