For the past 16 days we have been holed up at a wonderful place just out of Oswestry called The Lion Quays. It’s a fantastic hotel right on the Llangollen canal, with two restaurants and a function centre (there have been about 10 weddings since we arrived and one non-wedding – yes that really does happen), an amazing health spa including the most beautiful pool and gym facilities (completely underutilised by me) and lovely gardens resplendent with their own peacock called Eugene.
It has been a great place to settle in and work on Alice-Miranda’s 7thadventure, Alice-Miranda In Paris. I’ve made good progress – hopefully by this afternoon it will be almost halfway there.
There has been some self-discipline required on my part as although this is a quieter part of England, there are still many attractions close by and I could spend days just driving along country lanes and visiting villages. So I’ve used a bit of a reward program – certain number of words attained in the morning, go somewhere in the afternoon. We’ve visited Wrexham, Chester, Llangollen, Oswestry and Welshpool.
We had a fleeting visit to Powis Castle and a much longer day out looking at the Pontcysylite Aqueduct, and Chirk Castle then a lovely long lunch at The Boat pub in a pretty village called Erbistock. So while we haven’t done nearly as many things as perhaps I would have liked, I knew that this part of the trip would require a considerable amount of work, to be able to go back to Australia anywhere near ready for work, work (and still I’ll need to write every day from now until we go home and for the week we are home before I head back to the ‘real job’). But I’m determined and 5 days in Paris next week should be great in terms of research and getting the facts right for the story. Then it’s on to Hong Kong.
By far and away one of the highlights of being here has been stumbling on the house that inspired Caledonia Manor in the Alice-Miranda series – the derelict mansion, which up until a few weeks ago, I knew only to be somewhere in Shropshire. Now we’ve not only toured the outside with a lovely bloke called Pete, we’ve had a grand tour of the inside too, from the bombproof cellars to the spectacular roof with Will, the young chap who looks after the estate. Then yesterday afternoon we met Caroline, her husband Nigel and stepdaughter Jazzy, who live in the Victorian gardener’s cottage at the back of the stables. On hearing from Will that there were some Australians sniffing about, Caroline emailed me and asked if we’d like to see the rest of the estate including the medieval castle mound, the Home Farm and Swiss Cottage as well as the walled garden and loads of other bits and pieces. We were so thrilled to be able to head out there again – this place has cast a spell over us for sure.
There are not many times that I wish I was obscenely rich. Really, I’m not kidding. I might write about a character whose family has it all and it’s nice to imagine that life, but really, I don’t want for much. The days of thinking it was important to have a big house and designer lifestyle were thankfully left behind at the end of my 20s when I realized that happiness is not necessarily a natural consequence of being wealthy. In fact, often, quite the opposite. However, since finding Brogyntyn (my Caledonia Manor) I have found myself wishing I had the sort of money that would be required to save this amazing place. To love it and bring it back to its former glory. There are so many derelict properties in the UK, once grand homes that have gone into spectacular decline, mostly due to the absence of wills I gather and the high percentage of death duties. Brogyntyn is a victim of time and circumstance, a grand old lady crying out for love. A lot like my character Hephzibah, who I imagine living there.