Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Days of freedom

As of tomorrow, I'm officially into my pension. Although I loved my job, I can say quite honestly I don't mind not doing it anymore. Those who pretend to love to work until they're 70 or 80 are big fools in my opinion.

I worked enough and payed enough taxes, I should think. And I'm thankful my students seemed to like me enough to keep into contact as to now. Lots of them share their interests and successes on Facebook (or any other social media) with me, and even remember my birthday. Likewise, I like to hear how they fare and am proud when they do somehting I'd never expected. Like the guy who never seemed to like Dutch, but is now a succesful author of books and plays. Or another one who wanted to study theology, but who is now a journalist for a national newspaper. And those boys and girls who started their own business.

Lots of stories, but now I'm going to enjoy my freedom to go wherever and whenever I please. Unfortunately, my sister is still working for some time (she has to wait until she's 63 before she can take up her pension, due to new measures of our government). So trips will still need to be during school breaks, when everything is at its most expensive.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Back from Krakow

During the previous days, we were staying in Krakow, Poland. I must say, it was a good experience. Krakow is a nice town, with friendly people.

The weather was something less than we had in Belgium (there they had a heatwave; it was even warmer there than in the south of Spain) but all in all we couldn't complain. We had a little bit of rain, but we're troubled a lot by it.

We stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton at the border of the town. A great hotel, with excellent service. The town center was easy to reach, too. Either by tram (just across the road was a tram stop and a tram ride costs 2,8 zloty. Or by taxi, which would cost between 20 and 25 zloty. (One Zloty is 25% of one euro). So everything there was extremely cheap to us.

When we went out dining, we only paid like 50 € (for two) for a meal with a cocktail, wine, water and coffee, including a starter, a main course and a dessert. Can you believe that? For the same, you'd pay at least 150€ in Belgium.

During our stay, we visited the German death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, which are at about 65 km from Krakow. We also went underground in the salt mine of Wieliczka and visited the Jewish quarter of Krakow, called Kaziemierz. And of course, walked around in the old town with historic buildings and the Wawel castle.

More about this trip in my travel blog!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The need to explore

The older I get, the more I feel the need to explore as much as I can. Normal, I presume, as you're advancing on in age and are not sure when it will end...

That way, we like to plan trips and do as many as we can afford. We don't need to save up for our children, as we don't have any, nor have grandchildren. Neither is one of us godmother. And the state should get all our money if we are gone; they've robbed us enough (know that half of our wages goes to taxes and social security). We do keep a small reserve for emergencies, but the rest goes to travel.

We have always liked to explore the world around us. First Europe with our parents, then stretching our wings and flying to North and South America, to Asia and Africa. Recently, we undertook a trip to Argentina, and we've already booked a trip to the United Arab Emirates for next year, while already thinking about going to Mexico the year after. In between we do smaller trips, like the one coming up to Poland. Our neighbor is Polish born, and he talks a lot about his home country. That made us want to see it personally. So we're off to Krakow, which is one of the main cities in Poland. It's an old town with a lot of history, especially because to the German concentration camps. We are going to visit Auschwitz and also the salt mines not far off.

When I find the time (!) I'll post a short blog about our experiences there and then later on a full report on my travel blog -

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Debra Holt books

Today, my guest is author Debra Holt, who's doing a book blast tour for three of her publications:
Mercy’s Rescue from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolina’s, Love Beneath the Blue Texas Sky from Kindle Direct Publishing, and His Country Bride from Tulip Romance Publishing, all available now.

Ms. Holt will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the following link to place your comment:


Mercy’s Rescue   

Fighting for his life after an ambush, Sheriff Josh Wellman awakes to find himself looking into the eyes of a real-life angel of mercy. Despite his groggy condition, he knows his life has changed the instant their hands touch. Devastating heartbreak has left Mercy Smith's faith in tatters, her heart guarded against more loss. Her dedication to the air evac trauma team she leads has insulated her from the realities of the earth below, so now Josh faces the biggest challenge of his life. Can he find a way around the walls that fortify her heart and convince this angel to stay on the ground with him? Can Mercy open herself to life again and find a way to restore her faith in God ... as well as love?

Love Beneath the Blue Texas Sky 

J.D. Sterling shook the dirt of the small Texas town from his boot heels a dozen years before. Now, he’s returned… not as the poor country boy who left to follow his dream, but as country music’s sexy superstar. He has everything he always wanted except for the girl who holds his heart. Mandy.

Years come and go and people change. Amanda Lawson has grown up. From heartbreak and struggling to survive to becoming a successful businesswoman, she has taught herself to never look back. Once before, she had survived the wild, green-eyed cowboy with only a guitar to his name and a pocketful of dreams. Then he left her behind with nothing but his hollow vows and a shattered heart.

Mandy was his muse. J.D. was her dream. But tragedy and broken vows can be insurmountable obstacles. Can they find their way home to each other again… or is it too late?

His Country Bride 

"Sheriff's Department! Raise your hands above your head and don't move."

She’s a runaway bride who left her two-timing fiance at the altar. He’s a county sheriff determined to keep the peace in his country and leave city girls alone after his own fiance left him for the bright lights of the city. Neither of them planned on running straight into each other...over a burning wedding dress.

Ellie and Lucas planned on never trusting their hearts to love again. When danger follows her from the city, the sheriff must do his duty to protect her. However, it isn’t long before he discovers the real danger may be to his heart. Ellie just might teach him that even a city girl can be a country girl at heart.

Excerpt  (from His Country Bride)

Lucas set the extinguisher on the ground and used a couple of fingers to push the hat back on his forehead, hands on his hips, obviously considering the options before him. “Do you have any other clothing with you, ma’am?” A furrowed brow preceded her reply. “Why are you calling me ‘ma’am? I’m not that old. And just who are you, anyway?” “Lucas McCann. I’m the sheriff of Joshua County, which is where you are at the moment. I use respectful manners and call you ‘ma’am because I don’t know your name.

The woman turned in a huff and stomped toward the porch steps behind them. Perhaps stomped wasn’t the right description Lucas amended, as he folded his arms across a broad chest and watched her negotiate the uneven stones of the walkway leading up to the porch...all in her ridiculously high heels. Of course, the sight of those long, tanned legs and spiky heels caused a definite stirring in his midsection. That realization made his jaw set harder as he sought for the calm control he always demonstrated when performing his duties-that is, until he came across her. 

A slow shake of his head. “I have to hand it to you, lady. You’re one cool customer, under the circumstances. You also may be used to giving orders to people wherever you come from, except there’s on problem with that at this moment. You’re in my county now. Here, I give the orders and as a general rule, people follow them.”

Author bio and links

Born and raised in the Lone Star state of Texas, Debra grew up among horses, cowboys, wide open spaces, and real Texas Rangers.  Pride in her state and ancestry knows no bounds and it is these heroes and heroines she loves to write about the most.  She also draws upon a variety of life experiences including working with abused children, caring for baby animals at a major zoo, and planning high-end weddings (ah, romance!). 
When she isn’t busy writing about tall Texans and feisty heroines, she can be found cheering on her Texas Tech Red Raiders, or heading off on another cruise adventure.  She read her first romance...Janet Dailey's Fiesta San Antonio, over thirty years ago and became hooked on the genre. Writing contemporary romances, is both her passion and dream come true, and she hopes her books will bring smiles...and all who believe in happily-ever-after’s.  
Debra invites you to visit her website at  She loves to hear from other aspiring authors or readers via email at
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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Weekend at the coast

After all the misery of late, it's nice to spend a weekend away from home. We're at the coast right now, and enjoying it. This afternoon, we've been on a shopping spree as it is Nina Day (this is a magazine, which is published once a week and given with the weekend edition of the largest national newspaper of Flanders). With the Nina card, you get 20, even 30% off the prices at certain shops.

So of course we couldn't resist and went looking for new things. I need to buy a lot of new clothes anyway, as I've lost quite some weight and nothing fits me anymore. I found two lovely 3/4 pants and Chris also bought one - plus a very chique blouse and a new handbag.

Later on tonight, we're going out to dine and tomorrow we'll enjoy a lazy breakfast, before going out for a nice walk on the beach.

The weather is improving, after a couple of days which were not so good, and tomorrow should be all sunny and warm.

Not long now before the long summer vacations start. Chris doesn't have to work in July and August, so that's fun. When she too goes on her pension, we'll be able to travel out of tourist season. Plane tickets and hotels can get a lot cheaper when kids are at school. Not fair, but that's the way it is.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


I know, I've been neglecting my blog for some time already. To my defense, I can say I haven't had a lot of time. I'm running from one doctor's appointment to another hospital visit, and in between I need to do my ordinary chores (a pensioner doesn't have a lot of spare time, right?).

These past weeks, ever since our return from Buenos Aires, have been quite something. Thinking I was completely healthy, I now know that a) I do have diabetes, b) I have a cyste at the base of my throat, and c) there are also some cysts around my right kidney. Well, as long as none of these cysts is malignant, there is no real worry.

Today's medicine can keep the diabetes under control (especially when the patient takes the pills/insuline in a correct way and pay attention to the way of living) and the throat cyste can be taken away by relatively innocent operation. My GP says cysts around the kidney are fairly common, and most of the time don't need special attention.

Tomorrow is my last scan for the time being, and hopefully after that I can lead my normal life once more.

I promise to write more often then!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lyrical Press Historical Romances

Today features Lyrical Press, which is doing a virtual blurb blitz tour for two of its publications: Foolish Bride by A.S. Fenichel and Knight Secrets by C.C. Wiley - both historical romances available now.

The authors will be awarding a digital copy of both of the books on tour to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please make use of the following link:


Foolish Bride

Sadly ever after . . . unless some dreams really do come true?

Elinor Burkenstock never believed in fairy tales. Sure, she’s always been a fool for love—what woman isn’t? But Elinor knows the difference between fiction and truth. Daydreams and reality. True love and false promises. . . . Until the unthinkable happens, and Elinor’s engagement is suddenly terminated and no one, least of all her fiancĂ©, will tell her why.

Sir Michael Rollins’s war-hero days seem far behind him when, after one last hurrah before his wedding, he gets shot and his injuries leave him in dire shape. He wants nothing more than to marry Elinor, the woman of his wildest dreams. But Elinor’s father forbids it . . . and soon Michael is faced with a desperate choice: Spare Elinor a life with a broken man or risk everything to win her heart—until death do they part?

Knight Secrets

Sworn to protect the crown, a Knight of the Swan must never surrender—not even to love . . .

England, 1415. Ordered never to leave the lonely tower on her family estate, Lady Clarice Margrave is suddenly set free when her home is plundered. Now she is determined to discover the truth behind her father’s alleged treason. But an act of daring only propels her into a new
prison, with the very knight who destroyed her home as her keeper. Sir Ranulf, Lord of Sedgewic, is ruthless in his inquisition, though there is a searing tenderness in his touch. Is it possible her bold jailor is the Red Wolf of whom her father spoke—and the one man she might be able to trust?

As a knight, Ranulf never questions his troth, but his beautiful prisoner stirs his heart and mind like no other. Clarice is achingly vulnerable—and extremely closed-mouth about her possible ties to the plot against the king. Duty demands he keep his distance, though he yearns to take her to his bed and adore her until he discovers what lies within her heart. And he would—if he weren’t in danger of losing his own . . .

Excerpt (out of Foolish Bride)

Her heart beat wildly. “But is that not why you pursued me?”

He kissed the tip of her nose. “I will not deny I came to London this season because I needed to marry to restore the money that my father squandered.” He kissed her cheek. “I had every intention of finding a rich bride to enable that plan.” He kissed her other cheek. “Then I met you, and you were the perfect solution to my problems.”

She tried to pull away,  but he held her close and kissed her lips. It was only a peck, but the thrill of it traveled to her toes and hit everywhere in between.

His body filled all her curves as he hugged her and spread kisses along her cheek and neck. “I knew you were the one, Elinor. So beautiful, charming, and sweet, I could not resist you. I want to be worthy of your love, and in the weeks we courted, I found a way to get enough money to repair my country home and still have enough to make a good start of the marriage. I made the deal on some grain. It will take a bit of time for my plans to pan out, but in a couple of months, I should be able to show your father that I am worthy of you.”

Author bio

A.S. Fenichel adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story. Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey. She now lives in the southwest with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When she is not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history and puttering in her garden.

Author Links:

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C.C. Wiley is a longstanding member of the Romance Writers of America, and a published author with Samhain Publishing. She lives in Salt Lake City with her high school sweetheart of over 35 years and their four wacky dogs. When given a choice, she prefers a yummy, well-written, historical or contemporary romance that is chock-full of hope, love and a Happy Ever After. She believes there are wonderful courageous characters waiting for someone to tell their story. It's her hope that each adventurous romance she writes will touch the reader and carry them away to another place and time, where hopes and dreams abound.

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Original birthday wishes

It's my birthday today, and no, I'm not fishing for compliments. Just wanted to share what a nice surprise my sister had for me!

I normally expect a (rather original) birthday card from her, but this time she's overdone herself. Believe it or not, but this morning I received an e-card for my 61st year, where no-one else than Michael Bolton sang Happy Birthday for me.

We met up with Michael Bolton last year in Venice, where he joined a boat trip to the isles of Murano and Burano. He didn't say who he was, but we could derive it from what he said. When you think you're not recognized, you let your guard down and let slip some things you shouldn't have. Well, we did as if we didn't know him either, and had rather a nice chat with him. He kept our company all during the trip, which was rather flattering.

Anyone else sharing this birthday, May 15th?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Weekend coming up

Once more it's Friday afternoon, and soon the weekend will start anew. Not a trip to London this time, just stay quietly at home. You need some rest, after all. And my sister has a pretty strenuous job. This is once more a period when the workload seems to pile up and she's trying to beat it. I'll be happy when she doesn't have to work anymore, because sometimes I think she's going to have a fit.

The weather forecast is not too bad. Since the last couple of days, the cold has finally left us and the days are mostly sunny and warm now. We had a heavy thunderstorm yesterday evening, but we didn't have to go anywhere, so no problem.

For tomorrow and the day after, the weather should be rather nice. Perhaps we can try out the new terrace set I bought. A barbecue wouldn't be bad. Chris suggested we'd do something special, as my birthday is coming up. I'll be 61 this year - getting on in age.

We could also do some work outside now. The terrace needs cleaning after a long winter and the walls of the house could use some paint. We"ll see what we do.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Funerals - aka family gatherings

I suppose it's the same everywhere. When somebody dies and the funeral takes place, it's a prime opportunity to chat with people you haven't seen in a while.

Just the same in our family. We rarely see our cousins (those on mother's side a bit often than those on father's side - they live too far off) and it always takes a special opportunity (a wedding, a funeral, a birthday party) to see each other.

This time the occasion was our uncle's funeral. My mother's eldest brother died last week Wednesday, nearly 94 years old. This morning we attented the mass (although we're not religious) and afterwards we were invited to have a bite and a drink in one of the parlors of the cremation house. A prime opportunity to catch up with the news of our different cousins. We are 9 on mother's side. One of the cousins had died already, in a car accident. But the others are all well enough, are married and have children and grandchildren. We are the only singles in the group.

Lea, her husband, three kids and their kids, will miss uncle most - especially because he had such a long life and did a lot for them. Must say, they sometimes took profit of his kindness. When his wife was still alive and well, they prepared food for the entire family and also did the washing. Lea has always been quite spoiled. I remember when our grandma had a heart attack and she was in the hospital (which happened just at the beginning of the summer vacation) Uncle Flor and Aunt Irene told our mother they could not leave their daughter (of 40!) and her family alone to stay at the seaside. So they had no time to visit grandma...

Well, it's the same with all families, I guess. Our only remaining uncle (also 92 already) always took offence in the fact we are independent women and have a mind of our own. Today he was polite though, even shook our hand.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

At last - a change in the weather!

Today, we woke up to a blue sky. Yes, indeed! Well, it was rather cold as well, but who cares?

The forecast says the temperatures will be rising as of today. Soon we'll be having 20° Celsius or thereabouts. And more sun than we've had up to now.

Then we'll be able at last to wear short-sleeved shirts and skirts, put bare feet in the loafers or sandals. Normally, you can do this once it's May. But this year has been terrible. Nothing much of a winter, nothing much of a spring.

Hopefully we'll get a real summer and after-summer. I long for some continued nice weather. When the sun is out, you seem to have so much more energy to perform tasks. A hour or so ago, our new terrace chairs and table were delivered. Just in time for the better weather. We used to have furniture in wood but after many years it had had its best time, so we made away with it (twice a year, you can put out wood or metal to be picked up for recycling).

How's the weather in your parts of the world?

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Hi there! Meet Lauren E. Rico, who's doing a virtual super book blast tour for Solo, a contemporary new adult romance available May 8, 2017 from Entangled Publishing.

Lauren will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, Please use the following link:


When graduate student Katherine Brenner walked into my class, I couldn’t stand her—all perfect skin and big, blue eyes—just like the woman who broke my heart.

If it wasn’t for that blizzard, if her car hadn’t broken down outside my house, if she hadn’t looked amazing by the firelight, I never would have kissed her. No matter how hard I try, every excuse I make not to see her comes up flat.

I can’t stop thinking of her lips. Or the way her curves fit perfectly in my hands. There’s a million reasons why this won’t work. I’m her professor. It’s against university policy.

And if this gets out, I could lose everything.


I hear the creak of the bathroom door behind me and there’s a palpable shift in the room as he enters. Then I feel his hand on my shoulder. It just makes me cry harder. And then he is there, on the floor with me, pulling me up against his chest with strong arms. I shake my head no. I don’t want this. But I do. I don’t need this. But I do. And, somehow, this awful, mean, arrogant man seems to know this already.

With my face buried in his sweatshirt, I just cry and cry until the only thing left is the sound of my dry, hiccupping, heaves and sniffling nose. He’s patting my back, rubbing my arms and shushing me softly.

Oh. My. God.

This is my worst nightmare, and then some. I sit up, abruptly, trying to wipe my sodden face with my hands, not looking at him. I can’t look at him.

“I’m sorry,” I say in a hoarse whisper.

Drew Markham gets to his feet and holds out a hand for me to take. I do, still not able to meet his gaze. When I’m upright once more, he turns away from me and briefly runs the water in the sink.

“Here,” he says, cupping my chin in his hands gently, trying to direct my face to his. I stare at the floor and shake my head. “Please? Katherine?”

When he says my name, it’s so unexpected that my head jerks up. He reaches toward my face and I just close my eyes, allowing him to press the wet, cool facecloth to my skin. When I open my eyes again, he’s smiling. But not any smile I’ve ever seen in his limited repertoire of pleasant expressions. It’s shocking. And disarming. And sexy as hell.

Author bio and links

Lauren Rico was going to be principal French horn of the New York Philharmonic. That was HER plan, anyway. The New York Philharmonic had no idea of her intentions, and that's probably a good thing, since she wasn't an especially good French horn player!
Lauren was, however, an exceptionally good classical music radio host. Calling herself a "Classical Music Reanimator," she has made a career of demystify classical music for her audiences by taking it off a dusty old pedestal and putting it into a modern context.  
It's only been over the last couple of years that Lauren has discovered a passion for writing, which she's managed to combine with her love and knowledge of the classical music world. 
You can hear Lauren Rico on SiriusXM's Symphony Hall Channel; on WQXR and WSHU-FM in the New York City metro; WSMR in Tampa/Sarasota, FL; WDAV in Charlotte, NC and KMFA in Austin, TX

Twitter: @RadioRico
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Friday, May 5, 2017

And then there was one...

Our family is slowly diminishing in numbers. Today we got new that our eldest uncle has died, aged 95. Now there is only one sibling living. My mother had three brothers. She died first, in 2008, then two years later her youngest brother died and now her eldest. Only the second child of our grandparents, 93, is still alive.

That's the way of getting older. You see family and friends passing away and you have to keep going. In our own home we came down to two, where originally there were 6 people living in the house. First granddad died, then grandma, then our dad and lastly our mum. I just hope my sister and I can go on for a while...

My sister wouldn't like to remain the last one standing. She can't live all alone. So she always says she hopes she goes first. It wouldn't be fun for me, but I presume I'm better suited for a life on my own. I've lived on my own before, while working in Germany. I easily get into contact with other people and wouldn't be all alone.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Gentelemen's Agreement

Once more, one of my fellow-authors at Rogue Phoenix Press is my guest today: Sheila M. Sharpless.

Sheila will be awarding an ebook copy of Dress With Grace to one randomly drawn commenter, so please take the time to leave a message. I can personally recommend Dress With Grace, as I've proofread the book and really liked it.


The Marquis and Marchioness are aristocrats living in a magnificent Elizabethan manor, Karidan, with their two daughters, Cassandra and Charlotte. On the surface, the family is wealthy and well respected, but the double life of the Marquis reveals illegal and dangerous activities, although at heart he is a good Christian man. Charlotte is to be wed to the local widowed vicar, but her affections lie elsewhere, namely with the Lord of the adjacent estate who, owing to a long-standing feud, is not welcome at Karidan and harbours his own secrets. Will Charlotte give in to her passions or follow the path her parents have chosen for her?


The moon was full that night, shedding its light on the ripples of the tide, as it covered the fine sand in the cove; a beautiful sight, to lovers a backdrop to a romantic evening; to the artist an invitation to capture on canvas that magnificent prospect. Perhaps, for some, it was simply a pleasurable experience. But there are those who shy away from such beauty, preferring to go about their business in the dark.
For the solitary figure standing on the shore, it was everything he did not enjoy, so, as he turned to view Karidan, the wonderful Elizabethan manor house behind him, set in magnificent parklands, and saw every window ablaze with candle light, he cursed under his breath. He knew the extravagance of so many candles meant the Marquis was hosting another party, perhaps a ball with champagne flowing, beautiful, assured ladies in gowns which would, for some, cost the equivalent of six months' food. He smiled to himself. Little did they know.
But, he caught his breath. For all his envy, he knew the Marquis was good to him, always gave him his due, and sometimes more for his wife and children.
Yet, for all that, he knew that it was people like the Marquis and the Marchioness who were the reason why his life was haunted by shadows, why sometimes the vision of the gallows filled his dreams.
Standing alone, Cooper began to think of what he knew of the history surrounding this place. Built during the reign of Henry VIII while he was still married to the tragic Jane Seymour and intended to be the later home of his heir, it was a beautiful building where nothing had been spared. The walls, the windows, the altar in the chapel on the ground floor were all a miracle of workmanship, lined and fluted in gold. The rooms were spacious, light and there were many. Twenty-four bedrooms, seven sitting rooms, the kitchen in the basement of the building was apparently the largest ever designed with the big fireplace holding a spit big enough to cook a whole ox or deer.
It was said, although he doubted it, that during Elizabeth I's reign, she visited Karidan with her entire household when it was sensible to be away from her home for a while, but finding a very poor deer population, she moved to Berkeley Castle where she knew there were many deer. Before she left Karidan she told the Lord that she would send him a number of deer and because she had been so comfortably housed, she would increase his title from Lord of Karidan to the Marquis of Karidan, and the present Marquis was a descendent of this long aristocratic line.
During her stay at the castle, history books tell us, she used her first skill with bow and arrow and, to the horror of the Lord of the castle, she shot thirty-six of his prize deer.
Shaking his head, Cooper returned to the present and banned those thoughts. What did ancestry mean to him anyway?
If he could see inside that house, however, he would indeed be greeted by music, dancers, the well-bred conversation between men and women, the light laughter, characteristic of the young ladies enjoying themselves at their first ball. Among those young ladies were the two daughters of the house and several of their close friends, feeling alternately grown up, sophisticated or overwhelmed, shy. The Lady Cassandra now seventeen, and her sister the Lady Charlotte nearing her sixteenth birthday, were the daughters of the Marquis and the Marchioness, while the Lord Augustus of Sharpfield, a cousin of the Marquis, held sway among friends, the other side of the ballroom. The other young ladies similarly aristocratic, showed little sign of wonder but were obviously enjoying the party, which this time was celebrating Cassandra and Charlotte's Aunt's fiftieth birthday. She was almost a permanent visitor, although she had her own mansion and staff some fifty miles away. She loved her time at Karidan, enjoyed the company, but, although she would never say it within hearing at her home, the Marchioness's cook was infinitely preferable to her own. She looked now at her two beloved nieces, seeing two beautiful young women, smiling and talking animatedly to their friends. She knew the girls' gowns, as had their mother's, been made by Madame Frederica, a French seamstress, who had created many beautiful gowns for the Marchioness and her friends. The young ladies, of course, had all been presented at Court, welcomed by the Prince who definitely approved of pretty young ladies. Not for nothing had he been called The Prince of Pleasure. Her two young nieces had their dance cards, beautifully engraved, hanging from their wrists and were excited but shy as the young men came to claim their dance.
They had each danced before sitting down at their chosen table, when Lady Charlotte nudged her sister, saying, "Who is that lovely young gentleman talking to Augustus? I've never seen him before."
"Well," replied the Lady Cassandra, "I'm surprised you have not met him. His parents own 'Birkham Manor' not far from here. He is Lord Dominic of Birkham. I believe he has been touring Europe after leaving Cambridge, but he has been home for a few weeks I think."
"I wonder what he has been doing with himself. I am sure we should have seen him before this."
Cassandra went on to say that as far as she knew no-one had mentioned him, although maybe her parents knew him because he was here at Karidan at the ball for dear Aunt Agatha. Cassandra remembered that she had heard of his beautiful horse, a black stallion which was, apparently, the envy of all who knew of him.
"Perhaps Papa or Mama knows the family. I'd like to meet him, wouldn't you?" Charlotte asked.
"Yes, I think we'll find out a little more."
It was while these two young ladies were wondering about him that Dominic began his own story to Augustus and Charles. He was laughing as he said, "I had been looking forward to spending three years at Cambridge. Good company, plenty of fun and opportunities. I was not wrong. There were of course obligatory essays and papers, but the tutors were terrific. More like friends than anything. Like us they enjoyed some fun and a drink or two. Quite frankly they were nearer our age than one could have expected. There were rules of course, but only those which kept the College on an even keel. It was suggested that I should take up fencing and I believed that to be a good idea. I had not tried anything like it before, but it really appealed to me; developing muscles I didn't know I had."
Charles interrupted. "I tried that once but I was absolutely useless; no sense of balance. Naturally, I gave it up as a bad job."
"Bad luck, but you should have kept going, it was good fun. Anyway, I was introduced to the professional and he was happy to tell me a bit about the history of the sport and suggested I came to the exercise class the next morning. So, interested but a little perturbed as to what I had let myself in for, I met the like-minded fellows, a pleasant group of men. Firstly, I was given a rope and was told to skip for ten minutes without stopping. That was taxing to start with, but when I managed to get my breath back, I found I had enjoyed it. It gave me a sense of achievement. Despite the effort, I was looking forward to doing it again. The next session, I was told, would be an introduction to how one handles the foil. I felt confident that I could master that. It seemed easy enough. And I really enjoyed the exercise. I knew then that taking up fencing was a good thing. It was great fun and after our strenuous exercises, it was down to the bar for a well-earned beer."
"Well I was wondering when the beer came in."
"Ha, you would, Augustus. I was feeling quite content with my new life in Cambridge. It was amazing how my interest in fencing grew until I was giving up several seminars a week to attend practice and much to my surprise, I was getting quite skilled and becoming stronger and fitter.Although I never imagined I would progress to professional fencing, it gave me more than I had expected including self-confidence and simply an enjoyment of using my body in a way I had never done before and pitting my strength and skill against an opponent.
"But," Dominic continued, "I haven't mentioned Claire. A rather delightful young lady who had taken my eye. She had two excellent character traits. One a great sense of humour and the other enjoyment of any new activity. Her full name was the Right Honourable Lady Claire Phlemorton-Bragg. She told me that her father had just bought her a beautiful Palomino stallion. She had not had the chance to ride him yet but suggested we take a ride together. Happily, I agreed and so it was, a few days later we set off on a cross-country ride. Her horse was very frisky, but she handled him well but unfortunately, at the third jump he refused, throwing his rider into a muddy puddle. She swore that it was my fault and when she saw me laughing at her, she was not at all pleased and that, my friends, was the end of the romance."

Author bio

Sheila Sharpless is a writer in many genres, whether it be for children’s books, plays, activity stories, plays for adults, magazine articles on topics such as travel, personal experience or history/fiction. She finds writing is her most passionate activity. Dress with Grace, a full length novel, illustrates her continuing interest in society in history.

More like winter

Since we returned from Argentina, the weather in Belgium has been lousy. It's way too cold for the time of year (heck, it was warmer in December and January!) and the skies are grey. Sometimes there is rain.

I don't like the chill in the air. I can bear freezing cold well enough, when the sun is out as well, but I don't like this dampness which makes it even colder than it is. Our heating is still working every day to keep the house warm enough. And we sleep  under thick covers because it would be unthinkable to remove some layers.

More and more I'm thinking about spending the winters (and part of the so-called spring) in sunnier places. It was so nice in Argentina, temperatures in the twenties Celsius and often warm sunshine.

Hopefully we'll get a change in the weather soon - and then probably, it will be a heatwave!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Job well done

We took advantage of the lesser weather and gave our kitchen a new coat of painting. We started yesterday afternoon and thought we'd be busy until at least this evening, but to our surprise we were already finished early this afternoon.

The new color looks well and matches excellently with the color of the kitchen cupboards (which have fronts in aubergine color). We had the paint mixed to our demand - there is a shop not far off where they have a very good quality. We don't mind paying a bit more if the goods are worth it.

The next project will be painting the living room anew. This will involve moving heavy furniture. The sofa's are easy to move away, but those cupboards in oak... The trick is to put something under the legs of the table & such, so they move more easily over the tile floor (and don't make any stripes).

Most likely we'll start this project in summer. There are bound to be some days when it's not all that good outside, so you can just as well do something useful!