Thursday, June 22, 2017



My birthday yesterday and another year older. Things are going wonky, bits falling off, midsection growing exponentially, print is getting way smaller and is it me or did someone add ten feet to the top of that hill last week. Yeah, I hate getting older.
Also heard that I’m going to be a grandad for the first time. Grandad!!! I’m too young to be a granddad. That only happens to elderly people.
Okay, once the shock wore off I realized, with a sly smile, this is where I can finally get my own back. Spoil the kid rotten, get him wired on six ice cream triple smoothies all topped with lots and lots of chocolate sprinkles, and say there you go, he’s all yours.
            Or of course I could give him some wild night time stories like I did my son. I remember reading storybooks to my son at night and saying this book sucks I can do better.
            I tossed the book aside and said, “Okay give me three things.” Like I learned from one of my creative writing classes. He’d give three crazy things, Donald Duck, Lego and the Incredible Hulk.
I’d come up with some wild storyline and usually instead of putting him to sleep he’d be laughing his head off.
It’s funny how over time one forgets about small things like that. The important things. Okay, age comes with some great memories.
It reminds me of the poster I have hanging up in my writing room with a picture of a man playing with his young boy beside a puddle of water by a curb.

Just think how happy you’d be of you lost everything you have right now.
And then got it back again.
By Anonymous

I think that Anonymous was one smart dude.

Below is the link to my radio show I did for KKNW’s House of Mystery Radio Show.

And for those of you not tired of me yet, I've done another video, Link below. What can I say, I'm bored, there's no hockey.

Buy my novel from Amazon

And if you really, really like me. Like my Authors Page on Facebook. 
Oh come on, some of my posts are so funny you'll pee your pants. 
(PS. This advertisement was paid for by Depends) 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A World Without Alzheimer's Disease by J.Q. Rose

Cozy mystery author by J.Q. Rose
Dangerous Sanctuary available at the Books We Love bookstore

📚 📚 📚 📚
A World Without Alzheimer's Disease by J.Q. Rose
Can you envision our world without Alzheimer's in it? The Alzheimer's Association can. They are researching and supporting families and caregivers, not in the hope of stamping out Alzheimer's but in their belief it can be eradicated so no one will ever have to deal with the devastation of this disease.

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness month. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. 

Wear purple on June 21, the Longest Day of the Year,
for Alzheimer's Disease Awareness.
I bet Alzheimer's has invaded your life because you know someone whom you care about has disappeared into the darkness of this disease. We have not experienced it in our family, but I have friends who have. 

When my friend and mentor, Bernie, discovered she had it, she told me one afternoon after inviting me for dessert and coffee. I will never forget the sadness in her eyes as we talked about the diagnosis. Knowing this awful disease is lurking in the future shadows a person every day, waiting for the next degree of losing a piece of oneself.

I dedicated my book, Deadly Undertaking to Bernie, and I included a character suffering with Alzheimer's in the story. This was my way of trying to bring awareness to readers about this debilitating disease.

Today, I am using facts from the Alzheimer's Association site to help spread the word and marshal an army to fight against Alzheimer's.  If we don't take steps to fight and win the battle against AD, the result will be a world-wide epidemic by 2050.

  • The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease is growing — and growing fast. An estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's disease. Currently, there are 44 million people suffering from dementia globally. That number is up 22% over the past three years when there were 35.6 million people suffering from the disease.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It is the fifth-leading cause of death among those age 65 and older and a leading cause of disability and poor health. 
  • As the population of the United States ages, Alzheimer's is becoming a more common cause of death. It is the only top 10 cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
  • Although deaths from other major causes have decreased significantly, official records indicate that deaths from Alzheimer's disease have increased significantly. Between 2000 and 2014, deaths from Alzheimer's disease as recorded on death certificates increased 89 percent, while deaths from the number one cause of death (heart disease) decreased 14 percent.
  • It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
  • The costs of health care and long-term care for individuals with Alzheimer's or other dementias are substantial. Dementia is one of the costliest conditions to society.
  1. Join a clinical trial
  2. Get genetic testing
  3. Email, call, and tweet your Congressmen
  4. Get educated about Alzheimer’s & Dementia
  5. Speak up if you see symptoms
  6. Sign the Alzheimer’s petition
  7. Volunteer or donate to an Alzheimer’s research or awareness organization
To learn more about AD, visit the following articles.
Alzheimer's Association

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Pitfalls of Period Writing by Stuart R. West

To read the book that made the rest of my hair fall out, click here!

My first book with Books We Love, Ghosts of Gannaway, was a sprawling pseudo-historical thriller, romance, and ghost story set during the depression in a small Kansas mining town. Never before had I tackled such an undertaking. I spent two months alone researching. Whew.

I swore I’d never do it again.

Yet here I am currently tackling another period piece for Books We Love. This time when I jumped into the Stuart R. West time machine, I only ventured as far back as 1965. It wasn’t nearly as tough to research as Ghosts, but this book, too, had its pitfalls and traps.

Again (repeat after me): Never again!

Why’d I set my current book in 1965? The story’s a nostalgic, small town mystery and ghost story. (I ain’t nothing’ if not ambitious). By definition, nostalgia always takes place in the past or is at least a remembrance of days gone by. And, personally, my favorite ghost stories always take place in the past. Much more resonance than, say, a haunted Smart Phone.

But there I go again, breaking my vow to myself by going all old timey.

Here are the biggest problems I have while writing period pieces:

Getting the lingo right is tough. In my 1965 set book, I have a character--a real hep cat--spouting such slang as, “Whoa, daddy-o, you’re out of your tree! Your old man’s squaresville, absolutely nowhere. Let’s percolate, beat feet, get to the nitty-gritty!” I know, right? It’s really easy to overkill once I dig into the slang of the time. Granted, the character in question is a mop-topped, dangerous, cool kid, but sometimes I need to rein it in. Just a smidge, daddy-o!

Speaking of overkill, sometimes research threatens to eat my tales alive. While investigating all kinds of topics for Ghosts of Gannaway, I learned more than I could ever possibly need to know about the depression, the way men and women spoke in the ‘30’s, what happened to the Midwest Native American tribes, what folks ate, ore mining, and lots more. Anyone wanna know about the hazards of brass carbide mining lamps? No? Me neither. (But I do.)

You should’ve seen the first draft of Ghosts of Gannaway. Be thankful you didn’t. I tried to shoehorn every bit of research (and I had pages and pages of teeny-tiny, hand-written notes) into the book. There was a twelve page dissertation in the middle of the narrative about how the white colonialists drove the Native-Americans out of their lands (thank God I came to my senses, and pretty much chucked the entire sequence).

I suppose my thoughts at the time were, “Hey, we’re talking history! And I spent a heckuva long time researching this stuff to the point of having mining nightmares, so everyone’s gonna enjoy the fruits of my labors!” But I saved you a dull history lesson.

Another blockade I’ve banged my head into is racial and sexual issues. Face it, our world’s attitudes have changed a lot regarding racial equality and sexual activity. We’ve all heard the derogatory and racist terms. Yet in these sensitive and politically correct times, you’re still gonna find a reader who’ll take umbrage over the racist epithets, even if they’re historically accurate.  In Ghosts of Gannaway, I constantly questioned whether I should use accurate, yet highly insensitive name calling.  I steered away from the Big No-No Word, but everything else was game. And even though I live in Kansas, no one’s been by to lynch me yet.

Finally…sex! The big taboo! Back in the day, of course, sex between consenting, loving adults only happened between spouses. But you know what? Hollywood would have us believe differently, so what’s good enough for Hollywood is good enough for me! Let the sex begin!

There you have it, daddy-o, my bag of hang-ups regarding gone, baby, gone period writing. (I need to put this hep 60’s lingo to use somewhere.)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A 50 Hour Readathon? Are you kidding me? By Nancy M Bell

Laurel's Quest by Nancy M Bell click here to find out more about this and other books in the series.

So, you're asking, what the heck is a 50 Hour Readathon and how is that even possible. Well, let me tell you!

The Morinville Community Library in Morinville, Alberta is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The library staff came up with a magnificent idea. Why not hold a readathon that lasts for 50 hours? One hour for each year the library has been open. The plan came to fruition on the weekend of June 2nd to 4th. Of course, no one person was expected to read aloud for the whole time. The word went out and authors and readers from all over Alberta came out to participate. I was lucky enough to be able to take part in this great event. My designated time was between 1 and 2 on Saturday afternoon. I drove the 3 hours from Balzac on a beautiful sunny afternoon. The library staff was very welcoming and local sponsor Panago Pizza provided some lunch, and there was CAKE! I mean who can resist cake? But I digress, sorry.

Back to the readathon. I read some chapters from my YA urban fantasy Laurel's Quest which is the first book in the Cornwall Adventures series. I couldn't believe how fast the time went! I had brought a few of my other titles with me because I wasn't sure how much I needed to fill an hour. I shouldn't have worried, I got through 2 chapters and then it was time for the next reader. I even got streamed live on their Facebook page! Can you imagine? That's a first for me. You can see the video here.

Dedicated participants came all through the night, some even reading in their pyjamas. Every genre under the sun was included, poetry, plays, some people read in French, non fiction, children's books, picture books...there was something for everyone. Morinville is a lovely town just north of Spruce Grove, Alberta which is kissing cousins with Edmonton. If you ever have the opportunity to be up that way, be sure to drop in and visit. Please check out what they have to offer by clicking here.

It was a wonderful weekend and it was a pleasure to take part. I even got to be in the Morinville News! I'm on page 14.

Here are some stats from the weekend. Pretty impressive, I must say.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures of the event.

I've included a bit of Laurel's Quest that I read at the Readathon below. This is from Chapter Two, Laurel has made it to Sarie's in Cornwall and she has run away into a small ravine on the property. There's a hidden spring and Laurel is sitting by the edge. She's mad her dad won't let her come home and she's scared for her mom. This is where she meets the White Lady and where her quest begins.

How am I going to manage without my mom to talk to? She scrunched her hands into fists and pounded on her thighs in frustration. The floodgates burst open. Sobs tore her throat, and tears clogged her nose, her ribs hurt, and she still couldn’t make herself stop. It just wasn’t fair!
“Mom, Mom!”
Without realizing she had moved, Laurel found herself lying face down on the flat stone with her legs entangled in the bushes. Her tears fell into the pool, making little circular ripples like raindrops. It was a little easier to breathe now, but the tears kept coming. Laurel cried for her Mom, for Cole, for Sam, and mostly for herself.
She was abandoned half way across the world. Mom needs me; I need Mom; I want to go home! The tears dripped off her nose into the pool, faster and faster. She needed to stop crying, but she couldn’t. The loss of control scared her, and she was very cold now. Her feet felt like ice, her wet jeans clung to her cold legs. In between the sobs, Laurel’s teeth started to chatter.
Through the blur of tears, there was a shimmer over the surface of the pool. She hiccupped and blinked. A gentle hand touched her hair, smoothing it back from her face. Mom! Mom always smoothed her hair when she was sick or upset. Warmth spread through her...
The woman about her mom’s age, but it wasn’t her. The lady had blue eyes, and her skin glowed. Bright and silvery blond hair hung long and gossamer around her face, falling over the weird hooded robe she wore. The fingers on her hands were short and sturdy. She was the most beautiful person Laurel had ever seen, except of course for Mom.
“No, sweet child, I’m not the mother you are missing so badly.” Her voice blended with the sparkling voice of the spring.
The woman sat down and rested a hand on her cold shoulder. The touch was comforting. Laurel wriggled around and sat cross-legged with her knees drawn up to her chest. She wrapped her arms around them in an attempt to stop the shivers. The woman wrapped her cape around Laurel. She gathered the soft fabric up under her chin, breathing in the sweet scent of verbena and lavender. Immediately, she was warmer and calmer. With her eyes on the fall of the water into the little rock pool, she searched for something to say, embarrassed at being discovered wailing away like a baby. Even worse, by someone she didn’t even know.
“Do you live around here?”
“In a manner of speaking, I do. I can usually be found somewhere near this spring,” the woman answered.
“Do you know Sarie?” They must be friends, if this woman hung out in Sarie’s pony field.
“Sarie and I are old friends. She is the current custodian of this spring.”
“Does the spring have a name?”
“Some call it the Well of the White Lady,” the woman said softly.
“Who’s the White Lady?”
“She is the spirit of this place, this spring. But she is connected to all the sacred wells and springs, indeed to all the landscape that is Britain,” the woman explained.
“So she’s like an undine?” She remembered her mom’s story about the water spirits.
The woman’s laughter spilled into the serenity of the small glade. “Goodness, child where did you hear of undines?”
“My mom tells me stories about them.”
“Undines are water elementals. They dwell in any body of water and are small and childlike, although they can be quite helpful at times. The White Lady is the actual spirit of the spring, associated with a particular spring. She is however connected to the greater feminine spirit which inhabits all the sacred springs and dwells in the landscape about us. The greater Spirit is known by many names Mary, Brigit, the Lady of the Lake, and in other lands as Isis, to name just a few.” The woman’s voice held a strange vibrancy.
“Are you the White Lady?” Laurel’s voice was very small. She was pretty sure she already knew the answer.
The woman didn’t answer immediately. Stray beams of sunlight flickered in her bright blond hair; a halo of golden light surrounded her. Fear blossomed in the pit of Laurel’s stomach. Maybe Mom’s stories are real. Maybe magic does exist in today’s world like Mom insists.
“I have comforted many people at this spring over the years, not one of them has ever had the courage to ask that simple question out loud.” The woman smiled. “So, as a reward for your forthrightness I will answer. Yes, I am the White Lady. Do you have a favor to ask of me?”
“A favor?” She hadn’t come to the spring to ask for anything. She only wanted to be alone.
“Most of those who come here come to ask for something, a lover, a husband, a child, or to bend others to their will.” The White Lady smiled as she spoke.
“Can you do that? It doesn’t seem right to ask for that kind of thing.”
“You speak with wisdom beyond your young years, little one.” The White Lady’s laughter ignited sparkles in the sunlit shadows. “What is it you would ask, if you could?”
Do I dare ask? What will it cost me to have my wish granted? In all the fairy tales, there was always a price to be paid for favors given, usually a pretty high one. Still, I don’t care what the cost is as long as my wish comes true.
“I want my mom to get better. She has cancer, and she’s really sick. She can’t die. I need her. That’s what I want, my mom to be healthy again,” Laurel said quickly, before she lost her courage.
“It is not a small thing you ask,” the White Lady said thoughtfully. “The decision is not entirely in my hands. Freedom of choice and free will hang in the balance as do the scales of Light and Darkness. Let me consider this for a moment.”
Holding her breath, Laurel clenched her hands together so hard her nails bit into her palms. Please say you’ll help me. The White Lady’s face was serene, but her eyes were unfocused as she looked at something far away. Presently the White Lady smiled.
“I have made something of a bargain for you. The outcome rests with you. There is a riddle you must solve. Follow the clues as you receive them and put them together until you can see the whole riddle. Once you see the riddle as a whole, you will also see the answer and the path you need to take.”
“Mom will be okay if I solve this riddle?” She wanted to be very certain she understood what the White Lady offered.
“If you solve the riddle and complete the tasks given to you, yes, I think your mother will be healthy again. But beware, you must not waste time. Your mother is very ill, and the decision hangs in the balance. You will need friends to help on your journey; it is not a journey you can take alone and succeed.”
Friends, I don’t have any friends here. Who can I ask to help me? The only person she knew was Coll, and Sarie, of course. I can’t ask Sarie; maybe Coll will help me. He seemed pretty nice on the train last night.
“Do you agree to accept the terms of the bargain?” the White Lady prompted Laurel.
“So, I solve the riddle, perform the tasks, and then my mom will be okay?”
“It will be so. Remember your time to complete the tasks is limited by your mother’s condition,” the White Lady affirmed.
“Then yes, I accept the bargain.”
The White Lady placed her hand on Laurel’s head and smiled.
“Then let it be so recorded,” the Lady said simply.
“When do I get the first part of the riddle?” In her mind’s eye, she saw sands draining through an hourglass, like on the soap opera her mom liked to watch.
“Your first clue will come to you on the Fire Festival of Beltane, what you call May Day in these days. Journey to Padstow for the May Day celebrations and keep your heart open to receive the clue. I will add this advice of my own…you must ride on the filly that never was foaled. When you do so, you will know that you are close to your goal. You will literally hold death in your hands. More, I cannot tell you without jeopardizing the bargain. Go gently, child. Blessed Be.”
The White Lady shimmered in a shaft of sunlight which found its way through the leaves. Laurel blinked in the sudden brilliance. When she looked again, the Lady was gone. A soft breeze touched her hair, and then all was still in the little glade, the water continuing to fall into the pool.
“I’m going to have to find a way to get in touch with Coll.”
She climbed up the steep side of the ravine above the spring and emerged in the pony field not far from the house. The four ponies came trotting over to see if there were any goodies to be had. The heavy horses thundered up behind them. Laughing, she patted each one in turn, letting them sniff her hands. Laurel started toward the gate, her sneakers making wet sucking noises as she walked. The herd followed her single file all the way to the gate.

That's all for this time. Until next month stay well, be happy

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How I write - Janet Lane Walters #MFRWauthor #writing style #Murder and Mint Tea

Murder and Mint Tea (Mrs. Miller Mysteries Book 1)

One of my fellow writers asked me how I found my system of writing. I always say I'm neither a plotter or a punster. I'm hybrid. Now what does that mean.

In 1968, I decided to begin writing. I took some classes via mail but they focused on short stories. Novels are different. They're longer and they have to have more than a character or two. I'd had some success with short stories until the markets dried up. Novel writing came next since I'd sent off a short stories I'd titled - And So We Walk On Eggshells. One editor turned the story down and told me this sounded like a synopsis for a novel. Synopsis had me puzzled, so I headed off to the library to find every book I could on writing novels. Then realizing I could only keep those books for a limited time, I purchased most of them. Every book had a different way of organizing the story. I wanted to try them all.

One book said have your characters and know what kind of market you want to reach and then sit down and just write. This got me so far and then I could go no further.

Another book had me doing extensive write ups on each major character and some on the minor characters. Trying this method had the same effect as just writing the story.

There were books that gave you ways to sketch out your entire plot and fit your characters to the plot.

I finally designed my way of doing it. As I approach a new novel, for a week or two as I'm falling asleep, I tell myself a story about the book. I finally reach a point where I know where things are going - sort of I'm ready to begin. Now comes how I do this.

I must have a title before I begin the book. Then I need my characters to have names. Once these are in hand, I write what I call a chapter blocking. This ends the plotting stage. Then I move to the punster phase for the rough draft. When I say rough, I mean rough. Often there are switches during the book that don't follow the blocking exactly but by the time I finish, I do have a beginning, some major and some minor scenes and the ending. The rough draft is generally about a quarter to a third of what the final book will be.

Then I begin the drafts. There is a setting draft, a character draft, a plot draft where all that I've ignored comes into the story.  Finally there is the revision draft that looks at language, not punctuation, though I try. Some of my editors carefully replace question marks for periods and add commas where they hare needed.

I'm sure none of this makes sense but Murder and Mint Tea began the quest for a novel

Friday, June 16, 2017

Say what you mean and mean what you say by J.C. Kavanagh

Last month, I wrote a wee bit about my Irish-born father and his dislike for Canadian winters. He passed away over 20 years ago and I still miss him. In fact, much of my writing is done on his old, oak, leather-topped desk. Cheers, Da!

This month, I'll share a couple of stories about my lovely mother - who will be 86 this year. She grew up in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Canada to start a family, almost 60 years ago. Like my dad, Mom discovered that settling in Canada was a big adjustment – the heat in summer, cold and snow in winter, and intense thunder and lightning storms in the spring and fall.

My cheeky mother, 1958
But the biggest adjustment for me Mather was not the weather – it was her choice of words. And their meaning. Or rather, their wrong meaning. She meant well. She just didn’t say it right.

“Will you kindly knock me up at 7 tomorrow morning?” she asked the landlord of her rooming house shortly after she arrived in Canada.

Fred, her landlord, stood there in shock, the redness of his blush matching the ginger of his hair.

“What? Don’t you knock up all your tenants?” me Mather asked. “Surely you don’t want me to be late and have my wage docked and not be able to pay my rent?”

Fred’s blush had become a dangerous maroon. “I… I could find you an old wind-up clock,” he stammered.

“Why bother?” me Mather persisted. “Just knock me up at 7!”

Fred’s face was now apoplectic. “But…. my wife…..”

“Nonsense, she won’t hear a thing,” replied me Mather. “Just knock on my door two or three times. I’ll wake up.”

Fred gasped and almost fell to the floor in relief. “Knock… on your door.”

“Well, of course,” says me Mather. “What else would I mean?”

And then there’s the time when me Mather was at work, new to her job as legal secretary for a firm in downtown Toronto. Her boss was a finicky old curmudgeon with little patience for his lovely Irish employee.

As she was collating and copying some papers, me Mather noticed a mistake.

“I’m waiting for those papers to sign!” bellowed her boss impatiently.

Mather was desperate. She had to erase and correct the error immediately, before he noticed. She hurried to her colleague’s office. “Quick – I need a rubber. Now!”

The woman looked up at me Mather in shock. “You need a rubber?”

“Yes! Quick now – I’m in a hurry and the boss doesn’t want to wait!”

Well, Mather learned very quickly that the terms used at home in Ireland had a completely different meaning in Canada. I still chuckle when she talks about something that’s banjaxed (broken), togs (bathing suit), boxing my ears (a humourous threat to slap you upside the head) and chin-wagging (a lengthy conversation). I know what she means to say even if she doesn’t say what she means. You know what I mean.

She's still beautiful! Mother, grandmother and great-grandmother

Summer is about to begin - enjoy! I'll be spending most weekends and about four weeks sailing around Georgian Bay on our sailboat, Escape Route II. Ah....

Enjoy life!

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb
BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers' Poll
A novel for teens, young adults and adults young at heart
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Meaning of Land

Traditional societies around the world understood land in ways different from the modern interpretation. In many countries, especially the “developed” ones, land is considered to be a commodity—in other words, something having economic value.

Yet, such a definition of land is quite a modern phenomenon. A look back at the epics, whether the Odyssey or the Iliad in Greece, or the Mahabharata or the Ramayana in India, shows the landscape to be dotted with sacred spaces—whether mountains, rivers or groves. These sacred places, where the individual could connect with the spiritual, became celebrated in literature, in festivals and in the cultural lives of the people.

In aboriginal cultures throughout the world, this understanding survives. They show a much more nuanced view of land than the dominant culture’s; one which includes spiritual, physical, social and cultural connections. Indeed, if there is one singular, distinguishing feature to all aboriginal religions, whether in America, Australia or Brazil, it is this relationship to the land.

Autrailian Aboriginal (Palyku) woman Ambelin Kwaymullina explains: “For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human – all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky. Country is filled with relations speaking language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. Country is loved, needed, and cared for, and country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self.” [1]
With the arrival of colonialism and now globalization, this relationship is being damaged. An increasingly global free market has meant disappearing borders, skyrocketing corporate profits and an increase in wealth for some. But not everyone has shared in the benefits of globalization. In every corner of the world, the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples are under threat as governments and corporations seek to dispossess the people and exploit their abundant natural resources.

Linda Bull, a Cree from Goodfish Lake First Nation says the problem of globalization is not new. According to her, Native people in Canada have been fighting it for generations under another word - assimilation. Globalization and assimilation both seek to separate indigenous people from the land, to make them disappear. The Cree people have not forgotten their connection to the place. Protection of the land is crucial for Native people because, according to her: "when our lands disappear, we too all will disappear." [2]


Mohan Ashtakala is author of "The Yoga Zapper." published by Books We Love.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Culture or is it just thinking differently? by Sheila Claydon

I have just returned from a trip to Australia via Hong Kong. During my visit I met with people born and raised in Australia and Hong Kong of course, but I also met people from Canada, Tasmania, Holland, Thailand, China, the Philippines, Greece, Indonesia, America, the Shetland Isles and various parts of the UK. Sometimes it was a one to one conversation but often there were 3 or 4 nationalities in one room, all using English as a common language. As a poor linguist but a UK born native English speaker, I consider myself very lucky to be able to use my own language to communicate with so many people from different places and cultures. It is the gift that allows an insight into worlds that would otherwise be hidden from me.

Did you know for example that in China a pregnant woman is treated like a fragile flower. Her pregnancy is considered a “hot” condition, so to balance the scale between “hot and cold” or “ying and yang”, she must eat so called “cold foods” throughout her pregnancy. From a Western perspective it gets worse. Eating food that is not properly cut or mashed will result in the child having a careless disposition. Eating chocolate will result in your baby having dark skin whereas eating light coloured foods will result in the baby having fair skin, something which is considered a big positive in China. Drinking coconut milk will ensure that the baby has good skin while eating pineapple may cause miscarriage. 

A pregnant woman is not allowed to exert herself by carrying heavy things or doing physical work. Even old people will offer their seats on a bus. She is discouraged from attending weddings or funerals to prevent her emotions being affected in ways which will adversely harm the baby. Nor should she handle any household detergents or chemicals during pregnancy without the protection of rubber gloves.

After the birth this careful approach continues with the female family members maintaining a 24 hour support service in the early months to ensure that the mother gets enough sleep. The father is often relegated to the spare room or even the couch, and once the mother is deemed strong enough she will co-sleep with the baby, often until it is 5 years old.

I could go on and on with the 'do and don't rules' for Chinese pregnancy, each one seemingly more bizarre than the last to Western eyes, but are they really? Many relate to nutrition, a wish to avoid miscarriage, the benefits of enough rest and sleep, and the joy a new baby brings to the whole family in a country that still conducts a mainly one child policy. 

Of course many of the modern Chinese mothers eschew these rules, laughing at centuries of superstition, working up until the last minute and refusing to conform to the old tradition of being confined to their room for a month after the baby is born. They do, however, still rely on their extended family for care and nurture but for a very different reason. Not because they feel fragile but because they want to get back to work, and to do this they need the help that has so willingly been given by the older generation for centuries. 

Then there's Australia where the people are almost all informal and friendly, and this is despite the fact that more than 25% of all Australians were born in another country. What is is about Australia that has persuaded all these different nationalities to adopt the same laid back attitude? Is it the weather, or the culture? Also, before my trip I didn't know that the largest Greek population in the world beside Athens in Greece can be found in Melbourne Australia, which accounts for the fact that I met so many Greek people while I was there.

Then take Holland. There adults put chocolate sprinkles on their toast, as well as eating an average of 2 kilograms of salty-sweet liquorice a year from a choice of over 80 different kinds of liquorice. Also, despite the rainy weather, they use raincoats and rain "suits" instead of umbrellas because the wind is too strong, and anyway it is almost impossible to hold an umbrella and cycle at the same time, and with more than 18 million bicycles in the country that's an awful lot of cycling.

I could carry on and talk about the things I learned about the other countries if there was the time and space but nowadays many of these facts are available at the click of a mouse. How much more interesting they are when they are part of a conversation, however, sometimes to be wondered at, but more often part of an interested and animated discussion. And of course we British are far from exempt when it comes to strange habits. Is there another country in the world where the population's accent changes noticeably every 40 kilometres? Living where I do, in the northwest of England, I can easily recognise at least half a dozen different accents from places less than an hour's journey away. And why do we enjoy meeting up in English pubs to watch a football game, play pool or just drink a beer.

The more I meet people from other countries and other cultures, the more I learn and the more I understand. How much more sensible it would be for us British, in our often rain-sodden country, to adopt the rain 'suits' of the Dutch instead of constantly fighting the wind with our umbrellas, and is chocolate on toast really less healthy than our sugar coated breakfast cereals? And maybe we would benefit from being just a little more laid back like the Australians.

No country or culture is right, everyone is just different, but it takes time to realise that, and to see that in the end it's the differences that make every single one of us interesting, not the similarities.

It's also one of the reasons that I write about the places I've visited in many of my books. Miss Locatelli is set in London and Florence, and every blade of grass and delicious mouthful of food is authentic thanks to the wonderful times I've had with Italian friends. Travel truly does free the mind to consider other ways of living.

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