A Quick Trip to Cambridge

Cambridge is a great city for a short visit. We drove there, but all the narrow one-way streets, and students cycling, not to mention the suicidal ducks, meant that train would’ve been a better way to travel. Especially as, once you finally make it to the centre of town, there’s nowhere to park unless you take out a mortgage.

We met Son and Daughter in Son’s extremely tidy flat (he left all his muddles at my house – feel I failed at a parenting point somewhere). Then we went to Bedouin on Mill Road for lunch. I’ve never eaten North African cuisine before, but it’s different, tasty, and best eaten slowly with some good conversation. The decor was lovely, the walls lined with fabric, so you did feel as if you had stepped into a Bedouin tent.

The only fault were the washrooms. The sign was somewhat confusing, so to be fair, I might have been in the Gent’s. It was very narrow, so a large person would find it impossible to manoeuvre past the ornate copper sink and contort sufficiently to actually reach the loo. I wonder how many times they have to rescue guests who find themselves jammed in position. But apart from that, a great little restaurant. (info@bedouin-cambridge.com)

Weather was dry (unusual in Cambridge, it always rains when I visit) so we wandered to the Botanical Gardens.

Gardens were not at their best – possibly March is the wrong month to visit. Went into the tropical houses, but were unable to go into one whole section due to a mosquito. Yes, that’s right, just one. But Daughter has developed an aversion to them after being eaten alive recently in Bali, and I for one do not attempt to introduce logic when discussing options with my family.

Rest of hot house had some cool floating plants (brought back from Mars, apparently) and some orchids (which also resembled aliens). When Son told Daughter to: “See how many flowers you can eat in one minute,” I felt things hadn’t changed much from 20 years ago.

We also saw the National Collection of Tulips, which I feel is not something the Queen would be proud of – I can’t see her mentioning it during royal tours. Also saw a map showing the five floral kingdoms of the world, which Son-the-conservationist told me was extremely interesting.

Drove home in awful Sunday evening traffic and collected dog from my mum’s house (which was hairier than when we left, but both seemed happy). A nice day, in a nice place, with lots of laughs. My family are still the people I most like to spend time with.

Thanks for reading. Have a good week.

Take care.


Anne x



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Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. Her latest novel explores how someone very bad can manage to achieve something very good. Set in the slums of India, it is a fast paced, gritty story with strong characters.

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?

Available from bookshops and Amazon.


‘She had told her story many times, you could tell; the emotion had gone out of it, but the words were easier to say.

“I came to the city when I was a girl,” said Rashi, folding her thin hands, in her lap. Her voice was quiet but clear, her words sure. She had told her story many times, you could tell; the emotion was gone out of it, but the sentences were easier to say.”

Rashi was sold for £100, to a man who promised to educate her. Instead, she was put to work in a brothel, unable to escape and with nowhere to go. She was owned…

Could Clara, a young woman with all the selfishness, recklessness and glib lying that goes with a psychopathic disorder, be the one to help her? Can psychopathy ever be a strength?

Read more about Clara and Rashi in: CLARA – A Good Psychopath?

CLARA is a novel, all the characters are fictitious. But the situations are real. Today, in the slums of India, there are young women who have no choice but to work in the sex industry. You can learn about their lives, feel the mood of the slums, and discover the people who live there, in the compelling new novel from Anne E. Thompson.

Available in bookshops and Amazon for £11.95. But until 31st March readers of this blog can order a copy at a 33% discount (£7.95 with free UK postage). Complete the contact form below to order your copy.


A Letter to my Children : Visiting the ancestors in Hankerton.

Dear Children,

Today I went to Hankerton, in Wiltshire. It’s a hamlet, a scattering of houses and a tiny church set in the Wiltshire countryside. It’s where my granny was born and raised, and is full of family history. It is your history too, so I will tell you about it, because one day you might visit on your own.

Granny was born in Pear Tree cottage. She lived there with her parents, Mark and Mary Woodward. Mary washed clothes for the surrounding houses, and there was a well in the back garden, and a wash house next to the cottage. Mark was a busy man. I think he built part of the roof for the church, so maybe he was a builder. Mainly he was busy, because, it was later discovered, he actually had two families – my granny’s mother and another wife and children in the nearby market town of Malmesbury. Not sure which one was first, and therefore the legal wife. I have no idea what became of the other family, or if they resemble us or know of our existence. But Mark Woodward died in his fifties, and there is no stone to mark his grave. His wife was buried alone.

The story I grew up with, was that when he died, both wives went to claim the body, which is how they discovered the other existed. I have since been told that isn’t true, and that Granny’s mother was shopping in Malmesbury, when she overheard someone talking about Mark’s other wife. I’ve no idea which is correct, so believe whichever you like. It makes for an interesting bit of family history though.

I visited the cottage once, when I was very young. I remember the big room with the fireplace, and the well in the back garden. When I went back today, I met the people who now live there, and they invited me inside. The ‘big room’ is now their lounge, and they’ve extended the cottage on both sides. The well is now at the front, as the original cottage faced away from what is now the road, so when they extended they made a new front door (at the back, which is now the front, if you see what I mean).

The church is where my granny was married. It is also where many of the family are buried, and as you wander around the graveyard, lots of the stones belong to Woodwards. One grave is for Frank Winwood. I never met him, though I know he had a heat attack while driving, and his wife, Nell, had to grab the wheel. I did meet Nell. Aunty Nell lived in Peartree cottage after everyone else had left. She went a bit nutty towards the end, and had to be put into a home, which she didn’t like, so she used to turn the fire hose on the nurses and phone 999, asking to be rescued. She was buried with her husband Frank (her real name was Eleanor).

Granny’s other sister, Elizabeth, died before I was born. She had two sons, David and Ken, and we used to meet David and his family when I was little. Elizabeth died when Ken was born, so I think my granny helped to care for the two boys. Certainly they feature in lots of the stories my father told.

Inside the church, is a document showing all the vicars. In the 1600s were two vicars named Beale, who are also our ancestors. Some of my cousins have Beale in their names (not sure why my brother doesn’t, guess my mum didn’t like the name).

Next to the church is the old school house. When my granny’s mother was dying, Granny went to nurse her, and so my dad (your Grampy) went to school there for a few weeks. You will find his name in old registers.

You never met my granny, but you’d have liked her. She had a wicked sense of humour, and she told stories. I wonder if that’s where me and Aunty Ruth get our love of stories from. Most of her stories were ghost stories though, and tales about people in the village. I’m not quite sure now which ones were true, and which ones she made up. When her father died, when she was fourteen, she had to leave the grammar school in Malmesbury, and join her mother washing clothes. I sometimes wonder what her life would have been, if she’d been able to choose.

So, that’s a little family history for you, an eighth of who you are. If you ever go through Hankerton, remember to stop and visit the church. It’s a lovely place, and has a comfortable feel to it. It’s where our roots are, and I think you’ll like it.

I don’t know much about my Grampy’s family, but I do know about my mother’s relatives, who seem to have owned most of Huntingdon. Now there are some stories for you – but that will have to wait until another day.

Have a good week. Take care.


Mum xx


Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this, why not have a look at my latest novel? Amazon UK link below:


Instow, Devon, continued

3rd Day

Went for an early walk along beach. Dog happy. Then I went to church, walking up to the little white hall I found yesterday. I’m not sure how old it was, but it wasn’t modern. Nor was it huge – it was pretty full, and I think there were 18 of us. It’s always a bit scary going to a new church – will anyone speak to you, or will people just stare and make you feel uncomfortable…This church was fine. People looked up and smiled when I arrived, which is always a good sign, and the Vicar came out from wherever he was hiding, just to say hello and ask where I was from. He was a retired policeman, and worked part-time, covering a couple of little churches. The service was nice, very traditional, with an easy, friendly atmosphere. You felt like everyone knew each other well, and it was nice to sit at the back and absorb it all. (Apart from the singing – you wouldn’t want to absorb that – despite the best efforts of the man on the keyboard, it was somewhat rough…)

We had a quick lunch in John’s Cafe (best cafe in the world). Then we drove to Abbotsham, which is sort of attached to Westward Ho. We parked near the cliff, on the edge of a caravan park, and set off for a walk.

The first thing you see is a house. A superb house. It’s huge, facing right out to sea, and is very beautiful. Unfortunately it appears to be falling down the cliff and is now derelict. I walked all round it, looking for a place to break in, but the security was pretty tight. Shame. I would like to die in a house like that. When the medics announce that my end is near, I hope my relatives will break in and rescue me from the beige, airless, machine-filled world of the hospital, and dump me in a derelict house on a cliff edge. Preferably with a stash of morphine, so nothing hurts. Then I can die looking at the sky and listening to sea-gulls and waves. But Husband said this was a morbid thing to say when looking at an old house, and hurried me away along the cliff.

The cliff walk is pretty perfect. There is grass, and gorse, and waves crashing against rocks. Next to us were fields with lambs in. At one point, there was a great mound of pebbles, right up to the cliff path, and we could scramble down onto the rocks and peer into rock pools. Husband was happy, explaining how fresh water channels had formed deep grooves in the rock. The dog was happy, charging up and down the path. I was happy, listening to the sea (and Husband, of course).

A long walk in Devon makes you hungry for a cream tea, so we decided to go to Clovelly, which we visited years ago when the children were small. The car-park is at the top of the village, and you have to pay to enter the village, because it’s all owned by the big estate. But as we were out of season, it was all free, and empty. I have never seen Clovelly empty before, usually it’s teeming with tourists. The village clings to the cliff, and has a cobbled street that meanders down to the harbour. The cobble stones make for pretty tough walking, so don’t wear heels. Or bring a pushchair (I can tell you, from previous experience, a pushchair is a very bad idea).

We walked down to the harbour, and The Red Lion pub was open. There was a fire burning in the snug, and they had cream teas. The tea was a bit ‘packaged’, but actually the scones were soft, and it is not the worst tea I’ve had. Sitting in the window seat, looking out to sea, it was timeless.

Then came the long slog back up the slippery cobble stones to the car park.

When I got back to the cottage, I checked my clever phone app to see how far we’d walked that day. I was sure it was further than the previous day (which was 16 km). I was surprised to see it was only 12km. Then I noticed I had climbed 52 staircases. Clearly the app can’t differentiate, and up and down is a staircase, even when it’s along a cliff edge.

Tomorrow we’re going home, but plan to drive back via Hankerton, where my granny lived as a girl.

Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Anne x


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Instow 2018 – Earthquakes and Sand

Drove to Instow House. Same as when we left it, including the copy of Hidden Faces which I’d left on the bookshelf.
Ate dinner at Instow Arms, which clever Husband had booked before we left home. We ate early (7pm) but it was packed. I had creamy garlic mushrooms, which arrived in a bowl, like soup, and was delicious, followed by fish pie. Also delicious, but after a while I felt overly full of cream. Not a good choice by me.
Walked on beach with Kia, who went completely bananas. She reverts to puppy on beaches, stopping regularly to dig holes.
Watched tv, went to bed.

Day Two

Woke up to sound of seagulls and waves. Went to make tea and let dog into garden. Quite a lot of beach now seemed to be in kitchen.
Drove to Saunton Sands. Husband suggested another walk to beach across dunes, but as I had left my bullet-proof vest and crash helmet at home (see blog from Jan 17 https://anneethompson.com/2017/01/30/a-walk-on-the-wild-side/ ) I declined. Drove safely to carpark, not shot at once, and no sign of tanks or machine guns. Which is what most people might expect. (See Jan 17 blog. I still have not completely recovered…) Brilliant walk on miles of sand, beautiful sunshine, sky reflected on wet beach. Perfect.
Saw a Mermaid’s Purse, and commented to Husband that Son hadn’t believed it held shark’s eggs on a recent beach trip. Found myself having the exact same argument/discussion with Husband, who insisted it was clearly made from plant matter, and was therefore a type of seaweed. Told him to Google it. He did. Turns out I was right (obviously, or I wouldn’t be telling you this!) Heard those rare words : “Gosh, you were right. I was wrong.” Pretended I couldn’t hear, so he had to say it twice (might never have it said again, tis a rare event indeed…)
Walked for about 90 minutes. Returned to car, and found a Yorkie bar I stashed there months ago. Double perfect.
Drove along coast to Croyde. Husband told me that it’s where Kevin Hallam used to go for his family holidays. I don’t know who Kevin Hallam is, so was not terribly interested. Was then told about Kevin’s family, Warhammer, English degree at Oxford, and that he drove into Husband’s Beetle when they were 17. But the countryside was pretty, so I let him talk (for quite a long time actually. If you know Kevin, do say Hi from me).

Lunch at cottage, followed by an earthquake. Nope, this is not an innuendo, we really did have an earthquake. Apparently the epicentre was in Swansea and it measured 4.9. The cottage was unhappy at being shaken, and new cracks appeared. No reaction from dog at all (too exhausted from exciting beach walks).



Drove to Appledore, which is the village we can see across the estuary. It was full of coloured cottages, information signs and windowsills full of tat. Honestly, if you like stuffed parrots, and pots, and suits of armour, and knitted toys, then you will love the windowsills of Appledore. Some wit had decided to make their own signs, so we passed a chip shop (deliveries to Paris, New York and Appledore) the house where Barbie and Ken lived, and the Beaver Pub (where nothing happened in 1782). There was also a dry dock, which Husband found very interesting (it’s a male thing, not worth looking at unless you are male).

I was keen to find a church for Sunday. There were a lot of churches and chapels. I am quite a connoisseur of churches, so perused the notice boards. Rejected the Bethel chapel (not sure they would welcome someone wearing jeans). Rejected the C of E, despite very cool tower, as the service was communion (a minefield for mistakes in a foreign church). Rejected another chapel as being too far up a hill. Decided the Baptist church looked safe, despite the plaques advertising groups which must’ve been in place about 100 years ago. But there was a photo of a band (so jeans would be okay) and they ran an Alpha course – so probably like new people.
However, when driving back to cottage, we passed a tiny church, just round the corner. It had an 11am service (not communion) and they run a mid-week lunch club. Decided I would give it a try. Will let you know…



Thank you for reading.
Take care,

Anne x


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Diary of a Day

Today was just a normal day. I will tell you about it (because spying on other people is kinda fun, isn’t it!)

Got up, and sorted the ducks and chickens and fed the outside cats. Lots of signs of nest building, but no actual eggs, so either rats got there first or the hens are just pretending.

Had coffee, cake, and Bible time. My favourite bit of the day. (I make a very complicated cake which is made with sour cream, so it isn’t too sweet, and has a crushed pecan and maple syrup stuffing. It takes ages to make, so I hide it in the larder, and never share it, and only ever eat it – one slice – on my special Portmerion plate with the fuschia pattern – at coffee time.)

Shopping order arrived. It’s my turn to cook at Lunch Club, and usually I would shop in Morrisons, because it’s cheap, but this week has been hectic, plus I keep having chest pains, so I decided to keep things simple. It costs more, but there will be a dinner at the end and I might survive. This week I decided to make Shepherd’s Pie. I use the term loosely, as it is made with beef mince, not lamb mince, so really should be called ‘Cottage Pie’. Plus, I am too lazy to actually make it into pies, (you should ask my family about my picnics sometime – they epitomise my lazy cooking style). So, really, it will be heaps of mince on plates with heaps of mashed potato. But Shepherd’s Pie sounds better. I put the frozen veg into the freezer (keeping things simple, remember?) and made a start on the mince.

The mince recipe is modified from a Nigella Lawson recipe, because I like her food, even if I don’t manage the flirty eyes when I cook. It is a brilliant recipe as it involves putting lots of veg through a processor so it forms a mush, then adding it to mince. So children (and elderly members of lunch club) eat lots of tasty vegetables without realising it.

Due to a recent decrease in numbers (none for good reasons) I decided to cook for 35 people. I began to peel onions and mush them with bacon, and add them to the mince to fry. Onions for 35 people makes you cry.

Then peeled carrots, feeling slightly guilty. Every week, we have a young woman who is autistic, who comes to help us prepare the veg and wash up. She always peels and chops the carrots. She works really hard, and never complains (except the week when my sister came to help, but that’s another story). However, she does not like things to change, and she always peels the carrots. But I needed to mush them and add them to the mince, so this week I did them. This might cause angst tomorrow. I will worry about it then.

Added whiskey, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, allspice, cloves, and other stuff. Left to simmer for about an hour while I washed up. When it was cooked, I transferred the mince to plastic containers. This is one of the difficult bits – when you are cooking for lots of people, you must ensure that everything is cooled down and refrigerated within two hours (otherwise it has to be thrown away, which is something of a waste). Cooling down heaps of mince is not as easy as it sounds. Finally was cool enough to go into fridge.

Washed up. Cooked ginger sponges (will reheat them tomorrow with custard for pudding). Washed up.

Packed car with rest of stuff, then allowed dog back into kitchen (she is banished when I cook, in case a stray hair floats upwards and contaminates the food).

Considered whether chest pains were better or worse. Have a slight nagging thought that heart problems begin with chest pains. But I feel I have already had a brain tumour (rare) and that to also have heart problems (also rare) is simply too unlikely. Decided chest pains are more likely due to lugging crates of water around for the ducks, and took an aspirin.

Rest of day spent walking dog, doing washing, clearing up cat sick (old decrepit cat who lives in the utility room) and reading. Got a dinner out of freezer for our own meal – after a day cooking mince, I cannot face making something else for us to eat.

Thank you for reading. By the way, have you read a copy of CLARA yet? It’s getting some good reviews already, which is very exciting. Take a look at the Amazon link, to see what other people are saying.

Anne x

Never Trust a Quiet Bull, or an Unloaded Shotgun…

There are two things a sensible farmer never trusts: a quiet bull and an unloaded shotgun.

I went back to the farm, for further research on the book that is in my head. I have lots of ideas, and snippets of stories, but I don’t yet know enough about my characters, or how they live, to begin writing. I should really visit a few different farms, but asking farmers (who I don’t know) is too scary, so for now I’m only visiting one – a beef farm in the next village.

I chatted to the couple who run the farm. They’d had a near disaster earlier in the week, when all the full-grown cows escaped and were heading off towards the road. The farmer called to them, as he ran away from them, into their pen. When they heard his voice they stopped running, and then turned to follow him. The farmer told me how important it is that he talks to them when they are calves, handles them, and becomes someone familiar and safe. Then, if something frightens them, they will look to him for security.

It seems that security is very important to cows. They are naturally very vulnerable to predators, and only their size and the herd can protect them. So they have big eyes that can see all around, and they shy away from anything unusual, any potential danger. Which means that everything has to be introduced slowly, and from an early age.

So when the farmer has new calves, he takes time teaching them how to go into the cattle truck. He tempts them in with food (always easier to lead than to drive from behind, apparently). They will practise going up the ramp, being shut in, even going for little drives. This means that later, when there is a humungous fat bull with opinions, he will be quite happy to be taken in the cattle truck. Which makes life easier for everyone.

The farmer said that you should never trust a bull. Even when they appear to be quiet and friendly, they can turn in a second. He also said you never assume a shotgun is unloaded, even when you know it is.

I went to watch the cows being fed. I would like to say ‘helped’, but I really just got in the way. All the cows are in, because the weather’s too wet for them to be out on clay soil. There were some new calves, just a couple of weeks old. They were still mainly drinking milk, so we (he) mixed the powder with warm water, and poured it into containers so they could suck. If too many calves crowded to the same place, we had to move them along, ensuring they all had a good feed. Moving them along sounds easier than it was – a sucking calf is very reluctant to move, and it took a lot of force for me to shove their heads to a space so each of them could reach a teat. While we fed them, the two farm dogs kept trying to lap the milk out the buckets. Any that was spilt (that was from my buckets) they licked up instantly.

The calves I saw in the autumn have grown loads. They still look young, but are nearly full-grown. They were in a large straw pen, and were fed dry food. They had to stick their heads through bars to reach it. They’re fed a mixture of rolled barley and protein pellets. The barley is grown on the farm, and if it’s not milled first, it passes straight through them, without them absorbing any nutrients.


There were some full grown cattle too. They went outside into the yard to be fed. They’ll soon be ready to leave, which I don’t think I would cope with if I was a farmer. I’m not sure how you don’t bond with the animals, and then find it impossible to send them off to the abattoir.

I saw where cows have their hair cut (because their winter coats would be too hot when they’re in the barn), and heaps of feed for the winter. I can tell you that cows have cold wet noses, and very rough tongues, and they are bemused when you take their photograph.

I also saw stacks of hay from other farms, which are going into a hay-growing competition and were waiting to be judged. Apparently very green hay, with very little leaf content, makes a winner. Who knew?


Thank you for reading. Don’t forget that CLARA – A Good Psychopath? is available at a 33% discount, from me  (£7.95 with free UK postage), until 31st March. Send me a message via the contact form below. (The form is sent to me, it does not appear on this blog.)