I just love London. In fact, I was lucky enough to live in London for quite a few years, right before I went to work on a childhood research project in Tamil Nadu, India. You see, I used to work at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square (you might know it from the TV series 'The Brain Hospital'), and during that time I lived in an apartment right by the Thames Barrier, before moving to the more village-feel of Muswell Hill and Highgate. It was an incredibly exciting time in my life, not just because I found myself working alongside the people whose theories I had studied as part of my earlier degrees, but because I was on the cutting edge of developments and treatments for conditions linked to forensic and developmental neuropsychology -. from phantom limb pain, to autism, acquired brain injury, migraines, parapsychology, and synesthesia.
I was at the height of my career, had a beautiful flat, an amazing Italian restaurant right across the road, and for the first time in my life, I had started to get the opportunity to travel to other countries as part of my work. I'd really only been on school trips to France and Germany before then. Admittedly I had to wear a suit to work everyday (not nice on the hot underground in summer), and I worked long hours, with a lot of stress, but it was a time for discovering more about the world at large, and about people and cultures.
One of the most incredible things about my work, was that the British Museum was right around the corner from the hospital, which was perfect for grabbing a coffee and sitting and watching people during my break. More importantly, I got to sit in on some forensic archaeology (and anthropology) sessions, including scans of the Egyptian mummies, to learn more about public health diseases and what life might have been like for them. What did they eat, what diseases or injuries did they have, and why did they die? Were they perhaps murdered or injured in battle? I even spent time in an MRI scanner as a volunteer, to learn about my own brain, and see what happened to it when I tried to learn new skills, like learning a new language, or when seeing different images or photos. I attended radiology rounds, found patients for case demonstrations, looked through hundred year old archives, worked on my own research, and attended as many brain dissections as I could. Whatever opportunity I spotted, I grabbed it with both hands! My brain and senses were hungry for knowledge and everywhere around me were things that intrigued me, like museums and architecture, and streets to walk along.
In my free time, I joined the Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington and attended as many of the lectures as I could, hanging out with some great explorers and personalities at the 'Explorer's Bar', like Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, and Douglas Adams, eventually becoming a 'Fellow' myself. I soaked up every tale I could and I must have asked each guest at the RGS a hundred questions about their adventures. I was fascinated! Just to be in an old building, surrounded by so much history was inspiring. A pocket watch that had belonged to Ernest Shackleton, or a painted portrait on the wall of an early pioneer, hundreds of years old. I stared at every object for hours, sat in the map room, and read through original travel journals, wondering what stories those items held if only they could talk. Little did I know that one day all of these little experiences would somehow find their way out into my own cozy mystery books!! London is certainly a place to become inspired to write.
No wonder there are so many cozies set in London, and I just know that you will find at least one new book to read from the collection below. Don't forget to add any more books you've enjoyed, in the comments section too.
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You will be completely forgiven for thinking that I am just pulling your leg with today's blog post, but I promise you I am not. If you are going to write a bestselling cozy mystery book, set in Wales, then you can't go far wrong with the Anglesey village of...wait for it....and I bet you can't pronounce the name....Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!
The long form of the name, with 58 characters split into 19 syllables, is the longest place name in Europe and the second longest official one-word place name in the world. Although this name is generally stated to have been invented in the 1860s for promotional purposes, a similarly lengthy version was recorded as early as 1849. Wikipedia
Llanfair (as it can be shortened to) would actually make a pretty awesome setting for a paranormal or historical cozy mystery since it was originally a Neolithic settlement (that's about 4000-2000BC), and with so many different folks living here in history - kings, Romans, monks, farmers, it would be perfect for some ghosts and ghouls and epic battles.
And just in case you were wondering how to actually pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch here are a few pointers to help you on your way!! Let me know if you've come across any other difficult to pronounce Welsh words, or if you have any other cozies set in Wales to recommend. I'm sure there must be more to find.
Ahhh! The British (English) city of Oxford. City of Spires. Home to many a famous writer and academic, and of course the world renowned 'University of Oxford'. A city that has a rather personal connection for me too as it happens. You see, my father was born in Oxford, and my nan spent many years of her life as a patient at the santorium where she lived in as part of the treatment at the time for tuberculosis. It was also where I was based for my work with the Royal Navy, and in my earlier career as a Neuropsychologist I was very involved with neuroscience research at the hospital and the university, spending long summers involved in different projects, including research on phantom limb pain, and on autism.
Oxford was the place where my nan would take me for treats when I stayed with her, and we would often catch the bus there and nip into one of the department stores for a cup of coffee, something my nan found quite exciting since most people just drank tea at home and coffee shops were a relatively new thing. It's hard to imagine an Oxford pre Starbucks or Costa Coffee, or McDonalds!
For me, Oxford was always really exciting, but it must have held different memories for my nan, as she would only really visit for hospital appointments or spend her hours desperate to get back home to her family whilst residing at the sanitorium. For me it is a place filled with memories of dining in my Royal Navy Uniform at fancy balls and drinking a little too much port as part of the maritime traditions! Lots of late nights polishing boots or doing drill practice, or working on improving my knots.
Funny how a single place can mean so many things to different people, and I suppose that is what I love about cozy mysteries that are set in Oxford. Each author draws on the thing that most inspired them about the city, experiences they had there, or people that they met. That's the beauty of books, and there is definitely no shortage of wonderful places to read a good book in Oxford. And plenty of lovely bookshops to visit too. I don't think I ever came back from Oxford without at least one, brand new, sweet smelling, and shiny covered paperback!
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