Darlene Foster's Blog

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Another wonderful review for Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady. Amanda and I are very pleased everyone is enjoying the book.

Wordy Witterings

I read about this novel on a book blog and was intrigued – it sounded just like the kind of thing that my 9-year-old daughter would enjoy reading. I’m pleased to say that since I’ve read ‘Amanda in Malta’, I’ve told her all about it and she can’t wait to not only read this novel, but the whole series. She wants to start with those featuring countries that she’s been to herself, and now has a very full Amazon wish list!

In ‘Amanda in Malta’, the lead character goes on holiday to Malta and gets involved in the mystery of a 4000 year old figurine that goes missing from a museum. The unique feature of this book, it that in reading it children will learn so much about the country that it features. The characters visit a range of Malta’s places of interest, both those on the common tourist trail…

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I am pleased to feature Mike Biles from A Bit About Britain (ABAB). Since we can’t travel right now, and who knows will we will be able to again, it’s good to read travel blogs. ABAB features great articles about fascinating places in Britian, a small island with an immense history and fabulous places to visit.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me onto Darlene Foster’s Blog, Darlene. I will try to behave.

A bit about myself? Well, I was born, at a very young age, atop a remote, windswept, tower one dark night in a thunderstorm.  The lights flickered at the appropriate moment. A surprisingly uneventful childhood was then spent in the deep South of England, followed by a slightly more exciting spell at university in the Midlands (history and a post-grad teaching certificate) with more than two fairly serious decades thereafter in and around London.  I am now exiled in the frozen north, surrounded by moss and flat vowels.  It’s a cliché to say that I always enjoyed writing, though for many years, whilst running my own business, this was mostly limited to tedious documents like project plans, specifications and contracts.  Along the way, I conspicuously failed to become world tiddly-winks champion; but I have maintained a life-long love of Britain, history, idle scribbling, beer and conversation.  I also enjoy a good movie and would be lost without music.

  • You have such an interesting blog. How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start your blog?

Thank you! A Bit About Britain was conceived some time ago and trundled along quite happily for a year or three as a kind of hobby, but the current website https://bitaboutbritain.com/ was launched in 2016. In some ways, the inspiration had always been there, because a love of heritage attractions and good stories had been drip-fed into me.  But, staying at various places around the country for work, I often found myself falling into conversation with people about local places of interest and began thinking about creating some kind of independent online database for visitors.  Much of the information out there at the time seemed rather partisan, often with pompous articles at one extreme, sometimes vacuous ones at the other and occasionally written by people who didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.  I had no idea to start a blog, but perceived a gap for an unbiased, accurate, resource that didn’t always take itself too seriously, and arrogantly thought I may be able to fill it – somehow.  Of course, it’s not that easy, it is a hopelessly ambitious aspiration – and I’m also lousy at the technical stuff; but we try.

  • Tell us about your books and how they came about.

Ah, well. The first one, A Bit About Britain’s History, pretty much had to be written in some form before the website was launched.  If you’re banging on about places to visit, particularly castles, stately homes and what-not, a little context is helpful. So I created a potted history of Britain and the book ripened from there.  It is not a tough read; I like to think of it as accessible history, from prehistoric to modern times, neatly pitched somewhere between arcane academia and dumb drivel.  It could probably do with more illustrations, but it does contain three maps and offers a respectable introduction to Britain’s story if you don’t know the subject, a refresher if you weren’t paying attention at school – and the context that visitors need.  Some very kind people (let’s hope the cheques don’t bounce) have even said it should be in school libraries, to give an idea how the topics studied as part of a curriculum fit into the bigger picture.

The second book, A Bit about Britain’s High Days and Holidays, has a similar pedigree. The website features articles about Christmas, Easter and other occasions. The book explores a baker’s dozen of these notable annual celebrations, or commemorations, their origins and the traditions associated with them. For good measure, it includes a couple of recipes, an A-Z of Christmas and a list of Britain’s Big Days – the events that normally form part of our calendar, some mainstream, some obscure, through Spring to Winter. It’s the kind of book I hope people might like to have on their bookshelves; I know I would.

Available on all Amazon sites
https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/

In your opinion, what is the most fascinating place in the UK and what makes it so?

That is a very good question, but almost impossible to answer.  I can get fascinated among a pile of stones, imagining children playing thereabouts thousands of years ago.  I find multi-layered places, where the stories almost pile one on top of the other, absorbing. At Wallsend (literally, at the end of Hadrian’s Wall), for example, is the site of the Roman fort of Segedunum. After the Romans, the area reverted to agriculture; later, coal mining arrived; then shipbuilding – and a whole community around that. They built some of the biggest ships in the world there.  Now that community has vanished too and we’re left with the outline of the Roman fort.  Or Fotheringhay – tumble-down deserted birthplace of Richard III and the site of Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution.  Places where big history-changing events took place and your imagination can run riot, such as Hastings and Bosworth, are fascinating and it takes no effort to get captivated by the atmosphere of sites like prehistoric Avebury and the Anglo-Saxon burials at Sutton Hoo – both of those places fit my ‘multi-layered’ description, actually. Come to think of it, I also got extremely excited on the trail of The Beatles in Liverpool; like a kid in a chocolate factory. So – tough question.

But I guess, if forced to choose just one fascinating place in the UK, it would – reluctantly – be London.  ‘Reluctant’, because everybody goes to London, there is so much to see beyond its boundaries that visitors miss and London is so untypical of the rest of the UK.  However, there really is so much in and about our capital; and not only the obvious must-see attractions and museums, excellent though many of them are. The place has a two-thousand-year history with intriguing tales and obscure facts lurking everywhere you go, round every corner, behind the street names, plaques on walls, statues, memorials, churches, pubs, wonderful parks, squares and traditions. If you’re of a curious mind, it’s a hard place to be bored in, that’s for sure.

  • Is there some place you have not yet visited that you would love to see?

Er – how long have you got?!  I will never finish exploring Britain; there simply isn’t time.  I need to visit the west more: the lovely border country between England and Wales, Wales itself (did you know it has a designated path all the way round its coast?) and the West Country. I have been to them all – just not enough. One thing I have never done, but have long-wanted to do, is island-hop off the west coast of Scotland – and I’d also love to visit Orkney and Shetland too. Rumour has it that some of my ancestors came from Caithness, so it would be great to go there as well; perhaps drive the North Coast 500 route, the circuit around Scotland’s North Highlands; fabulous! Think dodgy single-track roads, wild scenery, stunning beaches, remote castles, legends and malt whisky. This is all subject to Head Office approval, of course; much depends on the incredibly tolerant, long-suffering, Mrs Britain.

  • Do you feel that reading about travel destinations will help us get through this time of pandemic, when we can no longer travel freely?

Yes, I think so.  Frankly, pretty much any reading is helpful, and a gift – as is the Internet, for all its faults and dangers. The pandemic forced western society to change its priorities and it’s certainly been an opportunity for many to take stock and learn, to ease the path through odd, and awful, times, without going anywhere.  So, there is the chance for those that can to look around, get some background, soak up the stories behind places, and plan.  But we do need to be phlegmatic and remember that the world waits beyond the boundaries of our personal lockdowns, that it’s been there for a very long time indeed and it’s not going anywhere.  It doesn’t help to get all emotional about what you cannot do, how terrible you believe the restrictions are, and so on.  It is not only pointless, but some people don’t have that luxury.  And don’t get me started on the flat-earth conspiracy theorists!

  • What is your next writing project?

There are big plans for the website, but I’m painfully slow.  Book-wise, it is hoped to bring out at least one further volume of ‘A Bit about Britain’s something or other’ before I shuffle off this mortal coil. My follower will be the second (or maybe the third) to know!

Thanks so much, Mike, for this informative and entertaining interview. If you want to do some armchair travel or start planning that next trip for when we can travel:

check out Mike’s Blog https://bitaboutbritain.com/

his books https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/

follow him on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19553725.Mike_Biles

It’s six weeks until the release of Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady and I’m getting excited.

Here is what early readers have had to say about Amanda’s latest adventure:

“A missing friend, a mysterious boy . . . Amanda’s holiday on the island of Malta takes you on a fast-paced adventure through ancient forts and fishing villages, sea caves and spooky castles. A real page-turner!”


“I love how the author mixes creativity, imagination and cultural appreciation in her writing – for minds of all ages!”


“Middle-grade readers will be drawn in by the action, pulled forward by the mystery, and absorbed by the colourful backdrop of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean.” 

Amanda in Malta, the eigth book in the series, is now available on NetGalley if you would like a free advanced reading copy and are willing to write a review.

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/?text=Amanda+in+Malta

Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.


Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?

Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.

Check out the trailer I’ve created.

Please share and let your friends know. Thanks!

I am a guest over at the wonderful blogsite, A Bit About Britain. Thanks, Mike for this opportunity to share my love for this amazing city.

A Bit About Britain is delighted to welcome author and traveller Darlene Foster, as a guest writer explaining her affection for the city of York.

Shambles, York

The charming city of York in North East England is steeped in over two thousand years of history, harbouring many stories within its ancient walls.

Forty-four years ago, my first airplane trip took me from my home in Alberta, Canada to York, England to marry my Yorkshire hubby. I fell in love with the city, walked the medieval walls, visited the fascinating museums and enjoyed tea and cream cakes at the many teashops. At the end of my month-long stay, I gave friends from Felixstowe a guided tour of my favourite city. I have returned several times and it never disappoints.

Eboracum, the name the Romans gave the city, was the capital of the Northern part of what we know as England, two thousand years ago. Parts of the sturdy walls built by the industrious Romans still stand. I love walking the medieval walls that surround the old part of the city, offering fabulous views and photo ops. I believe anytime is a good time to visit, but my favourite time is in the spring when cheerful daffodils grow along these ancient walls.

It was also the capital of a Viking Kingdom later in the 9th/10th centuries, when it was called Jorvik. Many York residents can trace their DNA to Viking roots. A visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre is a must.  

Read the rest of the article here

Over the course of 18 days I posted ten of my favourite travel photos and invited you to guess where the picture was taken and/or comment on it. I was amazed at how many of you were interested in my pictures. Thanks so much for the comments and guesses. Day 10 was a picture of the Drumheller hoodoos in Alberta, Canada. A number of you guessed it and some even remembered this location from my book, Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone.

I enjoyed this challenge as it gave me an opportunity to review my photos and remember fondly all the places I have been to over the years. Of course, there are many more and it was difficult to choose. I miss travel right now, but I´m grateful that I have seen as much of the world I have.

In case you missed some of the answers, here is a recap:

Day 1 Tofino, BC, Canada

Day 2 Casa Batllo, Barcelona, Spain

Day 3 Clifford´s Tower, York, England

Day 4 Entrance to the Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta

Day 5 The flowers of Kuekenhof Gardens, Holland

Day 6 Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Day 7 A sunflower field in Provence, France

Day 8 Pompeii, Italy

Day 9 The glockenspiel in Nuremberg, Germany

Day 10 The hoodoos at Drumheller, Alberta, Canada

Thank you Geoff Lepard for nominating me for this Travel Challenge and thanks all of you for playing along. Congratulations to Andrew Petcher, who guessed the location of every picture. Check out his interesting blog, Have Bag, Will Travel where he describes his many travels with wit and honesty. If I didn´t nominate you and you would like to do this, jump right in. It´s good fun and an opportunity to travel while staying at home!

It´s the last day of the challenge. It´s been fun for me to go through my photos and post some of my favourites. So many great memories and I´m so grateful to have been able to visit these awesome places. Thanks so much for following along with me.

The photo from Day 9 is from Nuremberg, Germany which Andrew, Donna and Pam guessed. Others guessed Germany which is great! It is a picture of the glockenspiel displayed on the Church of Our Lady in the Hauptmarkt, (town square.) I wrote about it in Amanda on the Danube.

Here is the excerpt from Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music

The vendor pointed to the church and said, “The glockenspiel! Watch!”

Bing! Bong! Bing! Bong!

The huge blue and gold mechanical clock with a sun painted in the middle, chimed twelve times. A large figurine, wearing a gold robe and a crown, sat in an alcove below the clock. Seven smaller medieval figures in red robes, trimmed in fur, came out of a side door. They slowly circled around the larger figure, bowing and then leaving through a door on the other side. Throughout the performance, the sound of bells played a pleasant tune.

“That was totally awesome!” remarked Amanda. “It’s like a giant music box. It says under the figure, 1509. That is so incredibly old. I’m so glad we got to see it.”

“The figure, in the middle, is the Holy Roman Emperor Karl IV. The seven electors come out to pay homage to him every day at noon,” explained the hat seller with a strong German accent.

I was nominated by my blogging friend Geoff LePard at TanGental to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. It doesn´t have to be 10 consecutive days. Thanks, Geoff and thanks to everyone for playing alongIn these times, vicarious travel is a great escape.

Today I nominate Rebecca at Fake Flamenco. Rebecca is a bi-lingual author who writes interesting articles about her travels in South America and Spain.

If I nominate you and you don’t want to participate, please do not feel obliged, but if you do, please link back to me so that I can see your post. I would love to see what you choose to post.

This is my picture for day 10. If you want to guess where this is, leave your answer in the comments or just comment on the picture.

I am delighted with the response to my travel challenge series. Thanks for all the comments and guesses.

The photo from Day 8 was from Pompeii, Italy which many of you guessed. When I was in elementary school, I read a book about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried the city of Pompeii under volcanic ash. Since then I always wanted to visit the site of the disaster that has been uncovered almost intact. I was not disappointed as I wandered amongst the ruins and envisioned the people living there two thousand years ago. Here is a blog post I wrote about my visit, along with more pictures. (not easy to get pictures without other tourists in them but I managed)

https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/walking-with-the-dead-through-the-ruins-of-pompeii/

I was nominated by my blogging friend Geoff LePard at TanGental to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. It doesn´t have to be 10 consecutive days. Thanks, Geoff and thanks to everyone for playing alongIn these times, vicarious travel is a great escape.

Today I nominate Three Sisters Abroad. This interesting blog follows three Australian sisters as they enjoy travelling together.

If I nominate you and you don’t want to participate, please do not feel obliged, but if you do, please link back to me so that I can see your post. I would love to see what you choose to post.

This is my picture for day 9. If you want to guess where this is, leave your answer in the comments or just comment on the picture.

I was nominated by my blogging friend Geoff LePard at TanGental to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. It doesn´t have to be 10 consecutive days. Thanks, Geoff and thanks to everyone for playing along. In these times, vicarious travel is a great escape.

The photo from Day 7 was from Provence, France which Andrew from Have Bag, Will Travel guessed immediately. Sunflower fields can be found in many places but I will always associate them with Provence. My friend and I were searching for a destination when the GPS took us on a small road right through this amazing sunflower patch. We had to stop and take a few pictures. One of my best memories of that trip. Here are a few more memories of Provence including a wonderful cooking class.

https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/five-days-in-provence/

https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/learning-to-cook-the-cuisine-de-provence/

Today I nominate Cindy Knoke.  On her blog, she features the most amazing animal photos from around the world. You really must check it out.

If I nominate you and you don’t want to participate, please do not feel obliged, but if you do, please link back to me so that I can see your post. I would love to see what you choose to post.

This is my picture for day 8. If you want to guess where this is, leave your answer in the comments or just comment on the picture.

I was nominated by my blogging friend Geoff LePard at TanGental to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. It doesn´t have to be 10 consecutive days. Thanks, Geoff!

The photo from Day 5 is from the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands which Andrew guessed right away. Many of you guessed Holland/The Netherlands, a country renowned for its beautiful flowers. I had wanted to visit Holland for a long time and was delighted to be invited by a friend living there to visit. She surprised me with a trip to these amazing gardens. Here is a post with tons more pictures of the flowers. These amazing gardens are featured in Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action.

https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/tiptoeing-through-the-tulips-at-keukenhof/

Today I nominate Karen from Backroad Journal On her blog she shares mouth watering recipes, interesting places and enjoyable pastimes that she finds no matter where in the world she happens to be.

If I nominate you and you don’t want to participate, please do not feel obliged, but if you do, please link back to me so that I can see your post. In these times vicarious travel is a great escape, I would love to see what you choose to post.

This is my picture for day 6. If you want to guess where this is, leave your answer in the comments or just comment on the picture.

I was nominated by my blogging friend Geoff LePard at TanGental to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. It doesn´t have to be 10 consecutive days. Thanks, Geoff!

The photo from Day 4 is of the entrance to the Grand Harbour at Valletta, Malta. Andrew knew the exact location and Pedro was the first to guess it was Malta. We visited this unique place as a cruise stop and realized we needed much more than a morning to explore. So we returned a year later and spent a week there. I loved it so much I set my next book in Malta. Here is a post I wrote about Malta with more pictures.

https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/return-to-malta/

I nominate Wendy from My Plaid Heart  Her blog mainly focuses on her love of Scotland as well as her other travels. She has a keen interest in Scottish history and writes about historic sites, castles and estates, gardens, churches and cemeteries, stone circles, and historical/literary figures. Oh, and whiskey.

If I nominate you and you don’t want to participate, please do not feel obliged, but if you do, please link back to me so that I can see your post. In these times vicarious travel is a great escape, I would love to see what you choose to post.

This is my picture for day 5. If you want to guess where this is, leave your answer in the comments or just comment on the picture.


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