Books in my Handbag Blog Detective Indie Author Investigates #FridayReads #Editing #Publishing The Crime and Coffee Festival

Detective Indie Author Investigates

The Crime and Coffee Festival beckoned me to Cardiff Library to solve the mystery of writing and publishing. The workshop: Cut, Slash and Perfect promised to reveal more about the writing and traditional publishing journey.  As I passed the crime scene tape surrounding the bookshelves, I did wonder if any authors had been lost during the cutting, slashing and perfecting process. I went undercover to find out more about traditional publishing. Would I need an agent, and would I need a sharper pair of scissors?

The panel discussion with: Thorne Moore, Caroline Oakely and Judith Barrow. Has Judith spotted Jessie?

Authors, Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore, chatted with the editor, Caroline Oakley, of Honno Pressabout publishing. The entertaining chat provided food for thought for all authors who wish to publish their work.  As I listened, I captured some of the main points and discovered what makes editors cut and authors cry. The panel put me at ease, and I was able to remove my disguise as an indie author.

Introducing Caroline Oakley who is the editor at Honno Press

Caroline has worked in general trade publishing for over thirty years and has edited a number of award winning and bestselling authors. Caroline works for, Honno Press, an independent Welsh Women’s publisher in Wales.

Clues from the Editor

Caroline gave a balanced overview of publishing

Big publishers only work through agents.

A good editor is key to success for all authors

Agents often have useful contacts within the publishing world and deal with the contracts.  Care must be taken when selecting an agent because, as in all businesses, there are inefficient, self –styled experts, with little experience, out there. Google and search for those authors who write in your genre to find out the names of the agents who deal with your kind of book before submitting. You can approach independent and smaller publishers with or without an agent. Find out what this kind of publisher wants before approaching them.  Research their website; look at the work of the signed authors.  Take your time to select the appropriate one for your genre; consider how much advance that publisher pays, the amount of royalties for sold books you will get, your rights (such as audio and foreign rights for your work) and the terms and conditions of your contract. You must read the small print!

Don’t get disheartened with rejection letters sent to publishers.  Hope your manuscript reaches the publisher at the right time (by this I mean that it’s not a miserable Monday morning for them, or they’ve not had a quarrel with a partner or their family – or they’ve not had a week of wading through a pile of “not very good” manuscripts before they get to yours)– it is subjective.

Indie publishing has its challenges, but it gives you more control and you get all the profit.  The Indie author deals with every element of the process; from the writing to choosing the cover, the blurb formatting, publication and marketing. Traditionally published authors also are expected to promote and market. Indie publishing is time- consuming but as I said before, they do have complete control over their work.

The venue – Cardiff Library

Whichever publishing route you choose, you must get yourself an editor! Although time-consuming (and sometimes devastating!) you must go through the cut, slash perfect process.  A good editor will identify gaps, things that possibly don’t work in your writing, mistakes such as change of dates of characters’ birthdays or colour of eyes in different parts of the book, errors in time scale etc.. But will not tell you what to do, only point out those mistakes and suggest changes to make your work stronger.

It is advisable that every author, whether self-published or traditionally published, has a website, blog and social media accounts.

Introducing Judith Barrow:

Judith Barrow has published four books with Honno Press.  She writes historical family saga fiction. She has also self-published books and a collection of short stories of the minor characters in her trilogy.

What did Judith say about her publishing journey?

Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore are published by Honno Press

I love working with Honno Press.  The staff are friendly and accessible. As a writer you learn what you can and cannot get away with.  I have built up trust with the editor who I know has had a long and professional career in all genres. And, although  Honno Pressalso organises the front cover for the books, they have allowed me input to the final decision .

Working with Honno Press provides me with quality, professional editing.  I cry every time, I get the editor’s comments, but I know, in my heart, it makes the work better.  An editor will read your book line by line and give an overview. A good editor will ask the right questions but will not give you the answers. When you edit your work, you must keep your own voice.

I do not send my very first draft to an editor and probably have about ten revisions.  I ask my friend, who is an author, to give me an honest opinion on anything I have doubts about.  I am also a member of a writing group and we email sections of our books for discussion.  But do, avoid too much input from too many sources into your work as it can confuse you – have a small trusted network of writers.  Believe in yourself! The cut, slash and perfect stages involves a first general edit, as many more detailed edits then necessary to get the writing to its best, a line by line edit to weed out any noticeable mistakes and then a proof read by the publisher’s proof reader. Finally, it comes back to me for a last read to make sure all is correct. I do like this final stage; it does make me feel as though I have control over the end product to some degree.

Introducing Thorne Moore

Thorne had published three books with Honno Fiction and writes domestic noir and psychological fiction.  Thorne has self-published and works with two publishers.

What did Thorne say about publishing?

She has self-published short stories in order to market a published book.  The different publishers are relevant to the books promoted. Regardless of how the books are published, the author must have a good editor.

A writer needs an editor to stand on the mountain and look down on your work.  During the writing process the author becomes too absorbed to be objective.  Through the feedback from the editor, you learn to write.  The editor will locate your common mistakes then you will avoid these in subsequent drafts.

You do need a small critical group of friends who will give you constructive criticism.

Don’t worry about the reviews. Jane Austin has plenty of one star and two star reviews on Amazon.

Don’t give up!  I was rejected by Honno at first. In an interview with Thorne, she told me about the trials and tribulations of her publishing journey. This story of Thorne’s publishing journey will be published very soon.

A good editor is key to success for all authors: traditionally published and self-published need a good editor.  A good editor will identify gaps in your work and ask the right questions.  My editor forced me to ask lots of questions about my book and rework sections.  I learnt a great deal about my writing through this process. As a self-published author I have involved a professional editor, beta readers and other authors.  One must be careful of making new mistakes in a new edit – it is expensive to pay for all the various stages of the edit.  I understand the security of working with an independent publisher who provides an editor. The indie author has greater control of the book but must complete all stages of the process including the book cover and the marketing. In the end, all clues pointed towards the importance of a professional editor during the publishing process.  No matter how many times the author sharpens the scissors to cut, they still need an editor and dosh to pay for quality.   Clearly, this wasn’t an open and shut case and more investigation needed to be completed.

Clue of the Day

Narbeth Book Fair – see Judith, Thorne and Jessie!

Caroline suggested the market for the unreliable narrator in all genres will change. Like fashion in clothes, fashion in books also changes.  No one knows what will be the next ‘in thing’ for novels.

Judith Barrow, Caroline Oakley, Thorne Moore will all be at the Narberth Book Festival on 22nd September.

You can book individual session with Caroline Oakley of Honno Press for £35.  For more information visit the Narberth Book Fair website. Children’s writers can book sessions with Firefly Press.

 

My Review of UK2 (Project Renova Book 3) by Terry Tyler #TuesdayBookBlog #Dystopian #PostApocolyptic

 

uk2

 

I gave UK2 5*

Book Description:

Two decades of social media had prepared them well for UK2.’

The pace steps up in this final instalment of the Project Renova trilogy, as the survivors’ way of life comes under threat.

Two years after the viral outbreak, representatives from UK Central arrive at Lindisfarne to tell the islanders about the shiny new city being created down south.  UK2 governor Verlander’s plan is simple: all independent communities are to be dissolved, their inhabitants to reside in approved colonies.  Alas, those who relocate soon suspect that the promises of a bright tomorrow are nothing but smoke and mirrors, as great opportunities turn into broken dreams, and dangerous journeys provide the only hope of freedom.

Meanwhile, far away in the southern hemisphere, a new terror is gathering momentum…

‘I walked through that grey afternoon, past fields that nobody had tended for nearly three years, past broken down, rusty old vehicles, buildings with smashed windows.  I was walking alone at the end of the world, but I was a happy man.  I was free, at last.’

Although this concludes the Project Renova trilogy, there will be more books in the series. A collection of five side stories is planned, and another novel, set far into the future.

My Review,

i have long enjoyed Terry Tylers’ work and I have read almost everything she has written. However, when I heard she had changed genres and written an end of the world novel I hesitated. Only once had I read a dystopian book  – and I hated it. What I forgot, at first, was that, not only does this author write a cracking good story, whatever the subject, she creates brilliantly  rounded characters that take  on a life of their own…and live, and grow and change as the  plots progress. I took a chance and was hooked. I read the first of the trilogy Tipping Point (you can read my review here). Following the lives of the characters through desperate times was both fascinating and felt unbelievably real. The second of the trilogy, Lindisfarne; my review here,  continues the story and, from my point of view, is equally riveting.

 I have also enjoyed  Patient Zero: short stories from the Project Renova series; a collection of nine short stories featuring minor characters from the series

And so to this last book, UK2, the conclusion of the the story (at least for the time being – as we see in the book description, Terry Tyler has other ideas). But, for now the stories of each of these characters I have grown to know and understand have sailed off into the distance.

There are so many well-rounded characters I honestly wouldn’t know where to start (and would probably ramble on for pages!). Some of the characters are told by a third person omniscient narrator, which allows the reader to sit back and observe. But many characters tell whole chapters from their own points of view. It’s interesting to hear the internal voices of Lottie, Vicky and Doyle, with their opinions on the world they are living in; all developing in the way good characters should in a novel. I was well impressed the way one character, Flora, changed. Oh, and I should mention the appearance of two characters I instantly loved, Seren and Hawk.

The dialogue is, as usual, good; some of the voices of  the characters with the intonations subtly changed as the characters go forward in their stories, some immediately recognisable.

The settings, whether of Lindisfarne, the devastated Britain of the past,  UK Central (ruled over by the plastic ‘Hollywood-style governor Verlander’) or islands far away, give a brilliant sense of place.

I have to be honest, it is a complex book with plots and subplots intertwined and a whole plethora of characters; so I can only recommend that readers start with the first book of the trilogy. And, to be fair, this is what the author recommends.

But, having the last word (well, this is my review!), whatever your preferred genre, give this series a go…you’ll be hooked.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2IekT4X

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2EctvXz

About the Author:

6oAA8mXm_400x400

 

 

Terry Tyler is the author of seventeen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘UK2’, the third book in her new post apocalyptic series. She is proud to be self-published, is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and loves history, winter, South Park and Netflix. She lives in the north east of England with her husband; she is still trying to learn Geordie.

Connect with Terry:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TerryTyler4

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2xLJRa6

My Review of African Ways by Valerie Poore #memoir #TuesdayBookBlog

 

african

 

Book Description:

This is the story of a young woman’s first encounters with rural South Africa. Coming from the all-mod-cons society of Britain at the beginning of the 1980’s, the author is literally transplanted to a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in what is now Kwazulu Natal.

Once there, she finds her feet in the ways of Africa
with the help of a charming, elderly Dutch couple, 
an appealing but wily African farm hand, his practical and motherly daughter and a wise and fascinating neighbour who has a fund of local knowledge.

These are tales of a different kind of life, which
include living without electricity, hand-milking cows, drought, veld fires and mad-cap adventures into the unknown.

They are stories told with deep affection and respect, and above all a liberal dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.

 

My Review: I gave  African Ways 5*out of 5*

Valerie Poore’s African Ways is a brilliant memoir that draws the reader in from the first page.

It is obvious from the beginning how much this author opens herself to people, places…and adventures that most of us would back away from.

I was enthralled throughout by her wonderful descriptions of the land where she made her home with her husband and two young children for three years in the 1980s ( a farm in Natal, South Africa). The love she has for the country and for the neighbours and friends that surrounded her (some with such fabulous names!) shines through in  her writing.

Despite everything: the droughts the families endured, the fires ( I was riveted by her portrayal of the unbelievably brave way she, her husband and friends battled against one fire and then, though exhausted, continued their BBQ), the venomous snakes, the swarm of bees that invaded her home and the lack of electricity, it is obvious she embraced the whole experience. 

And, threaded throughout the author reveals her superb  sense of humour; there are some great ‘laugh out loud’ stories and even some chuckles, despite the dangers, recollections.

African Ways is a memoir I can thoroughly recommend. In fact I would say, you should…really you should…read this book. 

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2mYreIN

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2mWSp6Y

 

Valerie Poore

 

Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children. 

Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way. 

She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way.

 

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #poetrycommunity

As some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work.

Here is a piece written by one of my students after I set them an exercise which ended with the last line, “And this is the room where it happened.”

This is a poem by Alex Abercrombie. 

owls

 

You’re shaken awake from a jittery nap and

The mantelpiece clock shows a quarter to two.

The dog on the mat and the cat on your lap and

The owls in the attic are wakeful too.

There’s a rattle of chains and a loud ringing rap and

A creak of a door and a hullabaloo –

By the light of the moon on the cold foggy dew

A leathery, whiskery, rogue of a chap, and

A girl in a plain cotton smock and a cap and

A red woollen petticoat, float into view.

 

They say the wench brought the man down with one slap and

A knife in the ribs – though whether that’s true

Or a tall tarradiddle, I haven’t a clue.

But there are some things’ll make anyone snap and

Commit bloody murder and all – and I do

Say it’s not very nice of a toff to entrap and

Abandon a poor village lass. Don’t you?

When all that she got was a dose of the clap and

A bun in the oven (which turned into two)

And this is the room where it happened.

 © Alex Abercrombie 2018

 

 You may also like to see a prose piece on the same subject written by another student,  Trish  Power   https://judithbarrowblog.com/2018/01/17/and-this-is-the-room-where-it-happened-thursdaythoughts-pembrokeshire-humour/here

My Last Saturday Round-Up Of the Brilliant Authors #authors & Poets #poets at the Narberth Book Fair #BookFair

Titleband for Narberth Book Fair

Gathering the last of those authors and poets who joined in with the interviews to  help to show what a treat is in store at our book fair. Do please drop in to our website:   Narberth Book Fair, cleverly put together by the brilliant Thorne Moore.

There are forty authors, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults: workshops & talks and fun workshops for children, activities for the children; Children’s Page and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire. Location.

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

There is still time to  enter the poetry competition: competition Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

BOOKS AND READING.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter and, hopefully, will be with us at the fair), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

The line up so far:

Judith Barrow

Thorne Moore

Juliet Greenwood

Graham Watkins

Rebecca Bryn

Helen Williams

Sally Spedding

Katy Whateva

Sara Gethin

Cheryl Rees-Price

Jackie Biggs

Judith Arnopp

Colin R Parsons

Kate Murray

Hugh Roberts

Carol Lovekin

Catherine Marshall

Tracey Warr

Steve Thorpe

Wendy Steele

I must say I’ve enjoyed interviewing all the poets and authors and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them. There will still be plenty of news about the book fair over the next few weeks. In the meantime, do think about entering the competition and don’t forget to put your name down for any of the workshops; numbers are limited.
Titleband for Narberth Book Fair

My Fifth Saturday Round-Up Of All the Brilliant Authors #authors & Poets #poets at the Narberth Book Fair #BookFair

Titleband for Narberth Book FairGathering even more of us all together this week to show what a treat is in store at our book fair. Do please drop in to our website:   Narberth Book Fair, cleverly put together by the brilliant Thorne Moore.

Will be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair for some weeks to come.

There are forty authors, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults: workshops & talks and fun workshops for children, activities for the children; Children’s Page and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire. Location.

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: competition Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

BOOKS AND READING.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter and, hopefully, will be with us at the fair), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

The line up so far:

Judith Barrow

Thorne Moore

Juliet Greenwood

Graham Watkins

Rebecca Bryn

Helen Williams

Sally Spedding

Katy Whateva

Sara Gethin

Cheryl Rees-Price

Jackie Biggs

Judith Arnopp

Colin R Parsons

Kate Murray

Hugh Roberts

Carol Lovekin

Catherine Marshall

Tracey Warr

Steve Thorpe

Wendy Steele

My Review of Bombs and Butterflies: Over the Hill in Laos by Jo Carroll #TravelWriting #FridayReads

bombs

 

I gave this book 5*out of 5*

Book Description:

Did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? If Jo Carroll had spent more time with her guidebooks and less with a physiotherapist preparing her creaking knees for squat toilets she’d have been better prepared when she crossed the Mekong in a long boat and stepped into the chaos of Huay Xai. But bombs still lie hidden in Laos’ jungles, in the rice paddies, and in the playgrounds. While young people open their doors to new ideas and possibilities, memories of war are etched on the faces of the old.
What sort of welcome would they give a western woman, wandering around with her notebook? Would they dare let her peer into their secret corners?

My Review:

 It’s a long time since I read a travel book other than looking for excerpts to use for teaching the genre in a workshop.

Reading Jo Carrol’s Bombs and Butterflies: Over the Hill in Laos made me realise what a wealth of entertainment and knowledge I’ve missed out on. And I would have carried on overlooking this gem if it hadn’t been for a fellow writer who recommended this author’s work to me.

 And what a gem!

 Laos is perhaps a place I will never visit but I now have at least an insight to this country still  afflicted by the devastation of war; the people traumatised, often with permanent life-changing injuries. And yet one of the main threads interwoven in the narrative is the kind courtesy that the author experiences from the Laotians. Alongside the often humorous accounts of her fellow back packers, this is a truly personal, empathetic and compassionate account of the people of Laos as much as of the magnificence and breath-taking ambience of the places Jo Carroll travels through.

 I loved one excerpt, one example of this, that made me smile; the way, in one place where Jo Carroll stayed, that she was exclaimed over and admired just because she was a mature woman of a certain age. And the way the teenage girl in the family carefully escorted her up and down the ladder to the room she stayed in – and even to the family outside WC. 

The author’s descriptions, so full of evocative imagery yet so personal, made me feel as though I was walking alongside her. There are many  contrasting scenes. The visit to the COPE centre where prosthetic limbs are made for those so injured during and in the aftermath of the “horrors of the Khmer Rouge”, together with, the descriptions of the museum. The uncomfortable way she watches a film of the almost casual, yet breath-holding, defusing of an unexploded bomb and the faces of the people in the village, “…lined with dread, with the memory of blood and screaming and the fear of dying.”

 She cries; she’s not the only one;  I cry as  I read of her ” misplaced Western guilt”, her “…collusion with the silence that went with this war” and the naive belief I’d also long ago held of “President Nixon’s assurances that the USA guaranteed Laos’ neutrality”, even as the country was bombed.

 That excerpt contrasts with joyful and wonderful descriptions: of the river in Nong Khiaw from her hammock in a wooden bungalow (one of the places the author stayed in away from a group she travelled with at one point). She watches the man peacefully net fishing in the river, the banks richly green ; the swarms of tiny white butterflies. And later she writes of the riotous colours and chaos of markets, of jumbles of fruit, jewellery, spices. throughout this book there is always the evocative use of all her senses. Great stuff!! 

This is a very individual account of travel writing. And it drew me in; I felt her struggle with having to come to term with so much as she travelled around; tourists having their photos taken with what i presumed were drugged tigers. Elephants giving rides to entertain the visitors (this brought back a memory of a ride I had in a zoo as a child; I hadn’t thought of this for years and it brought back an uncomfortable feeling for my lack of understanding at the time – how things have changed in this country… or have they?)  In Laos Jo Carroll battles with her conscience even while knowing the people nee to make a living to exist.

I could go on and on. This is an easy read that transported me to Laos. It won’t be the last I read of Jo Carroll’s travels. 

 I can’t recommend Bombs and Butterflies: Over the Hill in Laos highly enough.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2tsIJqE

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2gMkyxJ

The Question asks; “Are You a ProActive and Optimistic Senior” Hmmm… #MondayBlogs

oapschat

Well, I thought about this… a lot! Yes, I think, mostly, I’m optimistic. And sometimes, I’m even proactive. It was the ‘senior ‘ that I needed to think long and hard about. What constitutes a’senior’ You see, for years I’ve always thought some people were quite senior; at least to me. Until I realised I’d caught up with them. I was fifty-nine for quite some time. Then I moved up to sixty-two.  I’ve been sixty-two for a bit as well.

 So I thought I would investigate this group. And, oh, had I underestimated my peers. The members of  www.OAPSchat.co.uk are, as founder of the site Janice Rosser says: “… looking at the website from far and wide.” Ever courteous  she welcomes visitors to  the site  from countries as far away and diverse as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, Canada, India, Venezuela, Irish Republic, Spain, France, China, Japan, Greece, Mexico, The Bahamas, Indonesia and Switzerland and cheerfully says, ” a BIG hello from the UK to you all and thank you for visiting. I hope you are enjoying the huge and varied content that is here.”

 I bet they are, as well. This is a place where the over 55s can share  news from all over the UK: local and holiday news (there’s a lovely piece written by Juliet Greenwood:  on visiting:  Portmeirion  in North Wales ), and I was recently chuffed to see a piece of my own from last year again on, Ciovo, Croatia . There are topical issues ( Top 5 UK Airports To Fly From), financial and health advice. On a personal level members can promote their talents, chat and share their interests and hobbies, giving encouragement to others to join in with their hobbies.  I was particularly interested in Chris Lovell’s piece about launching  her small boat, the Blue Nun, from Neyland in Pembrokeshire  as that’s local news for me, as well as learning about a hobby. And then there’s Tracy Burton talking about how it’s Never Too Old To Backpack! ; quite a consoling thought as I struggle along the narrow rugged Pembrokeshire  coastal path sometimes!

Portmeirion1smallCroatia JB

Portmerion                                                                     Ciovo

As you can see I’ve picked out the items that are of particular interest to me  but there are similar and constantly changing  items from all over the UK and abroad that will be of interest to many. The OAPSchat  net is spread far and wide. 

Members also give an insight to their lifestyles, share memoirs and occasions. I loved the story  written by Georgia Hill, In Remembrance – and a Mystery

Most importantly for me, when I first came across OAPSchat were the books I saw to buy there. And there is often a wealth of talent to be found. For instance, in the present issue,  Jane Lovering is being interviewed with her book: Can’t Buy Me Love  Margaret James discusses her new book; Girl in Red Velvet and Sheryl Brown, one of my favourite authors,is talking about her latest book, Learning to Love

Then there is the scope for authors to promote their own work! When I first explored the site; after I’d looked at all the different topics, read articles, noted places I’d liked to visit (one day) I saw Advertise with OAPSchat … yes I do know I’m a bit slow sometimes!! I realised that all the books on the left hand side bar of the site were advertisements/promotions of books placed by the authors. Would Janice take mine? Of course! Rates are so reasonable. More importantly the readers are there; ready and waiting; people who have so many interests must have so many preferences for genres. Some one might like mine. And they did! I had great sales.

So, for me, OAPSchat  has given me so much: new friends, new interests, new ideas, new readers. Do I mind being a ‘senior’?  Well no… as long as I’m also mostly “optimistic”. And sometimes, even “proactive”. I can cope with being sixty-two… for a few more years!

For more information on OAPSchat  check out About Us

janice

Of course I couldn’t finish without giving Janice a little space (well, she is the founder) The floor is yours, Janice.

Thanks Judith.

OAPSchat was born in April 2013 as a Facebook page. It was in November 2013 that I decided I had enough material and confidence to launch the website.

Since that day, I have been writing articles on all kinds of topics, ranging from hobbies, holidays, food and drink, memories, families, finance and much much more. I now have over one hundred and thirty seven wonderful contributors to date and articles on all different subjects are posted on a daily basis. Over 1400 articles can be read now! Members can comment via disqus, FB and Twitter.

Raffles are held monthly, sometimes more often. A newsletter goes out once a month with my plans for the coming weeks. I am an Independent Happy List Winner 2014 for founding the website.

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   Janice celebrating at the ceremomies

Loneliness is a big scourge on our society worldwide and the website helps combat this awful isolation by coming together and sharing our thoughts and ideas. OAPSchat is well and truly born now and I hope it will continue to thrive. With your support, I’m confident it will!

OAPSchat FaceBook Link: http://bit.ly/2vnZYGh

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My Review of That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3 by Marcia Meara

That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3 by [Meara, Marcia]

I received  a copy of That Darkest Place from the author in return for an honest review.

 I gave the book 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

In Book 3 of her popular Riverbend series, Marcia Meara, author of Wake-Robin Ridge, A Boy Named Rabbit,and Harbinger, takes another look at the lives of the Painter brothers—Jackson, Forrest, and Hunter. While Hunter is home again and on the mend, the same isn’t true for his oldest brother. Jackson’s battle has just begun.

“There are dark places in every heart, in every head. Some you turn away from. Some you light a candle within. But there is one place so black, it consumes all light. It will pull you in and swallow you whole. You don’t leave your brother stranded in that darkest place.”
~Hunter Painter~

The new year is a chance for new beginnings—usually hopeful, positive ones. But when Jackson Painter plows his car into a tree shortly after midnight on January 1, his new beginnings are tragic. His brothers, Forrest and Hunter, take up a grim bedside vigil at the hospital, waiting for Jackson to regain consciousness and anxious over how he’ll take the news that he’s lost a leg and his fiancée is dead. After all, the accident was all his fault.

As the shocking truth emerges, one thing becomes obvious—Jackson will need unconditional love and support from both of his brothers if he is to survive.

Just as he begins the long road to recovery, danger, in the form of a sinister, unsigned note, plunges him back into bleak despair. Scrawled in blood red letters, the accusation—and the threat—is clear. “MURDERER!”

Will the long, harrowing ordeal that lies ahead draw the Painter brothers closer together, or drive them apart forever?

Suspenseful and often heartbreaking, this small-town tale is a testimonial to the redemptive power of love and paints a story filled with humor, romance, and fierce family loyalty.

 My Review:

 I’ve always liked this author’s writing style and her ability to tell a good story and this latest book is no disappointment.  This continuation of the events that affect the Painter brothers’ lives is a rich emotional tale of despair, love, familial support, intrigue and triumph.

The main characters, Jackson, Forrest, and Hunter.  are now well established and have become more rounded and multi-layered and remain true to the traits they have portrayed over the series. I felt as if I’d known and understood them for a while which is always a good sign for me. The different points of view of each brother to a greater or lesser degree works well and I cared what happened to them.

 The setting of Riverbend is constant, even with the introduction of different minor characters and places; Marcia Meara has a nice touch when it comes to descriptions and giving a sense of place.

There are one or two twists and turns in the plot which progresses at a steady pace and I finished the story with a sense of satisfaction that all will be well… hopefully.

 A good read. And a book I would recommend.

 Book Links:

 Amazon.co.uk; http://amzn.to/2tqUFWv

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2sRfld8

 

 

My Review of Fall Out by Lizzy Mumfrey for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

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I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team, #RBRT, in return for an honest review.

 I gave Fall Out 3.5 stars out of 5 stars

Book Description

WHAT IF THE TIES THAT HOLD TOGETHER A COMMUNITY ARE IRREVOCABLY DESTROYED? The sociable commuter village of Charlton is an ordinary neighbourhood, typical of many, home to a colourful range of residents, many of whose teenagers go to the local academy. An ordinary day becomes extraordinary when a school trip to London coincides with an appalling terrorist attack and everyone’s cosy, humdrum life is shattered. The fallout affects every resident in dramatically different ways. Who lives and who dies is just the start – irrational suspicions, prejudice and misunderstandings lead to blame and persecution. Buried secrets are revealed, friendships fractured and trust destroyed. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT LIFE WILL NEVER BE NORMAL AGAIN.

My Review:

I read this book twice in consecutive sessions because I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. And I have to say that although I liked the idea of Fall Out (clever play on words with the title, by the way) and enjoyed certain parts  of the book, I struggled with it for so many reasons.

Don’t get me wrong; Lizzy Mumfrey can write, it’s a good plot and there are scenes that certainly bring a sense of empathy to the characters.The first chapter caught my attention straight-away with the introduction of the main character, Susie Cole. I was intrigued. But then we are immediately taken to another scenario with two other characters, Susie’s husband, Peter and his friend, Richard Hughes, who reveal the threat of terrorism that the world is under, the fact that Peter has achieved a high rank in the police force and that there will be a dinner party to celebrate this promotion.

On my second read it occurred to me that the first chapter would have worked well (better) as a Prologue. Because it’s quite some while until we actually discover why this foreshadowing of the whole plot is revealed.

There is then quite a long section giving the inner thoughts of the protagonist of how she sees herself and the people she will invite, and the menu for the meal. This not only slows the story down but there are also chunks of information dumps, giving descriptions of these other characters and their lives; their jobs, their houses, their children. Good depictions of them all but I would have liked them not to be in such detail and these passages are something that I feel would be better drip-fed into the story.

And these meticulous  narratives  through  Susie’s internal thoughts continue. I wanted to like her; her dialogue is as intrinsically slapdash (sometimes irritatingly so) as her lifestyle. And this is the whole crux of the plot; the way she is, is why she becomes the target of  “irrational suspicions, prejudice and misunderstandings lead to blame and persecution.”  It’s a brilliantly thought out  set of circumstances that is threaded throughout the book.

Sections of the book are told through the points of view of some of the other characters, though, and these gave a good insight to them, their backgrounds and their role in Fall Out. And they give an alternative understanding to their personalities than that of Susie’s.

But there are other situations  that I felt could be whole different novels and that I would have liked to have been explored and dealt with. Two such are those of the family stories of a couple of the students in the school: Ellie and, Charlie. Both from dysfunctional families. Charlie’s mother is absent; he’s a lonely lad struggling to survive and letting no one know he is on his one. And there is one point in Ellie’s story that brought me up short and I was waiting for it to develop. But, although it did hover around in the story, it got submerged by the larger plot.

And, perhaps, this is why I had some reservations about Fall Out; that there are so many brilliant, intriguing characters that I felt deserved their own stories.

And then there is the terrorist attack itself. Now I know the whole idea of the novel is the affect on the village of Charlton.  There are many evocative descriptions of the way the characters deal with the situations and of various places. And it is perfectly clear that life for the residents of Charlton will never be the same again. So, as this the crux of the book, it certainly succeeds.  But somehow I didn’t sense the devastating scenario to the whole country that followed such a traumatic event.

However, as I said earlier, I do like Lizzy Mumfrey’s writing and look forward to reading another of her books.

Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2r0oX1r

Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2rm07Jw

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

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Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the Sports Fanatic.

Before I go any further I think I should mention that although we live along a quiet lane we are only a five minute walk to the village. In the centre is the local Co-op. The frontage is very old fashioned; it’s an old building. For years there’s has been talk of building a new store on the outskirts  (actually about five hundred metres behind the existing one, on the edge of common land) but nothing has come of it. In winter the place trundles sleepily along; goods not available because of snow somewhere up country.  the odd garbled message over the tannoy that everyone ignores, staff huddled in corners exchanging local gossip, wandering around, trying not to make eye contact in case you want to ask them something. It’s a place to meet up with local people who haven’t been visible all summer due to being too busy keeping holiday visitors entertained.

Which, as an aside, reminds me of a time I asked Husband to go and buy a red cabbage from the Co-op.

After half an hour he returns, empty handed and looking stunned.

No red cabbage?’ I enquire.

‘No, couldn’t find one. Asked an assistant. She said cabbages were on the veg stall and there  was red food colouring in the baking section.’ He shook his head. ‘You couldn’t make it up!’

In summer the place comes alive: more than one assistant on the tills, lots of bustle, filling up shelves,assistants eager to help. Lots of happy visitors always glad for a natter, which inevitable ends with the comment,”you are so lucky to live here.’

I don’t argue… we are.

The visitors! (Should add here there is a sign asking customers not to shop in their nightwear) Apparently beach wear is acceptable. Nowhere else have I seen people shop half undressed: men in shorts (even Speedos … don’t think too long on that image; not nice mostly), bare chests and nothing on their feet, accompanied by shoals of similarly dressed and bare-footed children.  All very  jolly… until someone runs over toes with a trolley. Or they step in something.

None of this, by the way, has anything at all to do with the Sports Fanatic.

The couple arrived late one Saturday evening. The man struggled out of the car and walked, wincing, slowly along the drive, using two sticks, irritated-looking wife marching in front of him.

‘He’s sprained his ankle,’ she said, tilting her head towards him and without introducing herself. ‘happened yesterday. I came home from work and there he was, lying on the settee, bandaged up. Apparently,’ she stressed the word, ‘apparently our neighbour took him to hospital.’

‘Good of him,’ her husband said. ‘Nice chap.’

Wife snorted. ‘Fine start to our week,’ she said.

‘Mrs Morris?’ I asked. I knew they were down for a family reunion. Her family reunion.

She ignored me. ‘This way, is it?’ Pointing towards the apartment door and stomping off.

‘She’s a bit cross,’ her husband offered. Struggling with sticks he held his hand out to Husband and shook it. ‘I’m Simon,’he said, ‘you got Sky Sports in there?’

 

The following day it was the the reunion. The husband apparently had hardly moved from the settee in the living room of the apartment. 

Mrs Morris was no less cross than before. ‘He’ll have to stay here,’ she said. ‘he says he’s in a lot of pain and can hardly stand.’ She stared at Husband. ‘I’ll be out all day. Would  you go in and see if he’s okay every now and then, perhaps give him a cup of tea. I’ve left sandwiches on the coffee table for his lunch.It really is a nuisance.’

Husband was clenching jaw, the ears were giving off warning signs..

‘It’s fine,’I said, hurriedly. ‘Don’t worry.’

Half an hour after she’d driven off Husband went in to the apartment ‘ I can’t find him, he said.

‘In the loo?’I offered.

‘No! Anyhow, he’s not supposed to be able to move around at all.’

The implications of that suddenly struck us.

‘I’m not bloody clearing up after him if anything happens,’ Husband says.

I don’t answer but I knew it wouldn’t be me, either.

We searched around the apartment, then the garden.

‘He won’t be out here,’I said. ‘He can’t walk.

Just then Mr Morris came running around the corner of the house, a pack of six cans of pale ale in his arms.

We stood and looked at one another

Then, without an ounce of shame, he  said, ‘can’t stand her family. Anyway, there’s loads of sport on the telly I don’t want to miss.’

 

And with that he grinned, walked past us and into the apartment.

Not quite sure what happened the rest of the week but Mrs Morris left on the Friday and the last we saw of Mr Morris was him trudging off the drive, carrying his suitcase, to make his way to the railway station on the Saturday morning

 

 

 

 

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the  Tai Chi Naturists.

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 They looked a fit couple in their seventies; Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan, (actually not a made up name but it’s so long ago they really wouldn’t remember their holiday here… would they?) when they sprang from their dilapidated Ford Anglia.

 ‘Would you mind if we practised our Tai Chi on the lawn?’ the wife asked right away.

 I sensed Husband’s tension and alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright red is the ominous signal of him being overly upset.

‘Not at all,’ I said, intrigued. I’m a great people watcher and we’ve had some fascinating visitors over the years. Many have had picnics and parties on the lawn. Husband has accepted this… mainly. And we haven’t had any complaints from neighbours about noise; in fact some have joined in with the parties. We live off a small lane; there are only three more houses further along. A large bed filled with shrubs and a lilac tree and hedges all around the garden shelter the house from view. Which, sometimes has been a good thing!

We’d had many who’d stayed with us before and did various keep fit exercises on the front lawn. and even a couple who practised their judo . This latter was quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a large dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all, from the way her nose whistled when she was taking in all that air, he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise,’ Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about that.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car, hiding the grin.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband’s arm. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us that week and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this elderly couple were Naturists.

 On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practising their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them; both because they were completely naked, and because I was standing side by side with my mother. And Mum had a wicked sense of inappropriate humour and ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome. She’d be sure to offend them by one of her ‘funny’ jokes. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to keep her away Mr and Mrs Wilson for the next seven days.

 It was when he turned towards the house, bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed. Laughing!

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I do apologise wholeheartedly to Shakespeare and Cleopatra) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were “Age cannot wither……”

Well it was a very warm morning.

The Tenby Book Fair is moving and Being Renamed…The Narberth Book Fair. Ta dah!!

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Welcome to the first post of the Narberth Book Fair.

Just to let you know that we have decided we have outgrown the Church House in Tenby.  Having searched around for a suitable place we have found the perfect venue. So the Tenby Book Fair will no longer be held in Tenby. In fact it will no longer be the Tenby Book Fair but the Narberth Book Fair. We are quite excited  to be having a new challenge and I’m sure we will be bigger and better… just in a different hall. In a different town.

From now on the Book Fair will be held at the Queens Hall there. Check out their website    https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/. As you can see it’s a vibrant and busy venue in a bustling little town full of interesting shops, antique places, cafes and restaurants. And there is a large nearby car park. But, sorry… no beach.

The date will be Saturday, the 23rd September. 10.00am to 4.oopm.

I’ve been to a few craft fairs at the Queens Hall with my books and always there is plenty of footfall.

A little information on Narberth; the former capital of Pembrokeshire boasts one of the best high-streets in the county. It’s a gorgeous little market town in the east of Pembrokeshire. Multi coloured Edwardian and Georgian buildings line the high street which has developed quite a reputation as a shopper’s heaven. many of the cafes, pubs and restaurants are award winners..

Transport:  Narberth has a railway station about a mile outside of town. And there are quite a few taxi firms based around and in Narberth. And, I’m sure, one or two of the authors who would be willing to pop there to meet stranded fellow authors 

Accommodation: Check out this website: http://bit.ly/2grbFXY. But I’m sure there are more dotted around

The History of Narberth:

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The town has grown around the walls of its stone castle, but the name is older than the castle. Narberth is derived from ‘Arberth’, the pre-Norman name for the district (or commote). This Celtic heritage is also represented in the myth and legend of the Mabinogion – ancient Welsh folk tales that were written down in the 14th century, originating from an earlier tradition of oral storytelling. Two branches of the Mabinogi in particular are centred on ‘Arberth’, which was reputedly the court of Pwyll, Prince of Dfydd.

So.. we have already had many of our usual authors wanting to take part in our inaugural book fair in Narberth. But we’re always thrilled to welcome new authors. Those interested in taking part please contact me: judithbarrow77@gmail.com 

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August 2016 is Write An Amazon Review Month! By @TerryTyler4 #AugustReviews

On Monday 25th July, book blogger Rosie Amber wrote this post encouraging readers and writers alike to post a short review on Amazon for any book they’ve read and enjoyed ~ following this up, Terry Tyler is starting this initiative along with other writer-bloggers including Rosie, Cathy from Between The Lines, Barb Taub, Shelley Wilson and Alison Williams.

 

The idea is that, from August 1st, everyone who reads this uses their Amazon account to post just one review on one book that they’ve read (but feel free to carry on if you get in the swing!).  You don’t even have to have read it recently, it can be any book you’ve read, any time.  The book does not have to have been purchased from Amazon, though if it is you get the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag on it; however, if you download all your books via Kindle Unlimited, as many do these days, they don’t show the VP tag, anyway.

 

Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next £1.99 Kindle book.  No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique; I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to read one short paragraph or a couple of lines saying what an average reader thought of a book, than a long-winded essay about the pros and cons of the various literary techniques used.  Yes, those are welcome too (!), but no more so than a few words saying “I loved this book, I was up reading it until 3am”, or “I loved Jim and Vivien and the dialogue was so realistic”, or whatever!

Book-Review

Why should you write a review?

They help book buyers make decisions.  Don’t you read the reviews on Trip Advisor before deciding on a hotel, or any site from which you might buy an item for practical use?  Book reviews are no different.

If the book is by a self-published author, or published by an independent press, the writers have to do all their promotion and marketing themselves ~ reviews from the reading public is their one free helping hand.

The amount of reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility (allegedly).  If you love a writer’s work and want others to do so, too, this is the best possible way of making this happen.

It’s your good deed for the day, and will only take five minutes!

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Off we go, then!  A few more pointers:

If you need any help with writing your review, do click on Rosie’s post, above.

A review can be as short as one word.  The shortest one I have is just two 🙂

You don’t have to put your name to the review, as your Amazon ‘handle’ can be anything you like.

No writer expects all their reviews to be 5* and say the book is the best thing ever written; there is a star rating guide on Rosie’s post.

Would you like to tell the Twittersphere about your review?  If so, tweet the link to it with the hashtag #AugustReviews ~ and thank you!  I will do one blog post a week featuring these links: The #AugustReviews Hall of Fame (thank you, Barb!).

 

August Reviews Hall of Fame (1)

 

If you have a blog and would like to spread the word about #AugustReviews, please feel free to copy and paste this blog post, provide the link to it, re-blog it, or whatever ~ many thanks, and I hope you will join in to make this idea a success 🙂

 

 

 

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Cruise Control

Another gem from Alan Roberts, student of one of my creative writing classes. His last post here: http://bit.ly/20Gvbh6 where he battles with the self service supermarket check-out

  Cruise Control

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We’d booked on MSC Lirica to cruise for almost a month from Dubai to Japan.  We embarked the ship at Dubai port on 5th April and that afternoon set sail for India and the beautiful coast of Goa.  That first day we explored the fairly large ship and spied a nice Café bar on Deck 6.  The second day was spent sunning ourselves on the upper deck before deciding, in the late afternoon, to make for the Café area.  The Indonesian man in charge of the bar we thought we recognised from a previous voyage with MSC and remarkably he appeared to recognise us.  He waved and smiled a welcome before despatching a waiter to take our order.  Betty ordered her usual latte whilst I, having weaned myself off cow’s milk some months previous, blithely ordered a soya milk hot chocolate.  Order taken, cruise card proffered, we sat back to await delivery.

Several minutes elapsed whilst behind the café’s counter there appeared to be some debate taking place.  Moments later the waiter and the Indonesian bar manager approached our seating area with the waiter holding only Betty’s cup of latte which he ceremoniously placed on its MSC inscribed coaster.  The Indonesian manager became most apologetic saying that he could not provide my hot chocolate as none of the café bars were provided with soya milk.  However, he had a possible remedy.  He sat alongside, nicely patting my arm.

“They (I assumed he referred to the Catering Section management) do not supply the café’s with soya so,” he hesitated for a short moment, “if you go to the restaurant you can ask the Maître’d to give you a carton of soya and then bring it back and I will make you the hot chocolate you want.”

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He nodded and smiled as he concluded his prepared speech.  I rose and took the stairs down to deck 5 and made my way to the restaurant at the rear of the ship.  Apart from two waiters who were preparing the evening dinner tables, the restaurant was empty.  I asked one of the waiters if the Maître’d was about.  He shook his head and simply said,

“Five o’clock,” before moving to another table.

I followed and asked, “May I speak with the Maître’d?”

He didn’t lift his head but merely said, once again, “Five o’clock”.

I tried vainly to explain why I was there but his grasp of the English language was even worse than mine of whatever his native tongue was.  He just repeated,

“Five o’clock,” before moving further away.

As it was just after four I had no inclination to wait for the Maitre’d to arrive by which time Betty would have finished her latte, given up waiting for me and gone elsewhere.

I had a thought (always dangerous in such circumstances) to go to the buffet on deck 11 and ask there for a carton of soya; so off I set taking the lift to the upper deck area.  One side of the buffet area was full of passengers having more than their fair share of the afternoon tea selection.  The waiters were fully occupied and so I moved to the other side where just a few people were sat.  I approached one of the waiters and explained why I was there and what I wanted.  He looked blankly at me before walking off.  I tried the second waiter, this time with a little more success.  He said he was unable to give me a carton of soya but I should ask a supervisor who, he said, were the waiters who had sleeves on their white jackets and he pointed in the direction of a young Chinese girl.  I thanked him and approached the supervisor.  I carefully explained to her why I was there and what I wanted.  She seemed to listen intently but then brusquely replied,

“No carton!”

I took her response to indicate the buffet didn’t have soya and so asked where I might get soya milk.

“Here”, she almost shouted.

Somewhat confused, I carefully asked, “Might I have one to take to the café bar on deck 6?”  She looked at me as though I had just walked through a garden of dog shit.

“No carton, only cup”, she almost wailed.

I then tried to explain that it would prove difficult to walk with a cup of soya from the buffet on deck 11, down either the lift or the stairs to reach the café on deck 6 without spilling some of the contents on my way.  She frowned incomprehension.  I tried to demonstrate walking with an imaginary cup full of soya milk and wobbling a bit and pretending some of it spilt onto the floor.  She now looked at me as though I was completely mad.  I asked again, very nicely I thought,

“Do you have cartons of soya there?” pointing into the buffet kitchen area.  She nodded.  I tried further, “Can I take one to the café bar on deck 6?”

Instantly her browed furrowed and now seemed to consider me completely thick.  She barked,

“No carton, only cup”.

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Having learnt over the years that when defeat stares you in the face you should give up gracefully and go along with whatever is being offered, so I said,

“May I have a cup of soya?”

“Hot?” she asked.

I nodded.  She disappeared into the kitchen and a moment later reappeared behind the serving counter, leaned down and took a carton from what I assumed to be a fridge.

“Is that a carton of soya?” I gently asked.

She nodded.

“May I take that back to deck 6?”

“No, no carton, only cup I tol’ you”, said with an emphasis between each part of the sentence.

She poured the soya into an MSC mug, replaced the soya packet into the fridge and again disappeared into the kitchen.  Within a moment she reappeared without the cup to ask,

“With chocolate?”

Totally defeated, I meekly nodded and she disappeared back into the kitchen before re-emerging with a cup of hot soya chocolate which, with a very false smile, she slid across the counter.

“Thanks,” I mumbled and walked off to find deck 6.  An hour had passed since I’d left Betty and there was a great deal of mirth as I walked towards the café bar with the steaming mug of soya chocolate and then related what had happened.

The cafe bars never did receive any soya milk and for the remainder of the cruise the Chinese supervisor was simply referred to as, “Only cup!”

©  Alan A Roberts   May 2016.