Several people have recently made very complimentary comments about my blog; I am, naturally, pleased to enjoy favourable feedback as it makes my daily commitment feel really worthwhile!  Since starting social networking in October, I have been much struck by the incredible kindness and support of the online community around me – so much generosity and warmth!   Now, to cap it, Anabel Marsh, a very experienced and entertaining blogger about travel and children’s literature, has nominated me for ‘The Versatile Blogger’ award, which allows bloggers to be really nice to each other!  Anabel’s personal regard for my blog is what really means most to me, though the award is a fun thing in itself.  According to its rules, I have to say seven things about myself and here they are:

  1. A few years ago, I might have said my favourite pastime was cycling.  On an all-terrain tandem, my husband and I went on some pretty ambitious excursions, here and abroad, including the Alps.  However, as his appetite for speed increased (and my screams – we once broke the speed limit cycling through Holmfirth!), I became more fearful.  Last year, my birthday present was an individual bike, so my appetite for cycling may revive.  In the meantime, I most like walking with our Pointer dog in the countryside, watching it change subtly almost every day, enjoying the dog’s antics, keeping fit and, of course, thinking about what I’m going to write when I reach home again.  It’s also amazing how much you can spot going on in and around a small village, if you’re nosy!
  2. If I had to choose one favourite place, I’d say Spalding, but the Spalding of the past rather than the present.  Although my novels take place in the present, they are set in the Spalding of the past, which now seems to me to have been a magical place.  That I have not lived there since I was eighteen enables me to preserve almost intact my memories of how it was then (though of course I still pay visits).  Other favourite places are Paris (the first European city I ever visited and where I spent my honeymoon), Leeds (mis-spent youth) and London (dirty, noisy, magnificent).
  3. Sorry to be predictable, but my favourite book of all time has to be Emma. There are few books that I read twice, but I re-read all of Jane Austen’s every five years or so.  I always find something that I haven’t spotted before and she always teaches me something new about writing.  I don’t really have a favourite crime writer – too many candidates; if really pushed, I’d probably choose Le Carré’s Smiley novels (if they count as crime).  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made a big impression on me when I first read it, but I find the later Larssons far-fetched.  I admire Anne Zouroudi, Michael Dibdin and Donna Leon for the quality of their prose and I like Peter Robinson and Stephen Booth because they write about places that I know.
  4. I love cooking!  I’ve been baking my own bread since I was first married.  We grow vegetables, apples, plums and soft fruits and I try not to let any go to waste.  I preserve jams and chutneys, for which various members of my extended family place orders.  I’ve always baked cakes and pastry items – girls growing up in the Lincolnshire of my youth learned to make pastry almost before they could walk.  I’m definitely a Nigella Lawson fan; my only quibble is that she always uses the most expensive ingredients, so sometimes I substitute more economical ones!
  5. Things I hate the most: i) Way out ahead of the others has to be my yearly tussle with my tax form!  If it were possible to murder an organisation, my choice would be the Inland Revenue.  ii) I don’t like gratuitous rudeness; it is usually as easy and certainly more effective to be polite.  iii) I wish my husband would learn to use the laundry basket.
  6. My favourite holiday:  We love long holidays in France, staying in secluded rural gîtes to indulge our love of walking, cycling, reading and writing.  (The outlines of both my DI Yates novels were written there.)  If anyone has any recommendations for good quality self-catering in other countries, I’d appreciate them.
  7. My ideal evening:  Write for a couple of hours; cook a nice dinner and serve with wine; have an interesting conversation with my husband and / or immediate family; either read a good book or watch a film.

Anabel, I hope that you enjoyed reading this information!  Thank you for your nomination; I am very touched and honoured by it.  I really enjoy visiting your blog and I’d like others to use the link here to come and meet you.

Now, according to the rules of the award, I am supposed to nominate fifteen (!) other bloggers, but that seems silly and I intend to nominate just one, the one I really admire for versatility beyond the norm and for serving the interests of a huge creative community drawn to her by her encouragement, support, wit, humour, kindness, content scope and, most important of all, knowledge.   She is Rhian Davies, It’s a crime! (Or a mystery…) , on Twitter as @crimeficreader.  She is under no obligation to be bothered with continuing this process, but my nomination will, I am sure, be understood by very many indeed.