Jubilee!

It’s the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this weekend and the whole country is caught up in a frenzy of union jack celebrations. It’s lovely to see all the flags, bunting, and other such decorations adorning shops and homes around town. The Queen very graciously gave the nation an extra bank holiday to help her celebrate – sadly she didn’t specify that ALL her subjects were to benefit from the day off, so only those working in offices and schools are allowed to not work. Anyone who works in retail, or the catering and leisure industries will still be slaving away. Unfair? Yes, it is, but there’s nothing to be done about it.

We originally thought that we would be forced to all work all weekend in my shop, but my boss quite sensibly made the executive decision that we wouldn’t be that busy – duh, everyone is going to be at parties and barbecues – so said as there were four days and four of us, we would all work two days and have two days off. These are counting as our normal days so none of us is getting an extra day off.

My two days were Thursday and Sunday. On Sunday, as you may remember, my street has gained permission to close and is holding a big street party. Everyone has worked hard to make it a wonderful day, but the weather forecast is not looking great. Very unfairly, the weather so far – I am writing this Friday morning – has been beautiful. Thursday, my first day off, was a gorgeous hot sunny day and I spent the day at a nearby stately home with friends visiting from America, but more about that later.

So, what have I been up to over the past fortnight? Mostly what I normally get up to. Work, home, beavering away at my current work in progress to get it ready for publication. In case you don’t follow me on Instagram where I revealed the cover and title last week, below is a picture of the cover for the eBook.

The book is called Pitch & Pace and is book five in the popular romantic suspense series the Blackwood Family Saga. It’s an exciting read all right, and it is the turn of the youngest sibling, Kristina Blackwood, to step into the limelight and tell her story. Set on the wild Yorkshire moors, it’s a tale of music, murder, and a mysterious stranger. The eBook is now available to pre-order from Amazon at a special sale price of £1.99, and it will be launched on the 11th of July – although it may happen earlier if everything comes together. The paperback will be available to buy at a slightly discounted price a week before the eBook launch date.

I wrote the book incredibly quickly, but as usual, all the other stuff that must be done has taken me by surprise. The editing, beta reading, formatting, etc is time-consuming, and then there’s the blurb for the back page, the review to write for Goodreads, the page to create for the website, promo images to source and make, the video trailer to create, the list goes on and on.

If you would like to place your order, then there’s a handy direct link in my bio on Instagram, or you can go directly to Amazon and search for Pitch & Pace in books. It’s the only one with that title so it’s at the top of the list. Or you can wait until after Miss F is home and has put the cover and link on here. I don’t know how to do it myself.

If you haven’t yet discovered the Blackwood Family Saga and would like to, then for today only book one in the series – Lost & Found – is on sale at the tiny price of just 99p (or local currency equivalent). That’s right, this is your chance to meet the Blackwood Family and find out how it all begins for half the price of a cup of coffee. Go to the books page on here, click on the link under the book, and it will take you to the book’s listing on your local Amazon site. Within a minute you could be reading the book!

What’s next, I hear you ask. Well, I need to start writing book fifteen soon. I want to finally write the next book in the Erinsmore Chronicles, and it will be a longer, more complicated book than Pitch & Pace. It will also be illustrated so I need to begin sourcing images and laying out how the book will appear. I am looking forward to writing it. It’s been in my head for almost fifteen years so it will be a relief to finally get it out.

As you know, I’m driving up North soon to collect Miss F from university and bring her home for the long summer break. It’s quite a trek for my poor little car so I always take it into the garage for a bit of a “dad” service. This is when they check my tyres, my water, oil, screenwash, bulbs etc and just generally make sure nothing is going to fall off the car when I’m belting up the M6. I always do this before a long journey, and it usually costs about £40 which I consider money well spent. This time, however, they phoned me.

THEM: There’s a problem.

ME: Problem? What sort of problem?

THEM: Your handbrake cable is snapped on one side and stretched almost to breaking point on the other.

ME: Oh, umm, is that serious?

THEM: …….!

ME: Okay, I guess you better replace it then.

Instead of the anticipated £40, it cost me £175 – so that’s all my overtime for the past three months gone in one hit. Not a happy bunny.

I must sort out getting some packing boxes shipped up to Miss F. I need all her packing to be completed by the time I arrive at the university on the 16th of June. It’s going to be a long enough day as it is without having to do that when I get there as well. As it is, I must make the journey up there and that’s the bit I don’t like – driving long distances by myself, especially as my radio is rubbish. Then we must roll up her old, damaged mattress and bag it, get it into the car and take it to Dreams in Crewe where they will take it in for me and arrange collection by the disposal team from their store. We then must make as many trips as it takes to get all Miss F’s stuff into the storage pod, then load up the car with Miss F, Miss C, two suitcases and anything else they’re bringing home for the summer. Oh, and Miss Moo – the hamster – and make the long journey home. All in one day.

Think I will need a jolly good rest the next day – luckily, I do have that day off.

I turn 55 this July and am allowed to draw down some, or indeed, all, of the little pension I’ve had since the age of 21. It’s not a huge amount, only about £17,000 but I was thinking to take half of it. I couldn’t take it all because it would push my earnings over the limit that Miss F would be entitled to student finance for. Buggered if I’m going to have paid into a pension all this time only to see it all go on paying for her education!

Anyway, I talked to the pension provider and discovered to my horror that even though I have already been taxed on this pension, if I draw down more than 25% of it, I will be taxed again! This seems monumentally unfair and it’s a wonder H.M. Revenue & Customs are allowed to get away with such outright thievery. So now my plans have changed. If I can only have 25% then I must plan and budget extremely carefully what I’m going to use it for.

A new boiler is top of the list. My current one is about 25 years old. I have been warned by the company I have the service plan with that it will become harder to get parts for it and keep it going. I know it’s not very energy efficient and, with utility bills set to double again in October, I need to do whatever it takes to get my energy use down. An appointment has been made for next week for a consultant to pay a visit and advise and quote me for the most energy-efficient combi boiler I can afford.

I’ve also had a builder come round to look at giving me a quote for bricking up the old 1950s window and replacing it with a mirror and a smaller window that won’t rattle in its frame every time there’s a puff of wind. Honestly, the window is only a single pane and I know I’m leaking heat out through it. If you put your hand to the window you can feel the cold air pouring through. I think replacing it will also help cut down on energy bills. I had two skylights put in three years ago so there’s plenty of light in the bathroom – the new, double glazed, much smaller window will be for ventilation only.

I’m having new lights put in the bathroom ceiling, and the builder will quote for making good around the skylights and reskimming the ceiling.

Not sure if there will be anything left from my £4000 after that, but, if there is, then I desperately need a new dishwasher. Mine is nineteen years old, and although it was a good make – hence why it’s lasted nineteen years – it is on its last legs. It will no longer wash the dishes on the lower temperature settings, so everything must go through at sixty degrees, it’s noisy, and not good at its job.

I also had to buy a new kettle this week as mine was so scaled up and going rusty that quite frankly I didn’t want to drink the water that came out of it. Whilst I was at it, I bought a toaster. I’ve had toasters in the past and they’ve never been too successful – with everything coming out either a burnt offering or a bloody sacrifice, I did wonder if there was some religious significance to them? I don’t toast things that often, and when I do, I use the grill feature on the oven. However, I’ve noticed that the lodger toasts things for breakfast almost every day – be it bread, waffles, crumpets, or muffins – the grill is on every morning and my thinking was, it must be using a lot more electricity than a simple, quick toaster would.

I bought the one that matched the grey kettle, but, when I opened it at home I found it was too enormous to fit on my work surface. I’d bought a four-slot one thinking that would be more economical but had to take it back and replace it with a two-slot, smaller version. They didn’t have one to match the kettle, so I had to get a basic chrome one, but that doesn’t matter.

I only hope all the measures I’m taking this summer to get energy consumption down make any kind of difference to my bills. Probably not, but all I can do is try.

It’s been a busy week. An American friend on Instagram whom I met before back in 2019 when she and her husband were touring the UK, had messaged earlier this year to say they would be hopefully in my vicinity sometime in May or June and could we meet up again. Of course, I said, yes, then heard nothing more until suddenly she messaged that they were arriving at the train station at 2:30pm on Tuesday! Luckily, I had the day off so was able to collect them and all their baggage and take them to the rather charming room they had reserved at a local pub. Leaving them to settle in, I walked back later that evening and met them for dinner, which was a surprising treat for me.

I had to work Wednesday – a very quiet day again. Where have all the customers gone?

Thursday looked set to be a gorgeous day, so I suggested I take them to Kentwell Hall for the day. This is a beautiful Tudor manor house out in the countryside and is well worth a visit anyway to see the stunning house and extensive gardens. However, once a year they hold a historical extravaganza when actors dress up in costume from different periods of British history and there are all sorts of activities going on. Coincidentally, this was happening on the day we planned to go.

It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny with a brilliant blue sky overhead. We spent almost five hours wandering around the house and grounds. The time periods stretched from the Neolithic right up to the 1980s and everywhere in-between. A lovely lady in the kitchen talked us through rationing during WWII, a charming Regency lady showed us her silk patchwork and talked about the revolution in the colonies and the South Sea Bubble. We saw crude but efficient looms in the Bronze Age period and learnt how to smelt bronze to make arrowheads and axes. We watched an exhibition about using a British longbow and found an eccentric Tudor alchemist deep in the woods who performed magic for us and told us how amazing chameleons are.

All told, it was a lovely day, and I dropped off my friends at almost four that afternoon back in town to go to their room to rest and freshen up. I shot home and cooked an entire roast lamb dinner in under two hours before walking to collect them from the pub, so they’d know the way back.

We relaxed in the garden before we ate with a glass of chilled wine, and it was a relief to sit down and rest my aching feet. I’d been on the go since 5:30am that morning – when the cat woke me up banging on my bedroom door to be let in. I know I shut her downstairs last night, so can only assume the lodger didn’t close the door properly when he left to go to work at silly o’clock that morning.

We ate dinner and chatted before they left at about ten. They had a long journey the next day by train to Salisbury, so didn’t want too late a night. I emptied the dishwasher, reloaded it, cleared down the kitchen and the table, and then fell into bed exhausted. Two hours later I awoke, my brain sparking for some reason, and couldn’t get back to sleep for the rest of the night.

I wish I slept as well as my cat does.

I’ve included some pictures of Kentwell for you to see how great it was. I did take more, but for some reason, they didn’t come out.

Wherever you are in the UK, and whatever you’re doing to celebrate the Jubilee, I hope you had a fantastic weekend. I have my flags out already and have some pretty bunting to put up on Sunday morning. It’s fabric, not plastic so I don’t want to put it out until the last minute. Rather than wasting money on union jack bunting, which I wouldn’t use again, I bought some pretty fabric bunting in the colours of my garden so once Sunday is over I can reuse it.

I hope the weather forecast is wrong and that it stays dry for Sunday. Of course, a warm sunny day like Thursday would be perfect, but may be too much to ask for – this is Britain, after all.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Julia Blake

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One thought on “Jubilee!

  1. So looking forward to Pitch and Pace. I will of course read and review for Amazon and Goodreads.
    I’ve been sick all week and weekend with a bad chest cold and finally had to go on antibiotics…. so behind on so many levels.
    It’s so important you check your car regularly before making the long trip up to get Frankie. That broken hand break could have been dangerous. You’ve really kept your car in great shape.
    The taxes on your pension are terrible. It’s the same here. I have to laugh. We fought to make our break from UK almost 250 years ago over unfair taxation and now both countries tax its people unfairly all the time. You have very needed uses for the amount you will be withdrawing. Especially the needed boiler being replaced well before winter rolls around again.
    Your outing with your American friends sounded wonderful. I enjoyed the photos. You are a gracious host. It’s lucky you had the day off.
    Sorry, as it turned out, the weather wasn’t great for the block party. But it sounds like you all made the best of it and had fun.
    It would be fun to be in the UK during the Queen’s grand celebration.

    Liked by 1 person

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