Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding, workshop and another review

Current work: revisions on Riva
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR (daughter nagged me into reading one she’d just finished as she loves talking books, bless her – and who am I to deny her that?)

Today is Royal Wedding day, and I have to admit that we’re really looking forward to it. It’s the first Royal Wedding the children have ever seen; and, given what I do for a living, how can I not want to see it, too?

I wish Wills and Kate every happiness in their marriage, and also hope that the press start behaving a bit less intrusively so they can actually have a life instead of being in a goldfish bowl all the time.

Workshop – well, I had a ball yesterday at West Earlham. More people than I’d expected, and most of them were readers rather than writers (though I’ve sent my normal workshop ‘writing an M&B’ notes to Kathryn at the library, for anyone who needs them). They were a lovely, lovely bunch of people (including the librarians, who were really welcoming); they asked lots of interesting questions; and it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d expected, doing a reading. (I’ve discovered that I can’t read straight – I do asides!!)

Here are a couple of pics – one of me talking (gesticulating madly – in my ratrace days, I would’ve been more disciplined, but nowadays people come to see me rather than to be taught about electronic marketing methods, so I can be more myself) and one of me reading the posh wedding scene from ‘A Christmas Knight’. (And yes, I wussed out on reading any love scenes from that or ‘Champagne with a Celebrity’ – let’s just leave it that my daughter had a flight of fancy about YouTube and spooked me completely!)

Another review – Julie at Cataromance has written a lovely review about ‘The Fireman and Nurse Loveday’. She says:

Written with all the warmth, tenderness and sensitivity that have become her hallmarks, The Fireman and Nurse Loveday is Kate Hardy’s latest charming and mesmerizing romance. With a loveable heroine women will relate to, a gorgeous hero everyone will love and plenty of medical drama to keep readers on the edge of their seats, The Fireman and Nurse Loveday is a fabulous romance readers shouldn’t dare miss.

A beguiling and stirring Medical Romance that is sure to tug at readers’ heartstring and leave them with a great big smile on their face, The Fireman and Nurse Loveday is Kate Hardy’s latest sure-fire winner.

You can read the rest here. Thank you, Julie, for making my day.

Happy Royal Wedding day to all!

(and yes, more Rome pics next week - next up is the Sistine Chapel, which was much bigger than I expected and an incredible experience)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rome, day 4 - Vatican museums

We took the Metro to the Vatican (very crowded and squashed), then gathered that the queues were absolutely huge, so decided to take a tour. Very good move as we understood what we were seeing and also had a fast-track entrance. The guide gave us all a radio with headphones, so we could hear him really clearly – and the museums are so crowded and noisy that you really need something like that or you’d never hear.

The walls surrounding the Vatican are incredibly thick (as you can see by the entrance to the museum below) and serve as the border with Italy.

The guides aren’t allowed to tell you anything as a group in the Sistine Chapel, but there are boards outside in the courtyard to help them explain what you’re going to see. The courtyard itself is very pretty.

And then you go into the museum proper, seeing rather a lot of statues...

The walls in the first part of the Museum are the same colour red as the interiors of the richest houses in Pompeii (who were the only ones who could afford the pigment from a rare crushed shell), hence it's called Pompeian red.

Two of the rooms have a ceiling with a copy of the Pantheon (except the central opening is enclosed or glazed).

Some of the floors are Roman mosaics (and it's a bit shocking that you can walk on them!)

This large bowl is made from Egyptian red granite.

So are the two sarcophagi in the next room - this one is St Helena (Constantine's mother).

The mosaic here is of Mars.

The steps to the Papal apartments are wide and low - our guide explained that it's because the Popes used to ride their horses or donkeys to bed, and the layout of the stairs was designed for quadrupeds rather than humans!

He told us that the marble in the floors was robbed from the Colosseum - ditto the floor in St Peter's.

There are more works of art in the floor, such as this papal coat of arms in lapis and jade.

Urban VIII's apartment has trompe l'oeil ceilings (the damaged bit shows that it's a painting rather than stucco/mouldings).

There are also tapestries made in Flanders from Raphael's drawings (very low light levels and no flash allowed, hence poor quality pics). I especially liked the Magi tapestry with the elephant and camels.

Though I was upset by the Slaughter of the Innocents. The sheer anguish on the faces of these women... (And at least some of the soldiers must have been fathers. Why didn't they rebel?)

The Supper of Emmaus is fab as it uses perspective - whether you're left or right of the painting, the table always faces you.

Pius VIIIth's apartments have stucco ceilings plus amazing 14th century maps - they're scaled in paces so the Pope could see his territory at a glance and know how long it would take to move his armies. The ceiling frescoes depict scenes that happened in the area of each map.

Pius V had a gorgeous dome in his bedroom ceiling.

And then it was time to see the Sistine Chapel.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rome, day 3 - Castel Sant'Angelo

We were rewarded with our first view of the Vatican.

So we crossed the bridge (pausing for an arty shot, and also to note all the locks with people's names on them that were attached to the bridge).

We headed for the Castel Sant'Angelo.

This was yet another of Hadrian's buildings (AD 130, planned as his mausoleum or 'mole'; his ashes were buried here until the pope pinched the sarcophagus in the 12th century and it was destroyed by fire). Other emperors were also buried here, the last one being Caracalla in AD 217; then it became part of the city wall defences in 401.

We wandered round the museum (pics inside were forbidden and they were very strict, as well as being mid-restoration work - but we could take pics of the courtyards.

Some of the courtyards had lovely ceilings.

We stopped for lunch here (risotto) on a sunny terrace with a ceiling of vines. (Sophia Loren and Andrea Boccelli are among celebs served here.)

The window opposite our table had a rather nice view.

And then we went to the terrace with its 360-degree view of Rome. Glorious.

Allegedly the Archangel Michael appeared on top of the Castel in 590 when the plague ended – hence the Castel’s present name. The bronze statue on the top is by Peter Anton von Verschaffelt, from 1753.

We had planned to take the Metro back, but ended up walking back via the Campo de' Fiori (the name rather gives away the fact that it's a flower market), where we, um, stopped for ice cream.

And then we came back by the ruins of the holy area (and Pompey’s theatre) in the Largo di Torre Argentina.

Out for dinner (gnocchi and yet more pinot grigio) and then we went to see the Colosseum lit up.

Including with the moon (bad pic with slow speed and no flash, but it gives an impression).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

bluebells, Royal Wedding Workshop and reviews

Current work: revisions on Riva
Listening to: Gary Moore
Reading: next on TBR (but I have been reading and enjoying a lot over the Easter hols, including Sarah Duncan’s “A Single to Rome”, Michael Dibdin’s “Vendetta” and “Ratking”, Julie Cohen’s “Getting Away With It”, Sue Welfare’s “The Surprise Party”, Fiona Lowe’s “The Most Magical Gift” (which happens to mention me in the dedication, so I was chuffed - and it's a lovely book), Kelly Hunter’s “The Man She Loves To Hate” and Jon Trace’s “The Rome Prophecy” which I read on the plane and loved being able to "see" the places because I'd just visisted them)
Righty. I’m assuming you’d like me to break up the Rome pictures a bit because there are a lot (even though the ones here are selected), so here’s a quick catchup.

Went to Foxley Wood on Monday and it was just gorgeous. Here’s what we saw. (And yes, they are English bluebells rather than hybrids - bells only on one side of the stalk, narrow bell shape, and scented.)

Royal Wedding – all set for Friday? Good. And if you’re local to me and want to get in the mood, I’m doing a Royal Wedding Workshop at West Earlham Library on Thursday. This is what the M&B website has to say about it:

Event: Mills & Boon Royal Romance Writing Workshop
Event Leader: Kate Hardy
When: Thursday 28th April, 10am-11.30am
Where: West Earlham Library, 17/18 Earlham West Centre, Norwich, NR5 8AD
Contact: To book your FREE place on the writing workshop, please contact 01603 451881 /
Event info:Mills & Boon are hosting a series of royal romance writing workshops for aspiring authors to learn the secrets of writing a successful royal romance novel. Mills & Boon author Kate Hardy will be leading a 'Romantic Reads' session at West Earlham Library, reading from her books and then followed by a Q&A session. All attendees will receive a free Mills & Boon book.

Had a lovely one from Sunita at Dear Author:

Guy is a handsome, charming hero, but he’s also a driven workaholic who can’t imagine life outside his chosen profession. His previous marriage failed because his wife couldn’t cope with his dedication, and he assumes Amber will be the same. Instead, she respects his intelligence and commitment and she looks for ways to help him succeed if a cure can’t be found. Yes, she shops for shoes and texts at the speed of a teenager, but she also takes an intelligent interest in Guy’s business. I really liked the way that you depict their everyday life together in the countryside and in Grasse, and I believed in the HEA of these two very different people.

(Thank you, Sunita. You made my day.)

You can read the whole review here.

And tomorrow it’s back to Rome :o) (Or, in real life: school run, weekly shop and revisions. The exciting life of an author, eh?)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rome, day 3 - the Pantheon

We started off at Santa Maria Maggiore, which is right by our hotel.

The church dates from about 430, though it was altered in the 18th century and the bell tower (the tallest in Rome, 75m) was built in 1377. The original site was a temple to Cybele, and Pope Liberius allegedly had a visitation from the Virgin Mary telling him to build a church on the Esquiline Hill – the next morning, the floor plan was outlined by a miraculous snowfall.

Some of the gilded ceiling is meant to be the first gold that arrived from the New World.

We also really liked the tomb of Pope Sixtus V.

From there we walked down the Via Panisperna, past the Italian Ministry of the Interior, and headed for Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

The church was built in the 8th century on the ruins of a temple to Minerva, though the present basilica dates from 1280. Outside, there's a statue of an elephant (designed by Bernini in 1667) holding an Egyptian obelisk from the 6th century BC - it's known as Minerva's Chick, but it’s meant to represent Pope Alexander VII, with strength supporting wisdom.

We loved the ceilings here.

From there we went to the Pantheon - another of Hadrian's building works, 118-128 AD, replacing a temple of Marcus Agrippa (though Hadrian, being modest, credits Agrippa with his own building). From the back, it looks a bit dingy.

From the front - wow.

Allegedly these are the original Roman doors, though much restored.

Just to give a bit of perspective... Chris is about 5 ft 9.

And you can even see how the hinges work.

Inside, it's amazing - what a feat of engineering. (There was much nerdy conversation at this point and we thought the wow factor was as great as the Colosseum.) The Pantheon was the world's largest dome until Buxton Spa was built in 1882; its diameter is 43m, the same as its height from the floor. (There are eight barrel vaults hidden in the walls to take the weight - more than 4500 tonnes of Roman concrete.) And this is nearly TWO THOUSAND YEARS OLD. (Um, yes, we were rather blown away by it.)

The central opening is 9m wide. It's left unglazed (though we spotted quite a few copies of this ceiling in other buildings, all of which are glazed). Allegedly it's so people can meditate, but practically it's the only light source when the doors are closed.

There's a drain in the marble floor (central ochre-coloured square).

Raphael is buried here, and I found his tomb rather moving - especially Bembo's epigraph, "Here lies Raphael, by whom the mother of all things (Nature) feared to be overcome while he was living, and while he was dying, herself to die."

The fountain in the piazza is lovely and we were stunned by how clear the water is.

From there we went to Piazza Navona - an elliptical-shaped square which betrays its origins as Domitian's race track.

There's still a fragment remaining at one end.

There are three fountains there - all quite big. The first, from the Pantheon end, is Giacomo della Porta's Fontana del Moro (the figure of the Moor is by Bernini).

The middle, Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi).

The third, at the end near the racetrack fragments, is the Fontana del Nettuno, also by Giacomo della Porta.

We had planned to have lunch in the piazza, but there was a VERY noisy protest going on, so we bought a picture from one of the artists and headed for the River Tiber instead.