Places in our Memories: With Chris Lloyd #Memories #MondayBlogs #Crimewriter #CrimeCymru

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 really pleased to welcome Chris Lloyd, who I seem to have known for quite a while, yet I can’t remember where we met, but who has since become a good friend.

Over to you, Chris…

Thanks, Judith.

So here I am, remembering Girona …

You can’t help but feel love for a city that puts up a statue to books.

I knew very little about the language of Catalonia and nothing of its history when I went to live in Girona for six months in 1979, my year abroad on my degree course in Spanish and French. Sending me to study Spanish in the heartland of Catalan language and culture wasn’t perhaps the wisest move, but in the end I had no complaints. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was the first and one of the most important of the turning points in my life.

When I turned up one very hot morning at the end of August to start a teaching job in September, Franco had not yet been gone four years. Institutions were changing, slowly. Spain’s new Constitution had been approved, and a Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia voted in and enacted shortly after I turned up. Changes small and large, visible and not so visible, were taking place all around us. The most disreputable street names had been changed – either back to their original pre-dictatorship names or to new ones to mark the passing of the dictator and the return of democracy – but there were still others high up on the walls of buildings that were still in Castilian Spanish, waiting to be replaced.

The Catalan language had been banned under Franco, its use in public office prohibited, no songs recorded or books published (with the exception, eventually, of a small set of Catholic-funded tomes few people read). No Catalan holidays were observed or traditional celebrations allowed, and a pan-Spanish pseudo-culture was imposed on the country, not just in response to a burgeoning tourist industry but to dilute national and regional differences.

Catalan hadn’t been taught in schools since 1939, and there were at least two generations of Catalans who could speak their language, albeit with many ‘Castilianisms’ creeping in, but few of them could write it. So much of what had been taught about history and culture, hijacked by a petty and brittle dictatorship, had to be untaught and old subjects and thoughts rediscovered. Years later, researching for a guide book, I came across stories of archaeological sites that had been destroyed during the Franco years as the evidence they provided didn’t fit in with the new narrative that the dictatorship had demanded.

All around me, it felt like a people sloughing off a hide of oppression. More than that, it was a rebirth. A nation emerging dazzled into the sunlight after decades of darkness, suddenly being given a second chance, this time with a determination to get it right.

It was the most exciting and optimistic of times. And it just seemed to fit in with me and with my stage in my own history. I’d grown up in an insecure Wales that was torn between trying to revive its old identity and searching for a new one. I was the same. I was the youngest of three siblings, a bit of an age gap between me and my brother and sister, uncertain of where I fitted in. At twenty, when I went to Girona, I still had no real idea of who I was, collectively or individually, or of my place in the world.

Girona – and Catalonia – changed that. I was swept up in their renewal, in awe of their determination never to return to the days of every decision taken away from them and to move forward in asserting their own identity. It formed a sense of community in me and a sense of me in a community. The Catalans’ belief in the validity of their own language and culture made me take a fresh look at my own, at Wales. Beyond all of that, it made me take a fresh look at myself, at where I fitted in. And the lynchpin of that was the language. Lacking in self-confidence but blustery to hide shyness, I found that speaking in another language allowed me to overcome that. It was a façade I could hide my real uncertainties behind – my initial lack of fluency gave me an excuse for my lack of confidence and a way of overcoming it, while becoming fluent over time and the kind words said about my Catalan finally dispelled some of that insecurity.

Quite apart from the effect that that period in that place had on me, Girona itself is a beautiful city. To a twenty-something me, it was a whole new school and playground. An old quarter half-encircled by medieval city walls – in one of the most unfortunate urban decisions in history, the city council decided to knock down the other half of the walls in the 1930s to create an avenue – that was a den of minuscule alleys, smoke-filled jazz bars and elderly people sitting on upright chairs outside their front doors. A Jewish Quarter that had been so forcibly cut off from the rest of the city, it had created its own micro-climate. A cobbled hill that eventually led to Rome, part of the Via Augusta, and a towering Baroque cathedral atop Europe’s largest flight of Rococo steps that dominated the city as far as the Pyrenees.

And bookshops. A city with barely 100,000 people and there are about twenty bookshops, the vast majority of them independent. That’s why the city put up a statue to books. And it’s probably why, thirty-five years later, I set my first three novels in Girona, the first a story of clinging to the past while embracing the new. Full circle. From that first day in Girona, it gave me exactly that: the confidence to write and the curiosity to pursue it. Even my new series, set in Occupied France, owes its genesis to the lessons I began to learn in Girona.

I stayed in Catalonia. I went back to Girona for a few years after graduating before moving on to Bilbao, Madrid and Barcelona. In all, I stayed twenty-four years in Spain, twenty of them in Catalonia, and while Barcelona was where I lived the longest and the city I loved the most, Girona has always stayed with me as that first love you never forget and to which I owe so much.

Straight after graduating in Spanish and French, Chris Lloyd hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia and stayed there for over twenty years. He has also lived in Grenoble – researching the French Resistance movement – as well as in the Basque Country and Madrid, where he taught English and worked in educational publishing and as a travel writer. More recently, he worked as a Catalan and Spanish translator.

About Chris:

Chris now lives in Wales, where he writes the Occupation series, featuring Eddie Giral, a French police detective in Paris under Nazi rule. The first book in the series – The Unwanted Dead – won the HWA Gold Crown Award for best historical novel of the year and was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger Award for the best historical crime fiction. It was chosen as Waterstones Welsh Book of the Month. The second book in the series, Paris Requiem, will be published in February 2023.

He has also written a trilogy set in present-day Girona, in Catalonia, featuring Elisenda Domènech, a police officer in the devolved Catalan police force.

Links:

Website: https://chrislloydauthor.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrislloydbcn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrislloydbcn/

Places in our Memories: With Kathy Miles #poet #MondayBlogs #Memories

Today I’m really pleased to welcome wordsmith extraordinaire, Kathy Miles, to tell you about her memories. I’ve known Kathy and her works for some years, and today, for a change, I’m going to leave it to her to express her thought on Places in our Memories.

The places in our memories are constantly changing. New insight or knowledge might lead you to view a cherished place with different eyes; sometimes the place itself will have altered beyond recognition over the years, and your memory of it becomes elusive, so you ask yourself whether what you remember is the truth, or built upon a desire for it to be so. Sometimes they vanish. I live near the coast at Aberaeron, and sea-mists often obliterate the landscape so completely that it becomes hard to remember what it looks like on a hot summer’s day:

Some days the land is stolen from itself,

chimneys and slate roofs swallowed, village

and pit-head lost to this cold mouth of mist

as it muffles hymn and chapel bell, silences

the scold of crows that crowd around

the plough like a flock of ranting preachers.

(‘Vanish’)

In my case, these problems of recall are compounded by a breakdown I suffered in my mid-forties, which wiped away a good many of my childhood memories. What remains is fragmentary and fleeting; a series of impressions that appear occasionally, like landmarks emerging from a sea mist, or footprints that might at any moment be washed away by the tide.

Growing up in Liverpool, the sea and river were constants. My paternal grandfather and great-grandfather had been merchant seamen, and their love of the sea passed to my father and on to me. I remember standing with my Dad on the Cazzy, the Cast-Iron Shore on the banks of the Mersey, where the sand was rust-coloured from the residue of an old iron foundry. Dad was wearing a shirt and tie as always, jacket slung across his shoulders. His face had already reddened in the heat. We kept a wary eye on the tide. The river creeps quickly and silently over those mudflats, brimming up as suddenly as an unwatched bath. A slub of saltmarsh, shards of driftwood, and just up the river bank, old shipyards festering in the sunshine. From there you can see the outline of Welsh mountains across to Moel Famau. But it was the water Dad was staring at, with a kind of longing, as if he wished he could be whisked away to far horizons.

It was inevitable that our annual holidays would be taken by the sea. Cemaes Bay, Cornwall, and later on, Guernsey and Sark.  Mum would pack a picnic basket with boiled eggs and sandwiches, a thermos of tea, and the three of us walked to the nearest beach, stopping on the way to pick field mushrooms for next day’s breakfast. I’d head for the nearest rocks, fishing net in hand, and was soon absorbed in a rock-pool, catching tiny shrimps and sometimes a rockling or blenny. Dad fished for mackerel from the shore, whilst Mum would scoop out limpets to use as bait, and patiently rewind my crabbing line when I’d tangled the twine.

Home in Liverpool was a small bungalow, built on farmland in the 1930s as the edges of the city expanded. It was eight miles from the Mersey, but still close enough for us to be able to hear the ferry hooters blasting out in chorus to mark the start of each new year. Dad took the train to work each morning, and in the evenings I’d race up the road to West Allerton station and stand on the bridge as his train came in, usually getting covered in steam and smuts. If trains can be special memories of place, then these old steam trains are mine, with their plushly-covered seats, leather strap to pull up the window so the door could be opened, and pictures hung above the luggage rack. Even now I still feel the excitement of boarding a train, the promise of new experiences and unknown places.

At 18, having failed most of my A levels, I went to work in the Everyman Theatre for a year. I had to retake my exams if I had any hope of getting into university, and we also needed the money. The Everyman at that time was a shabby building in Hope Street, in desperate need of renovation, but with a fabulous bistro in the basement run by Paddy Byrne and Dave Scott. My job was a combination of ASM and general dogsbody. I helped out in the wardrobe department, sourced props, answered the telephone and manned the box office. On one occasion I even appeared on stage, though as I was crammed into the frame of a large fabric-covered snake, it was hardly going to make my fame and fortune as an actor. The company then included Antony Sher, Jonathan Pryce, Roger Sloman, Alison Steadman and David Goodland, and the director was Alan Dossor, who produced gritty, contemporary agitprop plays.  The actors shared a single dressing-room; costumes were often held up by safety pins or my dangerously-loose tacking stitches, and in one notable production of Caucasian Chalk Circle, Roger Sloman was carted off to hospital after being hit on the head by a large iron hook that descended from the ceiling at the wrong time. It was chaotic, but it was also fun. Everyone worked as a team, and when I left – very reluctantly – to go to university, I was presented with a large publicity poster of the whole cast as a present. Although the Everyman is now a state-of-the-art modern theatre, I’ll never forget that old building, which stank of fags and paint, sweaty tights and damp wood, and to me was as glamorous as anything in the West End.

When I came to Lampeter, however, I finally found my special place. The Everyman had been a wonderful experience, but I’d never felt truly at home in Liverpool. My Mum in later years said that Wales had stolen me away, and she was right. I had grown up with Welsh-speaking aunts, and from the moment I stepped off the rickety old Richards bus that brought me from Aberystwyth, I felt I had truly found my cynefin. Here I was near my beloved sea, and a landscape I instantly felt rooted to. In 1995 I published an anthology of poems and photographs, The Third Day; Landscape and the Word (Gomer Press), commissioning work from poets such as Dannie Abse, RS Thomas, Gillian Clarke, Sheenagh Pugh and Raymond Garlick. Travelling around Wales to photograph old Welsh sites gave me new places to tuck away in my memory, including the then-unrestored Aberglasney, where the photographer and I kissed surreptitiously in the Yew Tunnel, and a different chapter of my life began. If my memory of those early years is sometimes veiled in sea mist, and many of the places of my childhood no longer exist, the ones I have gained since then provide a constant source of delight, and inspiration for my writing.

About Kathy:

Born in Liverpool, Kathy Miles is a poet and short story writer living in West Wales. Her work has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and her fourth full collection of poetry, Bone House, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2020. Kathy is a previous winner of the Bridport Prize, as well as the Welsh Poetry, Second Light, Wells Literature, Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival and PENfro poetry competitions. She is a regular book reviewer and workshop facilitator, has co-edited The Lampeter Review, and guest-edited Artemis magazine.

Poetry Collections

Bone House  (Indigo Dreams, 2020)

Inside the Animal House (Rack Press, 2018)

Gardening With Deer (Cinnamon Press, 2016)

The Shadow House (Cinnamon Press, 2009)

The Third Day: Landscape and the Word (Gomer, 1995)

The Rocking Stone (Poetry Wales Press, 1988)

Other

Ugly as Sin and other clichés (Pentad Books, December 2020)

Links

https://www.indigodreamspublishing.com/kathy-miles

http://welshwriters.co.uk/kathy-miles/

http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/kathymilesbiog.shtml

Places in our Memories: With Hugh Roberts #MondayBlogs #Families #Christmas #Chocolates

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 really pleased to welcome Hugh Roberts to Places in our Memories.  Hugh has been a friend for many years and, besides being a writer, has a wealth of knowledge on blogging and how to get around all the glitches that WordPress throws at us. And he is always so generous in helping those of us who are technophobes. But, today, he’s here, telling us how he’d much rather have chocolate for Christmas dinner.

I have always been a lover of life. Yes, it’s thrown many curve balls at me and said: “here, deal with that!” but my love affair with life has never ended or been anywhere near ending. I could just ‘like’ life, but I have always adored it and will continue doing so until my’ sell-by date’ comes along. If I could marry life, I would have proposed many years ago.

There is one part of my life that I especially enjoy – Christmas. Unlike others who quickly grow out of Christmas after they reach teenager years, Christmas has never lost its magic. In the 60 years I have been on this earth, Christmas has never failed to deliver its magic to me.

The memory I am sharing with you today is extraordinary only because it includes three wonderful ladies I will never forget. So, let me take you back to a day I can remember and tell you what it means to me.

I’m sitting on the floor in the huge living room of our house. It’s the second home I have lived in since the day I was born. In front of me is a big high, dark wooden table and, on top of the table, I can just make out the brightly coloured yellow truck I had been given that day. The colour fascinated me and became my favourite colour until about twenty years ago when blue took over.

Sat at one end of the table, to my right, is the first of these ladies, my grandmother, Nana Wallington. She looks down at me and smiles. She has thick, black-rimmed spectacles, which make her eyes look huge. She’s wearing a green pork pie hat with two red cherries and a bit of tinsel stuck to the side and is dressed in a velvet green two-piece jacket and skirt. I wonder if the house isn’t warm enough because she hasn’t taken her hat off.

Underneath the jacket, I can see a cream cardigan helping her keep warm. She’s quite a chubby lady and adores me because I am her first grandchild. She has some white pearls around her neck, a Christmas present from my Grandfather Sam. He’s not my real grandfather but has always been in my life. Her lips are painted a bright red, and she has a pair of flat, black shoes and beige-coloured stockings on. They remind me of the stocking I was given the night before to hang on the bottom of my bed. My sister had the other leg of the stocking to hang on her bed.

To my left is the kitchen. I can see the back of the second of these extraordinary ladies, Mum. She’s busy peeling sprouts, and my grandmother reminds her to put little crosses on the bottom of each sprout with the knife. I wonder why the sprouts must be crossed. As if by magic, my mother asks the question. Because that’s what your grandmother did with sprouts at Christmas, my grandmother replies.

I can see lots of steam from various pots boiling away on the stove, and the house smells of ‘roast dinner.’ But I’d rather delve into some of the selection boxes I’d been given that morning. Full of yummy chocolate, I’d much rather eat chocolate than cooked dinner.

Mum is wearing a green and red festive dress and a new pair of slippers, which are tartan green and have cream-coloured fur inside them. She continues to talk to my grandmother about how long it will be before the men return from the pub.

Behind me, I can hear a baby stir. My baby sister, Jayne, is the third of these special ladies in my life. She doesn’t understand what day it is. Stupid girl, I think. You’re missing all the fun.

I look behind me. In the corner sits a small, artificial Christmas tree lit up by colourful Victorian-looking lanterns. I love looking at bright red, green, blue, and yellow lights. I squint my eyes to make the colours blend into each other. For the rest of my life, coloured lights will always be a part of Christmas. The tree is on a small table to prevent me from getting my hands on the pretty foil-wrapped chocolates which hang from some of its branches. There are no gifts under the tree because they’ve all been opened, most of which are scattered across the living room floor.

Jayne starts to cry, and my grandmother gets up and peeks inside the carrycot while my mother continues to prepare dinner. Besides me, I notice some of the selection boxes my mother forgot to move, one of which is opened. On the front of each selection box is a picture of Father Christmas in his sleigh, pulled by some reindeer over some snowy roofs and chimney pots of houses. The scene on the boxes gives me a peaceful, snug, cosy, happy feeling.

Pictures of the various chocolate bars and sweets inside the box are displayed on the back of each box. To my grandmother’s dismay, I’ve eaten most of the contents of the opened box. She tells Mum that I won’t want to eat my Christmas dinner! She’s right. I’d much rather have chocolate for dinner.

On the ceiling are two colourful honeycomb paper bells, one just above me and the other down the room’s far end. When taken down, unclipped, and closed, they both look like the shape of a boot, the type of boot my mother wears when going out. When taking them down from the ceiling, my father would always say how when folded back, they reminded him of a country called Italy and that one day he would like to take us all there for a holiday. Only I ever made it to Italy.

My grandmother and Mum continue to talk while I play with one of the toys delivered the night before. It’s a spinning top that makes a whirling noise when I push down on the handle. Letting go, I watch with amazement as all the colours on the toy merge into each other.

Mum eventually comes into the room with two small glasses of sherry and hands one to my grandmother. Even though I am just coming up to school age, I already know that these three special people will be the three most important ladies in my life and that the date will always be special to me.

“Merry Christmas,’ says my grandmother as she raises her glass.

“Yes, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday, Hugh,” replies my mother.

Hugh W. Roberts – Social Media and other links.

Blog: Hugh’s Views and News

Twitter: @HughRoberts05

Flipboard

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Link for Glimpses

Link for More Glimpses

Remembering Past Places in our Memories: Roundup of November 2022 #Memories #MondayBlogs #houses #families #childhoods #Holidays

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 a round-up of the Places in our Memories posted over the last few weeks. There have been some wonderful memories shared.

Phil Rowlands gave us a very poignant account of the many special memories he has of Newgale in Wales. https://tinyurl.com/wkevacw6

Liz Hines brought to life her memories of growing up in a house that was once a public house (called Albert House, her childhood home has, unfortunately, been in a state of disrepair for some time now), and told us what it was like to live in a strong matriarchal family. https://tinyurl.com/2anfptxb.

Marjorie Mallon talked about her love of botanical gardens, recalling, in particular, her admiration for Cambridge Botanical Garden in the United Kingdom, and her respect for sculptural/artistic and wonders of engineering science. She also shared one or two of her poems with us. https://tinyurl.com/yc325da8

And finally, Jane Frazer told us us how, although enjoying a wonderful holiday in… she missed her homeland of Wales… and how it brought other thoughts: https://tinyurl.com/msnchysx.

This month, in the lead up to Christmas, we’ll only have one post in December, on the 19th, but I can guarantee it will be a fascinating Christmas memory. I hope you enjoy reading it. In January 2023, we will begin another round of Places in our Memories.

Our Walk Around lake Vyrnwy (With a bit of History Thrown in) #photography #walks #memories #humour #MondayBlogs

‘Let’s go to Lake Vyrnwy,’ Husband said. ‘Take some photos.

“Take some photos”, is a phrase that has been used many time down the years of our marriage. Sometimes it makes my heart sink; it often means I carry on walking along a chosen trail, before realising I’ve left Husband behind, oblivious, and capturing, “just the right shot” and have to retrace my steps. I have complained that this means I have walked miles more than him, but he, (“quite reasonably,” he says) means I’m burning more calories off. I ignore the implication of this… normally… but make sure I eat his chocolate bar as well as my own, when we stop for lunch.

Anyway… Lake Vyrnwy...

Just on the edge of The Snowdonia National Park and south of Lake Bala, Lake Vyrnwy is set amidst the remote and beautiful Berwyn Mountains. With spectacular waterfalls, and unspoilt open countryside. Except that, although the scenery is, as always, fantastic, the waterfalls are sadly depleted. As is the reservoir. However, since these photos were taken in August, and we’ve had such downpours, with fingers crossed, an inch or two may have been added to the water level. One can but hope!

We parked in a designated area that was supposed to be on the edge of the lake. It wasn’t; the water was so low we could have walked quite a few metres on shingle that should… would … in ‘normal times’ be submerged. It reminded us that, underneath, was a village, lost many years ago.

Llanwddyn was a village on the hillside next to the Cedig river. There were thirty-seven houses, three chapels and a Church of St John, and, in the surrounding countryside, ten farmsteads. Farming was the main occupation of the people in the valley, they ate simple food, such as mutton broth, porridge, gruel, and milk and burned peat from the moors in their fireplaces.

But, with expanding industries in the the Midlands and the north-west of England, and the prospect of higher wages, many people left. To make matters worse for those still trying to make a living from the land, in 1873 the local vicar,Reverend Thomas H. Evans published a report that the area was useless for agriculture, because it was waterlogged for much of the winter.

Seeing this, made us realise how many streams must has poured down the hills. Imaging the rush of water, I suppose it’s easy to understand the Reverend’s statement. Yet it has left me wondering why he wrote the report. Was he paid? Were the villagers aware of what he’d done? If they did find out, what was the reaction? I haven’t been able to discover that. The writer in me is itching to research that time. It did coincide with a time when the authorities of Liverpool were exploring the country for sites to build a new reservoir to cope with the growing population on both sides of the Mersey. So who’s to say!

Various sites were under consideration in northern England and Wales, but in most cases there were snags By 1877 a group of engineers arrived in Llanwddyn. Their visit was to look into the possibility of damming the river Vyrnwy. A survey revealed a large area of solid rock, just where the valley narrowed, two miles south of the village, which could act as a base for creating a large, artificial lake that had the potential for holding many millions of gallons of water.

It brings a feeling of awe, of sadness, almost, to be walking on land that is normally submerged under water, on land where a village once stood, where people once lived.

Driving further around the lake we pass a sign at the side of the road – “Track to impressive hillside view. Not to be missed”. Well, if ever there was a challenge to a photographer, that was it. Husband got out of the car and disappeared for a few minutes, soon to return. ‘It doesn’t look too bad. Come on.’

And indeed the first few steps were not too bad. And then we turned a corner… to be faced by an almost vertical path, a rocky vertical path. I stopped; why do I always let myself be fooled?

‘Come on, it’s not far!’ He said that numerous times for the next ten minutes. Hauling me from bend to bend. ” Think of the view!”

I couldn’t think of anything, except how to get my next breath.

But I had to admit, the view was worth it. The coniferous forests planted around the lake by the Forestry Commission are impressive.

On the way back, Husband found two stout branches to use as walking sticks, to scrabble down between mossy rocks and sliding muddy stones. It was either that or an undignified descent on my backside.

In 1880 the Liverpool Corporation Waterworks Act was passed by Parliament, and received the Royal Assent. Preparations were at once put in hand to gather the work-force and equipment necessary for the construction of what was to become the first large masonry dam in Britain and the largest artificial reservoir in Europe at the time. Work on the site began in July 1881.

The stone for the masonry was obtained from the quarry specially opened. All other materials were brought by horse and cart from the railway station at Llanfyllin, ten miles away. Stabling for up to 100 horses was built in Llanfyllin. The labour force topped 1,000 men at the busiest stage of the work on the dam. Many of them were stone masons working in the quarry, dressing the stone which was not easy to handle.

In a very short time the dam was completed. The village of Llanwddyn, and all buildings in the valley that were designated to be covered by the water, were demolished.

©Martin Edwards

St Wddyn’s church was built on the hill on the north side to replace the parish destroyed by the flooding of Vyrnwy valley. Many of the graves were relocated from the graveyard of the old church to St Wddyn’s before it was flooded. It was was consecrated on the 27 November 1888, the day before the valves were closed. It took a year before the water reached and spilled over the lip of the dam.

On a previous walk, some years before, we witnessed a wedding procession coming from the church, led by a chimney sweep in all his glory. Apparently it’s considered lucky to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day, the belief being they bring good luck, wealth, and happiness. The bride and groom did look joyous. I would have loved to have tagged onto the procession, but, that day, we were looking for “a good view of the water”, further along the road.

On the same hill as the church a monument was erected in memory of ten men who died in accidents on the site during the building of the dam and another thirty-four who died from other causes at the time.

Stone houses, matching the stone of the dam, were built on either side of the valley for the people whose homes had disappeared under the lake. I suppose there must have been a lot of opposition to flooding the valley to provide Liverpool with water at the time, and since, but records have apparently shown that it brought prosperity and stability to the area.

Our final excursion on our walk was to the waterfalls.

One of the highest is the Rhiwargor waterfall at the northern end of Lake Vyrnwy. From the car park I was relieved to see the relatively flat path along the valley of the river Eiddew. There was a trail leading up and up along the side of the falls. Despite much attempted persuasions, I declined, and opted for a coffee and a picnic at a nearby picnic table. And I ate his chocolate bar! Well, after that impromptu climb earlier, I thought I deserved it. Who said I hold grudges?!!

N.B. The Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve and Estate that surrounds the lake is jointly managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Hafren Dyfrdwy (Severn Dee). The reserve is designated as a national nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, and a Special Area of Conservation.

Places in our Memories: With Marjorie Mallon #MondayBlogs #Memories #Gardens and Sculptural Treasures

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 am so pleased to welcome MJ Mallon. I have known Marjorie through her great support of other writers, especially with her work as poet, a blogger, and a book reviewer. She is also founder of the Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club. I have long admired her work.

Welcome, Marjorie.

Thank you so much to Judith for inviting me to talk about my places in our memories.

There are so many precious memories in our lives gathered from childhood to adulthood and beyond. In this series,  I would like to talk about my love of botanical gardens – in particular Cambridge Botanical Garden in UK, and my respect for sculptural/artistic and wonders of engineering science.

In particular, nature has been a wonderful inspiration in my writing… I visited the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge often, working nearby – and being in the lucky position of having a free pass from my work!  My employer encouraged us to attend an in-house mindfulness course which further enhanced my sense of awareness, allowing me to utilise all my senses on my daily walks.

I am a visual writer gaining ideas from immersing my consciousness in the world around me. I remember our first task in Mindfulness training was simply to eat a raisin slowly, savouring it, and noticing any sensations as we did!

The mindful magic of the garden kept me enthralled, with the leaves of the trees gently rustling in the breeze, or shedding, or colour changing their welcome celebrating all the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, the changes in colour delighting me.

Let me introduce you to some of the  unexpected animals and birds who greeted me there… one day I spotted a ginger cat who became one of the inspirations in Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose as did the cute robin and the dragonfly.

Here are some poems and photos from the collection…

Red, Devil’s Needle,

Or luck bringer with kind eyes?

Ancient, sweet fellow,

Secret magic bestower,

Change tumbling on fragile wings.

© M J Mallon

Bench,

A bird,

Red-breasted,

So, tame you rest,

Beside me robin,

Two friends on a park bench,

One human, one of nature,

I appreciate your kind time,

Until you away… exploring far,

Hinting at possibilities you go. 

I wonder what you notice in your world.

And why you choose that ground to explore,

When you could have stayed here with me,

In mindful meditation.

Maybe you’ll visit me,

Christmas day, perhaps?

To bring good cheer,

Until then,

Peace to,

You.

Tree and nature poems are also the focus  in my latest poetry collection: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet and nature will also feature in my soon to be published Do What You Love.

I have to say I miss the gardens now I’ve moved away from Cambridge. I am currently spending time in Portugal in a long stay holiday residence and the rest of the time in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Whilst  I was in Edinburgh I was delighted to be asked to provide copies of two of my poetry collections: Mr. Sagittarius and  Prose and Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity to prestigious libraries in the UK: National Library of Scotland, The Bodleian Library Oxford University, National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, The Library of Trinity College Dublin, and The British Library in London. And… my Curse of Time fantasy series, (which is with a Japanese Publisher,) are now held at my old school FP library at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh. It’s nice to know a little piece of me is to be kept for posterity for people to read in the UK!

So, with regards to poetry, my botanical delight has served me well! Giving me a chance to explore a happy place in my writing.

Further memories… sculptural and artistic in nature… drew my attention and captured my heart in Cambridge, England… the Corpus Christi grasshopper clock in King’s Parade and Juniper Artland’s Anya Gallaccio’s crystal grotto provided the initial inspiration for dark fantasy The Curse of Time series, Bloodstone and Golden Healer which are published by Next Chapter Publishing. And… I was so lucky to meet and be invited to lunch with the world renowned inventor of the clock, Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE  in Cambridge, UK, which was definitely a highlight of my life in 2017! There was such synergy in the meeting as he loves clocks and crystals too! Talking to him has given me such a respect for the wonders of engineering innovation.

More about the three clocks on his blog – the grasshopper, the midsummer fly and the dragon! https://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/

Just to add – exciting news on Marjorie’s behalf. Her next new book is out to preorder.

Blurb

Do What You Love Fragility of Your Flame Poems, Photography & Flash Fiction is a personal poetry collection celebrating how the fates may have a part in all that we do.

With special poems and short reflective moments inspired by family, flowers and nature, love, scrumptious morsels, places I’ve visited, lived and intend to live in, the friendships and hopes I have for the future.

The overarching theme is to live a life well lived… And to do what you love.

float along with me

create clouds of sweetest joy

to do what you love

hold fate’s hand as we venture

near and far on life’s journey

Release Date: 25th November 2022, able to preorder via the following links.

Until we meet again… sweet robin, dragonfly, cat and scary grasshopper… and all the other creatures both real, created or imagined… Goodbye, adeus, tchau!

Next Chapter Publishing

Acclaimed YA Fantasy series, The Curse of Time:

Bloodstone and Golden Healer

For details of publications please visit:

https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/mj-mallon

Kyrosmagica Publishing

Acclaimed Poetry and Flash Fiction

Poetry and Flash Fiction: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet

https://bookstoread/u/mv1oev

Poetry, Prose and Photography: Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose http://mybook.to/MrSagittarius

Pandemic Poetry: Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity

http://mybook.to/Lockdown Innit

Pandemic Anthology: This IsLockdown

http://mybook.to/Thisislockdown

Kyrosmagica publications are available on Amazon kindle, Kindle unlimited and paperback.

Short Stories in Anthologies:

Bestselling horror compilations

Nightmareland compiled by Dan Alatorre

“Scrabble Boy” (Short Story)

Spellbound compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Twisted Sisters” (Short Story)

Wings of Fire compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Great Pottoo” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2019 compiled by Claire Plaisted“Dexter’s Creepy Caverns” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2020 compiled by Claire Plaisted

“No. 1 Coven Lane” (Short Story)

For all my publications and contributions to anthologies please refer to my Author Blog: https://mjmallon.com and my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L/

All my links are available via: https://linktr.ee/mjmallonauthor

Author Bio

MJ’s favourite genres to write are fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. She celebrates books, the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at her blog home: https://mjmallon.com

She’d describe herself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!
M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad to Portugal. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in Edinburgh. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile to greet her.

She writes fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.

ABOUT M J Mallon

My favourite genres to write are Fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. I celebrate the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at my blog home: https://mjmallon.com

I’d describe myself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained, and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.

I write fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.

Places in our Memories: With Liz Hinds #MondayBlogs #Memories

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 really pleased to welcome Liz Hines to Places in our Memories. She brings to life her memories of growing up in a house that was once a public house, and living in a strong matriarchal family.

Home

It took the builders three days to knock through the wall of my bedroom to put in a window. Day after day, they chipped and hammered and swore until the hole in the four foot thick wall was big enough to let in the sun, but bigger than the view of Polly Garter next-door’s garden deserved.

The slate steps that led up to the always-open front door featured in countless family photos

My bedroom was at the back of the house in the part that had already withstood eight generations. In my great-great-great-grandfather’s day it had been a public house. Years later, when it was finally rid of the smell of ale and gin, my great-grandmother wanted the front, which at that time still bore the legend, ‘Albert Inn’, fashionably pebble-dashed. The work had scarcely begun before the local bigwig, Harry Libby, came thundering to the door, ‘What are you doing, woman? This is sheer vandalism, destroying the heritage of the village.’ My great-grandmother didn’t give birth to twelve and raise eight children to be told what she could or couldn’t do with her own home — especially not by an upstart village boy — and she told him so.

That house, the place of my birth and my home for twenty-five years, stands in the middle of a terrace in the heart of the village. It was a matriarchal household: throughout my childhood there were four generations of women living there, my grandmother being the dominant force. My grandfather was a quiet gentle man, content to sit in his chair by the window, listening to the wireless and smoking his cigarettes. The room he sat in we called the kitchen, though all cooking, and washing of clothes, dishes, and bodies, was done in the scullery under the corrugated tin roof.

The kitchen was a low-ceilinged room where the light was always on and the fire always lit. The one window looked out onto a limed wall, eight feet high and three feet away. It was a small room crowded with furniture  – a settee, two armchairs, a bureau, and a dining table with assorted chairs. Shabby but clean and polished.

I see my grandmother now, bustling in.

“Put some more coal on, Jack, the fire’ll be out in a minute.”

Her husband chooses to not hear her.

“I suppose I’ll have to do it myself. Wait till I see that coalman, giving me this English rubbish, I’ll tell him.”

She rakes the fire and shovels on more coal. Standing up she wipes her hands on her pinny and then stops in her tracks. She picks up a candlestick from the mantelpiece and tuts.

“I’ll have to clean these tomorrow.”

It will take her all morning to polish the candlesticks and horse brasses and souvenirs of trips to Tenby, and when she’s done, the house will smell of Brasso for the rest of the day.

It is she who is largely responsible for my upbringing, my mother having to go out to work in order to keep me fed though I was clothed in hand-me-down dresses from my conveniently six-month older and much richer cousin.

My grandmother’s father had died the year before I was born leaving a legacy of legend. He – almost single-handedly if family history is to be believed – built Ford’s first factories in America. When the hiraeth became too strong, and he returned home to Wales, Henry Ford himself – again, the stuff of family myth – came to our village and begged him to return, offering to transport the whole family back to the States. But the women wouldn’t go and a good thing too else my story would be completely different.

 As I said, my great-grandmother had eight surviving children and her presence in my growing-up home meant a constant flow of visitors. The encompassing of me within this extended family provided a shelter, the walls of which were stronger than bricks and mortar, and it was easy to ignore the non-existence of one person, to have only a vague awareness that something was missing but that it didn’t really matter much. I was surrounded with love and its Welsh synonym, good home cooking. When there were lots of us, the family, there for dinner we would pull out the table and I would squeeze onto the bench next to the wall. This was my favourite place, where the bricks I leaned against were warmed by Mr Shires next door’s fire. I sat quietly in the glow of conversation and knew that here I was safe.

Back in the late 1920s, two of my gran’s sisters were married from Albert House in a double wedding.

In 1964 I passed my eleven plus and the door to the another world, to Glanmor Grammar School, a more precarious world of Latin and physics, was opened to me. There was one other fatherless girl in the class but her father had had the decency to die. I lied to those who wanted to know that my father worked abroad. The summer of love was still to come and, in any case, free love only applied to the beautiful people out there, not the parents of good grammar school girls in South Wales.

My French teacher was called Miss George. She was soft-spoken with a gentle face and greying uncontrollable hair. In her lesson she asks around the class the question, “Est ce que faites votre pere?” Thirty three girls sitting in rows waiting for their turn, or in my case, praying for the bell to ring, please, before Miss George gets to me, please don’t let her ask me. Shall I lie, make up an answer? “Il est un medecin. “”Tres bien,” where does he work? No, I’d blush, stutter, be caught out. “Mon pere est mort.” Convenient but they all know. The bell rings, the problem goes away for today, and I go home to steak and kidney pie and rice pudding.

 So was that it? The worst I had to bear? It stands out in my memory but when I stop and think, try as I might, I cannot recall one unkind comment, not one slur on my parentage through the whole of my childhood and adolescence. If that was as bad as it got, then surely the family did its job well.

When I enter the house that is now my home, I breathe in the same sense of security that my first home gave me; I hope my children feel it here too.

Albert House has been in a state of disrepair for a few years now

I was the last of the family to be born in Albert House and I linger over the link with the past. I’ve looked on old maps, tried to locate the public house that was to become my home. I’ve never been able to find it.

About Liz:

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/3njxzep4

https://www.facebook.com/liz.hinds1

Twitter: @LizHindsAuthor

Remembering Past Places in our Memories: Roundup of October 2021 #Memories #MondayBlogs #houses #families #childhoods

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 a round-up of the Places in our Memories posted over the last few weeks. There have been some wonderful memories shared:

Georgia Rose lived in several different houses as a child but here she told us about the one she loved and thinks about most frequently; the one she and her family moved from when she was around four years old: https://tinyurl.com/y2u3anvt

Darlene Foster told us about the time her baby brother was born during the blizzards at her near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada: https://tinyurl.com/mr2us8tb

Jan Baynham was transported back to her happy childhood growing up in a tiny village, Newbridge-on -Wye, in mid-Wales, where her family lived with her lovely grandad: https://tinyurl.com/44phx2z3

Jane Risdon told us how, shortly after she was born, her father left for the Korean War and so she and her mother moved in with her paternal grandfather — a former British Indian Army Major: https://tinyurl.com/mtdcrdkp

Today we begin another round of Places in our Memories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do.

Places in our Memories: With Jane Risdon #MondayBlogs #Memories

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 be welcoming online friend, Jane Risdon, here to tell us about her childhood memories.

Thanks so much for inviting me, Judith, it is lovely to be able to share my memories with you.

Soon after I was born, my father left for the Korean War, and my mother and I, moved in with my paternal grandfather — a former British Indian Army Major —with my dad’s sister, and brother, although not long after, my uncle immigrated to Australia.

During my first two years living with them all, I recall the house being filled with music when my uncle was there, and he, his sister, and my mum, would jitterbug and waltz around the breakfast room to the radio or their 78rpm record collection, to the music of Nat King Cole, Johnny Rae, Guy Mitchel, Alma Cogan, Bill Haley, Ann Sheridan, Doris Day, and so many others whose music I grew up to love.

My parents met when my dad was an Officer Cadet Instructor at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1947, when she and her sisters used to go to the dances in the Old College. Eventually, she married my dad, and one of her sister’s married his best friend, who was an instructor too. Sandhurst features greatly in our family history – another story one day, perhaps.

Grandfather’s Victorian era house in Aldershot, was on three floors and was full of Indian memorabilia and furnishings. Tables with elephant tusks (I know, don’t let’s go there), and grand carvings on the wooden legs and surfaces. Rugs and tapestries weaved by Indian artisans with scenes of tigers, and other animals covered the walls and floors. There were various other pieces of art and furniture I can barely recall. But I can still remember the smells of camphor in the parlour, and the ‘carpet’ smell given off by the wall hangings and Persian rugs which were everywhere.

On the ground floor as you stood at the front door, there was a lovely entrance hall, with decorated floor tiles. On the left there was the parlour, where a grand fireplace dominated the room. On the mantlepiece there were various vases and other ornaments and, eventually, I was bequeathed them by my grandfather, who inherited them from his mother. Apparently I was fascinated by them as a toddler, and I must admit I loved them as I was growing up.

On the right looking ahead there was the staircase with ornate bannisters. Opposite the stairs on the left, there was a breakfast room leading into a scullery and kitchen with a backdoor onto the garden. ‘Joey,’ the budgie had a cage in the breakfast room, which had a huge dresser along one wall, displaying most of my parent’s wedding presents, in the form of a full white dinner service, Japanese fine porcelain tea and coffee sets, and in the huge drawers their Indian linen was held, along with their damask table linen, and canteen of silverware, and similar items.

Joey, the budgie, was fun too. He used to talk all the time and said funny things, because I can recall everyone going into hysterics every time he said anything. Years later, I learned that he used to swear, not that I ever heard anyone in the family using bad language, Joey seemed to have picked it up from somewhere.

The scullery held the sink and  gas cooker. I’m not sure if there was a fridge when I lived there – I was only there from birth until I was two, but years later I used to visit with my parents and siblings and so the timescale for my memories probably get intermingled with other times. I’m always transported back to that scullery, whenever I smell Lifebuoy, Imperial Leather, and Wright’s Coal Tar Soaps. Sticks of celery in a glass container filled the air with their fragrance whenever we had afternoon tea. I’m sure we ate other things, but I cannot recall.

Years later when I had brothers and sisters and we’d visit him on a Sunday, the smells were still there, although, by then these were joined by the smell of baking because grandad had a live-in housekeeper who was an excellent cook.

Grandfather in his Major’s uniform. Grandfather and his brother before deploying to France

My grandfather was strict. Children were seen and not heard. I was another of his soldiers under his command, although he was a kind man. One was not allowed to speak until spoken to, one was not allowed to fold one’s arms or rest them on the table. There was a certain way to behave when dining and his training has never left me. Bad table manners drive me mental.

Grandfather lied about his age and joined the Army aged fourteen, having been a boarder at the Duke of York Military School for the children of widows of soldiers, where he was joined by two of his brothers who also enlisted in the Army.  Apparently they didn’t question Grandfather’s enlistment and he was in France soon after, fighting in WW1. My Grandparents married in England in the 1920s. They went out to India soon after their marriage and lived there until partition in 1947. He served in Africa in WW2, leading his men — including Gurkhas, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus from India, to fight Rommell in the desert. He rose to the rank of acting Lieutenant Colonel but retired as a Major.

During WW2, my grandmother drove ambulances carrying wounded soldiers from the docks to the hospitals where they were living in India. She was a fashion icon, I gather, wearing trouser suits when ladies were frowned upon if they wore them, and she favoured huge picture hats when driving, which caused a stir. She also took in lodgers when my grandfather was in Africa, and her guests included jockeys for the various Maharajahs, including the Maharajah of Jaipur’s favourite rider.

My grandparents divorced when my father and his siblings — who were born and grew up in India — were very young. Grandmother remarried and went out to South Africa where she and her Argentinian husband, purchased an ostrich farm, and later a grand hotel in the Valley of a Thousand Hills in Natal. She died in her late forties, in South Africa. My father and his brother never saw her again, although their sister spent time with them in South Africa as a small child, and later, which I will go into further on.

My father, and his younger brother and sister in India

Ayah with Dad and Roy

My father and his siblings were educated in the Himalayas. He and his brother went to a college in Simla (Shimla), known as the Queen of Hill stations, and their sister went to a convent elsewhere. The boys could count future presidents, prime ministers, princes, and maharajas amongst their school mates. They spent nine months of the year in the mountains and came down for the summer which they spent with their parents in Quetta, Poona, and other places they lived. Although, mostly they were looked after by their Ayah (nanny), it seems from all accounts, their childhood spent in India, was idyllic and magical most of the time. The boys were taught by Christian Brothers, although the family was Church of England, and my aunt was taught by Catholic nuns. One day her school had a visit from Mahatma Gandhi, and she was introduced to him, and shook his hand. He then went outside the school, sat by the gates, and greeted various people, wearing his loin cloth! She has a clear memory of it but has no idea why he was visiting in his loin cloth.

My father in Sumatra circa 1953

Father as a child with brother and Quetta Hills Tribesmen

My father joined the British Indian Army in India after the war, when he was old enough, and was sent to Africa and various other ‘hot spots,’ before ending up in England, at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he eventually met and married my mother.

Back to the house. In the hall, next to the stairs, there were steps down into the sitting room. Again, the smell of Indian wooden furniture is a prevailing memory. I can’t recall what else was in the room, but there were double French doors opening on to the back garden. In the garden, the smell of creosote is a vivid memory. It coated the wooden fence panels, and the garden shed, and when the sun shone the creosote seemed to smell stronger.

Father in the Korean War

When I was two, Mum and I flew to Singapore to join my dad, who’d been posted from Korea to Malaya — The Malayan Emergency —  to take part in the counter-insurgency operations by Britain, which lasted from 1948-1960, and resulted in the defeat of Communist rebels, attacking the rubber plantations and murdering Malayans. We lived in Singapore for a few years, and I have quite vivid memories of our time there. I recall meeting my father for the first time at the airport, and shooting up inside my mother’s skirt, apparently wanting, ‘that nasty man’ to go away. It took months to accept him. It seems that as a toddler every man I met I called ‘daddy,’ and even the station master on Aldershot railway station was called ‘daddy,’ until one day he took my mother aside and suggested she tell ‘that poor child,’ who her father is.

Flying to Singapore, before Jet engines, took over a week, one way. We had frequent stops for lunch, and refuelling, in various countries, and we overnighted in a number of other countries, unable to fly at night. Sights and smells I can still recall, especially India; staying in Calcutta, Karachi, and Bombay — as they were known back then. I clearly remember coming off the plane for a lunchtime stop, and seeing an Indian lady, in a sari, with rings through her nose, with bare feet.

On the first floor in my grandfather’s house, there were several bedrooms and a bathroom. The floor in the bathroom was tiled in black and white, and one afternoon I managed to lock myself in there and had to be rescued by my uncle — via a ladder — put up to the bathroom window. He was able to unlock the door from the inside.

The next floor had more bedrooms and a bathroom, and I suppose I must have gone inside them at some point. I can’t recall. Although, I know one bed was so high off the ground, my great grandparents, when visiting, used to take a running jump to get on to it, which must have been a sight for sore eyes, considering they were both in their nineties!

I’m not sure where my grandfather’s room, my uncle’s, or my mother’s was, but they were on this floor. But I do recall my teenage aunt’s room. It was like an Aladdin’s cave. She had so many pairs of shoes and handbags, which I liked to play with. And, she had an amazing collection of dolls which were on her bed. The dolls could be turned upside down and there would be another doll under their clothes. I spent many hours playing with them, carefully, of course.

Jane around 1952 

Just before we left for Singapore, my grandmother visited from South Africa, mainly to see if her daughter would go back with her to live at their hotel, The Valley of a Thousand Hills Hotel, in KwaZulu-Natal. She arrived at my grandfather’s house with her new husband — they were on their honeymoon in Europe — complete with chauffeur-driven car. She refused to pick me up in case I messed up her furs and haute couture outfit. She gave me a dress and a doll, I believe. After a while they took off with my aunt in tow, to tour the West Country, so my aunt could decide if she wanted to go to South Africa or not. My aunt decided to remain with her father. Grandmother returned to South Africa and died four years later.

Amah 1954 with her niece.

Singapore was amazing. So different to the way it is today.  My husband, and I, have lived there on several occasions throughout recent years, when working with Chinese recording artists. In 1954 it was a town surrounded by jungle, and I can clearly remember how it was.

Singapore Junk with city in the background.

We lived in flats, with the parade ground behind us, and every morning you could hear the men on parade, the music, and the marching. I had an Amah (nanny) to look after me. She used to take me into her room and feed me raw fish and rice, and I would squat on the floor with her to eat it with chopsticks.

I had a little friend, older than me, called Janice, and we used to swim in the sea together, and go to the park for picnics and play on the swings. We also went to the Botanical Gardens. Our parents had an amazing social life and would often cross the Straits from Singapore to Jahor Bahru, to dine and go dancing.

I cannot recall the flat. I do remember sitting on the steps inside the flat with Janice, and somewhere there is a photo.

RMA Heritage Day 2016

Having a parent in the Army, I spent my childhood until my teens, travelling and living around the world. Going to so many different schools, it was almost impossible to make long-term friends. Eventually, working and living overseas with my husband, in the music business, I’ve found it hard to call anywhere home. Picking one place to concentrate on, has been difficult. I hope you’ve enjoyed my memories of the early years with my grandfather, and of living in Singapore.

About Jane:
Jane Risdon is the co-author of ‘Only One Woman,’ with Christina Jones (Headline Accent) and ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing), as well as having many short stories published in numerous anthologies. She writes for several online and print magazines such as Writing Magazine, Electric Press, and The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine.
She is a regular guest on international internet podcasts including UK Crime Book Club (UKCBC), Donnas Interviews Reviews and Giveaways, and on radio shows such as theauthorsshow.com, chatandspinradio.com, and The Brian Hammer Jackson Radio Show.
Undercover: Crime Shorts is being used by Western Kentucky University, Kt. USA, in an Introduction to Literature Class, for second year students from Autumn 2021 for the foreseeable future.
Before turning her hand to writing Jane worked in the International Music Business alongside her musician husband, working with musicians, singer/songwriters, and record producers. They also facilitated the placement of music in movies and television series.
Earlier in her career she also worked for the British Ministry of Defence in Germany, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London.
Jane is represented by Linda Langton of Langton’s International Literary Agency in New York City, New York USA.

Jane’s Links:
https://janerisdon.com
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Risdon/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
https://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Undercover-Crime-Shorts-Jane-Risdon-ebook/dp/B07RFRVL4P
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Only-One-Woman-Christina-Jones/dp/1783757310
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5831801.Jane_Risdon
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jane-risdon
https://wnbnetworkwest.com/channel/6/…
https://wnbnetworkwest.com/channel/4/…
https://chatandspinradio.com/
https://www.MYLVF.com

Places in our Memories with Jan Baynham #Mondayblogs #Memories

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 so pleased to hand over to Jan Baynham. Jan and I first met in 2014 at a book event, and she’s been a friend ever since. We meet up every now and then to talk writing and she’ was always been a great supporter of the Tenby and Narberth book fairs. Jan is going to tell us about her childhood memories

When I began to think about what I was going to write, I was immediately transported back my happy childhood growing up in a tiny village in mid-Wales. I was born in 2, Beech Cottage, Newbridge-on -Wye.

2, Beech Cottage

And for the first few years, we lived with my lovely granddad whose house it was. I vaguely remember standing behind a wooden board slotted into grooves in the front door posts he’d made to stop me escaping onto the street. No elaborate safety gates in those days! Granddad worked on the Llysdinam estate and although I don’t remember it myself, I recall Mum telling me she’d been embarrassed when Lady Delia came to see him and I’d invited her to ‘Step your leg over and come and see Grandad’!

My grandfather was very keen gardener, and we always had an abundant supply of fresh vegetables and soft fruit. I remember spending hours playing in his garden, especially watering the plants with a large metal watering can.

By the time my sister was born, we’d moved to 3, Pendre, another terraced house just a few doors away on Crown Row. I still spent a lot of time at Beech Cottage, though. One memory I have of that time is playing in the large shed at the top of granddad’s garden. In there was an old wind-up ‘His Master’s Voice’ gramophone and lots of brittle seventy-eight records no longer considered good enough to stay in the house. For me, Wit provided hours of fun. I can remember winding the handle as fast as I could and then listening to the music slowing down as it needed winding up again. Another memory I have is when my mum and sister had an appointment in Llandrindod, Granddad looked after me. We had Lyons cupcakes as a treat and I can still taste the thick solid chocolate icing on top as I peeled back the silver foil cake case.

Newbridge-on -Wye

Looking back, I realise that Beech Cottage must have been a tied cottage because when he retired at the age of sixty-five, Granddad came to live with us. By then, we were living at the other end of the village. I remember going for lots of walks with him. He made a swing for my sister and me and when friends came to call, they would always keep themselves amused on the swing if we weren’t ready. Now I was a bit older, my granddad taught me to play Whist. I still love playing cards but now it has to be Patience as no one else is interested in playing. I knew I’d made it when I was able to attend the local Whist Drive in the Reading Room as his partner.

The village school was small and often we would have the same teacher for a few years. Miss Lewis was my favourite. Many of the children lived on farms or in hamlets outside Newbridge. I learned to ride my bike on the village green in front of the school. I can see it now. It was a maroon Raleigh with straight handlebars. My dad taught me to ride. When I thought he was till running behind me holding the saddle, I was actually riding independently. That bike gave me complete freedom, enabling me to cycle anywhere. At weekends and at holiday time, I remember setting off for the day on my bike to call on friends to play. The church bells chiming six o’clock would be my signal to go home.

If I saw a phone box out in the countryside, I would often ring my dad at work. I can remember the receptionist’s voice on the tannoy at Auto Palace where he worked. ‘Five, telephone, please’ would echo down the phone. I can’t imagine I’d be as patient as my lovely dad if I was called to the telephone just to have a chat about where out on the Common I was.

Fields, woods and riverbanks formed my playground. Picnics by the rock pools at Llan Cam and swimming in the river at Black Bridge in the summer, as well as lighting fires in the tunnels to the side of the bridge over the river Ithon, are all memories that resurfaced while writing this piece. We had to walk along the railway line to get to Black Bridge, something that would be frowned upon as highly dangerous nowadays. My first ever published short story was entitled ‘Sledging in Mansell’s Field’ and recounts a true story of how we used to sledge down the hill in a field close to where I lived to see who could clear the stream at the bottom and not land in the water.

Laddie

After coming home by six o’clock, I would be ready for bed by the start of The Archers and go upstairs when it finished at seven. Our cocker spaniel, Laddie, had worked it out that when the Archers’ music started that would be the time that Dad came through the door and would bark loudly. Often, we would see the orange headlights of my dad’s car coming along the lane behind the house. I’m still a huge Archers fan to this day.

I very much enjoyed looking back on these early childhood memories, grateful for the freedom I had to explore and make my own fun. A big thank you, Judith, for inviting me to take part in your series.

About Jan:

About Jan Baynham

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. Her first three novels look at the bond between mothers and daughters as well as forbidden love. 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. Her next books will involve secrets and sibling relationships; the first set in 1945 and 1964 takes the reader back to Sicily where two sisters work together to prove their father’s innocence of a wrongdoing.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband.

To find out more about Jan, she may be contacted on:

Twitter@JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – https://janbaynham.blogspot.com

Places in our Memories: With Georgia Rose #MondayBlogs #Memories

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 welcoming Georgia Rose, one of my online friends whom I’ve known for a long time, and had the great pleasure in meeting and getting to know her in real life at Barb Taub’s writing retreat on Arran, a few weeks ago.

Thank you for inviting me onto your splendid blog, Judith. This has been a lovely post to think about and write.

I lived in several different houses as a child but the one I loved and think about most frequently we moved from when I was only about four.

Sandhill House, Ampthill

It was a rather grand looking terraced Georgian property that needed plenty of work doing to it and had some unusual features. One of which was that it was built on the side of a hill. This meant that to go out into the garden you had to go up a rather beautiful staircase (I fell down it once, put my tooth through my lip and still have the scar to prove it) onto a large landing and out through double doors onto a covered veranda and then into the garden.

It was in this garden that my phobia of chickens started. Mum kept hens, however they frequently escaped from their run and I remember being too frightened to go and play if they were out as they were on beady eye level to me, and had vicious beaks. The funny thing was that mum couldn’t eat the eggs they laid so she would sell her eggs to the shop over the road. And then buy any eggs we needed, from the shop over the road…

Because the garden was on a level with the second floor of the house there was only a short distance up one side to get to the roof. Our small dog, Maginty, loved to climb up onto the roof so he could sit by the chimney. Unsurprisingly he often caught the attention of passers-by on the pavements below and concerned people would knock on the door to tell mum there was a dog on her roof. Unsurprisingly I think she got quite blasé about situation. One icy morning mum was again trying to reassure some alarmed person who had knocked on the door but when they wouldn’t give up and asked her to come outside to look, she found that Maginty had lost his footing and was splayed across the slates, trying not to slip off the roof to a certain death.

Maginty

I am so familiar with this story I can see all of this in my mind but now have no idea if I actually witnessed it or if I’m purely remembering what I’ve been told. What I do know is that I have no idea how Maginty was rescued (because of course he was rescued, dear reader) although I imagine it must have involved a fireman’s ladder because of the height of the roof from the road.

There was also a wonderful attic in this house. A small door led off the wide landing then there was a short flight of stairs up to another level and although it was always called the attic, it was also my bedroom for a while. It had a small window that opened among all the foliage that grew over the veranda and bare boards on the floor. And it was in this room that early one Christmas morning, having discovered a packed stocking at the end of my bed, I opened up a selection box and bit into my first and last Marathon (now Snickers). That introduction to nuts enough to put me off eating them my entire life.

The other majorly exciting thing to say about this house was in the cellar. It is well known that Henry VIII sent Catherine of Aragon to live at Ampthill Castle, situated in Ampthill Park, from 1531 to 1533 while he sorted out their divorce.  Rumour has it that there was a passageway that led under the park from that castle as some sort of escape route. Now, this favourite house of mine is close to Ampthill Park, and my dad had a workshop in the cellar. When I went down those cellar steps there was, and presumably still is, a large circular brick lined start to what looked like a tunnel. It was tall enough for a man to be able to stand up in it and a short way back into it, it had been filled in with earth. I may be being fanciful of course with my imaginings but then what are childhoods for if not for dreams and what-ifs?

My parents were young and dealing with all the challenges small children bring as well as doing all the work the house needed. I suppose with my child-sized view of life back then I have rather romantic memories of it and thought the house perfect just as it was. I remember a beautiful dress my mum made for me there and her bringing me cheese and pickle sandwiches in bed when I was ill, which for some reason I ate while sitting under an umbrella. I remember playing with the fuses from plugs while sitting with dad when he was mending something and swallowing a couple by accident. And I remember enjoying sticking my fingers repeatedly into the putty he had used to replace a window. I wonder if he ever noticed and smoothed it out again or if the indents my stubby fingers made are still there?

I guess I get a warm feeling whenever I think about this house because of its character and beauty and the fact that while we lived there my family were still together.

Interview Resources & Information for Georgia Rose

First NameGeorgia 
Last NameRose 
Emailinfo@georgiarosebooks.com   
HeadshotAttached 
Websitehttps://www.georgiarosebooks.com/   
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/GeorgiaRoseBook   
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/georgia.rose.books   
Facebook PageGeorgia Rose – Author | Facebook 
Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/georgiarose4481/   
Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.co.uk/georgia2471/   
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7776633.Georgia_Rose   
BioGeorgia Rose is a writer and the author of the romantic and suspenseful Grayson Trilogy books: A Single Step, Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water. Following completion of the trilogy she was asked for more and so wrote a short story, The Joker, which is based on a favourite character from the series and the eBook is available to download for free at the retailer of your choice.   Her fourth novel, Parallel Lies, encompasses crime along with Georgia’s usual blending of genre and its sequel, Loving Vengeance, has now completed The Ross Duology.   She is now embarking on her third series – A Shade Darker.   Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her storylines; the others are a product of her passion for people watching and her overactive imagination.   She has also recently started running workshops and providing one-to-one support for those wishing to learn how to independently publish and you can find her, under her real name, at www.threeshirespublishing.com.   Following a long stint working in the law Georgia set up her own business providing administration services for other companies which she does to this day managing to entwine that work along with her writing.   Her busy life is set in a tranquil part of rural Cambridgeshire in the UK where she lives with her much neglected husband.   

A Killer Strikes by Georgia Rose – publication date 1 January 2023

Book description:

The perfect family… The perfect murders…

A family massacred. A village in mourning. Can anyone sleep safely while a killer is on the loose?

Laura Percival, owner of The Stables, notices something wrong at her friend’s house when out on her morning ride. Further investigation reveals scenes she’ll never forget.

While the police are quick to accuse, Laura is less so, defending those around her as she struggles to make sense of the deaths. And all the time she wonders if she really knew her friends at all.

A chance encounter opens up a line of investigation that uncovers a secret life. One that Laura is much closer to than she ever realised.

A Killer Strikes is a gripping domestic thriller. If you like character-driven action, suspenseful storytelling and dark revelations then you’ll love this exciting novel.

Universal Book Link: https://books2read.com/AKillerStrikes

Goodreads: A Killer Strikes (A Shade Darker #1) by Georgia Rose | Goodreads

BookBub: A Killer Strikes by Georgia Rose – BookBub

Genres: Psychological thriller, domestic suspense

Formats: eBook (available to pre-order now), paperback and hardback to be available by 1 January 2023.

Remembering Past Places in our Memories #memories #writerslife #houses #holidays #family #amusementparks #countries #SundayVibes

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 a round-up of the Places in our Memories posted over the last few weeks. There have been some wonderful memories shared by writers from all over the world who have joined in the series so far:

Thorne Moore tells us about her first real grasp of history. “The past was just under my feet and nothing was permanent after all…”

https://tinyurl.com/2vmwx53r

Carol Lovekin recalls how much her mother has influenced her life

https://tinyurl.com/26ua74jt

Sally Cronin enthralls us with memories of her childhood of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, 

https://tinyurl.com/yc32zjh9

Robbie Cheadle tells us about her life as a child and how she’d lived in twenty-one houses and attended fourteen schools, before the age of twelve. And of her love for her sisters…

https://tinyurl.com/4cpjuk7h

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene remembers an old amusement park, a memory that gave background to her books…

https://tinyurl.com/473desej

D G Kaye poignantly recalls one memory that is forever engraved in her mind and heart of her beloved husband.

https://tinyurl.com/yd8835yn

Terry Tyler recalls family holidays on the Norfolk coast, and the genuine gypsy caravan in the garden of their holiday home.

https://tinyurl.com/2z5rh3mu

Alex Craigie shares memories and photographs of her childhood home.

https://tinyurl.com/35pkn288

And then there are my own memories of the street I lived in until the age of five, and the area where I grew up.

https://tinyurl.com/zu7wu94u

Tomorrow we begin another round of Places in our Memories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do.