This year was my third RNA Conference. My first was many years ago, when I crept in apologetically as a new writer, only to be astonished at how welcoming and supportive everyone was. My second was two years ago, when I was speaking as a published author about my first book for Honno Press, 'Eden's Garden', which was a lovely experience, sharing my excitement at the journey I'd taken since that first conference.
This time, I was not only meeting up with old friends, but I was also sharing a kitchen with some of my fellow NW Novelistas. We meet up regularly for mutual support and a chat, but we are all a bit far-flung in this part of Wales and the North West, so it was great to be able to catch up properly and share the experience together. It can be quite daunting at first, when you come down to breakfast with 250 fellow authors (who usually work long hours in silence and solitude) catching up and exchanging ideas. The volume is decidedly deafening – but in an enjoyable way. And before you know it, you're doing the same.
This time we were lucky enough to be at Harper Adams University, in beautiful Shropshire. As well as the talks and the chance to exchange experiences and ideas with other authors, I had the opportunity with my fellow Novelistas, Annie Burrows and Freda Lightfoot, of taking part in the historical author's event at Blists Hill Victorian Town near Ironbridge. This was an experience in itself, not only being part of a reconstructed Victorian town, where our costumes didn't raise an eyebrow, but also an opportunity to chat to passers-by and meet readers.
I'd printed out copies of a couple of the recipes from 'We That are Left', including the ever-popular and totally delicious WW1 Poppy Seed Cake, and the genuine 1910 recipe for heavy duty hand-cream involving hog's lard and rosewater - with the instruction not to even attempt that one which made everyone laugh!
It was a fun, if exhausting, day in the summer sunshine. Plus I was able to sneak off for a bit and have a look round the village. I love the village, with its reminders of times gone by, especially the old-fashioned milliner's shop, along with the hardware shop, the schoolhouse and the funfair.
The event at Blists Hill was definitely a blast, and set everyone up to sit back and enjoy what the conference would bring. My extravagant hat with the ostrich feathers and the suffragette sash are now all carefully packed away ready for their next opportunity – and I can't wait!
This is the link to Blists Hill, which is well worth a visit: http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/our-attractions/blists-hill-victorian-town/
And 'We That are Left' is currently on special offer at £1.99 in the Amazon Kindle Store.
And this is the dreaded Hand Cream:
(This is an original 1910 recipe, meant for people whose hands were affected by frost. I don't think you can get hog's lard any more - maybe it's as well...)
Take ¼ lb Hogs lard, without salt.
Wash in water then in Rose Water.
Mix it with the yolks of two new laid eggs.
Add two large tablespoons of honey.
Stir in fine oatmeal or almond paste to make into a paste.