An award nomination & visiting London with Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays

May 5, 2017 | 23 comments |

As some of you know, my first book, The Cottage at Firefly Lake, has been shortlisted for The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award for 2017. All the nominees (see the full list here and discover their wonderful books) will gather for the award presentation at the RNA Summer party in London, England on 18 May.

Although I’d planned to attend and share London with you in person, I’ve unfortunately had to cancel my trip. However, since I still wanted to mark this award nomination on my blog, next best is visiting London virtually with the help of blogger and former BBC journalist Catherine Boardman. Now that I live in small-town Canada, Catherine’s “Cultural Wednesdays” posts give me my weekly fix of British culture and are a window on a world I miss.

I first fell in love with London as a student. When I stepped out of the airport on that long-ago September night, the rain falling in sheets onto dark-slicked streets where red double-decker buses jostled with black cabs against a jumble of buildings old and new, the city cast a spell on me that has never waned.

I was lucky to live in London for almost five years. I lived just outside London for almost fourteen more. In that time, I got to know a city made up of a patchwork quilt of individual neighbourhoods. I visited world-class museums and galleries, ancient churches, quirky pubs, and out-of-the-way parks and gardens in streets almost untouched by modern life. I experienced the old London as well as the new, and living amidst all that history changed who I am and how I see the world.

The London highlights that Catherine has shared with us (click on each heading to read her post) are perfect for spring and touch on some of my personal favourites: bookshops, gardens and royal heritage. There is also cake, a staple of both my life and the traditional English afternoon tea. 

Catherine’s top five London bookshops

While several of these shops are as familiar as old friends, Catherine has introduced me to some new ones as well.

Second-hand books on a barge? Count me in!



Chelsea Physic Garden

With a book (or more!) in hand, what better place to read than a garden in springtime?

A peaceful haven, the Chelsea Physic Garden is a feast for the senses and serves a practical function too as all its plants are either edible or used for medicinal purposes.  

Queen’s House, Greenwich

Monarchist or not, sampling some of London’s royal heritage is a must. Queen’s House in Greenwich is new to me, and this stunning Tulip Staircase is reason alone for a visit.

Best of all, in an often-expensive city, entry is free.

Coffee, culture and cake

No visit to London is complete without a stop in a café. It’s essential fuel for all that sightseeing, and Catherine and I share a fondness for snapping pictures of desserts, hot beverages and china.

The Orangery at Kensington Palace is one of my favourite spots for a special lunch and, as an added bonus, there’s the royal connection too.

For visitors and residents alike, London is a city with surprises around every corner. Although I’ll miss travelling there this month to mark a special milestone in my writing life and meeting up with author friends old and new, I’m grateful to Catherine for popping along to my blog to share bits of her London with us.

Do you have a favourite London place to add to Catherine’s list?


And if you’d like your own weekly fix of British culture (and possibly cake), follow Catherine’s blog here

You can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Heidi Vanstone

    Thanks so much for sharing your “London” memories, Jen. It’s so special to recall time spent living in different places!

    I’ve always believed that experiencing new living situations can open our eyes to other cultures, and the richness of their traditions.

    • Jen Gilroy

      It is, Heidi, and I know that you have memories of time spent living in different places of your own so can relate. Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts.

  2. @CulturalWed

    RT @JenGilroy1: Virtual #London visit with @CulturalWed to mark #TheCottageAtFireflyLake @RNAtweets Joan Hessayon nomination.…

  3. Sue Bavin

    What a shame you aren’t able to come to London to mark The Cottage at Firefly Lake’s nomination, Jen, but a lovely idea to have a virtual trip courtesy of Catherine. Her Cultural Wednesdays blog is a real treasure chest of ideas for getting out and about. She excels at finding exactly the right photograph to capture the essence of a place.

    I enjoyed reading about your experiences of living in London. I hope Catherine’s blog-links and photos have brought back happy memories.

    PS I hope The Cottage at Firefly Lake wins xx

    • Jen Gilroy

      Collaborating with Catherine on this blog did indeed bring back happy memories of London for me. And her weekly blog posts are a source of armchair travel, as well as new places to add to my London ‘bucket list.’ Thanks for your good wishes and support. xx

  4. Lynn Folliott

    It would have been so nice for you, Jen, to go to the award ceremony in the London you love (and I do too). Fingers crossed that the award will come to you for The Cottage at Firefly Lake. Thanks for sharing memories of our wonderful,city, some of which are mine also…

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for your good wishes, Lynn. As always, I appreciate your support of my blog. I’m glad this post sparked memories of London for you.

  5. Kirsten Hesketh

    What a lovely post Jane and what a fab idea to share it with Catherine – I love her blog too. Good luck in the competition xxx

    • Jen Gilroy

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Kirsten. Thanks so much for commenting. I appreciate your good wishes for the Joan Hessayon award, too. xxx

  6. Kirsten Hesketh

    I’m so sorry Jen – pressed send too soon and you were auto-corrected to Jane. My apologies x

    • Jen Gilroy

      No worries, Kirsten. Jane is a nice name too! 🙂 x

  7. Karen Coles

    What a lovely post, Jen. It made me homesick for London myself, as Catherine’s blog always does. Have fingers crossed for you in the competition xx

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks so much, Karen. Lovely to ‘see’ you here and I appreciate you commenting. Catherine does have such a fab blog. I always enjoy reading about her latest weekly ‘cultural adventure.’

  8. Jean Bull

    Good Luck with Cottage at Firefly Lake for the Joan Hessayon award! You have worked so hard and I’m so pleased that you have come so far. It’s also good to see all of the other nominees who have come through the RNA NWS scheme. I hope one day to take part myself!!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for your good wishes, Jean. I appreciate you being a part of my writing journey. I too hope that I’m celebrating you as an RNA NWS ‘graduate’ one day!

  9. Jean Bull

    PS Sorry you can’t make it to London for the party. Will they have a video of you like famous actors when they can’t attend the Oscars if you win??!!!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I’m disappointed not to be able to attend the party, too. No video of the event, but I shall be following along via RNA Tweets on the day.


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