Monday 27 June 2016

Postcard 4 Poems, Morning and Sounds on the Lagoon,


Bright silver
morning sun crashing
onto the lagoon
breaking into
shards of
diamond light that shoal together
before breaking onto
the shore

Sounds on the Lagoon

The buzz of the coffee machine
The tap of a joiner’s hammer
The murmur of
considered conversations
Ducks quacking after their ducklings
The murderous shriek of seagulls,
loudest before it
The clanging of a ship’s bell
The click of masts chiming
The whine of wind driving
through a hundred spinnakers
The boom of a boat’s engine
ploughing through the water
the shush of its wake as
it streams through the water
leaving a creamy line
on its pulsing surface
The chirp and chatter
of children in ten  tiny boats,
being towed in a line,
like ducklings in a row.


Au Revoir

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Postcard 3, The Strawberry Moon and the EU Referendum

We watched for the ‘Strawberry Moon’ on Midsummer Night. This appears as the full moon coincides with Midsummer’s Eve, which only happens once in 47 years. Apparently it’s pink because it reflects at this time the sands of the Sahara. (How small is our world…)

I was thinking that 'primitve' people would - many times forty seven years ago - would have seen in as a great portent for the world. We watched as the moon rose, a delicate pale pink with its reflection in the waters of the lagoon.
I was thrilled to witness this phenomenon and there was much talk about it on the balcony. It has also almost superseded the talk about the Referendum.*. (‘Remain’ is winning all round....)
And then yesterday – the following evening – sitting on the balcony we watched the fullish moon rise in a deeper and even more distinctive rosy hue. In time its colour faded to butter yellow, then cream. But this time it started out even more strawberry pink than the night before. 
A perfect piece of holiday magic.
A propos. The youngest member our company  had us watching a brilliant University of Liverpool video were EU law expert  Professor Michael Dougan makes the soundest and impressively logical argument for us to remain in Europe. 

Apparently this video has gone viral. I hope everyone who votes today has listened to this coherent and unbiased discussion, Article HERE   

Two strawberry moons will, I hope, be a symbol for our more vibrant presence in Europe and good times ahead.

Au revoir

Sunday 19 June 2016

Postcard 2 from Marseillan: Two Towns

Marseillan and Agde

We are staying in Marseillan, a small seaport between the larger Agde and the even larger Sête. Here, boats, surfboarders,  sailors anf holiday makers promenade on the newly laid shoreline path. 

To my left is a large-masted boat, apparently permanently docked. To my right is a large residential boat evolved from a barge – holiday accommodation of some kind. Yesterday we saw a chef in whites go aboard. There’s posh. And beyond that is a web of tinkling, small masted vessels clicking in the morning sun. Round the corner cafes line the quayside, each different in style and flavour. Such easy walking distance for that early morning cafe et croissant. 

Something near to Heaven perhaps.

With #lickedspoon in charge the wonderful food in the apartment is de rigeur, of course. And the talk has been good, referring to brilliant food writers – Ruth Reichl is a new discovery for me. We’ve also been reading the subtle Helen Simpson, the sharp-eyed   Alice Munro, the spiky Nell Zink – another new discovery for me.
We have ironic Muriel Spark as well as the sublime Norah Ephron who defines the creative process – in journalism, fiction and film – with finesse, political insight and humour. Re-reading her pieces is a refreshing writer’s education. And in crime we have Stephen Leather and James Craig. And – appropriate for the Football fest – John Cross’s biography of Arsene Wenger.

As usual S is winning for the annual ‘reading race’ - for reading the most books. His Kindle could be his secret weapon.

Recently we visited nearby Agde. This town is where we first
experienced the peculiar magic of the Languedoc - for several years renting a slice of a medieval fortress in the centre of the this very ancient market town, with its layers of history going back to the time when the Languedoc was not even part of France. It was always a port, welcoming traders from the the North, the East and the middle East – rich enough to be a target for pirates and invaders, and making a valuable access the mainland Europe.

With its feeling of a medieval market, this flourishing and crowded space is pure theatre.  Many of the customers are local, comingto the same place as their fathers and grandfathers   both to buy and to sell. 

All kinds of goods are for sale - from scarves and shirts to shoes and cheese, from bread and fruit to meat and soap.Essentially local, it provides a vibrant backdrop us people passing through. The sprinkling of visitors sit in the cafes and relish the distinctive drama.

 The town of Agde inspired a popular novel of mine called An Englishwoman in France, where the past and the present are curiously intermingled . It is also the focus of my novel Writing at The Maison Bleue. And in its ancient form it also plays a role in The Pathfinder. See if you can recognise it in that one. 

Did I tell you this place is inspiring for writers?

had coffee in the Plazza Cafe the Market Square then I filtered down the narrow old streets with their vague sense of threat, to the Cafe Capitaine on the quayside for a welcome glass of the rose wine of  the Languedoce

Needless to say I did a bit of scribbling…
Au revoir 


Saturday 18 June 2016

Postcard 1 from Marseillan. Arrivé

A dark challenging winter meant that  for me this  holiday has been the most welcome ever.

As the plane landed in Montpellier I knew I could finally breathe out.  S. drove us through the  yellow and ochre landscape of South West  France, wiping out the memory of the lush green lanes of Yorkshire as we drove from County Durham to the airport.

Well, we got here. Nous arrivons. My dear sister was worried that we might be caught up in the ‘football riots.’ No worries. Wrong place.

Of course - three of four of us being football fans - we settled down to watch some matches on TV – no talking heads, just football, a accompanied by the soothing sub-murmur of the French commentary. Even I enjoyed it.

This apartment overlooks the Etang de Thau, the huge lagoon that sits alongside the Mediterranean. People drift by on the road below our balcony  – sun-tanned sailing types, couples hand in hand, smooth haired teenagers, mature cyclists, a small boy on skates and a little girl on a tiny scooter.

At the next table in the market café yesterday was a cluster of brown whipcord-fit middle aged cyclists, laughing and preparing for their ride. Couples pass by – the men middle-aged, solid and fit, the women smart in pedal pushers and leather sandals.

Our favourite companion here is Barney, silent in the flush of conversation, wise in his silence. His  French is improving, although he hasn't managed to lose his aversion to French bulldogs. He can sense them round the corner, one floor down, before they bustle into sight.

The apartment is elegant, pale walls, pale furniture,  natural wood,  with vast windows looking out in the étang, overcast now with streaming clouds. Yachts of all sizes turn to make their way into the harbour. 

The company is first class - as well as Barney we have the witty gourmet  lickedspoon, the problem- solving techno wizard and the English gentleman. And me. All Francophiles.

I never felt more European. And I voted to stay in, to live on in history alongside the engaging, down-to-earth French

Au revoir


PS And then there are the books we're reading, But that will take another postcard...

Monday 6 June 2016

Find out about The Pathfinder : New book trailer and special insights into the story

Click!The  Pathfinder (paperback)
The Pathfinder (Kindle) 

I dipped into my ancient Welsh Heritage and found a population of artists, singers,storytellers and path-makers and fighters - all reflections of my 21st Century preoccupations.  So-o  writing this historical novel was a very personal journey, full of joy. So I made this book trailer (click below) to let you know how much I have loved it.

In this post I include the following:

The Story/  Book Trailer/ Story extracts/  Elen of the Pathways/A Brigante Welcome/    Quintanius/ 5* Amazon Reviews/ Press Reviews of my novels

The Story

In 383 AD a truly great love story blossoms between Magnus Maximus, the Roman leader in Britain - afterwards for five years Roman Emperor - and Elen, daughter of a powerful British king in the place we now call Wales. Magnus is fascinated by Elen, a gifted Seer and healer and a ‘pathfinder’ whose talented ancestors made straight roads in Britain long before the Romans.
As the Roman Empire begins to crumble the love between Elen and Magnus links the sophisticated Celtic culture, with its esoteric rites and rituals as  the pragmatic military culture of Rome now imposes Christianity on the known world.

 Trailer Click Arrow 

Story Extracts for You 

2. Elen of the Pathways:-

You should understand that as well as being born generations and trained as seers, members of my family have always been pathfinders – my father, Eddu, his father, Caradoc, and the grandfathers and grandmothers before him, going back seventeen generations …
… it was they who found the paths that criss-cross this island and the lands across the sea. I have learned that a thousand generations ago the pathways were slight, mere shadows in the grass, reaching out and up to the horizon …. 
… my father has told me that, like him, task is to find the paths that lead to peace between the clans and tribes and to make this island whole …
… our family has the magic and means to deal with such malevolence and impiety. I learned early from my father - and then more perfectly from my seer* teachers - that an enemy’s malevolence can expose his weak side …
·       ‘Druid’
… the intricacy of the inherited magic in my family is reflected in the stories my brother lleu and our father’s cousin Bryn – both trained by the seers – would sing by the fire after the feasting.  My father Eddu and his grandfathers were seers. They were great kings whose wisdom and power has always been known throughout the islands. I myself have skills in magic from my schooling, although I’ve not been called upon to perform the pig- or mouse-changing caper …
… my first memory of actually using magic, as opposed to knowing and learning about it, was the time I turned a girl into an owl.


Later in story…

7 A Brigante Welcome

Elen: So we reach the dense Aclet Forest and, travelling along the far end of our own straight path – now paved over by Caesar’s men – we arrive at my grandfather’s house on the eve of his summer revels.
I feel at home when I see my mother’s birthplace, clearly the house of a great Chief with its fine round hall, its round lodges, its flower-strewn temples, its cattle and sheep pens and its storehouses for wool and lead. My nose itches at the smell of smoke and roast pig and burnt honey.
 Snow leaps down to the ground and joins the other yelping dogs as they lead the way into the great shadowy hall. This is such a cheery place! Light spurts from torches lining the wall and the great central fire glints on the objects on the shelves around those walls. These are laden with family treasures of finely worked silver and gold -   beautifully wrought figures, cauldrons and buckets. The same light also flickers on the polished white skulls strung in a long line between the roof beams – the heads of the enemies of my grandfather. Some of these, I know, are those of his own grandfathers…

Later In Story  
Quintanius: Now Magnus has the girl’s hair in his hand and the maid stands up to look down at him where he sits, a scowl on her fair face. He puts her rope of hair into her hand and for a moment it looks as though he might kiss her. There is the shimmer of threat between them. Haven’t I seen that many times? I feel tense, wondering if the maid has a weapon about her. These British women are fierce and not averse to fighting as hard as their men.

Amazon Star reviews of The Pathfinder 

 *****Magnum Opus, The past has never felt so real as in the last days of Roman Britain and the uneasy peace between natives and conquerors portrayed in Wendy Robertson's 'Pathfinder'. Heroine Elen is a beautifully drawn character uniting natives with the conquerors. Pathways lead in two directions and fey Elen's 'honeycomb' mind leads back centuries into the mists of time. But she is young and resourceful and her ordained path leads from her beloved coastal marshland of West Britain into Roman Gaul when the Roma nleader of Britain Magnus Maximus falls I love with the native girl, drawing her father and warrior brothers into his military schemes.
The book is filled with believable,fascinating characters including Aunt Olwen a drowned spirit, song-writer brother Lleu and Quin the faithful Roman devoted to both Elen and Magnus Maximum. It is a delightful, thought provoking read and I could not put it down. So many questions answered so many tantalisingly left. Elen has a future in her homeland and I want to know more.  ‘Erica’
  *****Wendy Robertson is a consummate practitioner of the crossover novel, one foot in the 'now' the other in the 'then' but with this book she has planted both feet firmly on the same historical path and the results are wonderful. 'The Pathfinder' has allowed me to bury two of my reading bête noirs. One is that I don't like historical fiction, the other is that I avoid books that make me cry. However this book has confounded both of these prejudices. I loved the story, part fact, part fiction and I was genuinely moved - not manipulated- by the beauty of the writing and the incredibly sad but uplifting ending. 'Anne’

****This is an imaginative and convincing recreation of life in Roman Britain as the Empire crumbled. It reads almost like a fantasy novel, while being thoroughly grounded in careful research. ‘Helen’

 ***** What a treat! I have long been an aficionado of historical fiction, delighting in the sensation of living in another time and place. The Pathfinder transported me to a world of otherness, a world permeated by myths and mysteries, a world with vastly differing constructs of reality. Within this well researched novel I glimpsed not only the land of my forefathers but the people who populated it, people who came to life as they lived and loved in a country I know well but within a historical context I barely understood. Wendy Robertson is to be congratulated on her diligent research of a less well known era of British history, alongside her capacity to take the reader from a daily world dominated by scientific concepts of the 21st century to the magical ethos permeating pre and post Roman Britain. I walked in Elen's shoes. I observed through her eyes, I empathized with her feelings - all thanks to the skill of the writer.’ Judith Mary’

(I would thank Clive Johnson for his meticulous proofreading of The Pathfinder. All us creative types need a meticulous proofreader...)

Press Reviews of my Work  

 ‘A terrific read. A world on the cusp of change and we experience it intimately.’ Historical Novels Review.
 ‘A powerful writer.’    Mail on Sunday.
  ‘Wonderful…Robertson deftly intertwines two time periods, slowly absorbing one into the other through the remarkably likeable protagonist.’   Booklist USA.
 ‘A great storyteller… she weaves another tale with ideas that still resonate when the story’s over.’ Northern Echo.
 ‘Wendy Robertson is a rare breed – a writer with an exquisite gift for creating vivid, relatable characters.’ Scottish Daily Record.

Note: ‘ In The Pathfinder I have taken the available material and archeological history of late fourth century Britain and addressed the powerful pre-Arthurian myths of Macsen Wledig and the British princess Elen. My intention is to weave a story that has hope, truth and justice at its heart.’ Also I have used the word ‘Seers’, where others would have said ‘Druids’ to avoid stereotypimg
Wendy Robertson


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