L.L. Diamond

News, Blog, and Stories

I wish I could say that I was able to experience more than I did, but personal reasons interfered and I only managed two days of Jane Austen immersion this year. 😉 I understand from those present that the Regency Day was the best yet and that despite the heat, the ball was a success, which was nice to hear, though I was sorry to have missed both. I’m not too sure about dressing out Regency in the heat wave we had at that time, but the rest would have been fun.

I arrived late afternoon on Monday the 19th and settled in, meeting up with good friend Cass Grafton, who arrived several days before. My first event was a talk by the well-known Jane Austen historian Diedre LeFaye, who spoke on Jane Austen’s life in Hampshire–primarily the places she lived and how they were depicted during her life and how the places or sites appear now. The talk was informative and the pictures were very interesting, especially of places I had visited.

Tuesday morning, my daughter and I walked out to Chawton and poked around St. Nicholas Church, which is near Chawton House and was the church associated with Edward Austen Knight’s estate. St. Nicholas was originally built sometime around 1270, though it was renovated and parts even re-built during the Victorian era. Most of the church was destroyed by fire in 1872 or 1873, but the chancel remained and is still part of the church that stands today. A plaque for Cassandra, Jane’s sister is still to the left of the altar and still retains scorch marks from the fire.

Outside St. Nicholas Church, Jane Austen’s mother Cassandra and her sister Cassandra Elizabeth are buried behind the building and almost set apart with how they are arranged.

Tuesday afternoon, we attended a talk by Gabrielle Malcolm on “Darcy then and now,” which was interesting in how she illustrated the sources and inspirations for Jane Austen’s masterpiece and then how it has created an archetype that has carried through to modern story telling and literature.

That evening, Jane Austen House Museum held their annual open house. With the high temps, everyone walked through and after, a great many of the guests milled about in the gardens. We didn’t stay long, but walked through the house and then took the tour of the attics before heading off for dinner and to cool down.

Unfortunately, Wednesday meant it was time to travel home. My daughter and I did go into Winchester that morning, but I’ll save that for next week’s post. 🙂

Thanks to Joan at St. Mary’s Hall for the amazing place to stay. St. Mary’s Hall is located near The Butts and makes for an easy walk in one direction to Alton and in the other to Chawton. She is a wonderful hostess and definitely spoiled us! Maybe next year the weather will be more what we’re accustomed to!

St. Mary’s Hall


I’ve been wanting to go to Flatford for some time. Run by the National Trust, Flatford is where the artist John Constable (1776-1837) painted approximately five of his works near the Flatford Mill. I happen to like Constable’s work and was intrigued by the gallery and the locations of his works. Along with the gallery and the scenery, Flatford also has the Bridge Cottage that people can tour as well as several walks and their tea room.

John Constable was born in nearby East Bergholt. His father owned Flatford Mill and several others according to the information on the site. He eventually married Maria Bicknell and moved to London, leaving the family mills to be taken over by his younger brother upon the death of his father.

Many of his works are set in Dedham Vale, which is the area surrounding Flatford, and represent a major contribution the Romantic movement of the time.

Driving to Flatford isn’t difficult, by any means, but eventually you reach a one-way single road carriage way that leads you to the car park. The entrance is quite close and once you are inside, a RPSB wildlife garden and the gallery are the first attractions.

We opted to view the exhibition first, which is a great deal of infographics and large prints of his work. We then toured the Bridge Cottage and crossed the bridge and took the walk down past the locks before we turned around and walked the other main trail that takes you past the Flatford Mill and the site of the famous painting “The Hay Wain” as well as several other cottages and buildings that existed in Constable’s day.

The site of “The Hay Wain” was fascinating by how much was actually the same from Constable’s day to ours. Obviously the trees are different, but the house to the side and so much is still the same.

After, we stopped into the tea room for a lite bite to eat and something to drink. We usually love the tea room, but found this one had no gluten-free offerings unlike most of the other tea rooms, which was a bit of a disappointment.

Our last stop was the RPSB Wildlife garden, that was full of colour, interesting, and beautiful, though I think the younger children enjoyed it more than us. It was still nice and had a great deal of educational bits on how to promote wildlife in your own garden.

Flatford is a gorgeous area if you are keen on hiking some lovely trails and for scenery. Dogs were all over the property and a few had a ball swimming in the River Stour and playing as well, so if you enjoy bringing your dog, then it’s a great place for it. There are also boat tours and row boats to rent. My son wanted to do the rowboat, but I didn’t realise how much it would cost, so be warned there is a £10 deposit on a row boat and then it’s £5 per half-hour.

Those who are interested in seeing Constable’s work might want to plan a trip to the National Gallery to see “The Hay Wain” or another gallery displaying his work since there isn’t any of that at Flatford.


National Trust site on Flatford: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/flatford

I finally did something touristy! Not a major trip or thing, but I tagged along on a trip to the Norwich Castle recently. I’ve been to the Cathedral (which is spectacular if you’ve never been) for Evensong during the Christmas season, but we just went for the morning and missed out on the castle.

The Norwich Castle is a 900 year old Norman castle originally started as a fortification according to our tour guide, but later the plans changed and it became a Royal Palace. Norwich Castle, today, is still the original structure, but instead of being just the castle, like most of the castles I’ve seen here, it is more a museum and art gallery.

When you enter the castle the centre-most portion is a cafe and stairwell. On the upper floor, there are exhibits for the Romans and Vikings, an exhibit honouring the Norfolk military, and the castle keep (the original part of the castle built). On the lower floor, there is a national history exhibit, an exhibit of Norfolk artists (including a Gainsborough!) and the Iceni and Boudica. I know I’ve left out bits and pieces, but we weren’t there for the entire day, so I did miss bits.

Also don’t forget to make it down to the dungeons for that portion of the exhibit as well. We had a guided tour of the castle keep, which added a lot to the experience as well. I understand there are also tours of the dungeons as well.

The castle is not huge and can be toured in a day without rushing. There’s a lot of variety and a good number of artefacts to enjoy and study. There’s so much in Norwich and a mall nearby the castle to enjoy when you are done with the castle. Definitely a fun day out!


Next up… Flatford! I know! I got out more than once!

e-book Cover

By now, some of you have heard this for about a week now, but I’m really excited about having an audio book for those who love to listen to their favourite stories. I initially put my book up and hoped someone would want to narrate it, but most narrators prefer shorter books. Fortunately, Leena took a chance on this one!

I will say that it’s a bit strange listening to something I’ve written practically being acted out like an old-fashioned radio program (without the sound effects of course), but my house was extremely clean while I was listening through them all! I couldn’t write or distract myself on the computer so cleaning was how I occupied myself. I’m surprised my husband hasn’t asked me to have another book done!

Leena is also so great. I don’t know how she came up with so many different inflections for each character. It was definitely a fun experience and I hope I’ll be able to do it again!

If you’ve never read Particular Intentions, I’ll provide the blurb and everything just below as well as a link to Amazon where you can listen to a sample of Leena’s amazing work.


Who is this Mr. Darcy and what are his intentions?

Like much of Meryton, the Bennets of Longbourn anticipate the arrival of Mr. Bingley and his friends to Netherfield, yet an unexpected visitor is not a part of Mr. Bingley’s or Mr. Darcy’s plans. While the two gentlemen attempt to control their uninvited guest, Elizabeth Bennet arrives to tend to her ill sister. An overheard conversation, the intriguing behavior of Mr. Darcy, and Miss Bingley’s cloying manner all fascinate her, but manage to throw her emotions into turmoil as well. As Elizabeth becomes better acquainted with Mr. Darcy, his world unfolds and, if possible, it is more complicated than the man himself! Mysterious strangers and seducers lurk in the shadows – enough to threaten anyone’s equanimity. Elizabeth’s courage will be tested as she not only struggles to discover her own heart, but also why danger seems to surround Mr. Darcy.


Now! I have a free Audible copy of Particular Intentions to give away! Just leave me a comment on this blog post, and I’ll enter you into the draw! It’s that simple! 


Link to Amazon for the Audible audio sample.

Once we had our fill of Ghent, we drove the remaining way to Eindhoven, which is normally another 90 minutes or so, but took a bit longer due to some crazy traffic in Antwerp. We had a hotel just on the edge of the town centre, which was good and bad. Good because we weren’t in the heart of Carnival (I know someone whose hotel room window was by the deejay booth) but we still had a bit of the crowd and noise.

So, if you’re interested in a nice quiet weekend in Eindhoven, don’t go during Carnival! Carnival is a Catholic tradition there and celebrates the last week before the fasting of Lent, much like Mardi Gras and other carnivals around the world. It’s a lot of crazy costumes, dancing and alcohol. People get loud, drunk, and they party hard!

We settled in and decided to wander around a bit and find a place to eat–always a bit of a chore in a different country. We walked around the town centre, which is a lot of shopping, restaurants, bars, and a pretty church before we did an internet search for a gluten-free restaurant. The site we used first wasn’t very helpful and most restaurants didn’t have options for us. Eventually, we tried a place called Vintage, which could make anything on their menu to suit us.

I must say with language barriers and such, I was a little nervous and I probably over-asked several questions, but the server we had was very nice about it.

After our meal, we walked back towards the hotel and had a good time watching everyone dressed in their craziest get-ups for the celebrations. Tents with loud music, alcohol, and crowds cropped up throughout the area.

Our second day was spent mostly at the National Swim Centre, which is an amazing place if you’re into swimming and pools. It’s a beautiful facility and was fascinating to wander around when we weren’t busy.

After our busy day, we were certainly hungry, so we drove back to the hotel. I messed up a bit and I’m still waiting for someone to mail a ticket to my house since then! I missed the little side path for the car and ended up in a bus lane then I got stuck behind someone making a left turn, which made me run a red light. Hopefully, there were no cameras!

That evening, we wandered through the now filthy streets in the town centre to find another restaurant. Our problem this time wasn’t finding a place that was gluten-free so much as finding a restaurant that had room. All of them were packed!

Finally, a really nice gentleman at Ilios found us a table. I love Greek food and this place didn’t disappoint. The manager/owner spoke very good English and was so nice, even apologising for the slower service when the small restaurant was packed to the gills! The service, in my opinion, hadn’t suffered at all.

Once we’d eaten, we wandered around the streets a bit, but people were rowdier and the streets were truly gross with beer bottles and garbage, so we headed back to the hotel to sleep.

The next day we woke to our last day in Eindhoven, we swam, and we made our return trip to the Eurotunnel in Calais. The trip back was without any traffic and the weather was decent. We made it to the Chunnel about an hour and forty minutes early for our scheduled train. We were offered an earlier train, made it through customs, and when we were through, it said that our train was preparing to board, so we drove through the maze and onto the train. We didn’t discover until after we were packed in like sardines that it was the train before ours. I suppose they have plans in place for that because we had no issues and we paid nothing extra. We just ended up back in the UK 30 minutes before we were supposed to. I wasn’t upset about that at all!

Just for laughs, me swimming. Not a pretty pic!


Off for another sports event! This time was to Eindhoven, Netherlands!

This time I drove and boarded the Eurotunnel (Chunnel) in my own car, which was a new experience in itself, so I’ll tell you about that too. 🙂  I booked the tunnel crossing online before we traveled. Though I learned that you have a two-hour window where you can take an earlier or later train, we still left ridiculously early in case there was traffic on the M-25 (“The largest car park in England” as I’ve heard it called.). We ended up arriving almost an hour early. You pull up to something like a toll booth, but it scans your license plate and your reservation comes up on a touch pad screen on the booth. We were given the option of a train 30 minutes earlier, which we took. The screen then prints out a hang tag for you to put on your mirror.

We had to scan our passports out of the UK and then had them checked by French customs as we drove into the complex that surrounds the trains. We stopped at the services since we had some time before boarding for the facilities and some water. Once we’d done both of those, the letter designation for our train came up on a huge screen and we hurried out and drove through the maze to get to the right train.

fromfrThere are people at every turn to ensure you go the right direction and then you drive into either the bottom or top level of a really tall train. We were on the top. Once you’re inside, your car goes into first with the parking brake/hand brake up or in park if your car is automatic, and you open any sunroofs and your windows at least half-way (I’m assuming for pressure).

The crossing is about 25 minutes and there is a very slight descent going down and back up. The only hint that you’ve changed depth is your ears popping.

You disembark pretty swiftly once you’re at Calais, and you’ve already gone through customs, so it’s just a matter of driving out and remembering to drive on the right instead of the left!

I made a stop at a wine store because you know, when in France! The coach driver took us to this particular one when we came into France on our way to Brussels earlier in the month, so I went to the same place. It’s called Franglais and I’ve found the people who work there to be kind.

From there we drove north into Belgium and stopped in Ghent (Gent when you’re in Belgium) because I wanted to see an old altarpiece painted by Van Eyck that is in St. Bavo’s Cathedral. We parked pretty close to the cathedral, but I missed the place to pay for parking. I found it when I returned, but don’t make the same mistake I did! I don’t know if I had a ticket, but I hope I didn’t. Nothing was on the window when we returned to the car.

Anyway! St. Bavo’s, which is named for the patron saint of Ghent, is built on the top of what was once the Chapel of St. John the Baptist. In 1038, the chapel was expanded and the expansions continued until it was completed in 1569. The chapel became a cathedral in 1559.

The cathedral is huge and absolutely beautiful. I will say that it was quite chilly, so if you’re visiting during winter months like we were, you’re going to want to have your coat! You’re not supposed to take pictures, though quite a few were doing it in the open. I wish mine were better, but I was trying to be a bit discreet about it. I am always a nervous ninny when I’m not supposed to do something.

We walked around the cathedral and eventually found the ticket box that we missed when we came in to the right of the entrance. You don’t pay admission for the cathedral, but you pay 4€ a person to see the Van Eyck altarpiece.

I could write an entire blog post on the altarpiece alone! It’s history is incredible. It’s often considered the most coveted and most stolen painting in history. Painted around 1432 by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck, it was once known as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. It’s a polyptych work and is composed of a total of a total of 12 panels, which are painted front and back. Since its creation, the altarpiece has been disassembled, stolen by Napoleon, almost burned, sold or seized in pieces and even hidden from Hitler in WWII and later recovered by “The Monuments Men” according to a source I found recently. One piece was stolen in the 1930’s and has never been recovered, though a copy now sits in its place. The rest has been restored, and protected behind glass in a small room off the main part of the cathedral.

I do understand why it is kept behind glass, but one of my favourite parts of the work is its detail and I love to look at that up close, which I couldn’t do. It was a lot smoother than I expected but I don’t know if that was a result of the restoration process or because of the glass.

The cathedral has free listening guides to the altarpiece for those who are not familiar with the work or would like to learn more. My only complaint on the listening guides is there is nothing that tells you what number is what panel when you listen. They were informative, though I randomly plugged in numbers to listen to everything.

In the end, I have something checked off my bucket list and it was awesome to see. I have a couple of links below if you want to learn more about it.



Next week: Eindhoven and Carnival



Sources:  https://visit.gent.be/en/st-bavos-cathedral-0?context=tourist

We were looking for something for the kids a few weeks ago and I found this exhibit at the Horniman Museum for their Robot Zoo. Deciding to make a day of it, we decided to take the train since the tube ride was considerably shorter from the train station than the outermost tube station and the train is faster into London.

We made a late start and had a bit of fun navigating other trains to get to London since we missed the direct service, but we made it in and took the over 40 minute tube and London Overground ride to Forest Hill. It’s a neat part of town. A suburb really of London and was a fun one mile walk uphill to the museum. Now, there’s much more to the museum than just this Robot Zoo, but due to time and weather this time of year, we didn’t do everything the Horniman had to offer.

My children wanted to see the Robot Zoo and the Aquarium, so we paid for the two together as the rest of the museum is free. The Robot Zoo is downstairs and really in one large room. There were several animal “Robots” set up around the room, built to show and kind of explain different physiological features if you read the bits that go along with each. For example, Giraffe’s have a series of valves in their neck to prevent them from passing out from blood loss from raising and lowering their head, so the robot version had a series of valves as well. There were also other activities that went along with each animal featured.

The robots were colourful, imaginative, and interesting. I will say my youngest, at 9, is probably on the line to being too old for this exhibit. Most of the children there were quite young. It’s really geared towards younger children and while my 11-year-old did seem to enjoy herself, but said she would’ve preferred to stay at home with my eldest.

We then ventured down another level to the Aquarium. My children enjoyed the poison dart frogs, but the exhibition is actually rather small and I found it disappointing. It didn’t take long to wend our way through the tanks and make our way back upstairs.

London Skyline

London Skyline

We walked through a portion of the natural history museum, but my children were beginning to complain of hunger and how they wanted to leave, so after a quick walk through a small part of the gardens (which has a great view of the London skyline, by the way!) we called it a day. We took the Overground and the tube to Borough Market and ate at a seafood restaurant right in the shadow of a neat old church, walked about Southwark, crossed Millennium Bridge, and from St. Paul’s walked to the tube to return to the train station.


After a quick trip to Platform 9 3/4 and a Hotel Chocolate store, we took the train back home!

The Robot Zoo runs at the Horniman through 29 October 2017.



Now, most people would travel to Brussels and stay a few days so they can see all the town has to offer, but when you’re travelling with a band of teenagers for a sports competition, that doesn’t happen. Despite this trip being a very short one, there were a number of firsts for me. This was the first time I travelled by any mode of transportation across the channel, or under in this case, and into Europe as well as my first time in France and Belgium; not that I saw much of France but a bit of Calais and the motorway. 🙂

So, the Chunnel was not quite what I expected. I did some research and given that I get claustrophobic in the weirdest of situations was a little concerned over that, the crossing wasn’t bad at all. When you arrive at the Folkestone Chunnel Crossing, you use your reservation to be admitted to the area and as a coach, we went through customs at a small services where there’s a Starbucks, a W.H. Smith, and a Duty Free shop. When the time came for us to board our reserved crossing, we loaded back onto our bus and drove through a maze to reach the train.

It’s amazing really because the coaches drive in from the end and once each car is loaded, glass panes with the train doors fold out and a metal retractable door that descends from the ceiling. There are public toilets in the first and last cars, so you can get out for those or to just stretch your legs, though you cannot walk between the cars in the event a parking brake/hand brake fails.

The descent under the English Channel is really gradual; you don’t notice that you ever really are going down or back up again other than a bit of popping of the ears. I opted to get off the coach and stand along the side because the buses tend to rock back and forth, which can be a bit like being in a boat. It was a much smoother crossing that way. Once the train begins moving, the crossing takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

Brussels was larger than I expected, though a lovely town. We stayed in Grand Place, where there you have a choice of a number of hotels as well as touristy shops for entertainment. We arrived late afternoon, settled into our room, and then decided to walk around and look for a place to eat.

Grand Place is the central market square of Brussels and has its origins dating back to the 11th Century. As early as the 14th century, improvements began being made to the square, but those were destroyed in the late 17th century and the current buildings erected. Grand Place is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you haven’t been to Grand Place, it is a rather large square which has the City Hall and several guildhalls as well as the Maison du Roi (or King’s House) which contains the Museum of Brussels. The buildings are ornate and opulent Gothic and Baroque architecture, many decorated with gold paint or material and are even beautiful at night.

Most of the restaurants in this part of town have their menus outside of the door for people to peruse, but none had a gluten-free menu available from what we could tell. After a search online, we opted for Hard Rock Cafe. I haven’t been to a Hard Rock since I was a kid, but the staff was so nice and the food was very good, so we were happy.

Once we had some fun in the gift shop, we hit the first chocolate shop we found, which fortunately had great labelling for gluten. The chocolates from Bruyere were very good as well. While they had a great deal of places to buy Belgian Beer and Brussels lace, we walked around and enjoyed the area before we returned to our rooms to sleep.

Sorry about the quality of the photos. It was starting to darken and the rain did not help!








The answers for Part 1 are up at Austen Variations, so don’t forget to check yourself there too!



Ready? Let’s see how you did!



  1. What movie and what was the house’s name in that adaptation?


Norland Park, Sense and Sensibility (with Emma Thompson)





2. This could be in more than one adaptation, so tell me the book and the location.

Granny's Teeth

The Cobb, Lyme Regis (These steps are called “Granny’s teeth.”



3. This one is easy peasy! What’s the name of the fictional house and which adaptation?


Pemberley, Pride and Prejudice 2005 (Otherwise known as Chatsworth)



4. Hint: If you name the book/movie, you name the place!


Northanger Abbey





5.  Whose house is this and what movie?


Mr. Knightley, Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow version)





6. Where was this folly and what important scene happened here?


Temple of Apollo from a break in the trees

The folly was at Rosings in the 2005 P&P, Darcy’s failed proposal took place here.
(The folly is at Stourhead in Wiltshire in real life 🙂 )




7. This room has been in two of Jane Austen’s books as well as the movies. Which ones?


The Pump Room in Bath are in both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey 





8. What fictional house is this and who walked there?


Recognise this?

Pemberley (P&P 1995), Darcy and Elizabeth 




9.  Which heroine grew up in this house? What is its name?


Elizabeth Bennet, Longbourn (1995 P&P)

and the last one!!!


10. Which great fictional house is this and what movie does it come from?


This was Rosings Park in the 1995 P&P



So, how did you do?




Photo credits:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Irland_2010.08.18_026.jpg by Ingo Mehling
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ClaydonHouseSWAnsicht.jpg by mym
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pump_Room_Bath_02.jpg  Immanuel Giel

Thanks to everyone who submitted their best guesses on this scavenger hunt post!


Congrats to Pam Hunter, who won the giveaway!


  1. “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey)


  1. One shoulder of mutton, you know, drives another down. – Mrs. Jennings (Sense and Sensibility)


  1. In essentials, I believe, he is much as he ever was – Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)


  1. “My dear Alicia, of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! Just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be agreeable, too young to die.” – Lady Susan (Lady Susan)


  1. “So you and I are to be left to shift by ourselves, with this poor sick child; and not a creature coming near us all the evening! – Mary Musgrove (Persuasion)


  1. I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Emma Woodhouse (Emma)


  1. “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park)


  1. “One is never able to complete anything in the way of business, you know, till the carriage is at the door.” Mr. Parker (Sanditon)


  1. “What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of last summer.” Col Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice)


  1. “The one claim I shall make for my own sex is that we love longest, when all hope is gone.” – Anne Elliot (Persuasion)
%d bloggers like this: