Escape to Leeds Castle

The Black Swan – now synonymous with Leeds Castle and its official symbol – was introduced from Australia by its last private owner, Lady Baillie, in the 1930s.

Despite experience having taught me over the past few years that, as a Responsible Adult, the festive season is indisputably the busiest and most manic time of the year, I am always surprised by how little time I actually have to myself in the run-up to the Great Event. Despite all the treats and mince pies your colleagues shower upon you, work still needs to be done. Christmas Parties need to be attended. Friends and family need to be seen.Presents need to be bought and wrapped. Cakes and goodies need to be made and boxed. I end up with an extra cat to look after when my parents inevitably abandon me for the glorious sun of the Floridian keys. Regular grocery shopping becomes impossible. Waterstones, usually a safe haven for a book-lover like me, becomes unbearable as people rush to buy celebrity autobiographies, humour and coffee table books to fill stockings with. Pilgrimages must be made to Nightwish gigs on the complete opposite side of London. It’s all go, go, go, go, go!

So it was really lovely for me to escape the carnage of it all with my wonderful boyfriend Mark to Leeds Castle for romantic break a couple of weekends ago. We stayed in the Stable Courtyard Bed & Breakfast within the castle grounds and it was so peaceful, with a beautiful view out of our window and the relaxing sounds of varied bird-life on the Great Water – including Lady Baillie’s famous black swans – to lull us to sleep and wake us up in the morning. An ostentation of peafowl joined us for breakfast every day without fail, and we ate like kings at the Fairfax restaurant in the evenings (my trousers felt really very tight on my first day back at work, I ate so much!).

Leeds Castle, dubbed ‘the loveliest castle in the world’ by the historian Lord Conway, is situated in Kent, which in turn is known as the ‘Garden of England’ for its orchards and hop farms… That should give you some idea of how pretty the place is. In terms of its history, to quote the website, the castle ‘has been a Norman stronghold; the private property of six of England’s medieval queens; a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon; a Jacobean country house; a Georgian mansion; [and] an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous.’ Aside from the castle itself, attractions include a maze, a faerie grotto, falconry displays, playgrounds, a golf course, guided walks and quite possibly the world’s only dog collar museum.

By night one way by day another
“By night one way, by day another.” ~ Princess Fiona, Shrek (2001)

As it is the festive season, there was also a beautiful Christmas market next to the maze which was filled with a magnificent array of gifts, food and drinks, an old fashioned fairground and a couple of tuckered out reindeer called Cranberry and Chestnut. Only a couple of weeks before, Mark and I attended the comparatively disappointing and ridiculously busy Dickensian Christmas Market in Rochester (also hosted on the grounds of a castle), so it was nice to have my faith restored! Mark was able to top up on Christmas presents for his relatives, and I indulged in some additional Christmas decorations for my flat in an attempt to make the bare walls more festive. Sadly the food had run out by the time we got around to being hungry, but the food we saw other people eating sure did look good!

img_4499The castle itself was also bedecked especially for Christmas with white paper decorations littered throughout the themed rooms. Some were light-box structures depicting various well-known Christmas carols, others were ornaments hanging from the most unlikely of places. A Christmas tree had been placed in every room, not least in the main entrance hall; there, it was really quite something to behold.

Alas now with only two days until Christmas, I am completely socialised out and in danger of bursting all over the room like Mr Kreosote. My romantic escape to Leeds castle seems like an age ago, but it was beautiful while it lasted, and I had such a lovely time with my wonderful significant other. Just what I needed to keep my sanity for the rest of the Christmas period. Mark, I love you very much!

Take care and Merry Christmas!

S.E. Berrow

For more information on Leeds Castle, including events, its history and accomodation at the Stable Courtyard B&B, please visit the official website:

All photos included in this blog post were taken by me and are included in the website’s copyright. Please do not use without my permission. Thank you!





My Grandmother

She kept an antique shop – or it kept her.
Among Apostle spoons and Bristol glass,
The faded silks, the heavy furniture,
She watched her own reflection in the brass
Salvers and silver bowls, as if to prove
Polish was all, there was no need of love.

And I remember how I once refused
To go out with her, since I was afraid.
It was perhaps a wish not to be used
Like antique objects. Though she never said
That she was hurt, I still could feel the guilt
Of that refusal, guessing how she felt.

Later, too frail to keep a shop, she put
All her best things in one narrow room.
The place smelt old, of things too long kept shut,
The smell of absences where shadows come
That can’t be polished. There was nothing then
To give her own reflection back again.

And when she died I felt no grief at all,
Only the guilt of what I once refused.
I walked into her room among the tall
Sideboards and cupboards – things she never used
But needed; and no finger marks were there,
Only the new dust falling through the air.

– Elizabeth Jennings

GrandmaIn Memory of Doreen Berrow

5 February, 1919 – 8 October, 2015

Laid to rest

3 November, 2015

Hallowe’en and Literary Mischief

I hope you all had a spooktacular Hallowe’en weekend. My friends and I did what we do every year which is dress up, head to London and unleash ourselves on White Mischief’s Annual Hallowe’en Ball at the Scala in King’s Cross. White Mischief are event curators who throw themed parties and gothic gatherings in various spooky locations around the UK. As well as the main show – which has showcased leading cabaret and burlesque acts such as Amanda Palmer, Coco Deville, Perhaps Contraption, Voltini, Dusty Limits and Professor Elemental – guests can expect to party in a labyrinth of lavishly decorated rooms whilst partaking in such diverting activites as taking confession, crochet sperm-making, getting married by a drunken priest and being accidentally locked in a coffin. The costumes people wear to these events are always elaborate and always fabulous. It’s a wildly fun night:

White Mischief

The theme for this year was Heaven and Hell, so my writing partner K.F. Goodacre and I decided on a literary costume and became Shadowhunters from Cassandra Clare’s Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Mortal Instruments. For those who have not read the series, Shadowhunters are Nephilim (humans born with angel blood) sworn to rid the earth of demons and evil. Being short and redheaded, K.F. Goodacre opted for the series’ protagonist, Clary Fray, whilst I became the badass Isabelle Lightwood for an evening. Amazingly, our costumes were recognised by at least two people, thus we considered the night a roaring success!

Isabelle Lightwood Hallowe'en Costume
I chose the absolute wrong time to experiment with my make-up (we were running late so I didn’t have time to take it all off and start again, thus having to make-do with a badly applied, overly thick cat-eye all evening) and the air was super damp and misty which sent my hair into a frizz, but other than that I’m quite pleased with how my costume turned out. The runes I chose – which Kim applied to my body with henna – represent Angelic Power (chest), Precision (right lower-arm), Stamina (left upper arm), Agility (back left-shoulder) and Heightened Speed (neck, right side); I felt they were most suited to the character.

To round off this post, here’s our selfie with God. He’s the the guy with the Devil-horns. Apparently there’s not much difference between the two…

Selfie with God

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

For more information on White Mischief events, please visit the below:

For more information on the character of Isabelle Lightwood and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, please visit:

You can also read my review of the first book in the series, City of Bones on my Goodreads here.

Sunday Night Piratey-Metal Goodness

I just found out that power metal band Amberian Dawn have a new album out this Friday called Innuendo… this is very exciting news! Clearly I have been living in some kind of goth-cave to have only discovered this at the eleventh hour.

Amberian Dawn | Innuendo

I still haven’t got my mitts on a copy of Leaves’ Eyes King of Kings yet either, which quite frankly is a travesty. God, payday can’t come soon enough…

Leaves' Eyes | King of Kings

Anyways, Amberian Dawn’s latest track, ‘Fame And Gloria’, is pirate-themed and pretty catchy, and seeing as my book The Mayor has pirates in it, it seemed pretty on point and I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

Be sure to check out Amberian Dawn and Leaves’ Eyes’ official websites:

Anniversaries, Corvidae and FIfty Shades of Grey

I’ve had a really lovely weekend. Yesterday was mine and the boyfriend’s one year anniversary. To celebrate, we went out for a Leggara pizza at Pizza Express, followed by a trip to Cineworld to see The Martian. The Martian, based on the book by Andy Weir (which I reviewed on my Goodreads here), is about an astronaut named Mark Watney and his struggle to survive on Mars after he is separated from his crew during a violent storm and left behind. The film was excellent – as good as the book, I would say – and I would thoroughly recommend it to everyone!

I have a few gifts to show off from the boyfriend: a beautiful pot of red roses (my favourite flower); a box of chocolates; an absolutely gorgeous necklace called ‘A Murder of Crows’ by one of my favourite companies, Alchemy Gothic; and – hilariously – a copy of E.L. James’ erotica novel, GREY.

Anniversary Gifts A Murder of Crows

This latter gift was a bit of a light-hearted one as I mentioned back in June when it was released that I wanted to read it in order to have an opinion on it. I don’t believe you can truly say a book is good or bad until you have read it yourself, plus I like to be in a knowledgeable position when people start talking about books. I did the same when Fifty Shades of Grey came out, because people were talking about it a lot. Incidentally you can also read my review for Fifty Shades of Grey here (hint: I didn’t entirely dislike it, but it’s worth noting that I never finished the series).

Love you, Mark, my darling ♥ Thank you so much… This year has been incredible, and has gone by so fast!

Breverton's Nautical CuriositiesSomething else I’ve also been doing this weekend… ~*~WRITING!~*~ However, I’ve not been writing the book I was working on whilst on my Annual Writing Retreat with K.F. Goodacre (Salt). Instead I have picked up my magnum opus again; my enormous historical fantasy epic, The Mayor.

Essentially what happened was, whilst out shopping in Spitalfields for my own anniversary gifts, I found this — quite frankly amazing — book called Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities. Alll I had to do was flick through it and my brain became suddenly awash with ideas and inspiration. Love for my characters and a burning desire to tell their story came rushing back, so I bought it, brought it home and attacked my Scrivener file this afternoon with avengeance! I really recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in the Age of Sail and the Golden Age of Pirates like I do. It has everything in it from myths and legends of the sea, to shipping terminology, information on famous pirates and naval slang. The author, historian Terry Breverton, has a couple of other really interesting-looking books too. His Facebook page is here if you want to take a gander (he doesn’t seem to have an official website).

Until next time,

S.E. Berrow

For more information on both The Martian book and film, please follow the below links:

For more information on E.L. James and her fourth book in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, GREY visit:

‘A Murder of Crows’ necklace by Alchemy Gothic England: