My New Little Garden

I moved house recently and have a garden for the very first time. It’s titchy and was covered in ivy which we spent hours hacking down. I have no idea what’s growing in it – what I thought was a weed is actually honeysuckle. There’s a toad the size of a baby rabbit living under a rock and more snails than it’s possible to count. But I’ve become quite obsessed with cultivating this little patch and have spent amounts of money in Squires Garden Centre that I can’t even justify in And Other Stories!

The result is this…

A huge cold water tank of earth. And a sink to match. (I can claim no credit for the already growing green-leafed plants which were the handy work of the people at Squires).

You can’t see it but there are a million different types of bulbs and seeds in these two containers. My money is under that soil. 98% of me thinks not a lot is going to happen. 2% (which is secretly dominant) thinks I’m going to get a riotous cascade of colour and blooms to rival anything I was forced to watch on Gardeners’ World as a child.

I thought you might be interested in sharing this journey. (If not, at the least you can snigger when nothing happens). And I will report back to all of you waiting with baited breath…

xx

More than just a book!

It’s that time of year again when the sun is shining (when it isn’t raining) and there are barbecues planned for bank holiday weekends. I’m tentatively thinking about wearing shorts as the forecast says it’ll be 25 degrees by the weekend (but some fake tan is in order because these legs haven’t seen daylight for a long time!) And I’m dreaming about which book I will read as I’m sipping a gin and tonic in the garden. I have a four year old son so this last bit is most definitely a dream. Someone told me recently that when you buy a book what you’re buying is the time to read it. The hope of that time. Never has anything felt truer. I have a stack of time by my bed just ready and waiting! But, as the evenings get longer and holidays are on the horizon, those spare moments to read feel suddenly within grasp. My problem is that instead of reading what I already own, I’ll celebrate by slipping a paperback in with my Sainsbury’s shop or nipping into Waterstones for a book-sized treat. After all, you can never have too much time.

Here’s what’s on my bedside table at the mo… What’s on yours?

(And if you’re looking for a book to escape with then The Summerhouse by the Sea is only 99p at the moment on Amazon. In those pages, I promise, the sun is shining and the
waves are lapping and you’ll feel like you’ve got all the time in the world… )

Why I love The Sunshine and Biscotti Club (which is out now, incidentally) …

The Hotel Limoncello, owned by Libby and venue for The Sunshine and Biscotti Club, stands alongside the tranquil blue waters of a stunning Italian lake. Fringed with lemon groves and pine trees, it’s picture perfect and the best place to cool off when the sun gets that little bit too hot.

The inspiration behind it? Well, I have a bit of a love affair with lakes and rivers.

Much of my youth was spent in a rowing boat – going up and down the Thames in the freezing cold early morning. But as I got older, and better at rowing, I went further afield to the winding river of sunny Seville in Spain; a swimming pool turquoise lake in Munich, Germany; the deep, icy mist-laden waters of Switzerland and the picturesque beauty spots of France, Austria and Italy. When we raced in Italy, in the sharp blue water of the mountains, a lake surrounded with tiny villages perched precariously as if they might slip, it was so hot that we would dunk our caps and t-shirts in the lake before we went out for a paddle, water pouring down our arms and legs just to keep cool.

Lake rowing

These lakes and rivers made a map of Europe for me. The towns I never saw, just the water. And now, years later, when I go on holiday, I drag us to a lake nearby – that I once saw only through a mirage of pre-race nerves or the endless laps of a training camp – and see it afresh, with eyes no longer focused only on the boat but instead the trees and the beaches and the cafes.

Lake st croix

Last year we went to the lake in The Sunshine and Biscotti Club. Once one of the regatta lakes in my past. Now a tranquil sea of blue so clear we could spot the fish swimming. White ducks drifted past through air made wobbly from heat. There was music from a cool, hipster café that served hot dogs and beer in condensation covered glasses. We swam in water that was flat and calm and strangely heavy without the buoyant salt of the sea.

Lake coca cola

This time there were no megaphones, no starter guns, no crippling nerves and wild adrenaline. No oars, no racing kit, no spectator stands, no medals. Just the gentle lapping of waves on pebbles, the splash of a dive, the quack of a duck and the thump of the hipster beats.

This is the lake that I dream about when it’s wet and cold and raining in England. This is the lake in The Sunshine and Biscotti Club that forms the backdrop to the lives of Libby, Eve and Jessica as they reignite wary friendships, renovate the dilapidated Hotel Limoncello, dust off forgotten baking skills, and, in the warmth of the sun and under a canopy of lemon trees, re-evaluate what they have, what they had and what they need for a future that is stronger than their pasts.

Quick run to your local bookshop or supermarket to buy a copy or straight to your phone, Kindle or Kobo ereader to download! 😉IMG_5416

Instagram. Come and be my friend (or at the very least have a snoop at my photos).

I have a new phone. It’s a life-changer. My old phone was very bad. Its lack of memory meant that every time I took a photo I had to cross my fingers and hope it would let me take another. One of my tech-savvy friends once looked at it and considered how quaint my lack of apps was. It was the phone, the phone’s fault, I told her, it has no memory! Having said that, I don’t actually have much use for the humble app. But I do love a photo and I do really LOVE Instagram. So please, come follow and have a look. Unfollow if I drive you mad but otherwise hopefully just enjoy the inane snaps of my writing life.

http://www.instagram.com/jenoliverbooks

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xxx

#griplit

I’m having a bit of a #griplit moment. Storming through Paula Hawkins’ Girl on the Train, Maestra by L.S. Hilton, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris and Disclaimer by Renee Knight.

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With books like this I can’t seem to pause when reading, I just have to know exactly what happened and who did it. My life gets put on hold as I turn pages faster than any other reading. I stay up way too late then get scared when I do finally go to bed because I’m in the suspense mindset.

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I find myself mistrustful of all my friends and family if I see them too quickly after putting the book down. Then I get so involved that I start skimming (very bad!) and then have to go back because I’ve missed crucial plot points. I am a very impatient #griplit reader!

In contrast I’ve also just finished Jilly Cooper’s The Common Years which I loved so much that I stopped reading it three quarters of the way through because I didn’t want it to end.

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Funny isn’t it? What different genres can do.

Now I need a new book, though, because I read all the psychological suspense so quickly. Any suggestions?

Why I Heart Spring…

1. Daffodils. daffsThey are by far my favourite flower. Great big trumpeting bursts of yellow. I love them. I used to row when I was younger and I remember one day passing all these beautiful daffodils on the river bank and then from a distance watching two people run down and pick them all! When we came back there were none left. It was so sad.
But I think it’s what made me love them so much and appreciate a bunch when I see them in the park – unpicked.

2. Ducklingwatch! I get quite transfixed by the little ducklings round the pond – and really protective. I always do a quick count to check that they’re still OK and no foxes have got them!ducklings

3. The luxury of not having to carry gloves, a hat and a scarf – just an umbrella!

magnolia

 

 

4. The magnolia tree I can see from my bedroom window. I watch the buds get bigger as winter fades and spring begins.

5. The smell in the air when you step outside in the morning. It’s the scent of bright sunshine meets cool dawn and green leaves. The drawback is that it always makes me feel like I’m going to school.

Let me know what I’ve missed? And what you love…