Vintage Vehicle Rallies

DSCF0033What an amazing summer it’s been.  Not the weather – which has been hit and miss – but discovering the entertainment to be had at village shows and vintage vehicle rallies.  I went out of loyalty, and was astonished by how much I enjoyed it, not just for all the stalls and displays but for the people I met.  My husband has a collection of 43 (and counting)  restored, repainted, working rotavators and mini tractors dating from the 1940s. He takes a different selection each time to the shows that are a much-enjoyed part of the Cornish summer.   Nearly all are in aid of local charities like the Cornwall Air Ambulance, FLEET which provides updated equipment for all Cornwall’s rescue services,  Cornwall Blood Bikes – volunteers on call every night to transport urgent blood supplies, tissue sIMG_1269amples etc to and from hospitals and laboratories; and our local hospices for adults and children.   In the thirty years since it started Carnhell Green Show has raised over £134,000.   Lanlivery Show has raised over £1,000,000.   Cornwall is a relatively poor county yet one of the most generous.  My husband also dresses up!  As he says, people are paying hard-earned money to come and support the event, so they want to be entertained.   This weekend is the last show of the season but fortunately he has nine wrecks to restore, repaint and get working.   Then he anDSCF0031d a pal who shows a British Anzani Iron Horse, (orange!) have plans to build a four-wheeler version out of spares.   That will keep them busy until the shows and rallies  start again in March.

Creative daydreaming

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Free iTunes download

61367Bay of Rainbows‘Bay of Rainbows’  published by Accent Amour under my pen name of Dana James will be a free download from today until the end of October.   Here’s a little bit about it:

Meeting racing yacht designer Nathan Bryce for the first time after being falsely accused of drug smuggling, Polly realised everything she had heard and read about him was true. He was handsome, fascinating, and ruthless.   He was also her only hope of proving her innocence.

Here’s an excerpt:

Polly was bewildered.  ‘It made no difference to me whether the boat belonged to him. Clive was the skipper, I was the cook.

His eyes glittering, Nathan shook his head. ‘Why do I find such protestations hard to believe?’

‘Because you have a naturally suspicious and mistrusting nature?’ she suggested acidly.

He eyed her for a moment. ‘The point is, if Kemp is locked up he obviously isn’t going to be available to do the job he was hired for. In fact, when he does eventually get out of jail I intend to make sure he never again sets foot on any boat or property owned by my companies.’ His eyes were as cold as polar ice, his mouth a brutal slash.

Though Polly had little sympathy for Clive after what he’d put her through, this merciless dismissal of another man’s entire future made her skin crawl.

Then Nathan smiled, unnerving her still further.  She waited for him to continue speaking, but he simply studied her with a detached speculation that did nothing to soothe her ragged nerves. Unable to bear this silent examination a moment longer, she said the first thing that came into her head.

‘Surely is wouldn’t be difficult to find another skipper? Better still, why not fly to Athens from her and charter another boat from the Kalamaki marina?’

Impatience darkened his features.  ‘How would it look to my consortium if the chief designer and managing director of Bryce International, one of the major manufacturers of ocean racers, turned up in any other yacht but his own? Besides,’ something in his voice made her flinch, ‘after this episode I don’t feel like entrusting Seawitch to anyone else. Nor do I have time to go looking for a suitable crew.’ He stood up, towering over her. ‘Why should I, when you’re already here?’

Polly leapt to her feet, appalled. ‘You can’t be serious.’

‘I thought I’d made it clear. I don’t joke about money.’

‘You take far too much for granted,’ she stormed. ‘I wouldn’t go with you if you were the last man on earth.’ She lifted her chin, radiating defiance.   A man as handsome, as powerful, and as used to getting his own way as this one was a dangerous man to know.  She needed to get away from Nathan Bryce as fast as she could.

His calm smile never wavered. ‘You do understand that bail is granted only under certain conditions?’

‘What conditions?’  Apprehension strummed her taut nerves.

‘You are being released into my custody.’ Nathan’s cool gaze held hers.  ‘Which means you are required by law to remain with me until your trial. And the date for that has yet to be fixed.’

Before she had time to absorb all the implications of this statement he was speaking again.

‘An enormous amount of time and money has already been poured into this challenge. The Athens meeting has taken months to set up.  This last-minute change of dates is only the latest in a long line of difficulties we’ve had to overcome.’ His mouth hardened into an implacable line.  ‘I got the whole thing up and running. I don’t intend to lose out now.’ He looked down at her, his gaze as cold as splintered ice.  ‘Seawitch sails for Athens first thing in the morning. Either you sail with me or I withdraw bail.’

‘You’d leave me here?’ she choked, her gaze flying round the shabby spartan room.

‘This is an interview-room,’ he reminded her.  ‘I doubt a cell would be as comfortable.’

‘Th – that’s b-blackmail,’ she spluttered.

‘It’s your choice.’ He looked at his watch. ‘You’d better make up your mind.’



article-2179331-1439A653000005DC-377_964x624 Boconnoc  While reading about the life of William Wickham, Britain’s first spy master, I came across a reference to ‘the notorious and disgraced Lord Camelford.’ Obviously I had to find out more.
Born at Boconnoc near Lostwithiel in Cornwall – the house purchased by the Pitt family in 1717 after selling the famous Pitt diamond to the Regent of France (the diamond ended up in the hilt of Napoleon’s sword) – Thomas Pitt was a cousin of both Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and William, Lord Grenville, secretary of state at the Foreign Office.
Thomas spent his early years in Switzerland then returned to England and was enrolled at Charterhouse School. He later claimed those years were the happiest of his life. So why did his father want to move him to a different public school? Whatever the reason, in a sign of things to come, Thomas rebelled and enlisted in the navy as an able seaman.
By the age of sixteen he had already acquired a reputation for bad behaviour. Yet when most of the crew abandoned HMS Guardian after she struck an iceberg near the Cape of Good Hope Pitt remained on board. Aided by the remaining crew he helped Captain Riou bring the ship safely into Table Bay.
Pitt then joined Captain Vancouver’s ship, HMS Discovery on a voyage of diplomacy and discovery. Because all officer berths were taken he again signed on as an able seaman.
In Tahiti he was flogged for trying to buy the favours of an island woman with a piece of broken barrel hoop. He was flogged again for unauthorised trading with Indians at Port Stewart, flogged once more for breaking the ship’s binnacle glass while fooling about, and finally clapped in irons after he was discovered asleep when he should have been on watch.
In 1793 his father died, elevating Thomas to the peerage as the second Baron Camelford, an event that would have lethal repercussions for Captain Vancouver.
This same year when one of the ships on the expedition returned to England, Vancouver sent the unmanageable Pitt with her.220px-Lord_Camelford But Pitt jumped ship in Hawaii. After being discharged from another ship and shipwrecked off Ceylon, eventually he got back to Europe, seething at what he perceived as ill-treatment by Capt. Vancouver who had returned to England in 1795.
Pitt challenged Vancouver to a duel which the captain declined saying he was unable ‘in a private capacity to answer for his conduct in his official duty.’ So Pitt stalked then attacked him on a street corner in London. While accusations and rebuttals flew back and forth in the press, an ill and exhausted Vancouver died.
In 1797 Pitt was promoted to lieutenant and given command of HMS Favourite over the head of her first lieutenant, Charles Peterson, who was his senior. Refusing to serve under Pitt, Peterson transferred to HMS Perdrix. When both ships were in Antigua in 1798, the two men quarrelled over rank. After Peterson three times refused Pitt’s orders, Pitt shot and killed him.
Pitt was court-martialled but acquitted, probably due to Admiralty panic over the recent Spithead and Nore mutinies. He joined another ship but was arrested for trying to make an unauthorised visit to France, then at war with England.
Leaving the navy he returned to London but his behaviour didn’t improve. Fined for knocking a man downstairs during a quarrel, he fought a mob that smashed his windows because he hadn’t lit lamps to celebrate the peace with France.
Yet in 1799 he donated £1500 towards the establishment of a school in Soho Square.
His volatile temper led him to challenge his friend, Captain Best, to a duel over an uncomplimentary remark Best was supposed to have made to Pitt’s latest fling who had previously been Best’s mistress.
The following day Best asked Pitt in the name of their friendship to withdraw his challenge. Fearful of being called a coward Pitt refused.
On 7th March 1804 they met in a field near Holland House. Pitt fired and missed. Best’s shot left Pitt paralysed and bleeding internally. He died three days later, leaving instructions that Best was not to be charged. He was twenty-nine years old. The title died with him.
Despite his strong sense of honour and proven courage, Thomas Pitt’s violent nature and frequent legal battles saw him condemned as mad. Today’s medical knowledge might offer a less scathing diagnosis.

How News Travels

Fal Pkt shipWe are so used to 24-hour news with information arriving from all over the world minutes after events occur, it’s easy to forget that two hundred years ago news travelled at the speed of a galloping horse or a fast sailing ship.   (The image to the left is captioned: Falmouth Packets, Cornwall to the World)   But though news might take days, weeks or months to arrive, its impact on local people was no less profound.
The first edition of the West Briton newspaper was published in 1810 by John Heard from offices in Boscawen Street, Truro, heart of Cornish high society in the 1800s.  It was a Whig publication designed to offer an alternative view to a rival Tory paper first published in 1803.
The term Whig entered British political life during the controversy of 1678–1681 about whether or not King Charles II’s brother, James, should be allowed to succeed to the throne on Charles’s death. Whig was a term of abuse applied to those who believed James should be excluded from on the grounds that he was a Roman Catholic.
Evolving during the C18th, the Whig party supported the great aristocratic families, the Protestant Hanoverian succession, and toleration for nonconformist Protestants. It drew support from emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants. By the first half of the C19th the Whig political programme came to encompass not only the supremacy of parliament over the monarch and support for free trade, but also Catholic emancipation, the abolition of slavery and expansion of voting rights.
The term Tory – originally applied to Irish Catholic bandits – was used in the C17th to deride those who believed in the principals of hereditary succession to the crown. Despite falling into disarray in 1688,  a significant block of members within parliament remained bound together by support for the established Church of England, hostility to Nonconformists, and the principle of divine monarchical right.
The Tory power base was the conservative rural gentry which violently opposed the taxation required to pay for the wars with France that the Whigs, believing in free trade, would profit from. They returned to government in 1784. But after the French Revolution the Tories were increasingly seen as a party of reaction and eventually lost power in 1830.
(Whigs with their liberal views on community and social responsibility equate to American Democrats, Tories beiimages St Ms Mountng conservative and believing in individual rights and justice, to Republicans )
Given such violently opposed political views, editorial battles between the rival newspapers were epic, being inflammatory and scathing.
In that first edition of the West Briton, Heard expressed concerns about the actions of Napoleon Bonaparte. What follows are abstracts from articles in his newspaper.
In April 1814 the paper reported the entrance of the Allied Army into Paris. The dethronement of Bonaparte was received in every part of Cornwall with demonstrations of joy. In Penzance and Newlyn the populace erected bonfires in several streets and wealthy neighbours donated barrels of beer to aid the celebrations.
Marazion and St Michael’s Mount were illuminated with the castle magnificently lighted to striking effect. The bells in the castle tower, which had not been heard for many years, rang out on this joyous occasion.
The fishermen of Mousehole showed their delight by burning an effigy of Bonaparte.
The proprietors of Crinnis Mine near St Austell celebrated the victory by entertaining all the (mine) captains, miners and work people in their employ. The captains dined together and were given twelve dozen bottles of wine. The work people were treated to a whole roast ox, a thousand loaves of bread and ten hogsheads of beer. In the evening the entire company enjoyed a grand display of fireworks.
(Bonaparte was sent to Elba, escaped, and rallied his army to fight the Allies.)
After his defeat at Waterloo in June 1815, unable to escape to America because of the blockading Bellerophon, Bonaparte stepped aboard the ship that had dogged his steps for twenty years to finally surrender to the British ending two decades of war.
In July 1index Bellerophon815 Bellerophon , known to English sailors as Billy Ruffian, entered Plymouth Sound to take on water and provisions before carrying the ex-Emperor to exile in St Helena. Bellerophon was accompanied by the Slaney and the Myrmidon, both carrying the baggage of Bonaparte and his suite.
As soon as the ship dropped anchor, every boat in Plymouth took to the water filled with people wanting to approach. But acting on orders from the Government, guard boats stationed around Bellerophon prevented the curious from getting close.
Yet despite the losses of ships and men caused by the war, and the celebrations following his defeat, such was the aura surrounding Bonaparte that when at 6pm he appeared on deck every officer, British as well as French, instantly bared their heads as a token of respect.


West of England Steam & Country Fair

IMG_0900 steam car RSI spent three hours there this morning and have just got home totally shattered after walking for three hours and still not seeing everything.  The weather was perfect – thick cloud (no squinting in bright sunshine) and a nice breeze.  As the fair is spread over several acres of fields, walking on the grass was comfortable and cool underfoot.  The displays were amazing:  hundreds of vintage cars, motor cycles, tractors and traction engines, each class had its own parade.  There was one motorbike and sidecar raced around the parade ground at 60 mph.  When it stopped the riders had to be lifted off. They were in their seventies.

Large marquees held displays of craftwork including basket weaving, knitting and crochet work, willow sculptures, spinning and weaving, and silver jewellery made while you watched.  There were demonstrations of thatching and blacksmithing.

The falconry display had a sticky moment when one of the falcons decided she was enjoying her freedom and decided to delay her return, flying in ever widening circles above the showground. The crowd followed her progress while her handler kept spinning the lure, his whistles growing slightly frantic.  She came back eventually and the show continued.

Two steam cars beautifully polished and almost silent made circuits of a display field.  One had just returned from a touring holiday of Jersey.  Because they need to replenish their water tanks quite often they all carry lengths of hose and refill from a stream. IMG_0902 Steam Car 2RS

Himself’s display of restored vintage rotavators is attracting a lot of interest.  In the past two days he has been given three with a promise of two more.  Added to the ones he already has at home waiting to be worked on he’s going to be busy right through the winter.  He’s also been invited to several of the ‘Working Days.’   While the tractor men are nearly all farmers and take their ploughing matches seriously, he and a couple of others who own agricultural machines have been promised a corner of one field to ‘make a mess in.’   Hot pasties and tea are provided.

Promo and pheasants

ThisIMG_0867RS is something all authors are expected to do now – promote our books.  We have websites and blogs. Facebook and Twitter have been joined by Pinterest and Goodreads and probably more.   Authors talk a lot about the problem of trying to maintain a regular presence on all of them and still find time to write the next book. Bearing in mind that our families deserve some of our time as well, it’s clear that it’s simply not possible to do it all.   I like my Facebook pages and this blog.   I’m not even attempting the rest because I’d rather be working on the next book.  Forgive me, I’m finding the heatwave hard to cope with.  I love the cool fresh days of spring and autumn. I even like winter because if it’s cold you can always add another layer or two.   But in Cornwall, because we’re surrounded on three sides by water, when it’s hot it is also humid and that leaves me feeling (and probably looking)  like wiltIMG_0862RSed lettuce.   It’s affecting our resident wildlife as well.  Two cock pheasants have moved into our back garden.   They pick up seeds from around the bird table, drink from the bird bath, then either make themselves comfortable in the strawberry bed and bask in the sun, or retreat under the shade of the trees along the hedge. When I went out to hang washing on the line this morning they grumbled a bit but remained where they were just a few feet away.   Despite my whinging this weather has compensations. Our hanging baskets are looking fantastic, and all the Vintage Shows and Rallies are attracting record numbers of visitors.  Himself is off to St Buryan Vintage Rally with two trailer-loads of his restored rotavators and his caravan on Friday.  The forecast is for wall-to-wall sunshine. He’ll have a ball.


Blog Tour

horn drinking cup plainTo celebrate the publication of  ‘Crosscurrents’ as both an ebook and paperback this month, I’m on  a blog tour talking about the background to the story which includes brewing.  In the late 1700s and early 1800s being able to brew beer was one of the duries of a farmer’s wife.  If the farm was part of a large country estate, and the butler did not have the necessary skill, she might also be called upon to brew for the ‘big house’. The harvest brew of small beer had to be sufficiently plentiful to provide each labourer with at least a gallon a day.  For that reason it was a weak, thirst-quenching drink of low alcohol content. Celebration ales were far stronger and might be kept for many years, being laid down like fine wine in advance of a wedding or the birth of an heir.images more late C18th ale glasses

If you’d like to know more about brewing, about ale glasses which came after horn cups and developed into beautifully etched stem glasses, please visit these blogs that were kind enough to host me. Each post also includes an excerpt from the book.

images malting floorToday’s blog on the tour is about the maltsters.  To achieve a fine brew requires best quality malt.  In the early C19th two men stood head and shoulders above the rest.   Learn more about them, and read another excerpt,  please visit

Guest post – Christina Courtenay

I delighted to welcome Christina Courtenay as my guest today.  Over to you, Christina.


ChristinaCourtenayLR-1RSI’m very pleased to have been invited by Jane Jackson to take part in a continuing series of blog posts called “Meet My Main Character”. It was started by Debra Brown [] who is the Administrator of English Historical Fiction Authors, a great website for anyone interested in obscure bits of British history.
Jane’s latest book is Crosscurrents [ ] and her website is here – please go and have a look at her post about the main character of this novel which sounds brilliant!

My own main character:-

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historical? My character is called Jago Kerswell and he is entirely fictional although I borrowed his surname from a Devon ancestor of mine as I liked it very much.

2. When and where is the story set? The story is set in a fictional village on the south coast of Devon in 1781/82. The village is called Marcombe and is somewhere near Kingsbridge. It’s part of a fictitious estate owned by Sir John Marcombe of Marcombe Hall (another imaginary character).

3. What should we know about him? Jago is a smuggler and an innkeeper, but he’s only taken to smuggling in order to help the villagers, who were very poor and struggling to feed their families before the extra income came their way. He’s not married and happens to be half-brother to Sir John Marcombe – they share the same father but Jago is illegitimate. His mother was a gypsy, so he has a gypsy grandmother who tells fortunes and knows how to cast spells.TSKOD_lMed

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? Meeting Sir John’s wife, Eliza, out on the cliffs one dark night totally messes up Jago’s life. It turns out John has been mistreating her and in despair she wants to kill herself. Jago saves her, but the two of them fall in love which was never part of his plans. He knows there is danger in the stolen moments with her, but he discovers he’ll take any risk to be with her, including submitting to one of his grandmother’s spells.
5. What is the personal goal of the character? His main goal until he met Eliza was to keep the villagers and his fellow smugglers safe and prosperous and to live a comfortable life on his own terms, beholden to no one. Once he meets her, however, things change. He begins to plan how to get her away from her brutish husband and perhaps for the two of them to emigrate to the Colonies. But there are things that stand in his way …

6. What is the title? Can we read more about it? The Secret Kiss of Darkness. You can read more about it here –

7. When will the book be published? The book was published in February 2014 so is available now as a paperback and ebook (all formats).

Paperback –
Kindle –

My website –

Thank you for visiting! The next Main Character blog post will be on Henriette Gyland’s website on Tuesday 8th July when she’ll be talking about The Highwayman’s Daughter.
[ ]
[Link – ]

Meet My Main Character – Santo Innis

9781909624399_FCI’m delighted to be taking part in a continuing series called, “Meet My Main Character,”  the brain child of Debra Brown] who is the Administrator of English Historical Fiction Authors, a really worthwhile website for anyone interested in obscure bits of British history.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?
Santo Innis is a fictional creation, a Cornish engineer who served his apprenticeship at the world-renowned Perran Foundry and was later seconded to two respected companies in London building marine steam engines.

2) When and where is the story set?
In Cornwall in 1830. The first trials of the Cornish multi-tube boiler using high-pressure steam actually took place here in Falmouth. But while some in the Admiralty were keen to move from sail to steam in the interests of shorter voyage times and increased productivity, many were dead set against it. Contradictory demands for speed and economy were impossible to meet and created intolerable pressures for engineers whose companies were bidding for Admiralty contracts.

3) What should we know about him?
After his parents were killed when he was a child, Santo was brought up in his Uncle George’s house. George Curnock is the head brewer and joint owner of Curnock’s Brewery run by his brother Arthur. George’s son, Treeve, a maltster, is two years older than Santo and has always bitterly resented him. Santo’s engineering skill has impressed shrewd businessman Richard Vaughan, heir to country estate owner, Frederick Tregarron, and despite the class difference their shared interest in hot air technology has drawn them into friendship.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
A ship taking part in boiler trials explodes killing all on board, among them the chief engineer who was Santo’s friend and mentor. Santo’s row with Tregarron costs him his job. With his newly-developed marine engine fitted into a bare hull supplied by Richard, Santo – in debt and in love – agrees to take part in a risky venture that will solve all his financial problems. Instead he loses everything.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
Appalled by the number of deaths caused by high-pressure steam boilers exploding, Santo has developed a revolutionary new engine driven by heated air. In love with Bronnen Jewell he feels he cannot propose to her until he has proved himself and cleared his debts.

6) Is there a title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
It’s called ‘Crosscurrents’. You’ll find more about it at

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
The ebook, published by Accent Press, is available at:
The paperback edition will be published on 10th July 2014.

Thank you for visiting.       The next ‘Meet My Main Character’ post will be by Christina Courtenay on July 2nd.
Her website is
Her latest book is The Secret Kiss of Darkness