All posts by Linda

The Unshakeable Road To Love BookTour

I’m pleased to be part of author Brenda Shoshanna’s “The Unshakeable Road To Love” Book Tour. Brenda is a long term zen practitioner as well as an author, and she integrates teachings of both East and West in all her work, including her latest book “The Unshakeable Road To Love” where she explores the differences between real and counterfeit love. Before I interview Brenda, here’s a quick summary of her book…


Kathleen is a middle-aged woman who loses her job, which leaves her doubting herself and fearing the future. This event sends her on a journey to find purpose and meaning in her life. She flourishes in a new career as a travel agent, but fear and doubt keep her from experiencing all life has to offer. Finally, an unexpected encounter changes everything as God begins to reveal His plans to Kathleen. Each new country she visits brings her closer to finding her real purpose. This story offers hope for readers seeking meaning in their lives regardless of their situation or age.

Publisher: Elk Lake Publishing

ISBN-10: 1649499280

ISBN-13: 978-1649499288


Print Length: 332 pages


A warm welcome to the blog Brenda …

Hello! I am Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.d. author of The Unshakeable Road to Love (Value Centered Relationships. A psychologist, author, playwright, speaker, long term Zen practitioner, and Interfaith Counselor.  Overall, my work has focused on integrating the teachings and practices of East and West and showing how to make them real in our everyday life. I’ve offered talks, workshops, and meditation sessions for many years. My workshops are focused on both personal and spiritual development, and living an authentic life. My favorite teachers are my children and  grandchildren. They constantly remind me to be playful, expect the unexpected and join them in all their different journeys, with an open mind. I’ve just started a blog called Turn The Page, where I hope to integrate what I have discovered in the many different streams of life.

Your book, “The Unshakeable Road To Love”, is truly inspirational – an integration of both East and West teaching. What made you decide to write your book in the first place?

I have been working with these principles for many years, have always been fascinated by the power of relationships and love in our lives. The idea to write the book came during Covid.  I was inspired to write thebook as, along with Covid, the epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and isolation was at its peak. I had come by then to realize that isolation, loneliness and anxiety could be easily dissolved through the experience of Real love. And often upset and conflict dissolved on the spot.

You are a long term Zen practitioner and you have a weekly podcast called “Zen Wisdom For Everyday Life” … but when did you first realize this empowerment that practicing Zen can make a difference in love and life in general? 

I actually started reading about Zen practice when I was fifteen years old, was give a small book on Zen by a teacher in school and could never put the book down. I read it again and again. About fifteen years later I actually met my Zen Master here in NY. After the first night at the zendo (place where Zen is practiced, place for Zen meditation), I could not stay away. It called to me immediately. Then, sitting by sitting, month by month, year by year, the power and strength of practice became more and more evident in my life. It became my life. In fact there is no difference between true practice and one’s life. They interfuse one another.

Your book is jammed pack with hints, projects and situations to help on that road to love. Were there any aspects of writing “The Unshakeable Road To Love” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It surprised and fascinated me, to realize again and again, how all encompassing and powerful the practice of love is, how important it was to keep mindful of it, and to keep practicing it myself. 

You have authored over 20 books, including self help titles, books on Zen, mindfulness and meditation- very impressive 😊 However, are you a reader too?  What genre of books do you read to relax?  

Believe it or not, I still love to relax with books on Zen, and also on the practice of releasing, love, and truths from all scriptures.

You are also the Playwright in residence at The Jewish Repertory Theater and the Ensemble Studio Theatre, both in New York.  When writing your plays,  do you use the same preparation as you would writing your books?  Would you (or have you) written a play based on the advice given in “The Unshakeable Road To Love”? 

I “was” playwright in residence at both of those theaters. I still write plays and actually, just received honorable mention from Tennesse Williams/New Orleans Literary Contest, for a play called “Searching For The Ox,” on Zen! The Master is the hero, it takes place at the zendo, and in Central Park among the homeless. 

When writing plays I approach them the same way I would fiction. I just allow the characters to arrive and to reveal themselves. I let things happen, unfold as they do. I don’t usually plot things out, but enter into a dialogue with my characters. And yes, yes, I use the tools I talk about in The Unshakeable Road to Love.

I welcome every character, grant them the right to be who they are and allow them to speak their truths. No rejecting them or trying to control them. In a sense it is a divine encounter I mention in the book. A true meeting.

Growing up, what career aspirations did you have?

I wanted to be an actress for many years. That morphed into being a playwright. Then I wanted to be a philosophy professor and also have a large family.

Is “The Unshakeable Road To Love”  available to purchase worldwide?

The Unshakeable Road to Love is available on,, and other online platforms. Not sure about worldwide?

For pinning later

What are you working on now?

Just finished an Inspirational Memoir, called A Flash of Lightning. Working on finding the right agent and publisher for this work.

I’d love for you all to subscribe to my blog. There’s a place there to interact, and share your thoughts and feelings – The Forum. The blog will offer all kinds of articles on personal and spiritual growth, opportunities for dialogue, and a new upcoming podcast.

Also working on making the five and half years of my podcast Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, into a series of books and also offering many articles based upon it on my new blog – TURN THE PAGE  (

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

I love colorful, simple, lively outfits, dresses, slacks and beautiful, printed top

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I like Coldwater Creek, Orvis, Bloomingdales.

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

I love long, knit dresses as the weather gets cooler, slacks and beautiful sweaters.

Boots or Shoes?

I like boots outdoors and shoes inside. Shoes are usually easier to get around in, and to get into at home.

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

I am on Facebook:

 Instagram  Zenlife7

Goodreads   Dr Brenda Shoshanna



All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Brenda Shoshanna. My thanks to Brenda for the review copy of “The Unshakeable Road To Love “.

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Journey Of The Twin Flame

I first interviewed author Richard Barnard nearly a decade ago ( see post HERE) in August 2014. His new deeply spiritual novel, “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey Of The Twin Flame “ was an idea hinted at during my first interview with Richard , an idea he was toying with for a new book that looks into reincarnation and spirituality. And lo and behold, this book has now been published and I am so pleased to welcome Richard back on the blog to tell us more about his new book.

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An alien from the future dies and the soul reincarnates, reborn back 10,000 years ago to a small African village beginning human life as what would become earth’s secretly hidden genuine Messiah and angels. The soul reincarnates a further five consecutive lives to the same village psychic soul tribe and throughout each incarnation visually multi-shares futuristic astral travel experiences with them. This practice enables them to see the future horrific atrocities of Africa and the Black race. 

The fifth incarnation the Messiah soul is born male named Koolah and in view of what’s ahead it’s decided this unique soul tribe perform a powerful ritual.  The spell insures they recognise each other and come together during each incarnation to carry out their joint humanitarian sole purpose, ultimately current day spiritually assisting Mother Africa to receive her reparation compensation for mass crimes inflicted by other sections of humanity. 

Welcome back Richard. It has been almost a decade ago since I last interviewed you in August 2014, when you hinted about an idea for a book that looks into reincarnation and spirituality and here we are with your latest deeply spiritual novel “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey Of The Twin Flame”.   What inspired you to write a novel of this nature?

Thank you, it’s great to be back for this interview Linda and goodness ten years, that’s flown. Yes, I hinted the reincarnation vibe in my ‘Danny’s Boys’ novel and it got so many curious positive reactions from readers. The inspiration for ‘Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret, Journey Of The Twin Flame’ came whilst serving a 23-year jail term I received for being the principle organiser behind a massive cocaine shipment.  I felt getting caught and the harsh sentence a curse at the beginning but later realised it was part of a huge blessing.  Prior to that I’d lived an unhealthy life style: late night restaurant meals, endlessly smoking cigarettes day and night, constant partying, consuming and using excessive amounts of alcohol and cocaine, and to an increasing degree, smoking crack. The prison sentence saved my life and gave me a new lease of life, revealing who I am and what I’m born to do in this life.  It was during that prison sentence I gave up cigarettes, became a fitness fanatic and realised the universe, God had taken me to jail to get cleaned up, awakened and show me my calling and soul purpose of this life.  My life purpose is to use my writing talent helping Mother Africa receive her reparations and human equality.  The Arab & Transatlantic Slave Trade still has an effect on the Black race today.  Invaded, sadistically enslaved and forced into the slave master’s religious beliefs. Made to forget nature’s spirituality we’d practiced from the beginning of creation.  For sixteen hundred years forbidden to read or be educated in the religious slavers systems up until just over a hundred years ago.  This is one of the reasons the Black race is behind in society.  It hasn’t helped the colonist still has Africa divided and they’re bleeding the wealth not giving the starving people of the land anything. Western media in the west making us hate and kill one another and even hate our own appearance.  We’re demanding compensation in line with British and US law courts, a figure of £25 Trillion.  Reparation for 500 years of everything under the umbrella of European slavery, murder, rape, forced to work for lifetimes, forcing us away from Gods spirituality, compensated for the wealth obtained from stolen land, the list is endless.  Compensated for stopping one Black Africa developing into the wealthiest nation today.  The colonists are to leave all business interest in Africa and with our compensation and natural recourses we will build ourselves, carry on where we were before the intrusion. Further inspirations came from finding that I’m both spiritually and biologically part of the Jamaican Maroon tribe.  The inspirational magic runs ever deeper; three to four years ago the universe revealed my Twin Flame connection and what I’m here to do on earth.  I’m now in contact with my ancestors receiving spiritual downloads, novel material and amazing ideas for when Africa receives her reparations as are other Twin Flames helping the Native Indians, Aborigines and so forth.  I always felt odd as a child, my deep thinking about spirituality and the way my views on life never fitted with others.  Even Black children’s views for instance the Caribbean born Blacks teasing the Africans for the way the spoke and also the African’s reaction by saying, “we’re not diluted” Up until recently I’ve kept my spirituality secret from the people that don’t get it. But so many of us are waking up, thank God.  Yes Linda, if all that’s not an inspiration to write this novel, what is?

When was you first aware of your ancestral spirits and your purpose in life?

My first deeply spiritual encounter happened at around the age of twelve.  A young Romany gypsy lady Rosella assisted my first spiritual past life regression. Our joint regression reading reawakened our minds; conscious in ancient Africa to find in that life we hadn’t been forced into any man invented religious beliefs, instead deeply spiritual humans and part of a unique soul tribe. During the reading I knew after that life we’d continuously reincarnate meeting the same souls born into different bodies.  Throughout my life growing up I’ve always known this and had guidance from these souls, my deeply spiritual ancestors I’d met again during my childhood past life regression. To answer the question, looking back now that childhood regression reading was when I was firstly aware of my ancestral soul tribe and life purpose for this incarnation.  Since then after experiencing much spiritual phenomenon I’m now thinking the first and only time I met the Romany gypsy Rosella she may have appeared as a so-called phantom of if you like a ghost. 

I loved the intertwining of the characters (souls) – so are your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Linda, coincidently I met another elderly psychic medium and she told me I’m a writer in many past and future lives and often use the entwining method.  The style is part of my own unique style;a characteristic of the soul. The story features Rosella, it had to. Although she’s someone I’ve met just the once; Rosella and my first past life regression has impacted my life so much that I’ve entwined the experience, her name and character into the story.  Among others Rosella actually inspired part of the story.  Incidentally I’ve been reminded there’s no such a thing as a coincidence or a coincidental meeting or coincidental anything in the entire universe.  The character Koolah the Messiah was at first the hardest, but at the same time easiest to portray.   The reason for this is my mother forced us into Sunday school as children where the preacher indoctrinated a to be feared White God and Jesus into the minds of everyone in the church; many of whom were Black children; myself included so therefore at first I found it difficult to create a Black Messiah.

Were there any aspects of writing this novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

Yes, the surprising part was how my ancestors with the material contacted me.  I also based one of the characters, Yanson Bailey off some circumstances that surrounded my young life. Yanson Bailey was hard to write because a lot of his struggles are based on my unique childhood.  The uniqueness comes from being the middle Black child growing up in a household with four lighter skinned mix-race siblings in the nineteen sixties and seventies. I had to go back in time and finally face my own childhood emotional struggles, which has in a way been an amazing therapy.  Which reminds me when I was a young man around fourteen and the lighter skinned people were more favoured, my White soul mate girlfriend was totally aware of my circumstances and she labelled me the ugly duckling.  At first, I felt why would she say such a thing but remembering the kids’ story book tale I knew she was one of many Angels put on my path, another member of my soul tribe. 

Hypothetically speaking, if “ Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey of the Twin Flame” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters? 

When I began creating the novel, on the advice ofthe actor and friend Ray Winstone I visualised it as a TV series to be aimed at Netflix, Tyler Perry or one of the other huge TV producers. Back then I could only see Idris Elba playing Daniel Cottle and Ray Winstone playing the older Charlie Baker.  I’m in contact with Ray and Idris and it would be a dream to bring those guys together in a major production.   As it stands now ten years on Idris could still play the maturing Daniel Cottle in later seasons and Ray the dual role of Charlie Baker and the eighteenth Century Jim Morgan who reincarnates physically exactly identical to modern day Charlie Baker. There’s a sorrowful scene showing the elder legendary pirate captain Jim Morgan having previously been arrested on the island of Jamaica now in his London prison cell waiting to be taken to the Newgate Prison gallows. There’s only one actress I’ve ever visualised playing the dainty mix-race, quarter Black Haitian witch, Claudette and that is no other than Jan Anderson.  This particular acting talent would do it justice, exploding on screen with her natural psychic personality.  I love nothing more than rags to riches success stories and there’s so much talent around the world waiting to be discovered.  Linda, wouldn’t it be nice to find gems introducing unknown, upcoming British, American performers; giving underprivileged Haitian, Jamaican, African and Romanian acting talent this unique opportunity in what would be a massive online TV production.  My parents country of birth Jamaica produces so much talent in all areas of life and I’d also love to see a Jamaican descent male actor play the flamboyant sixties – seventies pretty boy gangster Nathaniel “Cutty” Robinson.  

I loved the fact that I knew the locations featured in the book from East London, where I also grew up, through to Jamaica, Ibiza and West Africa where I have visited; it somehow immersed me fully into the book. So, if you could visit any location in the world for inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

The follow up to ‘Religion’s Hidden Secret’ ‘The Truth’ is again set in Jamaica, Ibiza, Romania, Africa and additional countries.  I’ll be away from the UK touring, spending time in those locations when creating the later drafts of the novel to get a feel for the environment and spiritually. To also connect with my ancestral souls in those locations for inspirational purposes.

Looking through your face book social media platform I’ve noticed you’re associated with many famous celebrities, Idris, other fantastic novelists; Conservative Party politician Jonathan Aitkin among them, actors, footballers, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Kieran Richardson, Olympic Gold medallist Greg Rutherford, major producers like Nick Love and many more. Richard, you know some fascinating people!

Many others say exactly that.  The universe has presented each and every person and spirit to me in this life, including you Linda for friendship and this interview.  I was introduced to Idris and after reading some early drafts of this novel he said I was a great writer, which I took as a huge compliment because he gets screenplays thrown at him regularly by seasoned professional, renowned Hollywood writers. I spoke to him quite regularly whilst he was filming a season of Luther and people around him explained I had an effect on him because he never usually spoke to anyone whilst filming. Ray Winstone’s another one, we constantly spoke when he was on set in South Africa, these guys just find my journey and soul purpose of interest.  You mentioned Nick Love; he showed up at my book launch event in Notting Hill on the 25th August just last month and I’ve always known in him I’ve found a soul mate; always on hand to help with advice. 

Past or present if you could sit and have a conversation with anyone, singling out one who would it be?

 That’s easy, my Twin Flame; other half of me of course.  Linda, imagine meeting the other half of you, other half of your soul in this lifetime. Ok, other than my Twin Flame another person who is alive today : the greatest that has ever graced the sport of boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr.  I’m a huge boxing fan and firstly,  I have to say Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali is the greatest and I feel that Floyd would totally agree because not only what he did for boxing and other sports but influence he will always have on the entire planet. His stance on a Black man fighting in the Vietnam war and by the way I can’t remember word for word but this was his explanation for not going to Vietnam :“You want me to travel thousands of miles to kill a man that’s never enslaved , hated or racial abused me, has no problem with my colour or African heritage.  I’m to kill him for America where I’m just a nigger.  If I’m not shot dead or tortured to death in Vietnam; when I return to America I’m still a nigger, my wife and children not allowed in white schools, restaurants, segregated toilets and parts of buses. Legalised KKK terrorist doing what they wish.   Going to Vietnam would make me a coward in the eyes of my race and wife and I wouldn’t feel I deserve to share our bed.  Am I afraid of going to jail for a few years?  As a Black man in America I am already in jail.  So a few years in one of its jails is nothing. My ancestors went through lifetimes of horrific slavery, men  women and children so that I could be here today and protest for freedom and equality” . Most famous man in the world, if he’s not the greatest, who is?  Brazil are the greatest soccer nation in the world because they’ve won the most FIFA world cups.  Floyd is the greatest boxer because he has the best boxing record. Yes, for many reasons, I’d love to sit with Floyd, it would be a honour to be in his company, speak to him about his career and invite him to invest in our African project and also the TV series based on this novel.

Whose work is your favourite?

 Firstly film.  In my top thirty there’s many Black movies, Samuel L Jackson, in ‘Time To Kill’ Spike Lee’s ‘Malcolm X’, Denzil Washington in ‘Glory’ growing up as a bit of a lad I love all the gangster movies, Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino but it shocks people to say my favourite movie of all time has to be the Steven Spielberg masterpiece ‘Empire Of The Sun’ – it fascinates people when I say this because there is no Black characters but what got me was I aspire to be a great author such as the one who wrote the story J G Ballard and I watched the film during a difficult time in this life where I was on a deep survival mode.  The novel is based on the writer James’s life story where as a spoilt; well to do child in Japan in a split second his life was turned upside down and he had to survive.  I actually watched the movie before reading the novel and the novel was great but when reading back this novel Religion’s Dark Hidden Secret’ it sends shivers through me.  I read back parts of it thinking where did all this come from?  Then realise it was put into my mind by me ancestral soul tribe.  To answer the question the material my ancestors gave me is my favourite.  Also when this is made into a movie followed by an on-line series ‘Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret’ will push ‘Empire Of The Sun’ into my second place.

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

Whilst serving time and after release I’ve read some fantastic novels, Alexandre Dumas’s ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ JG Ballard’s ‘Empire Of The Sun’ and other all time greats although I’m not actually a book worm as such, I’m usually too engrossed into creating my own material. I don’t mind a kindle or actual book.  Just to add, I spoke to an old flame a few years back and she reminded me I once explained the kindle idea to her way before it was invented.  That must be the psychic power within me. 

Is “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret  – Journey Of The Twin Flame” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes Linda! The hardback, paperback and kindle can be purchased on Amazon and later the audio copy will follow.  We’re in the process of promoting it all around the world, beginning in the Caribbean and moving to the US. This story is designed to help eradicate racism bring equality to humanity and end world hunger.  Among the many points it makes, our bodies die and we as souls reincarnate.  As a woman of any nation conceives birth we souls begin life, Black White or any nation in any era.  I’ve known for a long time that there is no such a thing as individual races.  We were all Black at some stage but some nations have evolved to appear differently to deal with climates. There is only one race and that’s the human race. By the way Linda, I strongly feel you personally have lived some enjoyable Black lives and you’ve actually felt a familiarity when holidaying in Black homelands. The story goes deeper explaining Black Africa is the cradle of civilisation; the entire human race began Black.  When you look at those two points alone it just shows how pointless, vile and sickening racism really is. 

Ok Richard, the goal? You speak of your soul purpose, bringing prosperity to Africa and so forth. How do you plan to do this?

When this novel is a success,  I’ll have a voice.  I’ll begin by bringing together everyone with influence and empathy for to the long horrific destruction of the Motherland and today still oppressing the Black race. Invite them to join me in a project that continuously comes to me by way of beautiful dreams. The Rapper Akon, Roger Federer, Sadio Mané, Idris, Tyler Perry, Floyd Mayweather, Nick Love, Oprah and hundreds of others are to be invited to invest in this project where the west will teach African indigenous people to be self sufficient.  Anybody will be able to by shares in this fruitful and at the same time meaningful investment.  We’re to approach an underdeveloped country government to talk about investing in a Black financed and Black built West coast African town to rival Dubai.  Education, tourism, export businesses, airstrip and an international airport, training and employing local labour, wouldn’t that be amazing? We won’t stop there, put another tourist attraction town further down the coastline and train track right around the coast adding hotels building the tourism industry. Tourist trips to the slave forts, etc showing the world Black and White, even Arab tourists where they came from; slaves and slave masters.  Linda, this is where it goes deep.  The human body I have at present will eventually die but I’ll reincarnate in around two hundred years to witness all the colonists that are still today bleeding Africa dry, they’ll be gone, all greedy sell-out, corrupt Black politicians, gone.   Instead Mother Africa smiling again, a booming Black African economy. No man invented religion, instead nature’s spirituality, one leader, one country, one currency. You ever listened to the John Lennon track, Imagine? For me among the simplest and most positive lyric ever written. It’s my responsibility to help make this happen.  With the help of spirit we’ll be unstoppable.

Personal now and on a much lighter note – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Sounds strange but even when going out partying, I like to dress casual in jeans, tee shirts, jumpers, especially makes like Hugo Boss, Replay. I’ve begun doing radio and televised events, which will lead to national TV talks surrounding this project and I suppose now I’ll have to treat myself to a new swanky suit or two.  Maybe Armani, Hugo Boss or another cool brand.  

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

All the shops I’ve just mentioned, Linda.  I’m also forever ordering a Nike training shoe from JD Sports.

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

With a little luck many swanky suits, which would tell me I’m headed the right direction with this amazing project.

Boots or Shoes?

I’m a boots type of guy, Linda. The reason being I find nothing more annoying than when the backs of your jeans or trousers keep getting caught inside the heel part of the shoe.  With boots you’ve no need to worry about this.


Thanks for the chat, Richard. I found your novel riveting and I really enjoyed the entwining journeys of souls connecting and reconnecting across time. Many thanks for the copy of the book to experience the journey myself .

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the fire eater photo – by Linda Hobden) have been published with the full permission of Richard Barnard.

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Destination: Ravello & the Villa Rufolo

Ravello …. a gorgeous town set high up in the cliffs, 365 metres above the Tyrrhenian Sea overlooking the Italian Amalfi coastline and the famous resorts of Amalfi and Positano. Being slightly inland from its famous close neighbours, Ravello offers a more peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle. Ravello offers the same shopping opportunities, has an abundance of bars and restaurants and a gorgeous square – that alone gives Ravello a more “airier and relaxed” feel. The jewel in Ravello’s crown is the stunning 13th century Moorish-style Villa Rufolo with its glorious terraced gardens overlooking the Amalfi coastline. It reminded me of the Monte gardens in Funchal, Madeira (albeit on a smaller scale). In the summer, Ravello is buzzing with the sound of music as the villa and gardens house the popular Ravello Festival – an outdoor music extravaganza with far reaching views. The Villa Rufolo and gardens are wheelchair accessible, according to the Fondazione Ravello who own the property – there were a lot of steps but I did see some slopes and signs for stairlifts.

Villa Rufolo was built in the 13th century by the Rufolo family. When the Villa was first built, it was said to have boasted that it had more rooms than the days of the year! Over the centuries though, the Villa had been slowly neglected and weather worn. It wasn’t until 1851 when Scottish industrialist Francis Neville Reid bought the Villa and began to restore the property and gardens. Although the original 13th century Villa had been a truly unique mixture of Arabic, Sicilian and Norman architecture; Francis added the romantic gardens. Sometime in the 18th century, heavy looking cloisters were bizarrely added. More recently, in 2007, modern facilities were added for the new owners – Fondazione Ravello, the Ravello Festival and the Centro Universitano Europea per I Beni Culturali.

My first stop as I entered the Villa Rufolo was the Moorish Courtyard. Originally columns surrounded all three sides of the courtyard, but today only 36 columns and 2 arches remain on the left hand side. It still looked impressive though. During some restoration work undertaken in the 1990s, the remains of two “ovens” were uncovered behind the courtyard, each had fire resistant vaults and lava bases. Traces of smoke was visible on the sides. Archaeologists believe that this was probably the site of the original kitchen.

La Torre Maggiore is the 30m high tower with views that overlooked both the mountains and the sea. The height of the tower suggests that the Rufolo family must have been pretty important people socially, economically and politically in the 13th century to have built this tall tower in such a strategic position. Today, the tower has just been opened to the public after some impressive restoration work. The tower has three floors and hosts a museum displaying artwork and some archaeological finds. There is also a flight of stairs leading up to the roof terrace that are made of steel and crystal!

The gardens though are lush! The gardens have been kept alive to this day thanks to the descendants of the original team of gardeners employed by Francis Neville Reid in 1851. The view from the garden terraces over the coastline is one of the most photographed panoramas in the world. Definitely instagram worthy!! Musician Richard Wagner visited the Villa in 1880 and was enthralled by the exotic plants that he apparently claimed he had found “the magical garden of Klingsor.” A plaque on the wall commemorates his visit on 26th May 1880.

The Upper garden looks out across the lower gardens to an area known as “Il Belvedere”. This is where the Ravello Festival takes place, with a stage that projects out over the sea. The stage is erected each year at the start of the Festival season.

During archaeological excavations undertaken between 1988 – 1998, the “Balnea” was uncovered – a site of baths, in particular a Turkish bath with remains of water ducts and an intact ribbed dome ceiling. Latest thoughts are that this complex had existed prior to the building of the Villa Rufolo in the 13th century!


Sit in the main square, Piazza Duomo , which has a lovely spacious feel that you don’t get in either Amalfi or Positano. Around the square are restaurants with outdoor seating .

Go shopping. The narrow shopping streets are lined with ceramic shops, clothing stores, shoe makers, limoncello outlets, sweet shops selling lemon and pistachio delights (yum!) and at the top of the Main Street is the most delicious ice cream shop – Baffone Gelato – the “lemon crumble” flavoured ice cream I had was absolutely scrumptious. Also , try the freshly made lemon slushies drink from the many vendors that line the streets – heaven on a hot day 😊

Go on limoncello tastings – a liqueur made from the town’s abundant lemon groves. Limoncello Spritzer is the latest trendy drink in the bars here too!

Lastly, take instagram worthy photographs. The scenery in this area is stunning. It is so easy to see why Villa Rufolo was awarded the Expert Choice Award 2022 by Tripexpert based on the positive reviews by Frommer’s, Michelin, Fodors, Lonely Planet & Afar Magazine.

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Historic info was provided by Fondazione Ravello;

Photographs by Linda Hobden

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Author Interview: Gethyn Jones

This week I’m interviewing former broadcaster Gethyn Jones who is also now a songwriter, producer and author. I was fortunate enough to read his debut novel “Fatal Equation” & listen to the accompanying EP of original songs by Gethyn performed by the band mentioned in his book, Coolstar. This is a book of two halves – you have the romantic drama and trials of an age gap relationship; and you have the music and the DJ life. It all cleverly intertwines and has enough drama to keep you on your toes!


At the age of 16, his domineering father cruelly exiled Ali Kurmi to the south coast in order to protect the family name. Now in his thirties, he’s forced to work as an unofficial bailiff for his father’s property company, a job he detests. The only thing keeping him going is songwriting and DJ- ing. Ali invests all his cash in a plan to break into the notoriously unwelcoming music business. His off- beat passion for 70s and 80s music leads him into DJ work on the corporate events circuit, where he meets and is smitten with, a beautiful, older woman. Laura O’Brien recently inherited a fortune after the tragic death of her husband Frank, the internationally acclaimed Irish racehorse breeder. Determined to avoid returning to the bottle, she’s left Tipperary to start afresh in Hampshire – with plans to put her new-found wealth to good use. This unlikely couple’s happiness, and their plans to launch Ali’s music career, are soon imperiled when Ali finds himself being blackmailed by his own father – and innocently falling foul of a drugs cartel. Trouble’s brewing for Laura too, not least her unhinged and dangerous step-daughter, hell- bent on revenge.


Hi Gethyn and welcome….

Hi. I’m Gethyn Jones. I’m a musician, composer, author, web designer and for twenty five years I was a radio presenter with the BBC and Independent Local Radio. I laterhelped to set up a community TV station where I was News Editor/Head of Programmes and at one time I also taught senior military servicemen how to handle TV and radio interviews. Bit of a mixture isn’t it!

Who or what inspired you to write your debut novel, Fatal Equation?

 It started with a song called Fatal Equation! After a very long break from writing music I took it up again and before I knew it I had 18 professionally mastered tracks. Whilst it’s easy releasing tracks on Spotify, anyone can release a record nowadays – the trouble is, they do! It’s alleged that 60,000 tracks get uploaded to that platform every single day. Consequence? Most never see the light of day. So what to do with all those songs of mine?  Enter an experienced actor friend who suggested setting the songs into the context of a story – with a view to a possible TV drama series. The outcome of nearly four years work is: the Fatal Equation Book and three companion EPs of music featured in the storyline performed by the band Coolstar. There’s also the TV drama treatment waiting for when Netflix comes knocking (I wish).

I enjoyed the unravelling drama and romance of the age gap relationship between Laura and Ali ; the spitefulness of Laura’s stepchildren; the previous relationships/baggage of both Laura and Ali ; Ali’s family; and Ali’s budding music career. There were quite a few threads in the novel that seemed to gel well together. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Hands up – this is my first novel and whilst I have a lot of professional experience in writing, creating a novel was an awesome prospect. The very thought of embarking on the project terrified me. What came as a total surprise to me was how I ended up completely loving the experience. I’m very familiar with songwriting and how it can take you away from reality when you’re immersed in it. To my delight, writing this book had the same magical effect. I went somewhere else and not wishing to sound corny, the book kind-of wrote itself. I still don’t know where creative inspiration comes from – it’s ethereal, magic and addictive.

Copyright © Linda Hobden

My favourite character  was Laura – I liked her fondness for Ali and her strengthening love for him and their relationship despite a lot of setbacks.  Which character did you find easiest to write? Hardest? Any personal favourites? 

There’s a substantial amount of me in Ali Kurmi – I’ve always hankered for a place in the music business – so creating Ali’s character was a job half done. It was also really interesting exploring the other side of his persona: a troubled and traumatic childhood, a domineering almost abusive father, forced into a violent job he loathed – and the rest. But these negatives are ultimately outweighed by positives – as his survival instinct and determination to see his dreams through, kick in. I also love the idea that falling for Laura completely blind-sided him and turned his life around.

You are also a songwriter and a former radio broadcaster, so it should be no surprise that you have a companion EP of 6 original songs written by yourself and performed by Coolstar, the outfit mentioned in the book. So what came first, the book or the album? Why did you decide to have a companion EP?

I see Fatal Equation as a trilogy – an album of songs, a novel and a potential TV drama. In my head, the three go together. So we’ll see how that pans out. However, the project is driven by the music – that came first. Ali Kurmi is like me – he writes songs that vary in style dramatically. Heavy Rock, Country, Classical, Dance, Brass Funk and simple Abba-esque pop. All sung by different singers. 12 tracks out of 18 are already out there on two EPs. They’re all performed by the band Coolstar and varioussingers. The EPs are called Fatal Equation Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Both are streaming and available for download in the usual places. Coolstar exists as fiction in the novel – and in reality too. Read the book – check out the tunes.

Have you always wanted to have a career in music or as an author or did you have other aspirations? 

I’ve always wanted to create music – but I’m not so sure about a career as that’s probably a little late in the day for me. Back in the day when I was working in radio I also belonged to JUGG MUSIC who wrote and produced music for TV shows duringthe 70s and 80s – RUNAROUND the kids quiz show is probably the best-known. That was very satisfying. But I have to say that what I’m doing now is giving me the biggest thrill so far. I’ve managed to create a project I’m deeply proud of and I hope to make the most of it. The Fatal Equation story has more to give and a second book is not out of the question!

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

I always have a book on the go – be it Kindle or physical. My reading is like my music – catholic with a small ‘c’. Anything goes. I love Lee Child, Stephen King, John Grisham, Erin Kelly, Sarah Winman, TM Logan, Mathew Hall, Stephen Fry and many more I can’t remember. Most of my reading is done in bed so my progress can be slow!

Is “Fatal Equation” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes it is. It’s available as an eBook or paperback at Amazon and the companion CDs by Coolstar are available to buy or stream – at the usual places.

 Hypothetically speaking, if you could visit any place in the world to base your next novel in, where would you go and why? 

I’ve visited Australia once – my wife has relatives there – and it was fabulous. A few days in the Blue Mountains was an unworldly experience and one I’ll never forget. So down under, it could be.

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

Straight jeans (occasional chinos and, mainly for weddings and funerals, non-double-breasted/non-waistcoat/very dark blue, black or charcoal suits); layered tee shirts, shirts, pure wool sweaters, and fleeces; leather loafers; gym trainers; ‘posh’ leather trainers for socialising. For studio sessions and client meetings: always have a large leather messenger bag over my shoulder.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For clothes: often, M&S – their menswear is (by and large) good-quality and their post-purchase customer service is no-nonsense and stress-free to navigate.

I used to use John Lewis for the same reasons; however, they seem to have fallen behind in reliability and customer service, which is a shame because my wife and I enjoy visiting their stores to see the goods first-hand, then buying online and clicking and collecting from our local Waitrose. 

My wife often sources the most wonderful velvet blazers in a variety of colours from White Stuff – nearer the festive season, their website has wonderful choices.

For shoes: again, often M&S – not least because they cater for half sizes. I like some Kurt Geiger styles but they don’t seem to encompass half-size preferences. Shame. I also like Clarks nowadays. They used to be very old-fashioned but they have come on leaps and bounds. AND, they cater for half sizes. If I had one wish, it would be for them to focus more on genuine leather you can actually polish, rather than suede/nubuck finishes. 

My ‘best’ trainers have proved to be Bugatti tan leather. They always receive oohs and aahs when I wear them. A sound investment.

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

I hunt for clothes items that have clever ‘finishes’ – small details that set them aside from the high-street norms. It can be a classy button-down shirt collar; a different shade of sewing machine cotton; a fun lining to a jacket … often, this is a clever tool used by White Stuff. The difference is in the smallest details. 

For shoes, I hunt down good-quality, polish-friendly leather. I hang on to my shoes for years. I choose classic styles that don’t date, so I get longevity of wear. It makes sense ecologically. Choosing faux leather isn’t all it’s made out to be – the footwear just wears out prematurely, requiring more shoe turnover. I’d rather invest in footwear that you don’t have to bin prematurely.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – every time. As a teenager, it was all about boots, and I certainly followed the crowd. But the fact is, boots are generally less comfortable and can also end up being frustratingly air-circulation-deprived (!) I plump for shoes nowadays and am very happy with that choice.

For Pinning Later


Book (Amazon)

EPs – Coolstar (Spotify)


Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Gethyn, and I love your shoe enthusiasm too! I thought your debut novel was superb, as well as your music and I look forward to seeing the book made into a film! Thank you also for you the copy of your book for reviewing – my views are 100% my own. Thanks also to Cameron Publicity.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Gethyn Jones; apart from the Pinterest photo, the header & the gramophone pic which were taken by me (Linda Hobden)

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Gypsy For God Book Tour

I’m pleased to be part of the “Gypsy For God” book tour. “Gypsy For God” is a Christian fiction book written by Yvonne M Morgan. In this book Yvonne has put together a novel that showcases not only her own love of travel but also her deep relationship with God.


Kathleen is a middle-aged woman who loses her job, which leaves her doubting herself and fearing the future. This event sends her on a journey to find purpose and meaning in her life. She flourishes in a new career as a travel agent, but fear and doubt keep her from experiencing all life has to offer. Finally, an unexpected encounter changes everything as God begins to reveal His plans to Kathleen. Each new country she visits brings her closer to finding her real purpose. This story offers hope for readers seeking meaning in their lives regardless of their situation or age.

Publisher: Elk Lake Publishing

ISBN-10: 1649499280

ISBN-13: 978-1649499288


Print Length: 332 pages


Please welcome onto the blog the lovely Yvonne to tell us more about her travels, her book and her faith …. Hi Yvonne!

Hi everyone. I’m Yvonne Morgan. A little about myself, I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and spent most of my summers there as I grew up and I also lived in Canada for eleven years before immigrating to the USA in 1974. I’m a mom to five children (two girls, an adopted set of twins and a son who lives in heaven). And, I’m a grandmother to five grandkids. I love Jesus, doing short-term mission trips and traveling.

Who or what inspired you to write “Gypsy For God”?

We started going on mission trips in 1983 to honor our son after his death. For many years, everyone wanted to know about the travel aspect of our mission journeys. So after writing my other books, I wanted to try my hand at fiction and include travel to other places. We learn so much when we travel. And as I got older and retired, I thought the book should inspire people who think they are no longer as useful in life. I didn’t start writing till I was in my 50s, so I know God can use any of us, no matter our age or circumstances. So all that came together as Gypsy for God.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Gypsy For God ”and I particularly enjoyed the character of Kathleen. Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting…describing the various countries visited, for example. I know you love to travel and have done mission work too, so did you draw on your travel experiences? 

Yes, I drew on my travel experiences and each country in the book is one that I visited in my life. I wanted to really describe them in accurate detail for my audience, so picked the countries for that reason. Kathleen ends up visiting Spain, United Arab Emirates, India, Kenya, Nepal and Ireland. I found so much joy in revisiting those places in my mind as I wrote about them and digging out photos from my trips to make sure I got the details just right. I’m glad you enjoy the travels as I hoped and prayed that the travel sections would apply to lots of people as well as inspire them.

Streets of Dublin, Eire . Copyright © Photograph by Linda Hobden

Having been to some of the locations myself mentioned in the book, I admired how you described the coexistence of the extreme poverty alongside the extremely wealthier parts – as it is a total shock to the system when you first encounter this. I found this especially true the first time I visited with Kenya – especially when I saw the slums and “rubbish/garbage” hills of Nairobi. Where did you get your first culture shock?

My first genuine culture shock came on my first mission trip to Haiti. Even before my mission trips, I traveled a lot with my parents, but not to such impoverished places. In Haiti, we worked with children at a summer feeding program. Then one night, after dinner, I noticed our host agency collecting all our scraps from dinner. When she took them outside the compound to the trash area, dozens of children ran after her to claim the food we had not eaten. It broke my heart to watch them, but then it also encouraged me to keep trying to make a difference for poor children in the world. Somethingwe continue to do. As a side note, we are off to Kenya in the middle of August for me to teach at a women’s conference in a church outside Nairobi.

Prior to “Gypsy For God” you have written your memoir, a prayer journal, bible study books, Bible based children’s books … Gypsy For God book is the first Christian fiction novel you’ve written.  Was it harder or easier than you imagined to write a fiction book? Did you enjoy the experience? Were the characters based on people you know or met in your travels? 

Writing fiction was so much harder than I imagined after writing the non-fiction books and children’s books. I wanted to give up often because I thought it was too hard to make the transition. But God kept impressing on me to keep going, so I did and am thankful I did. During the process of editing, if you had asked me if I enjoyed it, I would answer, no. But now, I look back and I learned so much that I will try it again, probably with a sequel to Gypsy. None of my characters are based on actual people,but more of a combination of many of the people we have to meet or worked with over the years. I used the various personalities from the countries to comprise my characters.

A village on the island of Boa Vista, Cape Verde. Copyright © Photograph by Linda Hobden

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

I used to love writing poetry in elementary and middle school but then lived happened. I never pictured myself as becoming a writer. But, I pursued a degree in accounting and worked my entire career in the accounting field. So when I felt the nudge to write, I tried to laugh it off. But God kept nudging me to write, so I started about 8 years ago. After my first book, I thought that would end my writing because I had done what God called me to do. But He kept nudging me with other ideas and so I keep writing them. Writing is a journey I never expected, but it has blessed me so much.

Is “Gypsy For God ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, because it is available on Amazon and I think it holds a universal appeal for trying to understand our purpose in life.

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

 I have a bucket list, lol. I really like to travel to remote, unspoiled by tourism type places. So one place I really want to visit is Mongolia. The vastness and history of the country appeal to me and, of course, I could incorporate it into a story. The other place is Morocco. I love their food and culture and dream of visiting it someday too. In both countries, I could see my main character get lost in a search for some kind of divine guidance. I might have to schedule some trips and call it research, lol.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? And are you a kindle or “proper book” fan?

I love to read and in some past years have read over twenty books in a year. Gypsy for God kept me busy for the last while. And I really do like all kinds of books. Right now, I’m looking over my books on Kindle to see if I can determine just one genre. So I love books set in other lands and full of adventure. I also like reading Christian non-fiction to strengthen my faith. I really love Alexander McCall Smith’s series called the “No. One Ladies Detective Agency,” set in Botswana. I’ve read all of them. I recently read the Gumbeaux Sistas series by Jax Frey. They are set in New Orleans, a city I love to visit so I can eat too much. And I just started “The Pinecraft Pie Shop” series by Tricia Goyer and Sherry Gore. These are Amish fiction books with great recipes. I prefer paperback books but use my Kindle when traveling on long trips so I can have more than one book available to me.

Menu from a Madagascan Restaurant copyright © Linda Hobden

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

I’m a casual girl. I live in Oklahoma City and our summer is very hot. So most often I will be in shorts and shirts or sundress. I love my sandals and running shoes. It’s fun to dress up occasionally, but I am most comfortable in casual clothes. And if I’m completely honest, a lot of mornings, I stay in my pajamas while I write and drink lots of coffee.

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

 When we travel, I like to visit grocery stores to see what things they sell that differ from here in the USA and to see the prices on staple items. There is a store in New Orleans called California Drawstrings that carries lots of the clothes I love. That includes dresses, pants and tops made of 100% cotton or gauze like material. 

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

I am going to a wedding in Toronto, Canada at the end of September so need to go shopping for the event. It will be semi formal so I’m looking for a sparkle in the outfit and shoes.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – it’s too hot most of the time in Oklahoma for me to wear boots. But I own a red pair of cowboy boots, which I love. 

Links you would like to share:

a. Author’s Page:

c. Twitter:

b. Facebook:

d. Instagram:

e. Blog:

f. Goodreads:

g. Charity work page:


Thanks to Yvonne for agreeing to be interviewed and for a copy of “Gypsy Of God” . All photographs are by me, apart from the author photo and the book cover.

Linda x

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Guide To Planning And Budgeting A Wedding

2023 has seen both my daughter and my eldest son get married – both had a different “theme” and venue. My daughter organises weddings as part of her job at a local hotel too. There is such a variety of venues and themes to choose from, and various costs involved that planning a wedding can become a logistical nightmare. This week’s post is by my guest blogger, Dan from The Financial Wilderness, a UK Personal Finance Blog, who has just recently got married himself….. Welcome Dan….

For pinning later

Hello everyone! Today’s post has a fairly clear inspiration – a few months ago we got engaged, and we’ve been spending the last couple of months researching, creating a budget and visiting various wedding venues. We’re so happy with the wedding venue we ended up as our choice, and I thought I’d share with you our thinking and process on how to choose and budget for your wedding venue.

When you start looking at the wedding it can feel quite initially daunting – there’s so many options out there and we walked away feeling a little overwhelmed at first – so we’ll also be going into tips to help manage that side as well.

What type of wedding venue would you like?

Our first bit of advice is to try if you can to work out what type of wedding you want in big picture terms – some suggested questions would be:

• Would you like to have your wedding in a town or in the country?

• Roughly where would you like to get married geographically?

• Do you see yourself getting married in a barn, country house, registry office, park, abroad etc.?

• Is there any x-factor that’s particularly important to you (for example, would you want a church nearby?)

• Do you want to get married at a particular time of the year, and would you want it to be at the weekend?

The reasoning for doing this is that once you’ve established a type of wedding it helps keep things within a certain budgetary range and (and helpfully starts to cut down the list of places to consider).

In our case for instance we were looking for a barn wedding in Sussex – once we’d got that, we found from our further research that the venue costs were going to be in a 2k-3k span no matter where we chose – so we could think much more about the venue itself.

You may of course have absolutely no idea – in this case we’d suggest picking out just one or two of each type you might consider, and visiting those venues in a very broad sense, simply thinking about if this is somewhere you’d like to get married.

In terms of finding the venues themselves, we found the websites Hitched (which has some great planning tools) and Bridebook particularly helpful.

Challenge if the type of wedding venue fits your overall budget

Weddings are generally expensive affairs, and it’s pretty easy to get yourself on a path of going into cost overboard through not realising how much everything might cost at an early stage.

So once you’re at that stage of having decided the type of wedding, I’d recommend doing a quick check on your venue preferences against overall budgetary expectations to just do a check on feasibility before starting to fall in love with particular venues.

Firstly, I’d suggest taking at least three venues you’ve found of the right type and “look good on paper” and averaging their hire into a venue price.

It’s worth now setting up a planner to come up with some rough figures on what everything might cost.

This will take a little time to research but will set you up well for the future, as you’re building a framework you and use to track and manage the actual wedding costs.

In terms of using estimated number for now, web research and friends experiences can with this. In some cases like caterers it may be worth asking for some rough details to get your started. And with any budget I’d suggest starting by assuming the higher end of spending!

Top Tip: One thing you need to be extra careful about when speaking to vendors is what’s included or excluded – for instance, we found that many places quoted us figures excluding VAT, but in practice we’d be paying that.

Some suggested items to go on this include:

• Venue Hire

• Church if needed

• Catering

• Flowers

• Wedding Rings

• DJ/Band/Entertainment

• Dress/Suit

• Photographer

• Stationary

• Accommodation

• Wedding Cars

• Other decorations

• Cake

Having this framework in a broad sense means you can assess the feasibility of the type of venue that you’ve chosen and answer the key question:

When I put everything together, is this an amount I’m happy to pay for this type of venue?

And if not….

What would I be happy to change and make compromises on?

Shortlisting your potential wedding venues

Now that we’ve got a type of wedding and our rough budget, we created a “longlist” of venues which based on their details on line had the characteristics we’d want to see.

We made top level notes on each, making notes on:

• What the final hire price was

• What we particularly liked or had concerns about.

• Specific x-factors which we wanted to compare on. (For instance if the venue had a corkage or dry hire policy and their catering flexibility was important to us).

In our case, this left us with about 50 venues. We used a combination of the notes we’d made and a revisit to the website to whittle these down to a shortlist of 6. We then went to visit these to see how the reality matched up to expectations – this way we got to 2, then 1 .

(Whilst we didn’t end up picking one of these, if a longlist venue was fairly close to a shortlist venue we made a point to drop in – sometimes places can surprise you!)

Questions to ask your wedding venue

We found all the wedding venue staff really helpful and friendly, but remember that they are ultimately there to sell you the venue! It’s therefore really important to ask the questions they’re not naturally going to tell you.

Here’s some things we asked about that might be a bit less obvious than standard questions but we found helpful – if you have any other good ones, please do let us know in the comments below!

(We asked every venue these and some more standard ones and tracked them on our phones).

• How many caterers do you partner with? Am I tied in to one of these?

• Aside from the caterers, do you require me to use any other specific service?

• Do you have any sound or time restrictions on bands and DJ’s?

• Do we need permission for a band?

• When can we start the wedding set-up from?

• What is included/excluded with the hire price (tables, chairs?)

• Can guests pick up their cars the next day?

• Do you have any specific restrictions? (We found many places banned stilettos owing to the risk of damage to the dancefloor!)

• What is your policy on candles/fire pits/fireworks?

• Do you have links with a local church?

• What is your deposit policy?

When you’re at the point where you’re pretty serious about a venue, we’d also suggest asking for a copy of their contract to review before you make your final decision, as this can sometimes throw up a few unexpected surprises!

And finally good luck – choosing your wedding venue is an incredibly exciting part of the process, so be sure to enjoy it along with the practical stuff!

If you’ve enjoyed this article, please do check out The Financial Wilderness for some great UK Personal Finance content!

Thank you Dan!


All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Crochet Vibe

The rejection of fast fashion and the heightened awareness of sustainable clothing makes it no surprise that in 2023 crochet clothing has featured heavily on catwalks and in clothing brand collections. Handmade crochet clothing is the only handicraft that cannot be made on a machine, unlike knitting. There was a crochet boom in the 1960s too – the “granny square” came into vogue, as well as a huge trend for crocheted home ware. Sound familiar?

For Pinning Later. Copyright ©Linda Hobden

My husband’s gran was a big knitter and she also crocheted granny squares to make enormous throws for our family. They are treasured heirlooms now as unfortunately she died in May this year aged 97. The latest recipient of a “granny square” item lovingly created by gran was my grandson who had a blanket made, but I think it was more appreciated by my daughter in law. Our family throw has been with us a number of years and has featured in many blog photographs over the past 10 years …

Copyright © Linda Hobden

Crochet clothing though. I had a crocheted top that I adored in the 1990s and it remained in my wardrobe until around 2007 when it snagged and unravelled and I decided to get rid. It was a camel colour and it was one of those tops that went with everything – an ideal wardrobe capsule item. The current dresses featured in stores at the moment are a mixture of plain crocheted styles alongside those in your face granny square numbers that look like gran’s throws!

The advantages of wearing crochet dresses are that they will keep you cool and comfortable. They are also sustainable – especially if made using organic cotton. The disadvantages – well, they are bulkier than usual summer dresses and crochet uses more yarn than the equivalent knitted fabric.

Joe Brown’s catalogue

So what underwear should you wear under a crochet dress? Well , wearing underwear that matches your skintone will give you a seamless look. Or you can opt for a camisole style slip dress either in skintone or the same colour as the crochet dress. A slip dress not only gives a streamlined look but is also lightweight and you shouldn’t feel overheated. If you are using your crochet dress as a beach cover up , then it really up to you if you want to wear a colour co ordinated swimsuit or not underneath. A crochet cover up dress will enable you to look smart enough to go from beach areas to your hotel room – especially with the new Spanish rules banning the wearing beachwear in public in areas away from beaches and pools.

Crochet dresses, pouffes, bags and accessories I like …. but I’m not quite sure if I like crochet “square” trousers….. however, on Etsy I did spot a digital crochet pattern to crochet some extremely cute black & white skull pattern trousers… they would look fab with a white bikini top – you’ll just need the talent to crochet them in the first place!

Copyright © HomescapesOnline

Lastly, I can’t let a crochet post go past without giving a quick mention of this adorable crochet animals wallpaper by Anne-Claire Petit, featuring crocheted animals on a cream crocheted background….

Copyright © Lime Lace

Linda x

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All About The Espadrille

The Espadrille. The ultimate summer shoe – unisex, flat, wedge, with or without ties. The espadrille first “emerged” in the Basque & Catalan regions of Northern Spain/Southern France. In 14th century Spain, espadrilles were not fashion items but workwear worn by soldiers and peasants alike because they were cheap and practical. The Basque & Catalan rebel fighters habitually wore espadrilles because they were cheaper than leather army boots, easy to replace and forgiving on hot terrain. Espadrilles became the a symbol of the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) when pictures emerged of Catalan rebels marching nagainst General Franco’s armies wearing espadrilles on their feet.

Whilst the Spanish Civil War was going on, over the Spanish border in the French Catalan region, the village of St Laurent de Cerdans embraced the Catalan espadrille and developed the traditional craft into a flourishing industry which has given families in the entire valley a livelihood for 100 years. In the 1960s production went into decline – caused mainly by cheaper, foreign imports. From 15 factories in the 1930s , there is only 1 factory today – “Creation Catalane”. Creation Catalane was created in February 2008 in a former espadrille factory, producing hand made espadrilles in a traditional way – with the French flag on the back to differentiate the espadrilles from those being made over the border in Spain.

By the end of the Spanish Civil War, the humble espadrille was getting international attention. Artist Salvador Dali played up his Catalan roots by wearing laced up espadrilles with red socks and a skull cap. Hollywood movie goddesses wore them: Rita Hayworth in “The Lady From Shanghai” in 1947 and Lauren Bacall in “Key Largo” in 1948. In the 1970s, Yves Saint Laurent happened to meet traditional Spanish espadrille maker, Castaer, at a trade fair and asked him if he would consider making an espadrille in a different shape … and the wedge heeled espadrille was born.

In Spain, like in St Laurent de Cerdans, traditional espadrille makers are few – the most famous are Castaer and Naguisa, based in Barcelona. In Spain, a store that sells traditionally handmade espadrilles is called “Alpargateria” . Today, the majority of the world’s espadrilles are now mass-produced in Bangladesh.

The word “espadrille” derives from “esparto”, the Mediterranean grass traditionally used to make the braided sole. Each part of the espadrille was traditionally made by a different artisan:

  • Flax Uppers ( now cotton canvas – each Catalan region has its own fabric pattern)
  • Wearing and pressing on the rope soles
  • Assembly the shoe with decorative stitches
  • Sealing soles with pitch (replaced nowadays with rubber)
For pinning later

Espadrilles are ideal as summer footwear. Recommended to be worn without socks – the espadrille is made with natural fibres that absorb humidity and allow the foot to breathe. If you do happen to get the shoes wet, leave them to thoroughly dry out for 5 – 7 days until the rope is thoroughly dry and then they will be good to go. You can wash your espadrilles, preferably by hand using a soft brush and natural soap. If you do want to machine wash them, a cold wash is preferable but whatever method you use, let the shoes dry naturally- don’t tumble dry. When you first get your espadrilles, they should be a tight fit as they naturally mould to your foot. That’s what I love about espadrilles – having a narrow foot I find that they keep moulded to my foot shape and don’t slip off! My pink espadrilles below have been washed in the sea numerous times and are almost 10 years old …. and they still maintain their shape.

If you would like to check out traditional Catalan espadrilles – there is an English version :

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

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Author Interview: Paul Graham

My guest this week is author Paul Graham, whose debut psychological crime thriller has just been published by Mereo Books – “In The Shadow They Cast”. I do enjoy a good thriller, and this novel is fast paced with twists and turns that kept me entertained from start to finish. The threads of the novel were very cleverly intertwined and I really can’t believe that this is Paul’s debut!A most excellent read.


A gripping, psychological crime thriller set in London, Brighton and New York that explores the deadly nature of consequences.  

·         In the murky world that surrounds the powerful Vignone family, one man’s ruthless actions unleash wide-ranging and deadly repercussions. 

Despite his impoverished, tough childhood in New York, Paolo Vignone has built a thriving, if morally-dubious, business empire which he rules over with harsh discipline – a discipline that he also applies to those closest to him.  So, when his son Lorenzo becomes involved in a relationship which does not meet with Paolo’s approval, he sends him to Europe to defuse the situation. However, when Lorenzo returns the situation is not as Paolo had planned.  The chain of events that follows leads to tragic and murderous consequences.


Hello Paul, welcome ! Please introduce yourself.

Hello, I’m Paul. I was born in Brighton and now live in Hove. That journey of less than 5 miles took me via Reigate, London, Barcelona and Bournemouth. I have worked in bookselling and IT, and currently teach English as a foreign language. I have two wonderful children each of whom has a partner and a dog.

“In The Shadow They Cast” is your debut novel – a psychological crime thriller set in London, Brighton and New York that explores the deadly nature of consequences. What inspired you to write a novel ?

A combination of things. I wondered if I could write an entire novel. I had dabbled with writing, produced short stories and filled notebook after notebook, but was never been sure that I had a book in me. 

Circumstances conspired to provide me with the opportunity and the idea. There is a an old story about a servant trying and failing to escape his destiny and also a tradition found principally in Asia which concerns The Red Cord which joins two people together. Those thoughts about connection and destiny form the backbone of In The Shadow They Cast. 

We can decide when to catch a bus, we can decide which bus to catch but we cannot decide who is on the bus, nor can we ever predict all the consequences of our actions. My novel is a story of decisions, actions and consequences (intentional or otherwise). 

In addition I wanted to explore the question of motivation – why people act the way they do. There are similarities in the difficulties that my characters, Paolo and Patricia, experience in their lives, but their reactions are very different.  Is the way people act and react a matter of nature?  Or is it cumulative, reaching a tipping point where everything becomes too much?

Are the characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Here is a photograph which I took on Brighton seafront very early one September morning many years ago. ….

This scene was highly influential in my novel, providing me with characters, locations, incidents and atmosphere. I have no idea who the people in the photograph are, nor if their lives were anything like the one I have created based on them. All the characters are imagined, but many have quirks and foibles borrowed from people I have known. I also listened a lot to what people were saying and to the extraordinary things that had happened to them. However, there is one particular character who is more closely linked to reality than the others, but even so I have adapted the personality freely. 

The structure of the book is very important to me. I always knew the ending and worked back from that. The characters evolved by dint of that process, incidents were added to cause the characters to behave in a certain way, so the process was organic rather than each having a fixed set of characteristics at the outset.

Were there any aspects of writing your novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

For me the most difficult thing was leaving room for the reader. I believe that reading is an imaginative process. If the writer explains exactly how the character feels the reader can feel excluded. If the writer does no more than describe an incident then the reader can surmise how a character feels or what effect the incident has.

It was strange to realise that the writing process varied from day to day. Some days the words would flow and other days I would sit down to write and nothing would happen. Sometimes I would force myself and then have to delete it the next day, on other occasions the content was right but did not flow. Many times changing the order of the paragraphs solved the problem. There were other periods when I had to stop because I had set myself problems which I could not yet solve. 

I am pleased with the structure of the novel as a whole and there are some passages and dialogue which I particularly enjoyed writing and find satisfying when I re-read them

Hypothetically speaking, if In The Shadow They Cast was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Lorenzo Vignone, Paolo, Patricia and Michael?

Paolo – Robert de Niro

Lorenzo – Ralph Macchio

Patricia – Olivia Coleman

Michael – Dan Stevens

Audrey – Emma Thompson

How did you come up with the book title? Did you consider any other titles?

The book had a working title (Like This) which was adequate when I started writing, but which no longer fitted as the book developed. The title In The Shadow The Cast is more closely linked to the themes of the book and is derived from a suggestion by the editor Chris Newton. 

Have you always wanted to have a career as an author or did you have other aspirations?

I have toyed with the idea of writing as a career and was once offered the opportunity to produce the in-house newsletter for a large company. I declined it because the role seemed to me very limited. I have never seriously thought about writing as a career. In The Shadow The Cast took a long time to write so I do not think I would ever be able to make a living from it.

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

Paper. For me there is something special about having a book in my hand. As for genre, at the moment I am in a thriller phase. I really enjoyed The Silent Patient and some of the books by Carmen Mola, but felt cheated when it was revealed that she is three men. I particularly like the mixture of myth and mystery in The Baztán Trilogy by Dolores Redondo. I am also drawn to metaliterature as exemplified by the early work of Jasper Fforde and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Is In The Shadow They Cast available to purchase worldwide?


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

Cargo Pants, shoes by Josef Seibel, bright check shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Charles Tyrwhitt; Next

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

New boots – I’ve been looking for ages. I found some a few weeks ago, but they didn’t have my size and then discontinued them! The search continues.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots – it’s something to do with solidity and contact with the ground. If I don’t have the right connection then everything above it is wrong. 

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


Facebook: Paul Graham

Twitter: Paul Graham @paul_paulgraham

Instagram: Paul Graham paul_paulgraham

Thank you very much for the interview, Paul. Thanks also for the copy of “In The Shadow They Cast” for reviewing – I found the story most excellent and have no hesitation in giving this book a 9/10!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Paul Graham.

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Dark Side Of Grace Book Tour

I’m thrilled to be part of author Ronald Chapman’s “Dark Side Of Grace” book tour. “Dark Side Of Grace” is the sequel to the much acclaimed novel “A Killer’s Game”.


A devastating terrorist bomb blast at a spiritual retreat outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, sends journalist Kevin Pitcairn and his beloved Emmy on a quixotic quest to understand the roots of violence. Travelling across the country deep into the bowels of Southern Appalachia, their search takes them through a long-standing rift in the American consciousness to confrontations with remarkable and anomalous characters, some of them deeply spiritual, others well-grounded in research and psychology.

In this sequel to the much-acclaimed A Killer’s Grace, Pitcairn and Emmy return to the exploration of innocence while adding to it a deepening understanding of injury and ordeal―and its amazing corollary of Post-Traumatic Growth. As the quest and its dangers rip their lives apart, doors open that lure them back and forth across the country in search of tendrils tying together the events and anguish, as well as bringing the protagonists more deeply together.

  • ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1948749874
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Terra Nova Books (May 1, 2023)
  • Genre ‏ : ‎ Mystery Action & Adventure, Thriller & Suspense Action Fiction, Psychological Thriller
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 200 pages

The Dark Side of Grace  is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. You can add it to your GoodReads reading list as well.


Hi Ronald and welcome to the blog! Please introduce yourself 😊

Hello. I usually refer to myself as a full-time, all-time student of life and living! It’s the only thing that seems to capture the breadth of my interests. Some years ago a career counselor told me I am a “spanner,” that I would never be able to ignore connections that I could make to other fields, disciplines, people and arenas. That has proved to be pretty accurate. Many of my professional clients know me as a master coach, a strategic consultant, and a process facilitator and trainer. Those in the twelve-step recovering community know me as a long-time student of the principles and practices of recovery. In the Toastmasters realm, in which I’ve developed my speaking talents, I’m an Internationally Accredited Speaker and Workshop Leader. For me, I’ve sometimes just said I’m an aspiring mystic, and want to learn all I can. I also sometimes christen myself Ron Quixote as well, because sometimes I find myself flailing at metaphorical windmills. Since that all seems like a lot, my favorite introduction from those who know me is, “This is my friend, Ron.”

Dark Side Of Grace” is the sequel to the much-acclaimed “A Killer’s Game”. What inspired you to become a writer?

As a kid growing up in a small city in Oklahoma, the local library was a refuge and sacred space. I would hang out in the dimly-lit bowels of the basement amid all those musty smelling books and lose myself. Books and reading were magical. There’s just no way that kind of love of books could not bring me round to writing. To this day, I get lost in the craftwork and the storyline. It is a happy place for me.

Sacred Red Rock at Jerez Pueblo in New Mexico – where Ron’s soul feels at rest

The characters in your book are all very strong and “vocal”, especially Kevin Pitcairn and Maria Elena (Emmy); but these strong characters expand to the people Kevin meets at his AA meetings too.  Are your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

What a great observation, Linda. Yes, all these characters are reflections of real people I’ve come across in my wanderings. It’s almost like I have a psychological imprint as I engage people, many of whom I find fascinating. And the enticement to understand who they are, and what animates them, is so captivating. So when I translate those experiences into characters, they really do come to life for me. Of course, when on occasion we get a really good look at what lies deep down inside someone else, its as if their whole being suddenly makes sense.
An author once told me an interview that everything we write is in some way or another biographical, that we can’t see the world of others except through the lens of our own realities. No surprise the characters most challenging to capture are those most unlike me. Though with enough engagement with the real people, it can become much clearer how they are wired. Since I’m inherently optimistic, and enlivened by potential, it’s a real stretch to get inside the character of someone who is deeply pessimistic, or disengaged, or attached to their own futilities. Not that I have not had to navigate my own dark and difficult insides, but I’m much more compelled by transformation and realisation .

Were there any aspects of writing your book series that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

Another great question. I really have to slow down and be intentional about connecting things. It seems like connections come very quickly and naturally to me, that I can just see how things are related. The most common feedback I’ve received over the years is to spend more time bringing readers and listeners along in and through those connections. Curiously, I’ve become pretty good at it when I can remember to pay attention to that, though often I just get to rolling and have to backtrack. A few clients routinely record our conversations so they can play them back and then follow up with me with clarifications. I find that a bit embarrassing, to be really honest. As a social worker by education and sometimes by practice, it seems ridiculous I can’t remember to slow down and be more intentional and bringing others along in my thinking.

Ronald’s 2nd sculpture, now in bronze, “Longing”

Your writing works, whether fiction or non fiction, tend to explore many psycho spiritual themes such as innocence, spirituality, forgivenesss, 12 step recovery… what is it about these themes that ignites your passion for writing?  Would you ever consider branching out to encompass a completely different genre? If so, what would you tackle?

LOL … even my attempt to write an allegory, My Name is Wonder, turned out to be a psycho-spiritual journey! As an aside, that was inspired by a visit to a petting zoo in Victoria, British Columbia, when I had a transcendent experience with goats and crows. The story of a goat named Wonder on a spiritual quest with his spirit guide, Mac Craack Crow, was really a treat to channel onto the page. That aside, a balance for me, and one very much present in my social media posts is expressions of art, gardens and beauty. I guess that’s less about communicating and more about reflecting the wonders of the world. I do write some poetry, though I feel pretty inept. Oh … and I journal a great deal, which is very much stream of consciousness writing.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations?

The Enneagram psychological assessment pegs me as a #2 – The Helper, which is a very apt description. I have a constant tension between the act of creation, and the need to make it useful or applicable for others. No wonder I ended up with a Masters in Social Welfare, and no wonder so many of my worldly roles involve coaching, consulting, mentoring and guiding. I guess the other part of my personality that finds a lot of expression is The Wanderer. Those who know me well often ask, “Where the hell are you now?” And my daughters, Natalie and Brianne, have joked about the need to put a microchip for tracking under my skin so they can find me. There is so much to see and to experience. To keep that all together I have really strong meditation and contemplative practice to keep me grounded.

Ronald’s daughters, Natalie and Brianne, on a wandering into the North Georgia Mountains looking for waterfalls

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

Love, love, love a really immersive continuing storyline! (Of course I’d be writing five books as The Chronicles of Grace involving Pitcairn and Emmy. Manuscript #3 is in the hands of the publisher, manuscript #4 is up to about fifty pages, and I have the outline for Manuscript #5, after which I think it comes to closure.) I recently re-read the Dune series, and The Hunger Games when the latest book released. When Carlos Ruiz Zafon died a few years ago, I honored his passion by re-reading his series on the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. And I’ve been reading and studying Maurice Nicoll’s five volumes on the Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky for many years. So too all the writings of the great American mystic, Joel Goldsmith, and his Infinite Way.

Is “Dark Side of Grace” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! Only as English language however. The audio book should be out by September.

For pinning later. The West Mesa, high desert outside Albuquerque where A Killer’s Grace and The Dark Side Of Grace are centred.

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

A big and delighted belly laugh on this question! Due to some problems with how my big toes function, I’ve had to gravitate to loose fitting shoes: clogs, moccasins and sandals. However, I can spend hours in the western, hand-tooled boot stores in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And I am a total sucker for jewel tone colored heels on women. For reasons unknown, they jump into my awareness when I’m walking through public places.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love eclectic offerings, and sometimes wander off down rabbit holes looking for things I haven’t found elsewhere. Oh, and roomy, comfortable pullovers are a most beautiful thing!

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

Just has a passion recently for heavy cotton, jewel tone t-shirts, which are perfect to wear under a sports coat.

Boots or Shoes?

Heavyweight hiking boots or beautiful western boots, though my feet just don’t like them much anymore.

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

Home Site from which all my other sites pivot is Fresh psycho-spiritual content released free several time a month at Free twelve-step recovery content added regularly at Constantly pushing out reflective material at
Note: All this stuff is free because of the recovery principle that saved me from myself, “Freely received, therefore freely give.”


My thanks to Ronald Chapman for inviting me onto his book tour and for the preview copy of the Dark Side of Grace. All views expressed by me are 100% my own thoughts and observations. All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Ronald Chapman

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