Tenby Book Fair: 24th September 2016

Come and join us at The Tenby Book Fair, come and find your new book!

Judith Barrow

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Events

Events to be held at the 2016 Tenby Book Fair, 24th September

Revised
Some talks, readings, Q&A sessions will be held in an adjoining room at the fair. Numbers will be limited, so it is advisable to reserve a place in advance. There is no charge.
  1. 11:00    Cambria Publishing Co-operative will be giving a talk and taking questions about the services and assistance they offer to independent authors.
  2. 11:30    Poet Kathy Miles will be giving a reading of some of her work.
  3. 12:00    Firefly Press will be talking about publishing children’s books and what they look for in submissions.
  4. 12:30    Prizes for the short story competitions will be presented in the main hall – no booking necessary.
  5. 1:30      Colin Parsons, children’s writer, talks about his popular work
  6. 2:00      Honno Welsh Women’s Press will be talking…

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Free Spirits and Happiness

I yearn for freedom, for open skies, hills to run, and oceans to swim.
I yearn for the ability to drop everything and escape when life gets too much,
and sometimes I do. Sometimes I need to escape.

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My own views on mortality herald free-agency as a major part of our existence, and though life and circumstance does its best to trap us, freedom and reaching for our dreams is the key to happiness.

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© Lisa Shambrook

What is happiness? There’s a quote which says ‘Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.’ Henry David Thoreau. Sometimes we put too much into trying to find happiness when we should be enjoying life as it is, reaching for the stars, and supping at life’s great feast. Happiness can be the simplest of things to some, like bare feet on dewy grass, or the riches of life, like an expensive glass of champagne, to another, but it’s the liberty of choice that offers both of these.

Many of us regard things we own as the things which make us happy. I could list a fair few possessions that I love which make me happy, we all could, but what are the most important things?

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© Lisa Shambrook

They say when you love something you must set it free ‘If you love something, let it go. If it returns, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, it wasn’t. If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.’ (Commonly attributed to Richard Bach)

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© Lisa Shambrook

There’s a story I remember as a child, a Swedish tale, retold in a picture book I adored. It told the story of The Bird of Happiness. A little boy loses his kite and is upset at its loss. An old man tells him possession is not happiness. Then tells the children the story of a bird, a beautiful golden bird, and it showers a village with happiness. Everyone was happy, and no one was in need while the bird flew and watched over them. Then one day the people began to worry what would happen if the bird ever left, if it forsake them, and they lost their happiness so they decided to build a cage. It was a fine cage, a magnificent cage of pure gold, and while the bird was asleep they trapped it and shut it in the cage.
Every day people came to see the bird, and it was sad, but no one could see. It refused to eat and its golden feathers dulled, and as it paled and greyed a twilight descended over the town. The people became unhappy, and the only thing that shone was the golden bird cage. The bird grew tired and smaller every day.
Then one day the sun stopped shining and the sad town grew quiet, and a flicker of a flame ignited in the cage. Everybody came to see as the bird burned and the fire in the cage grew and spread. The heat melted the gold and the bird suddenly rose in splendour from its ashes, bigger and more beautiful than ever. It circled and then left the town forever.
The old man told the children the bird disappeared and the townspeople had to begin to find happiness on their own. The bird now flies free and every now and then drops a tear or a feather and lights up someone’s life.

My freedoms are important to me, like the bird of happiness, without the ability to be free, to soar and to fly, I could not be happy.

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© Lisa Shambrook

In The Lord of The Rings – The Return of the King: Aragorn asks Eowyn, “What do you fear, lady?” and she responds, “A cage.”

Eowyn needed to escape, to be herself, to be a warrior and a fighter, and to reach for her dreams. My happiness lies in my family, foremost, and in nature, in the ability to write and to read and to escape. Perhaps this is why I like motorbikes, and dragons, and I feel like I have the spirit of a cat!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I fought for many years to become myself, to spread my wings and to fly. I am forever grateful that my children have learned this truth early. Embrace who you are, embrace what makes you happy, don’t worry about being judged by those around you, they need to find themselves, not worry about who you are!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Fight to break those bars, to escape the cage that society places you inside. Your reason for life is you. Know yourself and then you can be the person who lifts and encourages, who inspires and stirs those around you to find themselves too. Be the person who frees others, be the one who cares, be the one who’s there.

Drop your tears and feathers into the lives around you and light up someone’s dark day.

Be happy.

What makes you happy?  

Autumn Days Are Here…

Autumn is the time of year when we realise that change is good.
When the cool breeze refreshes and revitalises our senses.
When mortality is evident in the air as leaves fall,
and living becomes full of urgency and passion…

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© Lisa Shambrook

After a very difficult summer and slipping into the grip of depression, autumn is very welcome in my life. It’s the month that recharges my worn batteries and lifts me from doldrums and anxiety.

I dig out my soft, cosy jumpers and relish a hot chocolate on a cold day. Scented candles offer autumn fragrance and leaves fall in red, gold, orange and brown ready for me to kick through! I pull out my favourite hat and scarf, both stolen from my daughter, and delight in the bliss of my beloved leather jacket. Apples, fresh from the tree, and rich purple plums, and pumpkins ready to be carved fill my Halloween, and nothing beats homemade soups and bread to fill the autumn belly.

Tell me – what are you looking forward to most this autumn?

Being Broken and the Kintsukuroi Art of Healing

There are times in my life when I know I’m broken
and I’m okay with that.

Being Broken and the Kintsukuroi Art of Healing - The Last Krystallos
I have scars, scars that run across my skin and scars that run deep through my very being.
Most of us do, from superficial scratches on our surface to deep canyons that reside in dark places. We all have history, and emotional pain stays with you, no matter how much you try to let go.

I’m not talking of forgiveness here; maybe I’ll post on that another day, but even when you can or have let go, the experience, the memory, will always be with you. You can’t erase the things you’ve been through, and it’s good that we can’t.  

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Dawn’s gold rippling through the sky © Lisa Shambrook

I’m a firm believer in the fact that we are not perfect and nor should we worry about trying to be perfect. I want to be good, kind, loving, and harness many other beautiful characteristics, but I don’t need to be perfect. Along with my good qualities, I embrace rebellion, curiosity, cynicism, and other traits, as I believe you can’t know the good without the bad, and after all we are human.

This also means that though I would love to live on a fairly even keel, I am grateful that I don’t.

I’ve known pain. You’ve known pain. And whilst the levels of pain we’ve known may differ, they are powerful and good. The fact that we’ve known pain means we can enhance the joy that we feel too.

There is an exquisite extreme to emotions, sorrow and joy, and to know one you have to truly know the other.

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Broken things still live – Greencastle old oak tree © Lisa Shambrook

I have felt broken, and I have been broken, but I am also mended.

Many things can fix you. Family, love, religion, nature, chocolate, even money – but know that despite being mended your scars still endure.

I used to worry about my scars; they still decorate my skin and remind me constantly of the times that have hurt. Right now they are white, and pink, and narrow and pale. They’ve filled in, healed, mended, but they’re still there. I live with them and I love them, because they are me.

We need to love our brokenness. We need to embrace the scars that have healed us, for they have made us who we are.

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To bathe in sunset gold © Lisa Shambrook

The Japanese have a wonderful procedure called Kintsukuroi (golden repair) or Kintsugi (golden joinery) and they have beautified brokenness.

It is the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.   

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My attempt at Kintsukuroi – though I don’t have gold so it was nail lacquer! © Lisa Shambrook (Check out the real thing on my Pinterest Page)

Is there anything more beautiful than someone who can embrace their flaws and know that they are worth more for what they have been through?

We are all broken, in a way, we all have scars, some more visible than others. And even when you are healed, those scars, those things you’ve been through have made you stronger. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, to be flawed, and to be broken.

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My heart is made of stronger stuff than glass – Patrick Rothfuss © Lisa Shambrook

We don’t have glass hearts that can shatter beyond repair, we don’t have crystal spirits that can splinter beyond hope, we are made of stronger stuff, and even if we need repairing at times, we are all the more beautiful for it.  

The Soul of the Universe is Music…

Hitting you up with another extra post and OFFER this week…
and you can’t afford to miss it.
If you want a stunning set of stories based on pieces of music…
you can’t go wrong with this beautiful and intelligent book!

soul-of-the-universe-edited-michael-wombat-short-stories-anthology-clubAnd this week it’s FREE to download from Amazon Kindle. FREE from September 2nd to 6th – you don’t want to miss this one.

This is the first book from The Anthology Club. I have a story in their second book…

Stories by Marissa Ames, Michael Walker, Michael Wombat, and Michael S. Manz will captivate you. Each story is accompanied by a song, and you get a brief explanation of its inspiration. An eclectic mix of genres and something to inspire everyone.

“Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Plato

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Now go and pick up your FREE copy between 2nd and 6th September:

Amazon UK and Amazon US.

This is my Amazon review – if you love reading the book too please leave your own review.

Soul of the Universe: An anthology of music-inspired stories

Six strong tales, inspired by music…

I’ve read several of the authors in this anthology before, so I knew the stories would be of a high calibre, and I wasn’t disappointed.

To Ride the Wind Dancing: This story, from Michael S. Manz, held its secret well as it began and I was delighted as realisation gathered momentum. I found my intrigue piqued and a tale of an unusual relationship blossomed, leaving me wanting more, much more!

Blood on the ground: Michael Wombat’s humour is familiar to me, and he gives us a rocking good tale with a real chancer who took one too many! Great description took me right out into the American wilds and the dark night of terror…

Stella: Michael A. Walker made me weep. The issues within this story resonated and touch my own life deeply, and the raw beauty and honesty in this tale took me to a fragile place. Written both assuredly and compassionately, it’s a story that will stay with you.

Darrion: Already a fan of Marissa Ames, meant I’d reviewed Darrion before…and it’s a tale that hits you in the gut and will enthral you right from the very first sentence. The author shows fantastic world building and description in such a short and haunting tale.

Light On: Another heartfelt piece from an author, Michael A. Walker, from whom I want to read more.

Moth Girl vs the Bats: Michael Wombat’s writing is evocative and definitely brings out a comic book feel, think Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Powerful and fantastical description will pull you into Moth Girl’s predicament, and you’ll be wincing in pain as Steampunk creatures and critters show up…

This is a superior collection of stories and I urge you to read them!

You can find out more on my blog post about Cutthroats and Curses…

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Meet the Team at Blue Harvest Creative (@JustAddBlue) #BookDesign #BHCAuthors

Come and meet my Publishing Partners: Blue Harvest Creative – changing the face of independent publishing with its amazing authors…

Shelley Wilson

Interview_BHCBlue Harvest Creative is a full-author services company, including website design, graphic design, print and advertising, and social media. But it’s their book designs that I’m featuring on my blog today.

Based in Michigan, U.S.A., Blue Harvest Creative works with independent and best-selling authors from across the globe.  With over 700 book designs, BHC is fast becoming a one-stop shop for authors looking for the best design, and guidance, to enhance their product.

I am delighted to invite two of BHC’s talented design and marketing specialists, Joni and Vern, to my blog to talk about book design and what the future holds for Blue Harvest Creative.

How did you get into book design?

My background is in graphic design, and I’ve designed everything from business cards to billboards. Many moons ago, before the days of eBooks and self-publishing, the industry was very different. When a client asked if I…

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Ten Things I Discovered Beneath…

Do you ever look beneath?

Ten Things I Discovered Beneath - The Last Krystallos

I love being beneath – the rainbows, the old oak trees, and the stars,
and what else have I found beneath?

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I was five and the verandah was cracking, not long and it would be dangerous… © Lisa Shambrook

I grew up in a house with a veranda out the back. When I was young, Dad tore it down and rebuilt the back steps and I discovered the space beneath the veranda! A dark, dusty, and dirty ‘cave’ which I loved to play in, I doubt today’s health and safety would allow it, but I discovered my imagination down there.

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The night sky has always fascinated me © Lisa Shambrook

I always knew I was a Daddy’s girl, and standing out beneath the stars while he taught me constellations, confirmed it.

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I love the calm beneath the water © Lisa Shambrook

Under water there is calm – a calm which I lack in my every-day life (do any of us have calm in our every-day life?) and swimming relaxes me. I once swam a whole length beneath the water without taking a breath – it was beautiful. Maybe I should be a mermaid…

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Nothing more beautiful than the colours of the rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Rainbows are all about perspective. Have you ever tried to stand beneath one? Rainbows teach me both magic and science – and that you can never reach the end of one!

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The crashing cascade is a true wonder © Lisa Shambrook

There are many waterfalls in Wales, but at Henrydd Falls and Sgwd Eira you can walk a slippery ledge to get behind the veil of water, but it’s worth it. Standing beneath a waterfall is an exhilarating experience and I found the inner delight of a child and my love of water!

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Arty clutter © Lisa Shambrook

I can’t even go into detail about how many things, every-day items, I’ve lost and found beneath other things – that’s the cluttered home of a writer.

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Lost in the velveteen darkness © Lisa Shambrook

I love the dark. Have you ever gone beneath ground into an old castle ruin’s dungeon or down a mine? Dolacothi gold mine isn’t far away and we visited when my children were small. We wore miner’s hats with lights on the front and big heavy batteries round our waists, and to demonstrate the darkness the miners worked in we were all instructed to turn out our lamps. As we stood in the pitch blackness, small fingers clutched my hand tight and a small, quivering voice rang out in the dark. “Mummy, my eyes don’t work anymore.”  I discovered the innocence and trust of my three-year-old standing in the dark, his hand clutching mine.

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Beneath the Old Oak © Lisa Shambrook

Beneath trees I’ve discovered how to make daisy chains, how to kick up piles of autumn leaves and I’ve found love.

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Anxiety and depression © Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the suffocating blanket of depression and anxiety, I discovered support, love, hope and reasons to carry on…

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The Hope Within Books © Lisa Shambrook

I was a shy and very introverted child, and beneath the façade of quiet and reserved I uncovered an observant and imaginative mind – capable of writing and conveying all the stories queued up in my head – hence, I became a writer!

What have you discovered beneath?

Lisa Shambrook The Hope Within Novels Twitter Ad

The Hope Within Novels by Lisa Shambrook

Find out what Freya discovered Beneath the Rainbow,
what Meg found Beneath the Old Oak,
and what Jasmine searched for Beneath the Distant Star… 

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Guest Post from author, @LisaShambrook #wwwBlogs 7 Reasons Why You Should Be You…

Got a chance to be part of The Big Blue Takeover on Shelley Wilson’s blog…so find out How to Be You!

Shelley Wilson

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Today’s guest on the Big Blue Takeover is, Lisa Shambrook author of the beautiful ‘Hope Within’ series and blogger at The Last Krystallos. Over to Lisa…

To be nobody but yourself - the last krystallos- lisa   shambrook7 Reasons Why You Should Be You…

I spent years trying to be someone different, trying to be someone everyone wanted me to be. Way back in 1989 – I’m giving away my age now – when I was 18, I scrawled a poem: ‘I’ll open my heart and show you inside, but don’t let me know what you’ve seen. I want to be everything everyone wants me to be, but I’m not sure I know how. I don’t even know how to be me.’ …and I lived that teenage angst for another decade or so before allowing myself to discover who I was.

Don’t do it. Don’t be anyone but yourself.

Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience. …

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A Visit to the Tate Modern Art Gallery

What constitutes art for you?
Do you prefer the Old Masters or the New Pretenders?

A Visit to the Tate Modern Art Gallery - The Last Krystallos - What is Art to you...

Just last week we visited the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London. I’d very much have liked to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum too, but time was a factor, and when we found ourselves on the South Bank the Tate was right there. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, though hubby didn’t make it past the first floor of exhibits. He disappeared outside to enjoy the sunshine and the Thames instead, leaving my daughters and me to peruse the gallery.

Magdalena Abakanowicz

Magdalena Abakanowicz. I loved the organic nature of this exhibit. Sacks and material sewn into pebbles. It took up a huge room and I wanted to walk in amid them, be part of them, like walking on a beach…

Now, art is subjective, that’s for sure. I lean toward the classics from Michelangelo and Da Vinci, to the Italian Renaissance and the Impressionists. I very much revel in Degas, Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, Waterhouse (one of my most favourite artists, I adore Ophelia), Monet, Renoir, Turner, Van Gogh (I love his night sky!)and many more, but as we move to Picasso, and the modernists, though I loved his blue period and early work, his Cubism starts to lose me. Mondrian and similar artists don’t do much for me, but I do appreciate their value as art and to the eternally progressing world of art. On another note, though, Salvador Dali is a wonder, and his paintings are totally me!

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter. A group of paintings, each over six feet across. I loved the colours and ambience of water in my mind.

What do you call art?

A fascinating question. My art teacher at school was obsessed by Henry Moore’s sculptures and being a classicist myself I lost interest as she constantly bombarded us with Moore, as an adult I’ve grown into his work, but as a teen he didn’t interest me.

Al Weiei

Al Weiei. The first exhibit in the centre of the entrance level. A tree made up of many trees, bolted together. Organic yet industrial…

So, in London we wandered the Tate, and Caitlin and I shared much conversation. Cait’s about to start her art A-levels and the gallery offered a great look at what constituted modern art. 

Edward Ruscha - Music from the Balconies

Edward Ruscha – Music from the Balconies. Another inspiring piece in the Tate.

How is a huge, yellow, scalene triangle hung on the wall a piece of art? It doesn’t appear to take a lot of talent or even time to create a large piece in yellow. Vince and Cait asked how it was art. It wasn’t something that appealed to me, not my thing at all, but it is art. I didn’t take a picture of it and I can’t find a link, but you can imagine it. And, there it is – imagination – that’s the answer. Vince stared at it, and that was when he pretty much gave up and went outside to enjoy the sun instead, and I caught the irony. I said it was about imagination, about how the piece made you feel, and what you saw. There was no explanation for this piece. But to me it was sunshine, or lemons – I could taste lemons just looking at the colour, or happiness, or a sail of a yacht – or whatever you saw or felt. 

Behold - Sheela Gowda

Sheela Gowda – Behold. Weirdly fascinating and labout intensive.

There were pieces that didn’t get me, though I appreciated the work that went into them. One room was full of what looked like wool, set up across the ceiling and room like huge spider webs, but it was in actual fact, black human hair, donated by local Indian Temples, and woven together, and if you looked closely you could see the plaits and weaves that artist had spent hundreds of hours on, incredibly labour intensive. Sheela Gowda‘s piece showed vulnerability and control but it was weirdly wonderfully odd!

Some modern art, I’ll never understand. Some of it just exists to poke fun at or rebel against classical art, or against politics, or ethics etc, but some is really beautiful despite having a very different form to classical art. I like to analyse, and if the artist can show me what they were thinking when they made it, then I’ll welcome it as art. The exhibits that frustrated me most were those where the artists said there was no thought process, no meaning, then I struggle to see it as art. Art needs meaning to be art to me!

Another exhibit, I didn’t photograph was African and looked politically charged, but the artist had no explanation or reason behind it, and that’s when you lose me. I like things to have meaning.

David Alfaro Siquerios - Cosmos and Disaster

David Alfaro Siquerios – Cosmos and Disaster. I loved this piece and could have gazed at its despair and pain for a long time.

I totally loved David Alfaro Siquerios – Cosmos and Disaster. It was about the Spanish Civil War, but spoke about the sadness and futility of war, any war, to me. I loved the raw quality and the depiction of barbed wire across the paint. It spoke of desolation.

Hamed Abdalla - Defeat

Hamed Abdalla – Defeat. Fascinating in its mixed media and silver aluminium and burnt tar.

I also loved Hamed Abdalla – Defeat. The mixed media, and the subject pulled me in. silver leaf aluminium and burning with a blow torch, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but it truly made me feel defeat, loss and abandonment.

Matta - Black Virtue Triptych

Matta – Black Virtue Triptych. I only photographed the central canvas of the triptych as it was the one that spoke to me. Read what you want into that!

I tend to go for the dark side in art, and that also showed in the art that fascinated me, they were the pieces that made me stop and consider.

Tsuyashi Maekawa - Two Junctions

Tsuyashi Maekawa – Two Junctions. Another fascinating mixed media piece that kept my attention.

The Tate, however, offered some art that I did not understand, did not like, or just wasn’t my thing, but it also offered a lot of works that inspired me, thrilled me and fascinated me. Some I loved and some I slipped right into. I’ve peppered my favourites amongst this post.

Art is anything to me that is expression, emotion, surreal, classic, beautiful, strange – anything that is emotive or expressive…

What do you think? What constitutes art to you?

And which do you prefer, classic or modern,
or do you love to appreciate all art?

From Two Extremes – Wild Camping to City Break

Wild Camping on Dartmoor and a Weekend in London
– you couldn’t find two more extreme activities
and we did both in one week!

From Two Extremes - Wild Camping to City Break - The Last Krystallos

Firstly, let’s explain the term wild camping: in the UK you are only legally allowed to camp out and pitch a tent on a camp site, unless you have permission from the land owner first. However, there are exceptions. Scotland, for the most part, allows wild camping (except in one or two regions) and Dartmoor. Do your research before you decide where to go. Dartmoor has a great website and forums are excellent for advice and help. Wild camping allows you to pitch your tent (only small tents) wherever you wish and as long as you abide the laws of the countryside and you only stay up to two nights you’re good.
Also on Dartmoor be sure to check out the Military Firing Range times…you don’t want to get caught in the middle of an exercise!

So, we took two 2man tents and (far too much) gear in rucksacks and off we went.

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Dartmoor tors, Dartmoor pony, sheep © Lisa Shambrook

We parked in a free car park in Belstone, just to the north of Dartmoor, and hiked up onto the tors. Now, we were beginners. I don’t even like camping! I abhor organised camps and dislike being tied to one place, or to other people…so this was an experiment. We thought of reaching Yes Tor, but we quickly realised we were carrying too much and weren’t as fit as we could be! Instead of miles of hiking we ended up at either Winter Tor or Irishman’s Wall. Being beginners we had no OS map, just a print out from the web…

Still, it was stunningly beautiful and we were off the beaten track and out in the wild!

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Pitching and taking down tents © Lisa Shambrook

We pitched and explored and set up a small camp. We had lots of fun, played games, talked a lot, learned more about each other, and had food.

So, a couple of things: We took a disposable BBQ – don’t bother. Wind, did no one mention the wind! We ended up using a gas camp stove instead for the most part, and find something as lightweight as you can! Think of food that either doesn’t need cooking, or is easy, soups etc and keep it simple. Baked beans in the morning, at dawn, on a camping stove was lovely! (And remember everything you take up there has to be brought back down – take all your rubbish home again) We carried a 4 litre bottle of water, just in case – we didn’t need it and it was extra unnecessary weight.

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View from tent, sunrise, family selfie, Dartmoor pony © Lisa Shambrook

There’s not a lot of privacy so choose your site well, you’ll need rocks or bushes to do your business behind. (And take a trowel if you need to) It really is back to basics! Don’t be shy…though the sheep up there are!

Sleeping. We took self-inflating mats to place our sleeping bags on, and for me that worked. I was worried my back wouldn’t hold out, but I took preventative pills and was careful. And I would just use a hoody or jacket for a pillow. Remember to take warm clothes, socks in particular! Even in a sleeping bag you can get cold.

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Vince and Lisa © Lisa Shambrook

Hubby didn’t sleep. Hubby has decided he’s never camping again! But he did take a look at the stars and stared in wonder at the clarity and beauty up there in the night sky!

I didn’t sleep much myself, half hour stops and starts, but that may have been due to hubby’s discomfort. Anyway, at 5am we called it quits and got up to see in the dawn. We’d watched the sunset the night before and now as the clock moved to 6am the new sun peeped over the misty horizon and graced us with its presence. It was mighty cold up there, sitting on the rocks wrapped in sleeping bags, watching the sunrise, but spectacular, and a sight not to be missed.

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Main: Sunrise on Dartmoor, moors, and bottom left: sunset, bottom right: sunrise © Lisa Shambrook

After breakfast we packed up and trekked back a much easier way. We were greeted in Belstone village by a herd of gorgeous Dartmoor ponies, and tired but happy, we made it to the car and I drove home, letting hubby catch up on sleep!

Two days later and we were catching the 2am coach to London…to experience the other end of the spectrum!

We stayed in Travelodge in Covent Garden, which was very good in comparison to some Travelodge’s we’ve been to. We slept well, on lovely beds, hubby mentioned the comfort more than once…

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Street Art, Captain Jack Sparrow, bubbles, living statue, Covent Garden © Lisa Shambrook

We ate out at Zizzi in Covent Garden too, absolutely gorgeous Italian fare, pizza and carbonara, and desserts to die for.

We’d spent our first day at the Science Museum, and had our first experience of IMAXWow! The Red Arrows simulator was cool, the others not quite as much, but we had fun.

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Les Miserables Queens Theatre © Lisa Shambrook

We saw our very first West End show, drinking in every moment of Les Miserables at Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. It was amazing and we’d happily watch it all over again! We know the show well, from the film, the DVD’s of anniversary shows, the soundtrack – everything. I had the original soundtrack when I was a teen and had always longed to go and see it live, and now I have! I can’t praise it enough.

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Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, The London Dungeons, Lion Brewery Lambeth Lion on Westminster Bridge, Tube © Lisa Shambrook

The next day took us to Westminster and all the touristy stuff. The obligatory Big Ben and Houses of Parliament pictures, and then The London Dungeons. I hadn’t expected much from the dungeons, most attractions these days are over-priced and we hadn’t been able to use our Tesco vouchers to pay for entry – plan ahead – The Dungeons can be covered with Tesco vouchers but they need to post your tickets to you. The Dungeons blew us away with a great show and fun history – think Horrible Histories and you’re right there. Another attraction we highly recommend!

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The Tate Modern Art © Lisa Shambrook

We wandered the Southbank, and ended up at the Tate Modern, which I’d always wanted to visit too. Now, I have a lovely husband – he’s not interested in modern art at all – but he patiently walked round the gallery, then waited out on the Thames in the sun, while we finished. That’s love.

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The London Underground and maps © Lisa Shambrook

London is busy. The tube is busy, the buses are busy, the pavements and parks are busy. There are people everywhere. I’m not a people person. But I did love the atmosphere, the street artists, the energy, the excitement, and my daughters drank it all in!

I might also have had a slightly obsessive interest in walking down streets found on the Monopoly board… We ate in Bow street, and we went to Leicester Square…

So, thus, we experienced both extremes in a matter of days…

My conclusion, if I pitch the stark, lonely, beauty of Dartmoor against the busy, social, bright lights of London, the countryside wins for me. I’m always going to be a country-girl, despite having been born and raised in vibrant Brighton! However, I’ve now spent more of my life in the country than the city and it suits me.  

So, what about you?

Are you a lover of the natural countryside or
do you adore the city and its bright lights?