Review: Rydale Boots

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The boots have been supplied by Rydale for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

September! The start of my favourite season of the year – Autumn. Living in the south east of England, I love the warm, sunny days and the cooler nights; I love the changing colours of the countryside; but I think my favourite reason of all is that it heralds the start of “boot” season! I love my boots but I never feel comfortable wearing boots in summer – I do have an open toe heeled pair of boots but it isn’t the same. I like to wear my thick tights or socks with a pair of comfortable boots. So, I was so excited to receive a pair of uber cool suede chelsea style boots to review from outdoor country clothing and footwear company, Rydale.

Ladies Kirby II Heeled Suede Chelsea Boots in Brown/Plum

Rydale is a family company established in 1954 by John Nichols and now it is in the 3rd generation, still based in the heart of Yorkshire. John Nichols was inspired by a true passion for the country lifestyle and today Rydale’s ranges of outdoor country clothing, footwear and accessories for men, women and children are truly impressive. Their website features traditional wax jackets, tweed coats, flat caps, jodhpurs, riding boots alongside skinny jeans and, my favourite, the Chelsea Boot. Rydale has invested heavily into waste management and recycling. To offset their small carbon footprint, Rydale have created a woodland and have so far planted over 10,000 trees. All Rydale’s products are inspired and designed in Yorkshire – with an emphasis on quality, reliability and style…. so did the Chelsea Boots live up to the hype??

What a silly question! They were all that I hoped and more! Let’s look more closely at Rydale’s claims…

  1. Quality. These boots are made of the finest soft suede leather fabric and the comfortable faux leather padded interior gave the boots an almost slipper feel. I took the boots for a day and night continuous “road test” – walking around villages and fields during the day and a restaurant meal in the evening. As the heel is only low, it came as no surprise that my feet didn’t ache. What really impressed me was that they felt like slippers and weren’t clunky or cumbersome; they didn’t rub my heel nor squashed my toes; and the boot has a slightly narrow fit which suits me as I have narrow feet and am forever slipping and sliding in standard/wider footwear. 10/10

2. Reliability. Obviously they are suede boots so not suitable for wearing in wet or snowy conditions. Rydale recommend cleaning with a suede protector spray. The boots have a rubber sole – I can only presume that they will be ok on an icy surface – but temperatures here are hovering around 25°C at the moment it was hard to road test the slipability factor.

3. Style. These boots definitely have the style X factor! These boots are an updated version of the original Kirby boots – which are also pretty stylish – and the colourways on offer are pretty scrumptious. My pair are in brown/plum; the other colours in the Kirby II style are Dark Green/Plum and Navy/Plum. I do so love the contrasting elasticated panel – the Plum colour is so on trend this year. 10/10

WEAR WITH…..

I like to wear mine with skinny jeans – in denim of all colours. Rydale do a range of skinny jeans – “Portia” – in a variety of colours from navy denim to berry. I particularly liked the Chelsea boots with Rydale’s dark brown jodhpurs – made a refreshing change from wearing them with traditional riding boots. Don’t be scared of pairing these boots with thick tights and a short tweed skirt; or embrace the current boho trend and wear with a long flowing 1970s style dress …. the possibilities are endless.

Like the boots?

Check out Rydale’s website and feast your eyes on some lovely footwear and clothing. https://www.rydale.com

Delivery of items are quick and postage costs are pretty reasonable too – I especially appreciate the fast delivery option of 1-2 working days – I get impatient waiting for goods!! The good news for my international friends is that Rydale ship to a wide range of destinations in Europe, America and beyond.

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Thank you Rydale for introducing me to your gorgeous footwear range! I’m in love!!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

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Steampunk Day At Bressingham

In July, my husband, myself and our teenage sons went on a day trip to Bressingham – a sort of steam railway/museum/gardens centre near Diss, in Norfolk. Finding a place that would amuse us all as a family, avoiding theme parks, is becoming harder now my boys are teenagers. Having not been to Bressingham before, and we all like steam trains, it seemed an ideal place to visit. The added attraction was that it was “Steampunk Weekend” too – but I was unaware of this until we arrived ….

Bressingham

So, what is Steampunk? According to the Oxford dictionary it is “A style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction”… According to Wikipedia, “Steampunk is a sub genre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery.” I first noticed as we arrived at 10am glamorous women in Victorian lace up boots and long corset style gothic/Victoriana style dresses… men in dapper jackets … top hats and goggles . I thought they must be members of staff …. I thought Bressingham was just about steam railways ….but then I realised they were members of the public mingling in the queue alongside those in bog standard shorts and t shirts. I did feel underdressed!

My 14 year old son Jack was hooked – he immediately purchased a top hat that was customised for him whilst we looked around Bressingham and we was able to pick it up later. My youngest son settled for some groovy goggles. I enjoyed looking at the beautiful bodices being sold on the stalls … and I enjoyed admiring the gorgeous outfits being worn.

Bressingham itself is a great place to visit, with or without a special event going on, but the Steampunk event certainly added a special air to the place. Bressingham consists of many parts: Bressingham Rides, Bressingham Gardens, Bressingham Museum.

Bressingham Rides

We were lucky because on the day we visited all 3 railway lines with their impressive steam locomotives were running . The railway lines covered the woodland area, around the gardens and around the perimeter of the site. The working locomotives were all different and the journey times were longer than the usual miniature railway ride.

However, the large Victorian steam galloper occupies a prominent position near the entrance, and although my youngest son had his leg strapped up as he had broken his foot, with a bit of help, he was able to ride on the horse alongside his dad and brother. In fact, him and his brother had quite a few gos over the course of the day. I must admit, the merry-go-round looked lovely but it made me feel dizzy just watching let alone riding on it. I stayed at the side, holding Ethan’s crutches and taking photos.

There was an old fashioned fairground full of penny machines, hoopla stalls and other attractions of the Victorian age. A small crazy golf course was a lot of laughs and at £2 per person provided a good half hour’s entertainment as we battled it out between ourselves to see who would become the family champion …. my husband came first, I came 2nd…

Bressingham Gardens

The gardens are renowned worldwide for their horticultural excellence – there are four linking gardens displaying over 8,000 species and varieties within its 17 acres. The gardens are privately owned by the, appropriately named, Bloom family. Adrian Bloom and his father, Alan, have each created a 6 acre garden : The Dell and Foggy Bottom. Unfortunately we only managed to view the gardens from the garden railway train journey and didn’t have enough time to wander through the 17 acres as well. I will definitely head for the gardens on my next visit, perhaps in Spring when the gardens are in full bloom.

The Bressingham Museum

In fact there are 2 museums ….

The Locomotive Sheds were full of trains and carriages from yesteryear – bringing the glory of steam engineering up close. You couldn’t actually step inside the locomotives or carriages but there were especially built platforms along the sides so you can have a good old peek through the windows . The royal carriages were really fascinating. The old posters dotted around the walls were interesting too – the old away day trips by train I can remember well as a young girl – I remember one day railway trip we made as a family around 1974 was from London to Blackpool via Preston ( we didn’t have long there as a day trip and it rained all day!)

National Dad’s Army Collection – based on the popular TV series, Dad’s Army, you wander through the fictional “Walmington On Sea” with the original props and vehicles from the series.

Other Facilities

There is a gift shop and a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating that served the biggest slices of chocolate cake I have ever seen and picnic areas. Warranting a special mention are the toilet facilities for both men and women. They are both sparkling clean – hard to achieve in a public place – but the floors, toilets, sinks were spotless even by mid afternoon.

There were extra shops and stalls as part of the Steampunk event.

Recommend?

Oh yes, definitely.

If you are into gardens, then Bressingham gardens would delight. Steam train/train enthusiasts would enjoy. Ideal family day out – for babies the gardens would be ideal pram pushing area, for older children and adults the merry go round, crazy golf, & trains would delight. Not sure there was enough to please a toddler though.

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Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

For more details about Bressingham check out their website: www.bressingham.co.uk

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An Interview With Wilde Ones

This week I’m featuring on my blog one of the oldest independent stores in the heart of Chelsea, London – Wilde Ones. This store houses the largest collection of Native American jewellery and interiors in the UK – sourcing directly from Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Yaquima, Apache and Sioux artists. A store that is unique indeed and I caught up recently with founder Greg to find out more… Hi Greg and welcome 😊

Hello! I’m Greg Ohanian, founder and owner of Wilde Ones, Chelsea, London, UK.

What inspired the setting up of Wilde Ones?

Having just come out of fashion college, I had an idea which took off. The idea was to create a range of hats with feather trim and without. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the world music and ethnic fashion scenes were just emerging, yet there were no such accessories to fit the look. We introduced a silk embroidered skullcap which we sold from Browns, Liberties and Harrods, to shops in Europe and department stores in the USA. That’s how Wilde Ones started in 1987. Eventually we sold all the way to Top Shop. We also did trade shows like The London based British Designer Show. Originally we started off at the famous Blue Bird Fashion Market on The Kings Road, then we moved to our present premises and expanded into crystals, gemstone jewellery and Native American artefacts and jewellery.

I’m always interested in the origins of brand names, so why did you settle for “Wilde Ones” and were there other name considerations?

The name started off simply because one of the owners’ surname was Wilde but we also liked the fact that we were in Chelsea, the home of Oscar Wilde. It was really a combination of things which brought about the name.

Your company has the largest UK collection of Native American jewellery and interiors. Are there differences in style, subtle or otherwise, between the artists of different Native American groups? 

Indeed, each tribe and region distinguishes itself with its own style and design. We’re lucky to have established strong relationships with amazing artists from the Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Sioux, Apache, Acoma, Santo Domingo, Taos Pueblo, Yaquima and Huichol People. For example, Zuni artists specialise in inlay work, Santa Domingo in graded bead necklaces, Yaquima in feather earrings, etc.

I love the range of jewellery, obviously, but my personal favourites are the Native American Acoma Pottery. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Those Acoma pots are truly stunning. Interiors have their ebbs and flows like all the other myriad items in the shop. This season it’s the handmade tie-dye clothing which we has been selling from day one. All the major designers are onto it but they have a hard time copying our designs because we have an artist designer friend in San Francisco, CA, who has been supplying us exclusively for the past 28 years and his skill is second to none. He produces a wide range of t-shirts, shirts, dresses, camisoles, trousers, sarongs, socks, in silk and cotton. This year the tie-dye hats are proving especially popular as they’re a new item as well as the silk velvet capes. We are also introducing a new line of hemp t-shirts because we feel hemp is a much more sustainable fabric and want to promote its use. 

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites?

That would be like picking your favourite child! We love them all equally. Personally, I’m a Navajo rug addict and they’re one of my favourite things. We currently have around 200 unique antique pieces, carded, spun, woven and dyed by hand between 1880 and 1950. They’re very special.

As you are based in the heart of Chelsea in London, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, our products are available on our website www.wildeones.com and we ship worldwide.

When choosing jewellery/pottery/clothing to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional charm or bits of all those?

It’s definitely a combination of those. When I’m buying I choose for our long time loyal customers to add to their extensive collections. People often come in and say over time they’ve filled their homes with our products. Or that they have most of our jewellery and that I need to go get some more.

Looking ahead, are you looking at adding any new designs or products to your current collections?

I’m always looking to add to our collections and so I keep having to travel further and deeper into uncharted territories. You never know what you’ll find next. Lately I’ve been going to the Huichol tribe in Mexico. They create the most beautiful animal sculptures with incredibly intricate beadwork.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Aside from our own tie-dye clothing I’m very happy wearing Element clothing from California and Clarke’s Originals shoes. I also love to wear and collect vintage clothing.

 Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

The Cloth Shop in Soho and The Vintage Shop in Covent Garden.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I want hemp clothes and hemp shoes and all items made of hemp. Hemp products are the future so we should encourage the use of this wonder plant.

Boots or Shoes?

Clarkes Originals. In between boots and shoes and just very comfortable.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Wilde Ones.

Official website: www.wildeones.com
Facebook page: Wilde Ones Shop  
https://www.facebook.com/wildeonesshop/ Instagram: @wildeoneslondon https://www.instagram.com/ Twitter: @wildeoneslondon = https://twitter.com/wildeoneslondon

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Thank you Greg for giving us a virtual tour of the “Wilde Ones”. I must say that the Mexican animal sculptures sound like an interesting addition to your already impressive range. Are you ready to delve into the wild side and check out this store, dear reader?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Wilde Ones.


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Agnes In Bloom

“Agnes In Bloom – A Memoir” is a very touching memoir of a gutsy lady, Agnes, and her life in Birmingham at the latter end of the Second World War and beyond. Lovingly written by her daughter, Karen, this memoir is extremely frank, and has rollercoaster moments where you could almost feel yourself in Agnes’s shoes….BUT not quite, as Agnes and her mother Rose, both had guts, inner strength and are both totally inspirational.

MY REVIEW

The story begins when Agnes is evacuated to the countryside and discovers her love of being on a farm and being embraced into the family of Mr & Mrs Johnson and their daughter Lily. Unfortunately, her sister Margie was evacuated elsewhere and her experience was the complete opposite -an experience which only came to light years later. Returning back home from the farm, as a young teenager, finding her feet in life with her more worldly wise friend as company, Agnes goes to a party where things didn’t go so well. Finding herself pregnant, Agnes gets her dream job as an usherette … until her pregnancy started to show. Agnes harboured a dream of meeting her own Mr Right … her own Mr Johnson…. and that’s when her dream man materialised in the form of Bob. Agnes and Bob were happy together, despite working hours to make ends meet, and each babe born was loved and welcomed. Agnes became closer, I feel, to her mother, Rose, who was supportive as the family grew. Tragedy strikes though … Agnes strives to help her sister Margie after her marriage collapse and breakdown; Agnes finds out love secrets between her mother and her real father; husband Bob takes on extra work to carry on providing for his large family but alas becomes ill and is taken to hospital for a routine operation; her mother Rose is discovered to have cancer and is in hospital at the same time as Bob; being pregnant with her 7th child, Agnes has to face life as a young single mum as Bob unexpectedly dies before being operated on; Agnes, in her grief, becomes anorexic …. but this is an inspirational story, about overcoming adversity and death. The story does have a happier ending…. the main thing is that 7th baby was Karen , the author. Delightfully written memoir, well recommended.

So, after reading the memoir, I couldn’t wait to chat to Karen, daughter of Agnes and author of Agnes In Bloom. Hi Karen!

Hi ! I’m Karen. I was born into the inner-city slums of Birmingham. The seventh child of a humble and loving family. I’m a mother of two amazing young women. Both work in the fashion industry. I have been an entrepreneur since the age of twenty-three when I established my own company. I’ve since lived and worked in Dubai, San Diego, Bali, Koh Samui and currently I reside in Marbella. I love to travel and live in sunny climates. I have travelled and sailed the world, writing my memoirs.

Your mother’s story is truly inspirational – an amazing woman indeed – but what made you decide to write “Agnes In Bloom” in the first place?

After years of listening to my mother’s life and how she triumphed over adversity. I decided to write it, initially as a family legacy,  but I soon discovered that it’s an amazing inspirational story and others would enjoy it too. I asked 65 ladies from random groups to read my draft manuscript and offer their feedback. They all loved it and agreed with me that I should offer it to the world. 

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – I smiled at the part where Agnes was evacuated to a farm, and how much she loved the countryside; I was angry inside at the different experience her sister Margie had had; I cried when Agnes was raped at 17 , but was full of love and admiration for your father who accepted your mum and your eldest brother, and his overall love for all his family; my heart ached when Rose was ill, when Margie was unwell and when your father died whilst your mother was pregnant with you; I admired your mother’s coping mechanism and ability to learn to focus again when life dealt her a cruel blow;  I was in awe that despite everything, your steadfastness Karen, in hanging on and being born; I smiled when she was able to find happiness again.  Oh, and what fab siblings you have! The book is packed with plenty of antidotes that must have accumulated over the years – how long did the book take you to write? 

It took me 12 years to write it. I was running my recruiting business and travelling and sailing the world writing it. Writing for me is very therapeutic. A great relief from business. The main reason is that it’s a very emotional story for my mother. She sat with me to go over each event. It often made her tearful, which in turn made me cry too. 
 Once I had the story structure in place. I began to learn how to set scenes and write in omniscient and add dialogue. I wanted my mother’s story to be a perfect enjoyable, easy read. So that women of this era and their struggles are never forgotten. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in the memoir? 

As I’m writing this I’m in tears again. Just remembering those difficult parts. The chapter where my father dies is unbearable for me to think about and more so to write it in exact detail. The struggle that my auntie had was almost not added in the story, as my sisters didn’t want it in there. They were embarrassed by it. However, I think it’s extremely important that the abuse that Margie suffered, should be told. Especially because this horror, eventually gave her a nervous breakdown. We are all more aware of child abuse in society today. It should not be pushed under the carpet. It added so much more tragedy to my mother and grandmother. It’s part of their lives and I wanted my Auntie Margie to be remembered for her triumph over adversity too. My grandmother Rose had a hard life herself. How she coped with her own child abuse was incredible. It was as if no one cared about abuse back then and many children just got on with life, not realising that they are very effected by it. 
My grandmother was like a rock for my mother and her daughter Margie, through all their life’s tragedies. She also triumphed over adversity. 

Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

Yes I absolutely love writing stories. I’ve learned so much more by self publishing this first book. I have previously attended a creative writing course and joined various authors groups to keep learning updates on the benefits of self publishing. I would like to write more about female heroism. More current to our times. Before this book, I have written and published travel articles and training manuals for my recruiting business. I always received top marks at school in Literature. My teacher was very inspiring and told me to pursue a writing career, but back then it wasn’t possible for me to experiment with my career. I needed to earn a lot of money to buy my mom a house and pay her bills for the rest of her life and bring her out of poverty for good. I’m proud that I have accomplished this goal. 
I guess I wasn’t very confident as a teenager to become an author.

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Definitely, I am currently writing my own memoir to highlight the extreme differences between one generation of working class women. It’s a comedy. 

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am a book worm yes. I have a kindle because I travel a lot and can’t take my books everywhere with me. I do like the feel of a good book though. I’ve been reading biographies of famous people for years. Now I like to read stories about ordinary women who triumphed over adversity. I love true crime related stories too. I’m a glutton for a memoir and biographies as I like that they’re real stories. Gets me hooked. 

Is “Agnes In Bloom” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes my debut memoir is available to purchase globally from Amazon. I have entered their story teller UK 2019 competition. This means I cannot go wide on all platforms until the competition ends in October. I plan to go open on all of them afterwards. 


Having 7 siblings, what do you or did you like most about being part of a large family? 

Being part of a large family is priceless. As I’m the 7th child I have been given access to various musical genres and books. Not to mention the continuous support, love, affection and inspiration from my singings. I can’t imagine not having my large wonderful family. Now at 79 and more to be born. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

As I have lived in the sun for the last 12 years. I like to wear vests and shorts. Summer dresses and loose clothes. I wear a lot of bikinis. I love Autumn fashion but only buy a few outfits for when I go home to England.I love to wear heels 👠 when I have business meetings and always wear smart suits. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?

I have worn a lot of designer clothes in the past and still have some designer items. Prada and Gucci. Some French fashion that no longer exists. But now I only buy clothes from high street stores like Zara and Mango and Top shop. I have purchased clothes online from ASOS UK. Bikinis from Bravisimo and a clothing line in Dubai. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I don’t have a wish list as I buy when I need new. I have become aware of throw away fashion and the awful foot print that clothing leaves on our planet. I find that I can make do with clothes for longer now. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes and sandals I have to wear in the heat, but I love boots for winter back home. I’ve always loved wearing boots. They are extremely attractive and comfortable. 

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

My Amazon link 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07SZ3K9BM
My Facebook page 
https://www.facebook.com/karenbradyauthor/

Thank you so much for chatting with me about your book, Karen. My own father was the youngest of 10 and as a young child he wasn’t evacuated – he stayed in the Leyton area of East London (born in West Ham/Stratford area as my grandparents, myself and my sister (in Leyton)). My mother on the otherhand, was born just outside Cirencester in Gloucestershire in a farmhouse, because my grandmother was pregnant with my mum and she was evacuated along with my mum’s older brothers. They stayed together and returned to London when my mum was a toddler. It is great that these memoirs exist – I wish I had asked my dad’s mum a lot more questions about life at the beginning of the 20th century but she was very Victorian in her ways (she was born in 1895) and as a young girl I was slightly scared of her! She died just before my 16th birthday.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Karen Brady

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Walking In Thetford Forest

There is something undeniably therapeutic about being in a forest – the greenery is relaxing, the silence, the smells, the general aura of the trees, the feeling of being remote, the shade on a hot day …. Ever since I was a young child I have loved being amongst trees. My woodland playground in them days was Epping Forest, on the fringes of East London and Essex. A woodland setting for a hot July weekend away recently was bliss – destination Thetford Forest.

Mile Marker in Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest straddles the border between Suffolk and Norfolk in the East Anglia region of England. It covers well over 19,000ha (47,000 acres). It is the largest lowland pine forest in England, although other trees are present including oak, beech, lime, walnut, red oak and maple. These hardwood trees are found along the sides of the roads acting as fire breaks. This Forest is actually manmade – a fact I was amazed to discover- it was created after the First World War in 1922 to provide a strategic reserve of timber since Britain had lost so many oaks and other slow growing trees as a consequence of the war.

Deep in Thetford Forest

Considering that 4 main roads bisect Thetford Forest and that visitor numbers exceed 1 million annually; the part of the forest we visited was extremely quiet and remote and we passed only a couple of fellow walkers going the opposite way to us. Thetford Forest is a very popular destination for mountain biking – there are several trails to make the most of the experience.

Driving through one of the main roads that bisect Thetford Forest

However, as my youngest son had a broken foot and was on crutches, we didn’t partake. At his insistence though, we did the 5 mile circular walk trail through the forest, starting from Lynford Hall, passing the metal statue of the Lynford Stag at the halfway stage, crossing the Lynford Lakes and back to the hall. The walk is actually a distance of 4.5miles (7.2km) but we did get lost and ventured down the wrong path and had to retrace our steps! As the weather was hot and dry, the paths were easy to walk on (and to use crutches) but there were some areas where the paths were overgrown and my son did have some trouble disentangling his crutches out of the grass!

Half Way – Lynford Stag

Thetford Forest is home to a large population of hares, rabbits, game birds, scarce breeding birds such as woodlarks and golden pheasants, and breeds of deer (muntjac, roe deer & red deer). The air was alive with the sounds of birdsong and you could hear the occasional rustle in the trees … was that a gruffalo?! …. alas we didn’t see any deer but we knew they were close by as we came across piles of deer poo pellets! Ethan was trying to avoid landing his crutches in them! By the lakes we saw a few frogs though…

Part of the Lynford Lakes

The wildlife are able to thrive in the forest because of the Forestry Commission’s strict policies – dogs are welcome to be walked in the area but must be kept on a lead at all times and kept away from the children’s play areas. In the Lynford Arboretum area dogs are not allowed (except guide dogs). Each winter, The British Siberian Husky Racing Association hold several husky racing events in the forest. I have been on a sledge driven by huskies when I was in Finland – they went really fast over bush and logs etc – it was like a rollercoaster! So I can only imagine what fun husky racing can be! Might be something to mark in the calendar….

Thetford Forest

Our start and end destination to our walk was the beautiful Lynford Hall, set in the heart of Thetford Forest. The original Hall was built in the 1800s and belonged to the Sutton family, and sat in its grounds of 7,718 acres. In 1857 Mr & Mrs Lyne Stephens took up residence & began to rebuild the present hall, designed by William Burn. It took 7 years to build, and when it was finished in 1869 it became a grade 2 Mansion. Mr Lyne Stephens made his money by inventing Dolls Eyes that opened and closed. In 1930 it became residence of Sir James Calder who frequently entertained his friend, the then American Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, and his son, John F Kennedy, who eventually became US President. Even King Edward VII viewed Lynford Hall as a Royal Residence but chose Sandringham instead.

Nearly finished the walk…. the drive of Lynford Hall

In recent years Lynford Hall has been the setting for many popular TV series including “Allo Allo”, “Love On The Branch Line”, “You Rang My Lord” and “Dad’s Army”. Nowadays it is a hotel that also hosts events and weddings – such a great venue amongst the lakes, parkland and thousands of acres of forest that adjoin Thetford Forest itself.

Lynford Hall Country House Hotel

When we’ve visited Thetford Forest before we stayed at Center Parcs …. and there are various other lodges and campsites in the forest that offer accommodation in the forest. This weekend though we stayed at Lynford Hall. My boys said they felt very “Royal” ! I didn’t get a picture of my youngest going up and down the grand sweeping staircase with his crutches but I did get pictures of the gorgeous views and gardens…

Ornate gateway of Lynford Hall
A window view, Lynford Hall

One thing my sons were fascinated with was the old gramophone that sat outside our room – I think they were dying to have a go but didn’t! Standing in the ballroom I can just imagine the Royals and other VIPs of the day, dancing to the sounds of the gramophone…

The gramophone At Lynford Hall

What a weekend – a lovely mix of nature and history, peace and romance! Do trees inspire you in the same way?

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Take 5 Ingredients – Linda’s Salmon Tagliatelle

When the weather is warm, it is hard to decide what to cook for the family main meal. A family favourite in our house is my version of Salmon Tagliatelle – it is a good budget meal, takes less than half an hour to cook, has only 5 ingredients, is relatively low calorie and, best of all, it is extremely tasty! Why don’t you try it?

Ingredients (SERVES 4)

4 BONELESS SALMON STEAKS. TAGLIATELLE (OR SPAGHETTI) TUB OF SOFT CHEESE (I USE PHILADELPHIA LIGHTEST). HANDFUL OF COOKED PETIT POIS (OR GARDEN PEAS). BLACK PEPPER

METHOD

  1. In a hot oven (180/200ºC ) bake the salmon steaks in an oiled roasting tin for 20 – 25 minutes.

2. Whilst the salmon is baking, put tagliatelle in a deep saucepan, cover with water and boil for 10 – 15 minutes.

3. Once cooked, drain the tagliatelle. Add the soft cheese, cooked peas and salmon into the saucepan with the cooked tagliatelle. Stir well to mix the ingredients. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve.

Bon Appetite!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

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Destination Lincoln

As part of my husband’s ongoing cycle training for the Grand Depart Classic in Brussels (first leg of the 2019 Tour De France) on Saturday 29 June 2019 – he is riding on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK (find out more HERE) – Adam took part in early May in the Lincoln GP Sportive (Lincoln Grand Prix). Although the Brussels ride is around 125 miles, the 75 mile Lincoln GP ride was excellent training as the finishing line was at the top of a 23% gradient cobbled hill – aptly named Steep Hill – and the cobbles were something Adam had not yet faced and the Brussels ride features two cobbled hills of steep gradients – so Lincoln was the perfect training ride. Fortunately the hills in Brussels are not at the end of a gruelling 75 mile undulating cycle ride but occur when legs are still relatively fresh, so to speak. Our two youngest sons and I were in Lincoln to cheer on Adam and to give him some moral support as he attempted the cobbles. In the meantime, the boys and I had about 6 hours to kill whilst Adam was poodling around the Lincolnshire countryside so we did some exploring of our own around the city of Lincoln…

This was the first time I had actually spent some time in Lincolnshire – I had travelled through the county on my way to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Scotland in the past – so I was looking forward to spending some time in Lincoln. I must admit I was under the impression that Lincolnshire was a flat county – however, I now know that Lincoln itself is pretty steep and Adam assures me that the Lincolnshire Wolds that surround Lincoln were pretty undulating too! Having arrived in the evening, in rain, it was great to open our hotel room curtains and have a terrific view of Lincoln cathedral and blue skies. The boys and I decided the first place we will be exploring was to be Lincoln Cathedral.

View of Lincoln Cathedral from Premier Inn Lincoln City Centre

It was a 10 minute uphill walk to the Cathedral and on the way we diverted into a small park with trees planted in dedication to university staff who had died. It was a pretty place to wander around with a small outdoor gym. I must admit I was hoping that there was an underpass or shortcut across the busy main road via the park but I was disappointed that the park’s path was a circular route (oh well, just think of those Fitbit steps!)

Lincoln cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral is pretty impressive. It was first constructed in 1072 in the gothic style of that era. In fact, from 1311 – 1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Nowadays it is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK after Liverpool, St Paul’s, and York Minster. The original Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake on 15 April 1185 – an eye witness described the Cathedral as having been “split from top to bottom”. All I can say is that the reconstruction must have been sturdier as the Cathedral looked strong to me! Lincoln Cathedral is one of the few English cathedrals built from the rock it is standing on. The Cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone per year for maintenance and repairs. It was in maintenance mode when we visited, but the building still looked splendid. You might have seen Lincoln Cathedral in films: it doubled up as Westminster Abbey in “Young Victoria” and in the Netflix Shakespeare film “TheKing”. Lincoln Cathedral also once housed a copy of the Magna Carta – now it is housed in Lincoln Castle …

Lincoln Cathedral

Out of Lincoln Cathedral, past the Magna Carta pub, we ventured onto Lincoln Castle with its extensive grounds and intact wall. Visitors can now walk the full circumference of the wall, which is an impressive third of a mile long. The views over Lincoln and the countryside are supposed to be stunning but I must admit that the clouds started to roll in and a cup of tea beckoned so we retreated to the cafe that was set within the castle walls & the Victorian prison instead. Lincoln Castle was built by William The Conqueror in 1068. The Victorian prison was added on in 1788. In the Castle grounds was the impressive building of Lincoln Crown Court, alas not open to the public. The boys though were more interested in the Lego Space Exhibition being held in the grounds. Presented and built by Bricklive, the exhibits included larger than life models of The Earth, astronauts and the Space Shuttle.

Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Crown Court
Lego “Earth” at Lincoln Castle
Lego Astronaut
Lego Space Shuttle

Next stop, Steep Hill. This cobbled hill & its adjacent street, Mickelgate, was where the finishing line was. We still had a bit of time to visit a shop on Steep Hill that I had discovered online some months previously: Roly’s Fudge Pantry! I couldn’t wait to discover this little fudge enclave and I thought Adam and his fellow team cyclists might appreciate fudge once they passed that finish line. Let me tell you, the fudge pantry did not disappoint! The sweet aroma hits you as soon as you crossed the threshold and there was fudge being made in front of our very own eyes. So many flavours to choose from ! The fudge was appreciated by the cyclists at the end and we came back the next day to buy more before our drive home . We tried the following flavours: Maple & Walnut; Honeycomb; Strawberry & Prosecco; Mint Chocolate; Hot Cross Bun; Whisky & Ginger; Chocolate; Salted Maple & Pecan….. it was hard to pick a favourite but my 3 faves were salted maple & pecan; strawberry & prosecco and whisky & ginger. Apparently you can now buy them online.

Roly’s Fudge Pantry

Other shops on Steep Hill worth checking out are Pimento Lincoln’s Original Vegetarian Cafe for their soya hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream & marshmallows; Annushka Russian Dolls Shop (!) and the Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar ….for marmite scones …

Steep Hill

Around 2.30pm, my boys and I were halfway down Steep Hill ready to cheer on the cyclists as they make their arduous way up the steep cobbled hill. Adam and his teammates made it up the hill in one piece and are ready to face the Belgian challenge.

Steep Hill
Adam on Steep Hill
Made it!

Lincoln is a university town so after dark on a Saturday night the place was buzzing with bars, clubs and restaurants – it was especially vibrant down by the waterfront. We ate in Zizzi’s and I highly recommend their King Prawn Linguine.

Lincoln had so much to offer that I didn’t manage to explore the shops, the Museum of Lincolnshire or The Collection Usher Gallery …. but I will endeavour to visit next time ( a repeat visit to the fudge pantry would be on my itinerary too)

Check out my previous blogpost about Adam & his prostrate cancer cycling rides: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/one-in-eight-men

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Linda x

Photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Revisiting Liat Hughes Joshi

Back in February 2015 I interviewed on my blog author Liat Hughes Joshi (read the original interview HERE). Since then, I have spotted Liat on TV ; she has written a couple more parenting books and her child has become a teenager! It seems a great time, therefore, to have a catch up!

Welcome back onto the blog, Liat! Could you please reintroduce yourself !

Hi! I’m Liat Hughes Joshi, a parenting author, journalist and broadcaster. Also a mum. I’ve written five parenting books and have just signed up for a sixth.  I live in London but grew up by the seaside in a place called Lytham St.Annes in Lancashire. Most people who have heard of it have an elderly relative who lives/ lived there because it has traditionally been a retirement town but it’s really changing and if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit for the independent shops and restaurants in Lytham centre in particular.    

What truly inspired you to become a writer/ journalist in the first place? 

I did always love writing and it was something I wanted to do as a child but there were other ideas too. I wanted to be an interior designer at one stage and a lawyer at another. I’m also very interested in business so spent nine years as a management consultant before finally giving in to the urge to write in 2002.I do sometimes make forays back into the corporate world, giving talks on parenting and family life for companies and working with brands on their campaigns.

Since we last spoke way back in February 2015, you have since published 2 more books “How To Unplug Your Child” (May 2015) & “5-Minute Parenting Fixes” (February 2018).Was your book “5 Minute Parenting Fixes” inspired by your own parenting journey?

Yes and no. I’ve been writing about parenting for 14 years and it does come from a lot more than my own experiences as a mum. The idea for 5-Minute Parenting Fixes came because I realised there was SO much information on parenting out there now and it’s easy to get bogged down after a simple search on the internet with overload and confusion. At the same time we all seem to have busier lives than ever. Or it feels that way anyway. So I thought mums and dads might welcome a single, reliable and sensible source of information, and something that can be read very quickly – picked up for five minutes to check out solutions to a specific problem. Just as the book’s title suggests! It covers all sorts of common problems for parents of 5 to 16 year-olds, from dealing with bullying to getting them off screens more, or doing their homework or chores with less fuss.

Apart from your writing, you have appeared on TV daytime [and news] show debates on various parenting issues. Do you get nervous appearing on TV? Any memorable or embarrassing TV moments?

I have no idea why but I really don’t feel nervous at all with TV interviews. I just go in and chat  and debate with the people who are there and don’t think about or worry about the audience watching on TV at home. Pretty much all the presenters and newsreaders do a great job of making guests feel at ease though. There has been one TV project recently that pushed me out of my comfort zone…but I’m not allowed to talk about it until it airs which won’t be for a couple of months (sorry!). It involves comedy but luckily I wasn’t expected to be funny, or else people would want their money back. And they weren’t even paying. Most memorable…probably that one and when I had a spat with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain.

Although non -fiction/parenting advice books are your writing genre, are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet? 

I’d actually love to write a sitcom but see above I’m not sure I am funny enough. Perhaps more realistically, I’m keen to explore ideas for radio. I absolutely adore Radio 4 and it’d be a dream to write and present documentaries on there.

Are there any new books or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes! I am just sorting out the contract for a sixth parenting book. This will be my fourth with Summersdale. They are fantastic to work with and it’ll be interesting to see how much is different or the same now that they are part of Octopus, which is in turn part of Hachette.

What book are you currently reading?  What book is on your kindle wishlist?

I’m reading Nutshell by Ian McEwan, one of my favourite authors. It’s narrated by an foetus and quite unusual but entertaining and clever. I have given up on Kindles and reverted to reading print books so I haven’t got a wish list. I wrote a feature about switching back to analogue in various aspects of our lives [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/life/happened-gave-tech-went-analogue-month/] and definitely find material I read in print sinks in better.

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Are your books available to purchase worldwide?

YES! Both the original UK published editions are sold via international bookshops online but also in various local versions and translations. Off the top of my head there have been editions of one or other of my books published in the US, Vietnam, Romania, Italy, India, Portugal and Slovakia, with Saudi Arabia and Germany coming soon.

Family holidays – which place is a particular favourite family holiday location?

In the UK, my heart belongs to the Lake District. I had so many childhood trips there, both with family and my school (which had an outward bound centre near Ullswater). Luckily my teenage son and I share similar ideas, at the moment at least, about what we like to do on a holiday. It would involve days spent hiking, with perhaps a run or a bit of kayaking, then a lovely, hearty dinner in a gastropub. Repeat for a few days!

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’ve recently agreed to join the charity Kidscape as an Ambassador and I’m really excited about being involved with them. I was bullied as a child and it sounds like a cliché but it’s a subject close to my heart.  

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I’ve turned into something of a ‘uniform dresser’ in the last couple of years. I almost always wear blue, especially navy. If you were to open my wardrobe, you would not find an array of colours and tons of pattern in there that’s for sure.  It means everything goes with everything and I can throw set combinations on without thinking too much. That’s not to say I don’t care about how I look. I absolutely do! It’s always a treat if there’s ‘hair and make up’ on offer at the studios before TV interviews. My default outfit most days certainly involves skinny dark denim jeans (Levis Mile High Super-skinnies are top of my list currently). Fashionable or not, I’m too short to carry off those wider leg trousers everyone is wearing at the moment. I have noticed far fewer women in London seem to wear heels nowadays but I’m really quite short (5ft1) so do like a bit of a height boost, either via my flatform white Superga, some long boots, or espadrille wedges. When I do TV interviews, I have a favourite Reiss TV jacket. I’ve tried to diversify and find others that I like as much but it is just so perfect. It’s fitted, single-breasted and so flattering. And it’s navy (obviously).

Liat’s adorable dog!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

As I’m short, I do struggle with finding things that fit. The majority of clothing ‘drowns’ me. Wandering round most clothing shops on a high street is a waste of time for me, as I’d simply end up frustrated in the changing rooms. Reiss and Boden are favourites because they do size 6 and the latter has a petite range that I’ve got a fair few things from.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve got really quite minimalist so actually…I can’t think of anything! I often reorder the same favourites, such as the Levi’s skinny jeans, Jigsaw’s t-shirts and a fresh pair of white Superga trainers now and again. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots…for daily walks with my dog and hiking! 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

My website is liathughesjoshi.co.uk and I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @liathughesjoshi. My books are available on Amazon.  

It was great to catch up with you Liat! I’m loving the fact that you champion the colour navy – I wear black for work as part of my “uniform”, so navy is always the colour of choice for me when I want the smart and classic look. That goes for shoes too – I love my navy slingback kitten heels! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of it Hughes Joshi.

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An Interview With Olbrish

I know that many of my readers love a good handbag (me included) and I have showcased many bag makers over the years on this blog – rabbit shapes, those inspired by buildings, and so on. So I’m thrilled to introduce onto my blog a company from Germany, Olbrish, whose distinctive designs have not only won my heart but have won some prestigious awards too. I caught up with the founder, Wolfgang Olbrish, recently to find out more about his impressive bag collections….

Hi Wolfgang, please introduce yourself and Olbrish….

Hello. We have been producing our handbags in Berlin since 1981. Over the years the company has changed a lot, both inside and, probably more, from the outside. What has stayed the same is the clear expression of form in our designs. For me and the factory Olbrish, it all started on the Kurfürstendamm where I offered  the Berlin wall & city tourists my first hand-made hippie belts and hand-dyed hair clips. With the new collaboration with Bernd Goebel 1981, we started our own protest against the throw-away culture – our bags were mostly made of leather remnants. Today, our principle has remained the same:  custom-made, bags for money, whatever the male or female customer wanted. In the early 90s, we hired the first professional seamstresses. I studied painting at the “Akademie der Künste” (University of Arts in Berlin) and things became more serious. The shapes of our bags became more geometrical and less playful; we moved to a bigger workshop in the heart of Berlin Kreuzberg. In 2003 the circle closed itself and we moved our store and were are back at the Kurfürstendamm, where it all started. Today we still produce everything by hand in our factory in Berlin Kreuzberg.  We experiment with new materials like horsehair and our newest project, fish-leather from a small fish farm in Austria. 

What inspires the distinctive designs of Olbrish bags?

Everyday objects like bowls, bathrobes or the human body itself. Both curves and edges are also beautiful in handbags.

Olbrish bags, briefcases, wallets and belts are made from genuine leather, woven horsehair & recycled materials. What are the main attributes towards working with leather?

Leather is a beautiful material. On the one hand it is very forgiving and easy to apply on our recycled carrier material, on the other hand extremely durable. The thing is, it is only forgiving if you know how to work with it and if you have the right machinery. We have special sewing machines for leather and the carrier material. Normal machines would break after a few stitches. The horsehair is a completely different story, although being even more durable than leather, it is not forgiving nor is it easy to work with in any way. It was a long process until we found out how to use it for our handbags.

I love the “Wave” bag – timeless chic!  What bags are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Our Wave handbag always works, usually in the classic black and red colour combination. But also the Torii in both sizes is a good selling bag. Normally the brand new bags sell well in the beginning, then after a year or so it shows if the bag has the potential to stay with us or if it will be stowed away to be rediscovered at the right time. Also the Arcade shoulderbag is very popular. It is also the one for which we got the “Red Dot Design Award – Best of the best”

The company also offers custom made bags. Have you had any bizarre requests?

Usually it is odd colour combinations like a bag in purple, orange and white. 

Once a guy (seriously) asked if we could make him a bulletproof briefcase, when I asked him “but why?” he answered that he wanted to protect himself. I didn’t ask again and had to turn down his request. 

Hypothetically speaking, which famous person would you love to see as the “face” of Olbrish?

Michelle Obama: she is great, beautiful, always looks energetic and has great sense for fashion.

Have you any other new products/accessories in the pipeline for 2019?

We have one new bag, which is not registered yet and no one has seen it so far. Only us in the factory have seen it and  everyone in the company loves it so far which almost never happens. The last time this happened was 10 years ago when we won the red-dot design award. So we are really excited.

The company has won a few accolades over the years – congratulations- what award are you most proud of? 

The “Red-Dot design Award- Best of the best” was probably the highlight.

As you are based in Berlin, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, we ship worldwide but our main markets are Germany and the US. We would love to find new customers in the UK. 

When designing bags to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, vintage quality or bits of all those?

I definitely take into account my own tastes, I listen to our customers and colleagues and try to design the bag with as little compromise as possible. If I listen to requests too much, the outcome of the bag is usually not as interesting. Trends are not really important to us. They change too often and are often outdated after only a few months. So even if we wanted to, we can’t design a whole new collection for only a few months, which has to be replaced by a new one in the next season. Also our bags are made to last and want to be worn for more than one season.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Rainjacket- dark grey, striped shirt under a sweatshirt- in case a customer comes to visit and  I have to look respectable, blue jeans- 501, dark grey sneakers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Schrauben24.de

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A snake skin jacket, so I can feel 20 again.

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes, I don’t have boots.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Olbrish .

https://www.olbrish.de/browse/olbrish/,0,5334,0,0.html

https://www.instagram.com/olbrish/

https://facebook.com/olbrishtaschen/

Many thanks Wolfgang! I must say that I find the idea of using fish leather very intriguing and I am on tenterhooks to see your latest bag design – looking at your other styles, I am sure it is just as exquisite!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Wolfgang Olbrish.

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An Interview With Author Isabeau Kelm

Every now and then you come across an author whose writing just blows you away … and I have been fortunate to have read debut novels from a couple of authors this month whose talent for writing have been beyond excellence. This week I want to introduce you to Isabeau Kelm , author of “At The Blue Hour”, an historical novel set in Moldavia in 1583. It is a genre of book that I enjoy on occasions and this had not only history, but it was based in a part of Europe whose history is rich & vibrant and I hadn’t read many books based in that area. I love Isabeau’s style of writing. It is a classical literature style, full of description and clever use of words to set the mood of the day. “At The Blue Hour” isn’t an “easy reading “ style novel … the book slowly reels you in to the shadowy world of medieval Moldavia ….for me it got me hook, line & sinker by chapter 3 or 4. This book is English language/literature at its finest and would appeal to those readers who enjoy reading the classics. I was fortunate enough to have been sent a copy of the book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing, and my views on the book are my genuine reactions. I loved it so much I’m looking forward to reading the follow ups…

After reading the book I just had to chat to the author! Hi Isabeau & welcome!

Hello. My name is Isabeau Kelm and I live in Madrid, Spain, with my fiancé and our daughter. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree programme in Art History at the University of Glasgow and later earned an MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University, Middlesbrough. I derive my ideas from my numerous travels and my personal interest in my own biographical roots. You can find my creative non-fiction works that explore my family history and my collection of poems under my pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’.

Your degrees in Art History & Creative Writing obviously helped to set the ball rolling towards a career as a writer, but what truly inspired you to become writer in the first place? 

I honestly think I was born with the desire to write. Whatever I see or hear inspires images and conversations in my mind that I often express in poems or stories. Like many other authors, I am prone to daydreaming and have been writing since I learned how to write, but it was actually my mother who encouraged me to write professionally and I am forever grateful to her for believing in my writing abilities.

“At The Blue Hour” is your latest novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. It was an interesting historical novel, inspired by true events, set in Moldavia in 1583. The young gypsy slave, Irina, who catches the eye of the Prince, had me mesmerised with her positivity; the Prince, who happened to be the great grandson of Vlad Dracula, annoyed me slightly with his possessiveness; Cornelius, the magician/advisor/teacher, what a character – I didn’t know whether to pity him or tell him to reveal his true feelings (never mentioned but I sensed the feelings!); the monks who enslaved Irina & her mother; the absent father; the villagers who were scared of Irina & her ilk, abusing them…. Which character/s did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

“At the Blue Hour” is actually my very first novel that I have written in German and published in 2015. It has been translated into English by my sister Eugenia Zilke, a certified translator, and edited by two professional editors. A Russian translation of the novel is available for purchase as well thanks to my mother Ida Zilke who has translated it. 

Since then I have published the sequel of “At the Blue Hour” which is called “At the Golden Hour” (there will be soon an English and a Russian translation for sale), and two creative non-fiction books and a collection of poems under my other pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’ which I have written in English. Two of these works contain illustrations created by my fiancé whose artistic name is ‘Enjolras’.

Right now I am working on the third book of the many adventures of Irina Botezata, the protagonist of “At the Blue Hour”

Before I answer your questions, I would like to thank you for reading my book. I am very happy that you found the story interesting.

Now to your questions. Honestly I enjoyed writing about all of my characters as each of them has very different morals and beliefs. This made the creation of them challenging but interesting at the same time as I had to tap into all the different elements of my subconscious. 

However, I enjoyed writing about Radu the most, Irina’s childhood companion and friend, because he is a rather mysterious and yet down-to-earth character.

The hardest character to write about was actually Irina because I constantly tried my best to portray her in a realistic manner, with flaws and all, in order to refrain from creating a stereotypical “Mary Sue”-protagonist. To me it was important to show that we as humans are all morally ambiguous to a certain degree, i.e. nobody is perfect. Additionally, she has experienced many traumatic events in her life, so I also had to envision what these experiences do to a person, how the personality of such a person evolves etc.

What is it about the turbulent history of Eastern & South Eastern Europe that inspires you?  

I was born in Soviet Russia, in Siberia to be precise. However, I was a toddler when my entire family moved to Germany. Since then I have visited Russia only twice. It is a vast, unexplored land in my mind which has been created by the many stories my parents and grandfather told me. I guess it is the exploration of my roots that fascinates me so much about Eastern European history.

As far as South Eastern Europe is concerned, not much is known about their history in the West. As soon as you start reading about the complex historical events that took place in this part of the world over the centuries, I am surprised that not more Western authors are inspired to make use of the vastness of inspiration South Eastern European history offers.

Although historical novels are your writing genre, do you enjoy writing other genres? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

First of all, I would like to stress that although “At the Blue Hour” is seet in the past, I rather consider it to be a Bildungsroman with a touch of Magical Realism. The main theme of the novel is really the learning process of Irina and the exploration of what freedom really means. Nevertheless, my readers will learn a lot about the history of 16th Century Moldavia and of the Ottoman Empire as I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, so the novel can be considered a historical novel.

As mentioned before, I also write creative non-fiction books and poetry under my pen name ‘I.W. Zilke’. 

But there is one genre that I would really like to have a go at – Science Fiction! My fiancé and I were thinking of a joint collaboration, that is he (a cyber security engineer)will help me by updating me with the newest and future advances in technology, and I will write the story. We would like to create a book that explores the many ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence that are sure to follow with the unstoppable advances in that field.

 Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes, right now I am conducting historical research for the third book about the adventures of Irina Botezata and have actually written some scenes already. In the near future I would also like to finish my book about my family history, spanning four generations, that I have begun writing as part of my MA dissertation. And of course my very first Science Fiction novel.

 Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am a bookworm, although now it is getting increasingly difficult for me to find time to read as I have a toddler at home to take care of as well. Usually I read when riding the subway. That is why I almost always carry a book in my purse.

My favourite author of all time is the French writer Marguerite Duras. I have read almost all of her books and each of them speaks to my heart and lets my soul sing and weep. She was able to write about her life in such a poetic and at the same time brutally honest way that I consider her to be one of the bravest writers in history.

To be honest, I love reading the classics – Maxim Gorky, Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Vladimir Nabokov…

I prefer reading actual books, but I can definitely see the advantage of reading on an e-book reader. My fiancé gave me one as a Christmas present and it is really amazing how many books can fit in one of these devices. However, nothing tops the smell of old books or the ability to make notes on the pages or underline some lines that I find particularly beautiful.

 Is “At The Blue Hour” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it is available to purchase worldwide.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I have already visited almost all the places that I will mention or have already mentioned in my books. However, I have been obsessed to travel to the Congolese jungle since I have read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. I think this is one of the few places on earth that harbours exciting secrets in many senses. Although I am not planning to write about Congo (maybe in the future?), I am still certain that this travel experience would give me writing inspiration for decades.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I do not shop often, although I love fashion! I don’t follow every trend though. 

You would normally find me wearing a plain-coloured dress in pastel or navy blue, and high-heeled shoes. Recently I have discovered mom jeans. They are surprisingly comfortable!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

As far as designers are concerned, I love almost all the dresses created by Karen Millen. In order to find exclusive wedding gifts, the Ralph Lauren online shop is my go-to place. Zara is my number one high-street choice. Regarding personal care, I am obsessed with L’Occitane and Guerlain products. As a matter of fact, my signature perfume is called “L’Heure Bleue” by Guerlain, which means The Blue Hour. Talking about taking your own books to the next level!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Block heel sandals! No matter the brand, my only requirement is that they should be comfortable enough to walk around in them in the Spanish Summer heat for more than one hour. Next on my shoe wish list are white Christian Louboutin shoes for my wedding that we plan for next year.

Boots or Shoes?

Both because boots are useful in the winter and shoes are for having fun in Spring and Summer.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Yes, I would like to share some links where you can find out more about my works and me:

WEBSITES: https://www.iw-zilke.com/ & https://www.isabeaukelm.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/isabeaukelm/ & https://www.facebook.com/AuthorIWZilke/

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.es/kelmisabeau/ & https://www.pinterest.es/iwzilke/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/isabeaukelm_iwzilke_author/

YOUTUBE: http://bit.do/AUTHOR-Kelm_Zilke

For Pinning Later

Thank you Isabeau – I’m so looking forward to reading about more of Irina’s adventures! Also I am so glad to meet a fellow kreader who not only enjoys reading the “heavy” classics but has also read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness”. It was this book that urged me to visit darkest Africa … although I have yet to experience Congo but I have visited the continent in the North, West & East so far…

And “At The Blue Hour “ has now added the countries in East & South Europe to my never ending bucket list…..

Linda x

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for a copy of the book “At The Blue Hour “.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Isabeau Kelm.

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