Google+ Followers

Saturday, 27 July 2013


Press Release


This novel is due for release in January 2014


Ruth Hartley draws on her own experiences of Africa’s Liberation wars as she tells a tale of many lives affected by The Shaping of Water




The Shaping of Water  is a character-driven story, following the different but overlapping lives of those who are connected to a ramshackle cottage by a man-made lake in Central Africa during the Liberation wars across the region.


“I wrote this book because I love Zambia,” says Ruth. “I love the people I know there, Lake Kariba and the cottage.”


The cottage and lake both exist, the events depicted in the book took place, and although the characters outcomes are imagined, they have the veracity that comes from a detailed knowledge of the history, geography and environment of the region.


Whether it be the story of Patrick the Jesuit, Andy the Selous Scout or Marielise, lover of revolutionaries Jo and Luke, the novel is imbued with the light, colour and flavour of the landscape, lake and cottage. From Margaret the banker’s wife, to Natombi and Milimo whose home is drowned by the lake, and finally Manda, a young woman trying to make her marriage work, each character is shaped by the rising lake and increasing violence in Africa.


The Shaping of Water is a story of damage and survival, passion and uncertainty, adaptation and love, set against a background of escalating war. It is the story of a world turned upside-down by cynical politicians and reinvented by the courage of ordinary people, allowing the reader to discover more about a little-explored place during this period of time.


This is a novel that will affect your heart, challenge your ideas, and remain in your memory. It will appeal to intelligent and thoughtful lovers of good fiction, travellers and explorers - both actual and armchair.


“I lived in Africa throughout the events described in this book, some I learnt of later in my life, but I care passionately about all their outcomes and I still do. I have always supported the fight against Apartheid and injustice.”

-     comments Ruth on the inspiration behind her novel


Born on an African farm in 1943, RUTH HARTLEY attended Art School in Cape Town. She has travelled back and forth between the UK and Africa over her life, spending her most recent years travelling throughout Europe. She now lives in France.


Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Production of Ruth's book is proceeding apace. This is a rough draft of the cover:-

What do you think?


Tuesday, 16 July 2013


Ah, they don't write 'em like that anymore! And they don't sing 'em like that anymore, either! When was the last time on Eurovision that you saw a baritone in evening dress singing the British entry? It might easily have been Bryan Johnson in 1960 (53 years ago, good grief). And he came Second!
But it is not of such that I speak today. Last night we were offered a flight by a friend of ours in the village, who has a plane, to go fly with him. Taking Mr. B. Johnson's example, we were too gentlepersonally to refuse, so we did.
Here's the plane:-
Here's Ruth getting into it:-
And here she is aboard:-
Here she is soaring above the village:-
And here are some photos I took while aloft:-
The junction of the rivers Esteous and Adour in the village.
Our house, with the white car in the garden.
A shot of Marciac - a bastide [fortified town] founded in 1298 by Philip IV (the Fair) of France as a defence against the English, who controlled Aquitaine at the time. You can see the marquee (confusingly called a "chapiteau" in French) being erected at top left for the Jazz Festival at the end of this month. Note the gridiron layout of the place with the rounded ends which were once the defensive lines.
Coming in for a quick touch-down at Maubourguet - behind the supermarket - before the short flight back to Labatut.
Thank you, Henri!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Open in a New Window

These roses are nothing whatever to do with the new window but they came from our garden and it seemed a pity not to show them.

Nothing gets done terribly quickly in this household. Our kitchen was OK but it could do with more light in it. (You'll see elsewhere that this is the 12th. window we have put in in the last 4 years.) Over a year ago some friends gave us a new window they weren't using and we thought it would go well there. I started knocking a hole in the wall with hammer and bolster but it was very soon apparent that this was going to take me a long time so I called in Eugene - a real builder - and this is the result.

The photos were taken as the job was being done. It all looks fairly back-to-normal now. And I must also thank Pete and Lesley for their gift of the oak lintel.


Summer Scenes

First some pictures taken in Mazeres church on the occasion of Pierrette's 80th. (!) birthday celebrated at Monday's choir rehearsal. She looks pretty good on it, but I can't say as much for the 70-year old at her right.

It's pretty warm here at the moment - low 30s C., low 90s F - and most French people close their house's shutters to keep the heat out. We're British, so, of course, we throw ours open to let the heat in and then complain about the temperature. Not so this morning where I was cutting the grass and we closed the shutters to keep out pebbles thrown out by the mower.

The next shot shows the anti-mosquito doors I installed yesterday. We got them months ago from a scrapyard - a minor story in itself - when the winter rains hadn't finished. They were double glazed but I took the glass out and fitted aluminium mosquito mesh which Ruth had wanted for years. We needed to be able to secure access for the cats which was via the cat flap I put in the base of the door. A job I hate; the flaps seem to demand impossibly tight tolerances but they usually work in the end. Of course Topaze and Arthur being cats, they have so far refused to use their new entrance, choosing to come in and out by the other end of the house.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


Here's a photo of us just before our latest performance on 5th. July. My goodness we look cheerful!

6 British, 8 French.


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Saaremaa Island

Our last, lost post from June 2008, taken from our "Drafts" file.

Saarema Island (in Estonia) was also a down-time. We found the only caravan site on the island. It turned out to be a battle site between the retreating Germans and the Russians in WWII. Estonians on both sides having been forced by circumstance into whichever army was in power at the time. However we walked on the beaches and paddled in the shallow baltic seas and looked at the swans on the water. The was a weekend long wedding party at the camp site in the Fire House which is a modern version of the Hall Beowulf entertained Grendal in I think! Saaremaa was off limits when the Russsians used it as a military base until 1991 so pretty untouched. I did enjoy myself.
you get to the isloand by ferry and causeway. We saw the meteorite hole there. This is us leaving on the ferry


Another orphan found dozing in our Drafts file. This one from May 2008.

Many European cities have resurrected their Jewish quarters or Ghettos. It is uncomfortable to visit them – their inhabitants all disappeared and murdered so recently. Every city owes so much of its cultural life to Jewish artists, writers, thinkers and creators. They are integral to city life so the absence of Jews feels very painful to me. Prague has a moving Holocaust Memorial that is part of the beautiful and crowded old Jewish Cemetery. Nearby is the Old New Synagogue where according to legend Rabbi Low created the Golem to protect Jews during a pogrom. The Golem is a giant clay figure brought to life by a holy and magic word imprinted on its forehead. It still is hidden in the attic. I was delighted to see its home – if only it had had more power to protect this century!


Strange thing about community animals - dogs and cats - that I will tell you later.

In fact we never did tell you later. I found this in our blog drafts from November 2008. It must have held some interest at the time. I can't even be sure where it was taken. Probably Turkish, certainly not angora. 


The latest news of Ruth's book, The Shaping of Water - a tale of three women set against a background of the wars for majority rule in Zambia, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and South Africa - is that it went to the typesetters yesterday. The pace is quickening!