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This trip to Lanzarote wouldn’t have been complete without a detour to Oxford to catch up with my oldest friends! Sue Raikes and Adrian Moyes still live in the quaint village of Eynsham, six miles west of Oxford, where I lived back in 84. Introducing them to my travelling companion and publisher, Michelle Lovi was a delight.
The highlight of the flight was the refuel stopover in Dubai. Just two hours filled with queuing and shuffling about withe the carry on luggage, but it did prove just enough for Michelle to purchase a tin of Chocodates. I had no idea why she was on a mission to buy them until offered a free sample. An almond wrapped in a date and dipped in chocolate. One of those kinda healthy intensely sugary hits. Bit of a thing in Dubai it seems.
Landing in Heathrow and trekking to the coach, down endless walkways had me thinking of settings for horror or urban fantasy. But we were soon out of there and trundling through stop the green and twiggy fields of Buckinghamshire.
Arriving at Sue and Adrian’s cottage of old Cotswold stone it was as if I had never been away, the years shrunk to months, and everything I had known and loved about my visits was there again, in conversation, in the sumptuous food, created from produce grown on their allotment nearby, in the seamless way time fills with activities. Including a novel way of making coffee!
Yesterday Michelle and I took the bus to Oxford and I gave her my personal tour, following the route I used to cycle, down Broad St to Blackwells bookstore, a vast warren of a space filled with every sort of book, on round the Sheldonian theatre, past Bodleian library, under the Bridge of Sighs and along a back lane to Magdalen bridge.
Much had changed since I lived here in the eighties, but when I went into the old whole food store Uhuru to see if anyone there recalled the former CND office, I asked the woman behind the counter, I was amazed to find she’d been working there all this time and pointed out the site, now demolished to make way for a new building housing a few shops. One of them was Viny’s cafe on Cowley Road, unpretentious and lively and serving what we took to be North African fare.
That night Michelle had her first taste of Mah Jong. She picked the game up straight away, despite the wine and the jet lag. Impressive. Sue and Adrian bought my Mah Jong set for my fortieth. Fabulous game but requiring four enthusiastic players so I don’t get to play that much. I lost.
Our stay wouldn’t have been complete without a pub lunch. We went to The Plough in Finstock. Low ceilings, thatched roof, and traditional fare. I had bangers and mash, Michelle cod and chips. And oh what chips! Triple fried!
It was a terrific introduction to England. Michelle has remarked on the friendliness and generosity of all we met. Not at all what she anticipated. And we drove right by the location for Midsummer Murders.
Tomorrow begins a grand adventure, although it feels like it has already begun. I am flying to Lanzarote, Canary Islands after a twenty-six year absence, and I will be accompanied by my publisher, Michelle Lovi.
And I have only met her once.
It is hard to say when this journey began. I could say it was the day I left my sleepy little village for Melbourne, a ten hour bus ride. But that is a trek I have done many times. Better to say this adventure had it’s beginnings back in 2013 when I conceived an idea for a book that would be set entirely on Lanzarote. That idea turned into The Drago Tree, a tragi-comic romance released by Odyssey Books in September 2015.
The novel has become my wings. I had been hinting on social media that I would love to return but it seemed like a pipe dream. After all, I hadn’t managed to visit after I left in 1990. Besides, I knew privately that I would never travel alone. I’m just not cut out for it. Months passed and The Drago Tree was launched. Then one day I posted how much I yearned to go back and I received a message from Michelle. It said, “Can I come?”
At first I thought she wasn’t serious. I said, “Yeah sure,” to be polite.
Two weeks later she repeated the question, which wasn’t a question at all. It was an offer of companionship and even though I had only met her the once, I wasn’t about to pass it up. Besides, Michelle is my publisher – what an honour that is! – and she has a sweet manner to boot. Perfect.
So we set a date and booked the flights and I have been saving my pennies ever since.
Tomorrow we fly to London. A couple of days later we will be on Lanzarote. And our adventure will begin. But of course it already has…
I will be blogging this special journey with lots of photos. My first ever travel diary. Travel with us if you wish and experience, albeit second hand, why Lanzarote is such an extraordinary island.
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