MarySmith’sPlace – Sunset poetry walk update

Yesterday afternoon/evening, Keith Kirk and I led a dozen participants (the event was limited to 12 people so it was actually a sell-out) on the sunset poetry walk organised as part of CatStrand’s Inspiring Writers project, Ken Words.

CatStrand is a multi-arts centre in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway, which offers an amazing programme of music, theatre, cinema, dance and visual arts as well as being a venue for all manner of classes and workshops. They draw a wonderful and eclectic list of performers: Judie Tzuke who headlines Glastonbury, The Unthanks and pop icon Kiki Dee – all this in a village with a population of less than 350.

Inspiring Words brings all CatStrand’s literature-focused events and activities under one umbrella. Events include writers Margaret Elphinstone and James Robertson in conversation about their historical fiction; film and poetry workshops, and events such as the sunset poetry walk.

Our sunset poetry walk took place on the Threave Estate and it was fabulous. It was cold – very cold – but crucially, it was a clear evening, didn’t rain and we did get to see the sun setting.

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You can tell this is my photo and not one of Keith’s. Sigh.

We also saw starlings gathering before they flew off to join the great murmuration which takes place just outside the town. Keith has uploaded some fantastic photos and videos  on Facebook of the starlings. Keith pointed out a badger sett. We saw roe deer, heard – some of us – geese, listened to the River Dee.

We stood opposite the great bulk of Threave Castle while I gave a very brief potted history – a full account of the castle’s history, and more importantly, the stories of the Black Douglas dynasty would take up the entire time of the event. Threave walk (Custom)

We took longer than anticipated on the walk because everyone was so fascinated and had so many questions. Going for a walk in the countryside with Keith is a wonderful thing, especially as he is so happy to share his knowledge.

I have to say I found standing in silence in the deepening dark with a dozen people, all our senses tuning into the falling night, quite a moving experience.

A moving experience of a different kind occurred as we walked back to the visitor centre and encountered a herd of young cows which was not there when we set out. They had wandered onto our path – for some reason they were in a field with no gate – and had to be moved to allow us to continue.

Back at the visitor centre tea and shortbread were produced by the event organiser, Jane McBeth and Andrew Mellor while the serious work of translating the experiences into words.

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I will never wear this jacket again! That’s all padding, honest. Jacket padding!

What was really special was that everyone – new writers, established poets, artists – enthusiastically took part in the workshop and everyone shared what they’d written with the group. Keith was astonished at how twelve people on the same walk together produced twelve very different accounts of their experiences.

At the end Jane handed out specially produced postcards of Keith’s sunset at Threave Castle photo,

Threave Castle on the River Dee near Castle Douglas at sunset

Threave Castle on the River Dee near Castle Douglas at sunset, photo by Keith Kirk Photographer

with an envelope and stamp so that people can send in their edited work so that it is not lost – perhaps displayed on the walls at CatStrand or perhaps a poetry pamphlet?

We are already talking about repeating the event next year – in the summer.


MarySmith’sPlace – Sunset Poetry Walk

My collaborator on Secret Dumfries, Keith Kirk and I are teaming up to take people on a sunset poetry walk at Threave Castle near Castle Douglas.  It’s on Sunday, November 25.

With Threave Castle as a backdrop, we will lead a twilight walk along the banks of the River Dee.

Wildlife expert and photographer Keith Kirk will talk about the wildlife which inhabits the area and once the sun has set and it is dark he will enable participants to see the night in a completely different light with the aid of thermal and night vision cameras.

We will pause from time to time to simply listen and absorb the evening sounds and scents. Opposite the castle, I’ll talk briefly about its fascinating history and maybe share a poem or two. And we’ll watch the sun go down – or banks of grey clouds gathering above the castle. Either way, it’s sure to be atmospheric.

Threave Castle on the River Dee near Castle Douglas at sunset

Sunset at Threave Castle. Picture Credit: Keith Kirk


When we return to the visitor centre, I’ll be encouraging participants to think about the sensory experiences they’ve shared on the walk and write their own response to the landscape and season in poetry or prose.

It is a short walk on a well-defined, fairly level path from the carpark to the Castle Hide. A short stretch can flood if we’ve had lots of rain – like today – so sturdy, waterproof footwear is required as well as warm waterproof clothing.

Anyone coming on the poetry walk should also bring a notebook and pencil. We’ll meet indoors at the National Trust Visitor Centre (by Threave Castle carpark) from 3.15, ready to start walking at 3.30.

Booking a place (£5) can be done online at (no booking fee) or by phone: 01644 420 374

I think we might be ever so slightly mad to think this is a good idea – but it should be fun.DSCF0989 (Custom)

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – #Christmas author and blog promotions 2018 – It’s party time again.

Sally Cronin is very generously offering a wonderful Christmas showcase for authors.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

It might only be mid-November but with 160 authors in the Cafe and Bookstore that all will be included in the Christmas promotions..This includes existing authors on the shelves and any new authors who join them from now to December 25th.

Here is how to let me know about your Christmas release

Author in the Cafe and Bookstore already.

Please send me the link to your book on Amazon – available or on pre-order to…. I have all your details on record.

New author to the Cafe and Bookstore.

  1. Link to Amazon for the book (preferably your author page even if you only have one book this is an essential marketing tool and makes it a great deal easier for people like myself who are promoting your work) Also if you have a central book link site on your blog or website that is useful.
  2. If you do not…

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MarySmith’sPlace – Cold Callers – don’t we love to hate them?

For some reason our caller display has given up showing the number of whoever is calling. Instead it shows this less than helpful message: ‘Incoming call’ so I don’t know if it’s my sister wanting to go for a walk or someone wanting to sell me something or offer to fix my computer.  DSC01004 (Custom)

Once I’ve picked up. I’m usually pretty quick at identifying if it’s someone trying a scam or a sales pitch. I adopt my best telephone voice and tell them, very politely, that we don’t take cold calls. One caller last week was too quick for me. Even before I could put the phone down Michelle was telling me she was not a cold caller (I don’t remember ever giving her my number and asking her call me, therefore in my book she’s a cold caller), wasn’t selling anything and, in fact, was able to offer ways to save money on our heating bills – if she could just ask a couple of questions.

‘There’s no point,’ I said. ‘Don’t let’s waste my time and yours – you could be making another, possibly more successful, call.’

‘But, don’t you want to save money?’

‘I already know we are not eligible for any of these schemes.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because we’ve been through all this before – we’re not eligible for grants for new boilers or windows and our roof faces the wrong way for solar panels.’

‘Well, I don’t know which company told you this. We’ve never called you before. Please, can I just ask a couple of quick questions?’

I sigh. Why hadn’t I put the phone down?  Why don’t I just hang up now? It feels rude, somehow. ‘Okay, quick questions,’ I said.

I can almost hear her smile down the line.

‘Are your windows five, ten of fifteen years old?’

‘Five.’ This time I can definitely hear her sigh.

‘Ok, okay. What about your doors – are they five, ten…’

‘One’s about a hundred and seventy years old.’

‘Oh, do you live in a listed building or conservation area?’

‘No.’ but, now I know how to reply to future cold callers – sorry; we live in a listed building.

‘Is it your back door?’


‘Front door?’


‘Well, we can definitely help with that,’ she says triumphantly. ‘Is your front door made from wood, aluminium or pvc?’

‘It’s about one hundred and seventy years old.’

‘Oh, right, they wouldn’t have pvc doors then.’ She giggles. Nor aluminium, I think, but don’t say. ‘Well, I know we can help on this. You’ll definitely be eligible for help with a new door.’

‘But, I don’t want a new door. I like my front door.’

She’s not listening. ‘I have Kevin here beside me and he can talk you through the options. I’ll just put him on.’

A new voice booms in my ear – so horrendously cheerful and upbeat I know he can’t possibly have heard our conversation. ‘Delighted to speak to you, Mrs Smith. How are you today?’

‘A bit ticked off, actually. I told your colleague we’d be wasting our time pursuing this but she insisted and I wasn’t quick enough to put the phone down politely.’

Kevin sighs, ‘Well, I’m sorry to hear that. I can cut this call immediately.’

‘Oh, thank you, please do.’ He already has. Sensible man, Kevin, knows when it’s a lost cause. I fear he might be having words with Michelle, though, about wasting time.

MarySmith’sPlace – Ermita of La Gomera

While on La Gomera we enjoyed visiting some of the many small chapels to be found all around the island.

The day after a very long trek we decided on a rest day with a visit to the folk museum in Hermigua, which was fascinating. As we left, I noticed a signpost to the chapel of San Juan. It was just under a kilometre so I persuaded the DH we should visit it. I mean, 0.9 kilometres is not even a proper walk, is it? Except this was vertical rather than horizontal and it was a hot day and, as we hadn’t expected to be mountain climbing, we had no water.

We made it, though. Just before the final few steps we found what we thought was some kind of café. Plates of food piled on a counter and a woman sitting at a table. We greeted her and sat down. Silence reigned. Eventually, I asked if she had water. She opened the door of what looked a clay oven and produced a bottle of water which we drank gratefully. It was only then it began to dawn on us this wasn’t a café. The woman explained it was her daughter’s birthday and they were having a party beside the chapel. She was waiting for the guests to arrive. She was so kind, offering us food and inviting us to join in the celebrations. We declined and moved on to the chapel and the viewpoint, which offered fantastic views down the valley. And, there was a road, so we could have driven up to the chapel, as she had, and the guests we saw arriving.

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Chapel of San Juan, above Hermigua


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Looking down on Hermigua from the chapel

I won’t take you on a tour of all the chapels we visited (they were all closed anyway) but my favourite one is definitely worth a virtual visit. The tiny chapel of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes is found deep in the ancient forest near El Cedro – and it is possibly the only one to which you can’t drive. You have to go on foot but as it isn’t vertical it is a delightful walk through a wonderful forest.

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It is an enchanting setting amongst the trees with a stream running close by and picnic tables.

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Nuestra Senora de Lourdes (Our Lady of Lourdes), El Cedro

Nearby, water gushes from a magic tree!  DSC00676 (Custom)

What I found most fascinating is that it was founded in 1935 by an English woman, Florence Stephen Parry. I couldn’t find more information about her until I came home and eventually found a couple of blog posts and websites which filled in some of the details of her life.

After she lost her fiancé in World War One she moved to Gran Canaria where she had English friends. Somehow she ended up becoming governess to the children of Mario Novaro Parodi, a wealthy Italian who owned a fish on La Gomera at La Cantera. She converted to Catholicism in 1924.

When her job with the children ended she moved to the village of Hermigua where she joined the Fyffe’s fruit company which exported bananas and tomatoes from La Gomera. While living in Hermigua, Florence referred to locally as Dona Florencia often visited El Cedro. When she retired she built what was known as The House of Peace (I’ve still not been able to identify this building) in Hermigua and set about bringing to fruition her ambition to build a chapel near El Cedro dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.

The chapel was inaugurated in 1935 and for many years the last Sunday in August saw one of the island’s most important Fiestas being celebrated. It was a huge event with feasting and drumming and dancing. People brought food to cook and share and stayed overnight and it seems to have been a celebration of Our Lady of Lourdes, La Gomera folk traditions and Dona Florencia.


Inauguration of the chapel in 1935. Florence Stephen Parry is on the left in patterned dress and hat. Picture from 


The first Fiesta at the chapel of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes Picture source as previous image.

Sadly, in 1984, twenty men lost their lives in a forest fire a few miles away and it was been decided it was too dangerous to continue the fiesta in the same way. Nowadays, a mass is held in the chapel, there’s a picnic and a procession accompanied with singing and drums through the forest to the village where everyone meets to celebrate as they have done since 1935.

Florence moved to Tenerife where she died in 1964. A plaque on her tiny chapel asks people to pray for her. I really want to find out more about her!

The blog posts I found from which I learned something about the life of Florence Stephen Parry are: La Gomera Blogspot and Scottish Catholic Observer


#BookLaunch – Tales from the Irish Garden by Sally Cronin…..

I’m delighted to share the news that Sally Cronin’s latest book, Tales from the Irish Garden, is now out. Lovely!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

At last the day has arrived and Tales from the Irish Garden is now available.

The book has been three years in the writing, mainly because what began as short stories in line with the first collection, turned into a full-length book. As we moved back from Spain to Ireland, house hunted, and then embarked on a renovation project, there were breaks from  the process. However, the upside was that I had the time to adapt and create new characters and adventures with more freedom. It also gave me time to meet Donata Zawadzka, courtesy of Paul Andruss, and after seeing her wonderful illustrations, I commissioned a number for the book to showcase some of the lead characters. More about Donata shortly.

Many of those that lived in the palace in Spain in the garden of our house, followed me across land and sea to settle in a magic…

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#ReleaseDayNews – The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody Is Now Available!

I showed the cover reveal for Marcia Meara’s latest book, The Emissary 2, and now I’m sharing the news the book is out!

The Write Stuff

The past year has been one of writing in fits and starts and changing books in mid-stream. It was the first time I’ve set aside one draft to start another, and the first year in which I have only finished one book. So far. But today, I’m very happy to say that The Emisssary 2: To Love Somebody is now available for download on Amazon. 

How It All Came About:

After I published my second Riverbend novel, Finding Hunter, I began receiving a lot of questions about Gabe Angelino, a trucker who played a pivotal role in the story. It appears Willow wasn’t the only one who thought he might be a real angel instead of just a good man. At every local event, someone invariably asked me about that mysterious trucker, so I decided I better do something about it. But what?

I considered the idea for a while, then…

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