Pattern of Shadows was my first novel, the sequel, Changing Patterns was published in May 2013. The last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows was published July 2015. In August 2017, the prequel to the trilogy, A Hundred Tiny Threads,was published. In March 2010, The Memory was published by Honno, a contemporary family saga. I also have an eBook, Silent Trauma, a fiction built on fact novel, published as an eBook. I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I've had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles, notably in several Honno anthologies. I am also a Creative Writing tutor and run workshops on all genres and available for talks and workshops.My blogs are on my website: https://judithbarrowblog.com/ where I review mainly for #RBRT. and also interview other authors. My personal posts are on, https://www.judithbarrow-author.co.uk/ . It would be great if you could check me out there. When I'm not writing or teaching creative writing I spend time researching for my writing, painting or walking the Pembrokeshire coastline
Over the last three months, I have been privileged to share the thoughts and wisdom of friends within the writing community in response to the prompt ‘I Wish I Knew Now What I Knew Then!’. In case you have missed any of these guest posts I will be sharing their links in this catch up series.
Today my friend and fellow collaborator and non-fiction author D.G. Kaye (Debby Gies) shares her thoughts on learning from life lessons.
Author Sandra Cox relives those days of manual typewriters and correction fluid that made creating a manuscript so interesting, especially when you needed to correct a paragraph halfway through the book!. Not to mention the snail mail approach to getting a publisher!
There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.
Today I’m pleased to hand over to Thorne Moore. These are Thorne’s memories.Well, they will be, once she’s got the following out of her system!
So, a rabbit walks into a pub and orders a pint of beer.
‘Anything else?’ asks the barman.
The rabbit checks the menu and says ‘Yes, I’ll have a toasted cheese and pickle sandwich please.’
‘Coming up,’ says the barman.
Next day the rabbit is back. He orders a pint of beer, peruses the menu again and chooses a toasted ham and tomato sandwich.
Third day, ‘What can I get you?’ asks the barman, presenting the rabbit with his pint.
‘A toasted beef and onion sandwich, please.’
Next day, no sign of the rabbit, nor the day after. Finally he reappears, looking very limp and wan.
‘You look rough,’ says the barman. ‘What’s up with you.’
The rabbit wipes his eyes. ‘I’ve had a bad case of mixing my toasties.’
What has this extremely awful joke got to do with anything? Nothing really, except that I was born in 1954, and when I looked up records to discover what important events happened to commemorate my birth, I discovered that it was the year that myxomatosis was introduced into Britain to control the rabbit population. Actually, it now seem to be recorded as 1953, so I can’t even claim that milestone.
I wasn’t actually aware of myxomatosis at the time. I wasn’t entirely aware of anything much for several months, if not years, but when I was, I assumed, as children do, that all around me was permanent. The world was there purely for my benefit so how it was must have been how it always had been. There was a thing called The Past, but it wasn’t real. There had been a war, but it was something black and white, literally and figuratively, that happened in films on our television. It was a fable that had nothing to do with the present that I inhabited.
I was ten when it suddenly struck me that the period between the end of the war and my arrival was actually less than the length of time I had been alive. It had been lurking all the time just behind me, almost within reach. My first real grasp of history. The past was just under my feet and nothing was permanent after all. My parents had not, as I always assumed, sprung fully formed from the earth for the sole purpose of being my parents. They had, in fact, once been ten-year-olds like me, living through a war that must have been terrifying rather than exciting.I became conscious at that time that the physical world I occupied, a housing estate on the outskirts of Luton, was not a permanent fixture on Planet Earth either. Most of the streets I walked along on my way to school, the houses I passed and even the school itself had only been built a year or two before my birth. What had existed there before was farmland, and its ghost still lingered. The huge wild cherry tree breaking through the pavement opposite our house (responsible for all the pretty but inedible cherry tree saplings in our garden), must have been growing in the hedgerow of a field even before my parents were born.
The lane, generally known as The Lane, that offered me a delightfully dirty alternative route to school, was not just a muddy connection between my road and the houses of Ackworth Crescent, but an old farm track, leading presumably to a farm house that had disappeared long ago. The very dark brooding little house near the top of the lane, in an overgrown garden full of bluebells, was probably as old, but to us it was just self-evidently a witch’s cottage. Some of us claimed to have seen the witch.
The lane was dark and unfrequented, overhung with trees and with no houses in sight, the sort of ominous place that no child would be allowed to walk alone along today. But them was innocent days and no one bothered. The lane crossed a brook on a rotting plank bridge, wide enough to have once supported a horse and cart. Beside the bridge ran a huge pitted iron pipe. I imagine the pipe was fairly recent, the sewer for the growing housing estate, but for us children, of course, it was the only possible means to cross the brook. Who would use a boring bridge when you could balance precariously on a curving pipe?
The brook wove through the estate, in several branches, channelled under new roads in culverts that you could walk through if you didn’t mind falling victim to killer leeches that were in there, just waiting to suck your blood. I don’t remember anyone actually coming across a leech, killer or otherwise, but only a few boys ever attempted it. There was a perpetual mystery about the way streams would emerge from such dark culverts, run in deep gullies between houses and then inexplicably disappear again.
Elsewhere, alleys between the new houses crossed the brooks on footbridges, which you had to run across because Coal Black Charlie lurked beneath them and would grab you if you dawdled. I have no idea who Coal Black Charlie was supposed to be, but I am sure every childhood map has a hiding place for such a character. It remained a mystery what he would do to us if he ever caught us – which he never did.
Eventually the brook disappeared into the most sinister culvert of all, round and pitch black, under the railway, to join the “River” Lea, which at that point was a marshy rivulet seeping out from the ugliest possible grating in the middle of a Neolithic campsite. No one ever ventured into the culvert under the railway.
Any illusion of the permanence of my housing estate was swept away in my last years at junior school, when the prefabs at the centre, including the one where my grandparents had lived, were demolished, the land turned into a massive building site.
There is always something sad, insulting, about the demolition of houses, even prefabs, their inner privacy and wallpaper stripped bare briefly, before being reduced to rubble. It wasn’t just structural entities that were being rubbed out, but homes, people’s pasts. The future, as it was then predicted, rose in their place. Walking to school, my sister and I laid bets on which huge tower block of flats would be finished first. They weren’t complete until I was at High School far away (well, a couple of miles anyway). One was called Hooker’s Court. For some reason the name was later changed.
If I needed a reminder that time moves on, leaving an imprint, but also forever morphing into something new, I visited the scene of my childhood many years later, long after moving to Wales, and found everything both the same and changed, the estate no longer on the very brink of town but engulfed in it, so many new roads and houses that I had trouble identifying my old school route at all. The lane is miraculously still there, surrounded by flats amidst the trees and shockingly gentrified with a pretty lamppost and a new footbridge. No one would think now that it had once been a farm track. The pipe is still there, unchanged. Do children still walk across it?
I found myself realising how differently children and adults see everything – people, places, time itself. To us children, the estate was full of secrets, possibilities, opportunities for play and sources of potential nightmare. We saw the brook and its culverts with unfettered imagination, conjuring up mysteries and monsters. Adults saw a logical scheme of town planning and drainage systems. It was that contrast that first inspired me to write The Unravelling, which is largely set in my old estate, though elements have been moved around a little and names altered.
To the best of my knowledge, no murder ever happened while I lived there, so I invented the plot, and my characters are purely fictional, but the place, through a child’s eyes, with all its sinister potential was real enough.
It was my pleasure recently to read Have Bags, Will Travel – a delightfully funny travel memoir by D.G. Kaye that is filled with tips and advice. It’s the perfect travel book for those who enjoy shopping, always have too much luggage and look back on the way travel used to be with a sense of nostalgia.
Cockington, a village in Devon, has elected a shetland pony as its mayor.
The pony’s name is Patrick, he’s four years old, he works as a therapy animal in hospitals and schools, and at some point after the pandemic started his person brought him to the local pub to help people who were struggling with–well, whatever the pandemic had them struggling with in the pub.
As a logical outcome of all that, when the previous mayor–a human–died in 2019, 200 people signed a petition supporting Patrick’s candidacy on the grounds that he was “non judgemental and genuinely caring and supportive to all.”
His person–who doubled as his campaign manager–wrote the petition.
Irrelevant photo: a sunflower–our neighbor’s.
Disappointingly (especially in view of my misleading headline), the best the village could do was to make him the unofficial mayor, but he did have a very official-seeming ceremony and his own…
These are pictures of a hay meadow taken on my morning walk, leading up to 7am. Since I am a set-on-auto/point/click sort of photographer, they do make the land look rather dark, which it wasn’t, of course, because it was light long before the sun peeked over the horizon.
Slightly more obvious that it’s light when I’m not pointing directly at the sun.
Theoretically this was period of twilight or dusk leading up to sunrise. The same terms applied to the period after sunset. But twilight always suggests a dimness, light fading, or just growing, and that only applies to the very start or end of the period when the sun is out of sight but its light is there, but colours are bleached out. Twilight should be confined to that really awkward period when really stupid drivers in grey or dusty cars think they can still see well enough…
How far would you go to save the person you loved the most? It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl. There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision. It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …
I really like this author’s writing style, easy to read yet with a depth of narrative that draws the reader immediately into the lives of the characters and their story.
All the characters are rounded and multi-layered, and add much to the plot, but this is definitely the protagonist, Annie Beynon’s story. She is portrayed as a strong-willed and determined young woman, unconventional for her time, yet, like many during those years, she falls prey to her emotions and needs to live with the consequences. Her journey through life from the Second World War and into the 1960s is consistent with her character throughout every circumstance, every decision made.
The privations of the era, the social divisions of the time are shown through each character’s dialogue which strengthens their personalities. I particularly liked the differences in the syntax of sentences and shown accents that highlights their social and class standing.
This is also portrayed through the evocative descriptions of the various settings and lifestyles. There is no doubt that the author has thoroughly researched the decades that Her Nanny’s Secret is set against.
There are various themes that run throughout the book: The main theme of secrets is threaded around strong elements of romance and familial love, and, crafted around those, are themes of life’s hardships, loyalty, duty, jealousy and rivalry.
I try not to give spoilers in my reviews, but I hope the above gives a flavour of Her Nanny’s Secret. This is a well-balanced, evenly paced and well written novel and one I have no hesitation in recommending to any reader who loves romance, but also enjoys a family story.
Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband.
After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked!Fascinated by family secrets and ‘skeletons lurking in cupboards’, Jan’s dual narrative novels explore how decisions and actions made by family members from one generation impact on the lives of the next. Setting plays an important part in Jan’s stories and as well as her native mid-Wales, there is always a contrasting location – Greece, Sicily and northern France
To find out more about Jan, she may be contacted on:
There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.
This is one of my memories; the street I lived in until the age of five.
It was a narrow street with only ten small, terraced houses. Built in stone, the front exteriors were identical: a door with a window on the left and two bedroom windows above. The differences were made by the individual choices of each household. Perhaps I should really say, the choices made by the women. Each house had different net curtains at the downstairs window, white or cream; a variety of patterns. It seemed like every other Monday the washing lines on the common land at the back of the houses were filled with row upon row of lace-like material. And every Saturday morning my mum cleaned the front step with a white donkey-stone, bought from the rag and bone man in exchange for any old clothes that were past wearing. Rubbing the sandstone in long sweeps over the step she would smooth it out with a cloth until it was evenly covered.She was always in a good mood if she was the first on the street to have a Saturday “tidy front step”.
The street was cobbled. In summer when the weather was hot the tar between the cobbles melted, very tempting for small fingers. We would poke the tar with sticks and often get some on our hands, or clothes. I’m not sure how my mother removed it from my fingers, but I do remember getting into trouble about that. Being too narrow for cars, we were able to play on the road: hopscotch, skipping games, football (the dads would sometimes join in), cricket (being the smallest I was only ever allowed to field, not always successfully, I might add; the street sloped downwards, the ball often only came to rest on the patch of land at the end of the street).
We stayed out from first thing in the morning until dark, given half a chance. I remember eating whatever ‘butty’ I was given for lunch (dinner) sitting on the front doorstep.
The patch of land I mentioned, was called ‘the croft’ for some reason. It was where we had the communal bonfire each year. The men collected old boxes, planks and pallets, broke up old furniture and built the bonfire. Some older boys would guard it to prevent anyone from the other streets stealing anything; there was great rivalry with the bonfires. On the night our mothers produced potato pies, black peas, treacle toffee. Some people threw potatoes onto the fire to cook – which they more often than not, didn’t, but no one admitted the hot, blackened potatoes were raw inside. There was always lots of fireworks (always the dads in charge): Rockets, Catherine Wheels, Rip-Raps, Bangers. We were allowed Sparklers to write our names in the dark skies. I don’t remember it ever raining on Bonfire Night, though, being in the North of England, I suppose it must have.
With no bathroom in the house the lavatory was in a row of three small buildings. A cinder path crossed the common land to get to them. Stiflingly hot in summer, bitterly draughty in the winter, my mum fought a war against germs inside our loo, it always smelled of Jeyes Fluid. The brick walls were whitewashed which sometimes formed bubbles and broke up into powdery flakes that floated down onto the stone flags. With no window, and a door that fitted tightly when latched, it was pitch-black in there. I always stretched my leg out to hold the door back against the wall; I was more scared of the dark than being seen by anyone who passed. And, anyway, over the roofs of the houses in the next street I could see fields and the dark purple of the moors; somewhere that seemed a magical place.
Bath night was Sunday night. With no bathroom in the house, we used a large tin bath that was usually hung on a large nail outside the back door. Hauled in front of the kitchen fire the bath was filled with pan after pan of hot water heated by the wall cylinder.
In winter the only warm room was the kitchen. Bedtime was a dash from there, up icy-cold stairs into the bedroom, tightly clutching my hot water bottle. If my father wasn’t home, my mother, oblivious to any thoughts of Health and Safety, carried a shovelful of fire, burning coals from the kitchen fireplace, to the fireplace in my bedroom, in order to take the chill off the room. It rarely did, but I loved watching the flickering shadows from the low flames on the walls and ceiling. Often, by morning, my clothes, laid out on the chair at the end of my bed, in readiness to jump into, would be stiff with cold, and the inside of the windows were covered in intricate patterns on the panes, icy kaleidoscopes of snowflakes that melted when I held my hand on the glass.
I suppose we were poor, but where we lived and at that time we were the norm. I can’t remember feeling any different from anyone else. But I guess, at five, I was oblivious to the larger picture of our family, days were times of play, and the novelty of the small school I attended. It’s only looking back that I realise how quickly I took for granted our next house with a bathroom, electric heaters in all the rooms, and a garden to play in. Oh, and an inside lavatory!
Best of all, I was within walking distance of the fields and the moors, and as I got older the moors became a somewhere to roam, to escape to, with my dog..
Next week: Places in our Memories #MondayBlogs #Memories with Thorne Moore
Over the course of the summer months I will be sharing the recommended authors who feature in the Smorgasbord Bookshelf along with their books and a selected review.
The first book today is a delightful reflection on life that I can recommened Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinaryby Pamela S. Wight
About the collection.
Wow! Life goes by in a flash.
Philosophers and mystics ponder the mystery of these flashes. Pamela Wight writes about life flashes in her short stories that include family and friends, love and life’s challenges. Wight’s “Flash Memoir” promotes the belief that we all share sparks of the extraordinary that occur in our everyday life. Each short story is true and brings a smile of recognition to her readers: that life transports and enthralls us in all its confusing, amusing, challenging, and astonishing ways. Each story is light-hearted and short – like…
A small selection of posts I have enjoyed this week and I hope you will head over to enjoy in full.. thanks Sally.
Debby Gies is the guest of Marcia Mearaand her series Ten Things You May Not Know About Me… being Debby you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be plenty of interesting things to discover and always a few surprises.
Welcome to the round up of post this week you might have missed on Smorgasbord.
I hope that you have had a good week. I know some of you are on holiday either at home or abroad and enjoying different surroundings. Hopefully not too long in the airport and reunited with your luggage. The UK is definitely in a mess in that regard and the strikes don’t help. Whilst it certainly gets the attention of the media, it seems that the only people who suffer are those ordinary citizens trying to get to work or take their families on well earned breaks. I am all for fair wages for a days work, but when a train driver is earning almost three times more than a nurse and considerably more than a fireman, it does seem a little aggresive. Whilst the leadership of the UK is in flux I suppose it…
I’m delighted and proud to announce the launch of Symbiosis, a conversational poetry pamphlet, published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Symbiosis was a winning entry last year in Hedgehog Poetry’s conversational pamphlet competition. It has been on pre order so there aren’t many limited edition copies left. If you’d like a copy then grab one quickly via my website shop (link below) and scroll down. Readers are loving it. Why not give it a go? It not only makes for a great read but a perfect gift or keepsake.
Today I’m delighted to feature artist and fiction writer Leonora Ross. She released her first novel, Tess Has a Broken Heart, and Other Comedies Full of Errors, last year. Her second novel is currently with her editor.