What you learn in the pub quiz…

I was a big fan of Bananarama… and yet tonight in the pub quiz, I forgot all I knew and it was only thanks that team ice-cream remembered that we got the answer right!!!

It was written by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield, William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Edward Holland, Jr. in 1964 and it was previously a hit for the Velvelettes. If you like Bananarama, you might recognise Fun Boy Three doing the bgv – background vocals!


St Patrick and a local legend

St Patrick’s Day – and since learning I have a significant percentage of Irish DNA I feel justified in celebrating as someone with green blood in their veins! I am wearing my ‘Tóg go bog é‘ t-shirt, and no doubt later I will sample some Guinness and maybe a  uisce beatha or two too!

As I now live in Somerset it is even better that St Patrick himself was born not far from here, in Banwell a little further along the Mendip chain from our little village of Uphill, at the mouth of the River Axe which follows the course of the hills. Of course, plenty of other places in England, Wales and further north lay claim to being Patrick’s birthplace, but I’m sure this was the place the pirates who kidnapped him came up the river to snatch him and others to sell into slavery.

Henry Jelley wrote this “It is my view that Patrick was in fact born in south-western England, in Somerset, at or near the village of Banwell, five miles east of Weston-super-Mare. A settlement of late Roman date is known in the area. The archaeology of the region, which was highly Romanised, suggests Somerset was a plausible location for Patrick’s family estate – unlike some of the remoter locations suggested – while placename evidence supports a Somerset location directly.”

Here is an article about it – and you can buy Henry’s book:




Oh and ‘tóg go bog é’ means ‘take it easy‘!


The mystery of Great-Aunt Caroline

My husband had always been told by his father, the story that his great-great-aunt had run a pub in Gosport in Hampshire. His father, he doesn’t think had ever been to the pub, but he knew the name of it and the fact that Caroline had been the landlady.

So last weekend, we visited Gosport, found the pub, took pictures and went inside and had a pleasant couple of hours chatting with the friendly people there. We weren’t exactly sure when Caroline had been in residence, and whether she was here when the present building was in existence (probably built about a hundred years ago) or whether she had been landlady of the previous pub of the same name which had had a thatched roof and had burned down.

We were very pleased with our adventure but it was only when we were back at our hotel and I tried to pin down Caroline and the pub when I found a difficulty. I could find no trace of her listed as landlady, and what is more I could only find details of her life in Portsmouth where she and her husband had a shop not far from where Charles Dickens was born. Maybe it was her daughter, also Caroline, maybe young Caroline had the pub with her husband George… but no, I couldn’t find any connection between her and the pub.

So what had gone wrong with the story my husband’s father had told him? He was so sure of the name, so sure of the pub’s name and location… where had the error arisen? I ferreted about a bit more in the details I already had, to see if there was another Caroline somewhere in the family tree… and yes… I came across an even more distant woman, a great-great-great-aunt of my husband, a Caroline but not with his surname, his great-great-great paternal grandfather’s sister. Could she be the woman who had the pub? back then it would have been the one with the thatched roof… I must investigate further!

I have not given surnames but I will when the story is complete – even if I don’t find the answer!

I have written several novels, the Radwinter series about a  character who solves fictional genealogical mysteries… If you haven’t read them yet, here is a link to them and my other e-books:


Tasmanian adventure – quiz night at the Duke!

Even when we are away on holiday, the combination of a great pub, great food, great beer and a quiz is unmissable! We had seen a nice looking pub, the Duke – actually The Duke of Wellington Hotel, on one of our tours, so one evening we toddled up the road from our hotel to have dinner. Unfortunately we hadn’t quite grasped at this point that Hobartians are early birds compared to us… we might go out for a meal at nine, or even ten, out to the pub at ten or ten-thirty, so when we walked into the restaurant part of the Duke just before nine, it was coming to the end of service, but the lovely waitress assured us we could just be squeezed in.

We had two enormous and delicious pizzas – two between us, not two each, obviously! We had a Jumbuck which has a topping of the most delicious slow braised lamb, roasted mushrooms, caramelised onion, feta cheese and kalamata olives, and a Woodcutters which has a topping of salami, chorizo, bacon, pancetta, spanish onion & crumbled mature cheddar on a barbecue base – they were so good! Combinations of ingredients we had never seen on a pizza before.

We got into conversation with the friendly people as we had a few drinks afterwards and found that not only is there regular live music, but there is also a weekly quiz! We felt a little out of practice having missed our weekly quiz at the Dolphin in our little village, so we resolved to come back to the Duke for another lovely meal and join in the quiz.

…which we did! We sat down for dinner, along with many others, potential quizzers we decided; I had salt and togarashi squid, followed by six-hour smoked ribs (the most yummy thing you can imagine!), my husband had Tasmanian Scotch fillet and I think he had that with red wine jus… followed by the self saucing pudding – which is a raspberry pudding with Chantilly cream , honeycomb, vanilla bean ice cream, dusted with beetroot and finished with vanilla floss – sounds extraordinary to our unadventurous minds but he assured me it was delicious and there wasn’t a splodgle or a splash or a smear of anything left on his plate!

Armed with our pens we left the dining area and were shown by a friendly lady to some seats, right near the bar – she obviously saw what sort of people we were! The quiz master was a great character, very comical, very quick and really welcoming to us. I think most of the other teams were locals and regulars because there was a lot of banter and jokes flying. There were three rounds, and although we didn’t win (hardly likely as there were only two of us and some of the teams were much bigger, also there were quite a few questions as you would expect which were about Tasmanian or Australian subjects which we didn’t know) we didn’t come last. However the main thing was we had a really wonderful time and felt most welcome.

One thing which surprised and amused us… as soon as the quiz finished all the contestants deserted the pub. So there was only us, the quiz-master and the staff there! In the Dolphin people keep sitting around chatting and having another odd pint until time is called and we almost have to be kicked out! However, we stayed for a while, had a nice chat,  another drink, and then walked down the hill to our hotel. What a very splendid evening!

If you are in Hobart – even if you don’t go to the quiz, go to the Duke for its excellent beer, wine and food – and live music if you’re lucky!


Blue Sky

Pub night tonight, and we wandered down as usual and ordered a couple of pints of the fabulous Otter… really there is no beer to match it! In the Dolphin and had a nice chat with people behind the bar, waved at a few friends, and then just – as usual, stood chatting to each other about just about everything, music, art, friends, our recent holiday in Tasmania, beer, pubs, Australian TV, cricket, books, writing… the usual…

There was a particularly lovely selection of music playing on the jukebox, including this absolute classic… We have seen so much really blue sky while we have been away….

Tasmanian adventure – Hobart

We left the airport in a shuttle bus; the driver was accompanied by a friendly bloke called Phil, the first of many friendly Phils we came across. As she drove us speedily towards the city of Hobart, Phil gave us a potted history of the city and the island, a story we would hear many times, but never tired of because each teller was so full of enthusiasm and love for the country, and pride in the people.

We drove upwards between a landscape which would become very familiar, sandy rocks, dark trees with curious coloured trunks and branches, and then we crested the hill, and there was the city, like a jewel, sparkling in the lovely sunshine. We whizzed along, past areas of housing, small single story villas with corrugated iron roofs, which I had seen in pictures so often. It reminded me of one of the Babar the elephant books I’d had when I was young, when Babar built a town, which he called after his wife, Celestville – ‘Come and see Celestville, most beautiful of towns!‘ – these homes we were passing reminded me of that.

We passed a sign for Cambridge, not only named after my home town, but the place where Sullivans Cove Whisky is distilled, named as the world’s best whisky twice! Then we were crossing the Tasman Bridge and we heard for the first time about the disaster… I do vaguely remember it happening, in 1975, on January 5th thirty-two years to the day we were crossing it, a tanker ran into several of the support pylons. It was a bulk carrier, the Lake Illawarra,  and on board was 10,000 tonnes of zinc ore concentrate. The ship was going upstream, up the Derwent River to the Electrolytic Zinc Company at Risdon, about three kilometres away. The captain apparently wasn’t paying full attention and tried to go through a too narrow part of the bridge and crashed. The ship sank within a few minutes, drowning seven of the crew. Meanwhile, up above, a section of the bridge collapsed, and despite the brave efforts of a man to slow and top on-coming traffic, several cars plunged over the edge and five people were drowned.

There are many safety measures in place to carry traffic safely across the rebuilt bridge, and we crossed over and descended into the city. My nose was pressed against the window as I tried to take everything and listen to Phil’s commentary at the same time. beautiful old buildings, the sea, trees and parks, and then we were pulling up outside the Travelodge, our holiday home.

New Year’s Eve… and into 2017

So… we were delighted to be invited round to our friends Charlie and Wendy for a New Year’s Eve party; it’s something of a tradition, and the food is always wonderful (chilli, spaghetti bolognese or veggie bolognese tonight) the company is always grand (neighbours and friends) and it’s always a great way to begin to usher in New Year.

As well as Charlie and Wendy, Breeze the dog was host to his chums, Mollie the Westie who had a splendid haircut (short over her back and shoulders and with a lovely ‘skirt’ round her legs) and a pink collar, a beautiful Staffie cross rescued dog, and Gerry a terrier who was wearing a very smart tie (yes a tie) We chatted to various people and had various conversations about people working in sensitive jobs (i.e. secret) the impact of the Normans on England after 1066, the potato famine in Ireland, education, Richard III… you know, those sort of things…

Sadly we had to leave to go to meet with other friends, but the party then went down to the beach and lit fireworks and watched the displays across the Bristol Channel in Wales, and those close to Uphill on the Grand Pier in Weston. Meanwhile, we walked back to the Dolphin.

There were plenty of friends in, neighbours, pub people, book club friends… new friends who we had never met before but who embraced us warmly… There was music, a band plus Phil, the one and only Phil, cook, bar person, lovely guy – and amazing singer!!!

The magic hour approached and the time was called and we all rushed outside; I have no idea how many we were, maybe forty maybe more, but we stood at the junction and formed a rather lopsided circle as Nigel, the chief time-keeper, counted down. The witching hour came, and under the stars we sang Auld Lang Syne and then embraced friends and strangers and wished each other well. Phones rang, my son and his gorgeous girlfriend wishing us Happy New Year, my daughter sending love, my cousin, my friends…

There was a general milling about and I got in conversation with a man I had never met before who I think was a stranger to the village, but was delighted and amazed by the pub. The Canadian barman Tom, a lovely young man, came over and we had a conversation about travelling and his plans, and the Ukraine, and the stranger joined in, fascinated.

Back in the pub there was more conversation – the strange coincidence that my book club friend actually knew a lot of people who I knew, overlapping circles she said! My husband went to the other bar to listen to the band and I stayed catching up with messages from friends and chatting to people. People began to drift away and my husband returned and the lovely bar person who had a leopard costume and face paint, and her hair done up to look like animal ears, came – undoing her hair with great relief,  and we had an interesting conversation about sell-by dates on food, artificial additives, sweeteners, butter…

More people began to leave, more hugs, and our drinks finished, we too, said goodbye to those left,and set off back home. In our little village you can walk down the middle of the road, and that is what we did.

Home and what seemed a good idea? A whiskey for him as he had been drinking beer, and a glass (or two) of port for me… what a wonderful introduction to 2017!!