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.

Places in our Memories: With Jane Frazer #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 Jane Fraser to Places in our Memories. Jane is a a Honno author like myself, I’ve known her quite a while, and know how much she loves Wales. Here she tells us how, although enjoying a wonderful holiday in… she missed her homeland… and how it brought other thoughts.

Hiraeth

Home Thoughts From Abroad

I am in the elevator going up to the condo on the 6th floor. It feels moist: a stale smell of sweat and coconut sun-oil cloying the cramped space I’m sharing with my husband and another couple. We’ve all rushed off the beach because of the squall. The sign with the palm tree on the wall tells me to have a nice day.

         “Where you guys from?” asks the man with the baseball cap.

         “Wales,” I say.

         “Oh, part of England – we passed through it on our way to Ireland when we did Europe a couple of years ago, didn’t we Jo? he says to his wife who says: We sure did. It’s where Princess Diana was from.

         I don’t bother to even try and explain but say, Bye, enjoy your day as we make our way back to our little rental overlooking the Atlantic which is now stewing, a nasty grey, with white spume peaks whipped by the wind as far out as the eye can see. I sit on our balcony, my mind’s eye can see far across this ocean, as far as the wet west coast of the home I’ve escaped this Christmas.

         “You homesick?” my husband asks.

         “A bit,” I say. “The weather, probably.”

         “Least it’s hot rain. Won’t last. They’re not there anyway.”

         He’s right. My daughter and the kids are in Australia to see the in-laws; my son is happy with his girl-friend in the north of England. My parents are sorted going to my brother’s for Christmas lunch in Cardiff and I know they’re OK as I see them all year, living just a couple of miles away. I’m guilt free. I haven’t left or abandoned anyone. No person I love. It’s just my house I see empty and forlorn; standing unlit and unloved, in the place that tugs at my insides.

         “Don’t you miss our house? Our beach?” I ask my husband.

         “It’s just a place, “he says. “C’mon. We’ve worked all year for this.”

         I continue looking at the ocean, listen to its constant churning. It sounds the same as home. And it’s beautiful. But at 27 degrees north 80 degrees west Hutchinson Island is not 51 degrees north and 4 degrees west in Llangennith. The tide hardly budges here between high and low water, no vast expanse of sand exposed on the ebb. When my wind blows from the south west it is mild and wet, it cakes my windows with salt and browns and bends everything I try to grow in my garden. Everything here is back to front: the north-easterly brings the rain, steamy and sticky; and when the wind blows from the south-west, it’s off the land, hot, dry on the skin, giving respite from the humidity. When my sun rises it is behind me, comes up over Llanmadoc Down and when it is done at the end of the day it falls into the sea just to the left of Burry Holms. I just cannot come to terms with the sun coming up over the ocean and going down over the land.

         “You’ve got no sense of home, have you?” I snipe at my husband.

         “What Merthyr Tydfil? London? Gower?”

         “You don’t belong anywhere, do you?”

         “No. Happy in a camper van, me. Don’t need that stuff.”

         “What stuff?”

         “Roots.”

         “Running away all the time, you are.”

         “Nothing to run from.”

         “No place you see yourself dying? Spending your last days?”

         “Jesus. We’re supposed to be on holiday.”

         I see myself in my own bed at home. I am lying propped up on pillows, looking out through the sash windows at the expanse of ocean. The window is pulled up slightly at the bottom and fresh air rushes through the gap, making the silk curtains billow, and cooling my face which is warmed with the sun in my south-facing house. If I had a choice about the last thing I’d like to see in life it would be the view through this window: the bronzed burrows, the conical dunes, the limestone island of Burry Holms which when the tide is high rises like a turtle out of the sea.

          But it is beautiful here in its own way. Now. The scale of the views astounds: big skies; big seas; but too much sea if there is such a thing. Sea that is not broken up or interrupted with headlands or coves or churches or castles that run down to the water’s edge. There is but one long, straight continuous ocean’s edge strung out along the rim of the pan-handle. I long for things to shrink, for the familiar littleness and quirkiness of my peculiar patch of earth.

         I’m in the tropics in a flat right in the dunes and I am happy and grateful for what life has dealt me. But they are not my dunes. My dunes are golden and soft-sanded, carpeted with marram grass, sea holly and thrift and all manner of orchids and blackberries when autumn comes. Here the sand is greyer and grittier, a flat colour pitted with holes where ghost crabs burrow. Where blue and pink-bubbled Portuguese men of war with foot long tentacles lurk ready to sting at the tide’s drop line. Here everything grows quickly, too quickly; it is hard to keep things under control, to hold back the mangrove to prevent the railroad vine choking. Here the dunes sometimes cannot hold back the hurricanes. Here there are signs that say evacuation route.

         My husband goes back inside the condo to the chill of the air-con, sliding the door behind him. Even though it is raining, I am covered by the popcorn roof of the balcony and shielded from the wet by the sliding concertina-folded shutters. The heat is sapping the life out of me. I consider life’s evacuation route. When and how my end will come. There have been a few near-misses to date and again, I am grateful that I’ve still got a few lives left. My mind wanders and I hope I will have what my grandmother used to call a ‘good death’. A death that is in old age, that is relatively pain-free. One where there is time to say goodbyes.

         I open the sliders and go inside. The air-con confronts me like a fridge.

         “Do you want to be buried or cremated?” I ask my husband. But he cannot hear as his earphones are on and he’s on the iPad catching up with latest episodes of ‘London Spy’.

         “What?” he shouts, taking out one of his ear-pieces.

         “When you die. Buried or cremated? We need to make our wills.”

         “You need to see someone. Seriously.”

         “I want to be buried. In the church. Near the wall. Gets the sun all day. And I can keep an eye on what’s happening in the pub opposite!”

         “Just feed me to the birds. Or drop me overboard near Burry Holms.”

         “I was thinking Burry Holms to start with too: though sprinkled like your mother. Then I changed my mind and fancied the crem. But thought, no. Production line. So it’s to be burial. But not in Llanrhidian with my mother’s lot. Too dark. Damp.”

         “Long as I know.”

         “Don’t you want to be buried with me, then?”

         “Don’t believe in all that tosh.”

         “Is it ‘cos we’ve got different names? Shall I change my name to Griffiths?”

         “You do what you like. I just want to go back to nature. No fuss.”

         “That’s great. Buried alone. That’ll give them something to talk about.”

         “Who?”

         “Villagers.”

         “Well, you won’t hear them, will you?”

On Christmas Eve the sun has decided to shine again. It is in the high eighties. The checkout girl in Publix tells us the weather here is Bipolar. My husband tells me he thinks I am too.

         We hit the beach again with our striped canvas chairs, turning away from the sea to follow the sun as the day progresses. We watch fisherman landing croakers and pompanos, their rods bent like arcs over the sparkling ocean along the water’s edge as far as the eyes can see. One man is sweating with the effort of reeling in a big fella that’s been taking line for over an hour as far south as Miami. Must be a shark or a stingray his friend says who stands at the ready with a rope to help him when the time comes. But the line snaps and it was the one that got away.

         The sun is high even in mid-winter, searing the crown of my broad black-rimmed hat which I notice is fading so fast. I look at my watch. 3pm. Eight o’clock back home. It’ll be dark and raining and the teles will be blaring and the pubs heaving. At this precise moment I’m not missing it at all.

          But at six o’clock, when the light goes yet the heat remains locked in, I’m out of kilter again. The condo looks bare even though we’ve tried out best with potted red tulips and white lilies and red and gold baubles which are too glitzy for my liking. The Christmas cards we’ve bought each other in Barnes and Noble are too schmaltzy and shmucky: like the apples and the vegetables in the supermarkets, too big and shiny and perfect that look lovely but don’t actually taste of anything.

         The tele goes on but it’s all American Football and medical adverts every few seconds with lists of alarming side effects of certain medications. It’s Fixer Upper then, nothing but edition after edition of Fixer Upper and houses that are transformed in Wacko Texas for under $80,000 including land. Next is Chopped which I tell my husband is a poor imitation of Bake Off and even worse than Australian MasterChef.

          I turn to my iPad for comfort and start googling Llangennith. I get the Gower Webcam from The Worms’s Head Hotel looking across Rhossili Bay. But it’s dark there, the sea hardly visible just an eerie rippling. It will restart live at sunrise tomorrow morning the message promises. Apparently it’s been a great day for surf. Overhead and light winds from the south west. I go to Wikipedia: pictures emerge of a village on the Gower peninsula near Swansea in Wales. It has an 11th century church dedicated to St Cenydd. It is the largest Church in Gower and the only one with a lych gate. I know. We were married there. I am suddenly in its nave, in its chancel, standing among the choir stalls with a bouquet of lily of the valley, taking our vows. It’s where I’ve recently told my husband I’ll be buried. I can see the unkempt grass, though not onscreen, see the weathered tombstones, tottering at all angles, see the names of generations of Taylors and Groves and Bevans and Beynons. I think I’ve made the right decision about being buried there, I say to my husband but he’s engrossed in Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh Steelers. I can smell home through the ether, pine and Christmas pudding.

         “You umbelicalled to that thing?” he shouts from the sofa.

         I’m on Google Earth now, I’ve keyed in my postcode SA3 1JE and I’m being taken from the beginning of Cock Street following a white arrow like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs, past Gill and Paul’s at Bullen’s Well – I can see the spout from the well, taste the spring water I always taste in cupped hands when I’m finishing up my daily walk. The camera takes me on along the single track lane – there’s Cock Street Farm with the gate with the two horses’ heads and the Land Rover parked in the yard. Must have been taken a few years ago as Joe Grove has changed it now for an Isuzu Trouper. And it must have been early summer too as the gorse is out, a blaze of yellow and the ferns at the lane’s edge are hip-high. I press the arrow with a compulsion, I’m at Long Offing now, and then the old barn in the field next to mine – Steve Taylor’s Fiesta is parked outside the gate – probably watering the plants in his polytunnel. And then there’s my gate. From 5,000 miles away right in front of me is my five barred farm gate and my drive with the car parked in it. CF13 MFU – all my personal things there for me to see, but not to touch. I can hardly bear it. I zoom on to the front of the house. It’s white and lime washed and perfectly symmetrical. Surrounded by newly ploughed brown-earthed fields it looks like it’s growing there, like it belongs there, like it’s been there for all time.

         It looks sad without us there. The windows at the front look as though they are crying. The wooden loungers are in place on the patio, perfectly positioned to take in the views of the ocean and the full sun. But they are empty. The stone pots of lavender are in full bloom but there is no one to smell them or water them. The seeds I must have planted back then are sprouting in the raised beds and the olive trees standing tall in the terracotta pots on the plum stoned driveway. They say all roads lead home at Christmas, I tell my husband. But he doesn’t reply.

About Jane:


Jane Fraser is an award-winning fiction writer, based in the Gower peninsula, south Wales. Her debut novel, Advent, was published by Honno, the UK’s longest-standing, independent women’s press, in January 2021. It was Book of the Month at Books Council of Wales in February 2021 and in June 2022 was announced as winner of the Society of Authors’ Awards – The Paul Torday Memorial Prize for a debut novel in English. Her first collection of short fiction, The South Westerlies, was published by Salt, the UK’s foremost independent publisher of literary fiction, in 2019 and her second short fiction collection, Connective Tissue, in October 2022, and also published by Salt.

She has been widely published in anthologies and reviews including New Welsh Review, The Lonely Crowd, Fish Publishing, TSS and The London Magazine. Her fiction has figured highly in major international competitions: in 2017 she was a finalist in the Manchester Fiction Prize (and has also been highly commended eight times), and in 2018 was a prize winner in the Fish Memoir Prize. She has also long and shortlisted in the Cambridge Short Story Prize, the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Prize, the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition and Retreat West Short Story Competition. She is winner of both the British Haiku Society and Genjuan International Prize for haibun. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of its ‘Short Works’ series.

She is a Hay Festival Writer at Work, a prestigious creative development award for emerging writers. She has a B.Ed as a first degree, and an MA (distinction 2013) and PhD in Creative Writing from Swansea University.

Jane Fraser is proud to be represented by Gaia Banks, Literary Agent at Sheil Land Associates Ltd. http://www.sheilland.com

When she is not writing, Jane Fraser is Co-Director of NB:Design a brand and digital agency along with her husband Philip Griffiths, a designer and photographer. When she is not working or writing, she walks her home patch of Gower and tries to be a good grandmother to Megan (13), Florence (11) and Alice (8).

Find Jane on:

Twitter @jfraserwriter

Instagram @janefraserwriter

@jfraserwriter@mastodonapp.uk 

Website www.janefraserwriter.com

Email: jane@nb-design.com

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.

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 Phil Rowlands #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 welcome Phil Rowlands. I seem to have known Phil as part of the writing world for as long as can remember. I have interviewed him a couple of times for and he was always a very welcome addition to the Narberth Book Fairs. Here Phil tells us, in a very poignant account, of the many special memories he has of Newgale, Wales.

Phil Rowland: screenwriter, author, and producer

A chorus of waves and pebbles washes over me as I stand in the place where, back in the folds of time, the five of us, Mum, Dad, my sister, me, and Bob the sheepdog dallied one year for the summer weeks of school holiday, in an old caravan owned by a distant relative.

One night our little van fought so violently with the raging winds and torrential rain and my six-year-old self fretted so passionately, that we returned home, a journey of eleven miles away, to spend the night. Returning in the sun and light of day, I searched for the scattered wreckage but there was none. Even the tent toilet, attached by top and bottom ties, still stood proudly. It was the first sight of my ‘what if’ irritation of the years ahead.

It is beautiful here, a mile of golden sand, patterned with the crisscross current cuts of the angry sea. The warriors of foam, riding the crest of the curved waves, invade the beach and then pull back to regroup for their next attack. High stacked stones lining the edge of this ‘sandy battleground’ look impassively on. They have seen it all before. I wonder if they remember me, the day I lost my Mum and ran through the forest of adults, tears in my eyes and my ever-present smile slipped away in the desperation of the search. Each step I took seemed to drag me deeper into the roots of fear and loss. Then, at last, after a panting panic run, in the shimmering distance, I saw her yellow flowered frock and was soon locked in the solace and safety of her suntanned arms and the warmth of the smell that was and always will be her. We always loved a cuddle, my Mum and me, right up to the end. I miss that most.

Which way to walk? What box of memories shall I open? I think I will head towards Cwm Mawr, the little cove that became ours during the six weeks sojourn. Sunburn, grainy cheese and tomato sandwiches, jellyfish, crabs, and ice-cold rock pools mingle with caves, cliffs and the corpses of sheep that couldn’t stop in time but floated down to become a picnic for the parasites.

The Duke of Edinburgh pub, hidden on the other side of the pebbles and across the road, was once the only barrier for the sea, facing the elements with the bravery of one who knows it cannot win. A tidal wave in 1900 swept in the stones, washed the pub away, swirling the frantic souls as they sank to their deep and watery end and flooded the valley for a mile or more. My great grandfather, a postman, sitting on his delivery trap, watched it happen in helpless fascination. Or so the family folklore goes.

A flick of time to my early teenage years and Wendy from Windsor. She was a sultry sixteen-year-old who caressed my libido and was the best French kisser I had ever found. She showed me that oral was not just the spoken word and led me to what suited her best. How could she know so much at such a tender age? But, oh, how grateful I was that she did. We spent many a happy, messy hour in her parent’s tent as they washed the London cobwebs away with the fresh and salty Welsh air and a pint or two of Scrumpy in the lounge of the Duke.

Most of the summers, in my early years, my family stayed in one of a cluster of chalets with wood and glass verandas, overlooking the beach, the cliffs and the steep road leading down to the village. My dad, who worked as a car salesman, would have his two weeks holiday, and then commute until we returned home the Friday before school went back. On his daily drive, mum and I would travel with him to the top of the hill that led towards Haverfordwest and then walk back, calling into the farm for eggs or buying hot bread from the seaside shop. The boy who worked there thought he was Johnny Cash, wore a cowboy shirt and hat and strangled words that were more Nercwys than Nashville. Still, he helped to colour the landscape of those early years of freedom, and fun.

In later times, when we owned a caravan at the top of the other hill that led to Solva and St David’s, we would walk back over the cliffs, climbing up through the carpet of moss and heather, pausing at the top, hand in hand, to survey our borrowed world of sand and sea, the horizon distant and hazy in the early morning misty sunshine.

Sometimes, though, it rained for days and, if not walking on the sands enjoying the wet, we would sit in the dryness of the veranda, watching the flooded campsite with its array of sunken canvas wrecks and try to count the blow-up beds, bags and plastic cups being chased around by the, determined to not let it spoil the holiday, tourists from Cardiff, Glasgow, London or Hull. Often, I felt a perverse pleasure in this unfair act of God. It was a payback for their invasion of my private holiday space.

Cwm Mawr could be reached three ways. By the beach when the tide was out or over the cliffs, down past a cottage which sat a few yards from the drop into the sea. I was drawn to it and was desperate to live there.  It had a windmill, small windows, and a constant pile of logs. Always when I passed, I could feel it drawing me to look in through its dusty glass or daring me to knock on the door and ask to go in. I never did. I might have broken the spell and that would never have done. The last way to reach the little bay was to walk up the road to Penycwm and then go through the gate with its ‘Farm Animals. Please Shut the Gate.’ sign, and down the rough-tracked valley passing, on the right, the green wooden colonial-style bungalow that was known, to me and my peers, as the TB house. It was once a Convalescent Home, and its shadow of infection and danger still loomed large as I hurried on my way to the safety of my little cove. I always meant to chance a night-time raid but never did. Perhaps, if it’s still there, I might make the effort though I do not wish to shatter the thin film of time that protects it from the present.

After crossing a cool, clear, pure stream, and scrambling over the shingle of long-gone ages, you reached the rock-strewn beach with its high walls and sculptures. A picture book of past and present. A ‘Boy’s Own’ landscape of adventure and fantasy. There were large water filled hollows, big enough to swim in, if you wanted to risk disturbing their hidden dangers – the anger of awakened crabs or the poisonous puffs of Portuguese Men O’ War, imprisoned when the tide retreated, easily ballooned in my fertile mind.

They were happy, carefree times, uncluttered by the responsibilities and shattered dreams to come. A protected world, in which laughter came easily and old age lay hidden slyly in the shadows of future years.

A great treat was to go to the cinema once a week and then on the way back to fill up the roasting pan with fish and chips from Dew Street. We would wait until we got back to Newgale, almost beside ourselves with desire, as that special salt and vinegar smell wrapped itself around us and we almost drooled in anticipation of the delights to come.

The first time I saw the seals it was early evening. We were sitting on the rocks, halfway up the broken cliff, tired from long hours of sunshine and salt. A family of three swam up and basked on the flat rocky plateau below us. Glorious silky bodies, faces twitching to give warning of the first scent of danger. They didn’t mind us being there and seemed to sense that we intended them no more harm than to share in their lives for this moment of time. I can’t remember how long we stayed but dusk was slipping its curtain over the light as we reached the caravan. Dad had been home for four hours and was beginning to think that Neptune had taken us to lodge in his deep and mysterious home.

Next night he came back early and joined our little group. The seals glanced upwards as he arrived but relaxed when he sat with us. He was overcome by their innocence and peace, and I never felt as close to him again.

About Phil Rowlands

I am a screenwriter, author and producer. After many years as a ‘safe pair of hands’ actor, mainly in film and television, I moved into the production side as a freelance writer and producer. I’ve written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and worked on productions as a script doctor and consultant.

In 2009 I was one of the co-founders of Funky Medics, a production company focussing mainly on innovative health education. Its projects have included heart disease, diabetes, smoking and drug abuse.

Currently, I have four screenplays under option, one for production in 2023, the other three at various stages of draft development.

Siena, my first novel, was revised and republished by new indie publisher Diamond Crime along with my second, Single Cell in April 2021. A new book, TimeSlip, was released in late March 2022.

I write in a shed at the bottom of my small garden.

Originally from Pembrokeshire in West Wales, I now live near Cardiff and have British nationality and Canadian citizenship.

Find Phil here:

phil@philrowlandswriter.com
twitter @PhilRowlands2
www.philrowlandswriter.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 Darlene Foster #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 Darlene Foster, a friend I’ve known online for quite a while, 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.

Darlene is here to tell us about the time her baby brother was born during the blizzards at her near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.

I remember when my brother, Timothy, was born. It had been a typical cold and snowy prairie winter. Blizzards created impassable road conditions. Mom expected the third member of our family to arrive in early February. Dad was concerned that when the time came, the inclement weather might stop him from getting her to the hospital some sixty miles away. Well before her due date, he took mom and my younger brother, Lorne, to stay with our grandparents in the city. Since I had school, I stayed with my great-aunt and great-uncle in the small town near our farm.

Baby Timmy With his Aunties

I was excited about this as I loved Aunt Elsie and Uncle Ed. They treated me well. Aunt Elsie was a great cook, and I could walk to school with my older, and therefore much cooler, second cousins.

In their living room stood a cabinet full of amazing books. I would sit in front of it and stare at the titles: Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, A Tale of Two Cities, Robinson Crusoe and other classics. I so wanted to read those books behind the glass doors. I still remember the day when Aunt Elsie said that if I was very careful, I could read one of them. Believe me, I was extremely careful. Eventually over the years, I read every one of those books in that cabinet.

The baby took longer to come than Mom thought. Finally, on February 10th, she delivered a chubby little boy. Dad drove into the city to see her and reported back that mommy and baby were doing great. She even wrote me a letter and sent it back with Dad. Apparently, my other brother was being spoiled by Grandma and Grandpa. We expected Mom, my brother and the new baby to be home in a week.

Darlene and her two brothers on her12th birthday. 

But, as luck would have it, the day she was released from the hospital, another terrible blizzard blew up. The road to the city was closed to traffic. Grandpa picked Mom and baby Timmy up from the hospital and took them back to their place. I was disappointed because Lorne got to see the new baby before I did.

The weather stayed nasty for another week and vehicles were not getting through. Mom had been gone for a month now and I missed her. Even though I enjoyed staying in town with my aunt, uncle and cousins. In the city, Mom grew homesick, missing me and Dad.

When I returned from school one cold but sunny day, Aunt Elsie told me to keep my coat on and watch for a surprise. Not much later, an old-fashioned, covered sleigh pulled by two large draft horses that plodded down the road through the glistening snow.

Dad shouted, “Whoa!”

The horses stopped in front of my aunt and uncle’s house. Dad let go of the reins, jumped down from the seat in front, and with a wide grin, opened the door to the sleigh. Inside sat my mother in a hooded red woollen coat, trimmed in white rabbit fur, smiling from ear to ear.  In her arms, she held a baby bundled up in many blankets.

“In you get,” said Dad. “We’re all going home.”

Dad had borrowed the sleigh from a neighbour in order to get his wife back home.

It was a magical moment for a little girl to see her mom and baby brother delivered in a horse-drawn sleigh. Straight from a storybook. It’s one of my fondest memories. 

Timmy

About Darlene:

Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, traveling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not traveling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia.

website www.darlenefoster.ca

blog https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

twitter https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Amazon author page  https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1771682744/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

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/   
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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.

Places in our Memories with Alex Craigie #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’s memories are from Alex Craigie, a dear friend I’ve known both in ‘real’ life and online for many years. 

So many thanks to Judith for inviting me to take part in this series. Everyone has had a different take on the prompt and I’ve loved the diverse and fascinating contributions.

My first memories are of this house that was my home until I was ten.

Kingston Lodge, 7 Westminster Road, Eccles, Lancashire.

Here’s Google’s recent picture:

And here’s a couple of what it looked like then:

This one is of me and my brother at Easter. We’re with my mother, rolling hardboiled eggs on the driveway.

It’s a large house. Those pictures are of the side; the front is broader and stretches deep into the photograph.

My mother, a nurse, met my father, a doctor, in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. When the window cleaner crashed through the glass-topped verandah he was fortunate (!) to have people on hand equipped to deal with a medical emergency. (I see it’s been removed now.)

The entrance hall was a cavernous space bordered by a beautiful fireplace on the left and a staircase on the right. A long and creepy cloakroom dwelt under the staircase, dwindling to dark nothingness as it followed the line above it. The ceiling of the hall soared two staircases to the landing of the first floor bedrooms and the hard, smooth flooring was a great surface for playing jacks. One Christmas, I tottered around for ages on that floor in a pair of sparkly Cinderella shoes, aping the sound that my mother made in her stilettos.

Nowadays, I struggle to remember what I had to eat for lunch, but I can still recall the number of the phone on the camphor chest by the stairs: ECC (Eccles) 2048.

There were four rooms off the hall. The drawing room (with the French doors under the verandah) was light and sunny. I wrote my first story there at the bureau when I was six. When my mother read the bit where one of the characters was dismissed, she laughed at my use of the term “you’re fired”. It stung.

One evening I was sent to the drawing room to fetch something. A man with straggly hair was at the French doors, his face pressed up grotesquely against the full-length window. He started shouting and screaming and banging on the glass. I was terrified. My father explained later that the man wasn’t well. Since then, I close the curtains before it’s properly dark.

The other rooms off the hall comprised a lounge, dining room and breakfast room. The breakfast room led to the kitchen and pantry and there was also a door to the expansive cellars where things like coal were kept. For a timid child, the cellars held all the charm of Madame Tussaud’s dungeons. (I was that timid child.)

I have fond memories of Rory, our dog, stealing the brass hearthbrush, racing to the top of the hall staircase, releasing it and then chasing after it. I dropped a glass down them in similar vein –minus the intent– tumbling after it. Again, it was good to have a health professional on hand. A puckered scar is my memento.

These stairs led up to a landing. A corridor to the left, with built-in cupboards, ended in another cloakroom. In the middle was a minstrel gallery backed by a block of tall windows. At night, they threw menacing shadows of trees, and during thunderstorms these windows terrified me almost as much as the incident in the drawing room.

To the right of the gallery was a flight of stairs up to four of the bedrooms. I slept in the third room for a while, but there was a patch of wallpaper opposite the bed in which I could see a clown’s face. When I looked at it, the smile on the face seemed to grow in a sinister way that led to nightmares. I was relocated to the fourth room.

My brother’s cot was moved into this room with me and one morning, returning from the loo, I found him leaning over the bars and staring at his teddy bear melting on the small electric bar heater. There were full-length net curtains at the window. I can still picture the tiny felt circles that were dotted over them. As I took in the scene, the curtain nearest the cot flared up. I yelled for help, dragged Ian over the bars and hauled him onto the landing. When all the excitement was over, all that remained to show for it was an acrid smell, a blackened wall and ceiling, and a large tarry patch on the linoleum. My parents’ appreciation extended to a trip to Woolworths to buy a treat; well worth the momentary panic.

Up another small staircase was the family bathroom –an unlovely room in monochrome with a bath that had a green stain under one of the taps, a discoloured plastic beaker that held our toothbrushes, and greying towels that made great exfoliators. It was a cold room even in the summer.

One final staircase led to the last three bedrooms. The first of these was for the Au Pair girls who stayed with us to learn English and earned their keep by helping out. The second was sometimes occupied by Anne, a live-in servant who came and went according to her tempestuous lovelife.

The third room became my playroom. It’s that window in the pictures at the very top of the house. I could only see out of it if I stacked up my toys and balanced on them. After a visit to the circus, I taught myself to stand on my head in there. I was expected to stay in this room, out of the way. I resented, later, being cooped in there with my brothers, but it was an escape from my parents’ disintegrating marriage. And I had my books.

My free time was mainly spent in the playroom, garden, or with my friend Jane.

Here I am in the back garden with my grandfather. Rory is in the foreground.

Looking back, I realise that I had no concept of my privileged existence. My life seemed very ordinary compared with my immediate surroundings. Jane’s house, round the corner from us, was much grander than ours. It had two impressive staircases and several live-in servants. Backing on to our garden was another palatial house used by the family of someone high up in the USAF. Cheryl was my age and had a massive, carpeted bedroom and exquisite princess and fairy costumes. In the winter, her father sprayed water over the lawn for her to skate on.

My parents divorced when I was ten. My father got the house; my mother got us. We moved to a basement maisonette in Bramhall, Cheshire. I’m in front of it here, on the right, next to my mother, two brothers and a (solemn) friend:

Behind the two windows at the bottom left, were a spacious kitchen and cramped bathroom. Those windows were beyond our reach and daylight was filtered out by the overhanging greenery and architecture. The two rooms above were, in contrast, full of light, but half the size because of the maisonette abutting them. A bijou sitting room and main bedroom were separated by a glass partition. I slept in the remaining tiny room with the older of my brothers. My mother and I repeatedly asserted how cosy it was. We knew we were lying.

Itchy bites turned out to be bedbugs and we had to leave temporarily whilst the place was fumigated. A lecherous landlord proved to be another problem (a divorced woman was often seen as desperate for attention and fair game), and noise seeped freely into the flat from the surrounding ones. We did have a phone, though. BRA (Bramhall) 3969…

That winter, 1962/1963, was one of the coldest on record in the UK. We returned one day to discover the water tank in the flat above us had burst and there were magnificently long icicles adorning our staircase. In the kitchen, I had a skating rink to rival Cheryl’s.

There were financial constraints in this new life, but I had a freedom that I’d lacked before. At the local school, I made friends and played outside with them. I taught the whole class how to stand on their heads. I left before the end of the year but was given a handmade book of poems put together by the teacher and signed by my classmates – most of them ‘with love’. It mattered. I still have it.

The loss of status had a traumatic effect on my mother who spent the rest of her days trying to fashion a residence as impressive as Kingston Lodge. She was a genuinely talented pianist and had a comfortable life but her appreciation for what she did have was overshadowed by what she’d lost.

I loved the old house, but there were other things I loved more.

Her loss was, sadly, my gain.

About Alex:

Alex Craigie is the pen name of Trish Power.

Trish was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back.

When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved.

Trish has had three books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. The first two books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller and suspense against a backdrop of social issues. Someone Close to Home highlights the problems affecting care homes while Acts of Convenience has issues concerning the health service at its heart. Her third book. Means to Deceive, is a psychological thriller.

Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award. In 2019 it was one of the top ten bestsellers in its category on Amazon.

Find Alex on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ytnc6xxs

On Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/4dh2sz9x

Book lovers are welcome to contact her on alexcraigie@aol.com

Places in our Memories: With D. G Kaye #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 Debby Kaye, one of my online friends whom I seem to have known forever, and who is going to tell us about one of her forever memories.

Thank you so much Judith for inviting me over today to share a fleeting memory so dear to my heart.

A memory is a snapshot in one moment of time that locks in a forever imprint engraved in our minds and hearts.

Forever moments are the forever memories that will continue to live with us long after they occurred. All memories aren’t always good ones, but they are there despite, to remind of places we have been to and mark events experienced in our lives. To live on peacefully, it’s the happy memories we choose to keep at the forefront of our minds.

Having recently lost the love of my life, my beloved husband, I’ve been working diligently to push the tragic moments of the last few months of his life from my forefront of videos playing on in my head, instead, trying hard to focus on the so very many good times in our life together. Besides the many milestones of beautiful events that stick out in my mind, sometimes it’s just the simple moments we remember most clearly that can warm our hearts.

Memories. As I sit here right now and think of him in this moment, I’m listening to the sound of a riding mower in the back park of my condo; it took me back to a simple moment of just one of our happiest times when life was good and simple where I’d drink my second cup of coffee on a Sunday morning after our breakfast together and my hubby would put on his big straw hat and Wellie boots, and hop on his big John Deere riding mower and circle the trees in our vast back yard, complete with one of his favorite Cuban cigars hanging from his mouth as he proudly trimmed his pride and joy, his green grass he laid, mostly by himself at our beautiful newly built home. He’d notice me watching as I sipped my coffee in front of the big kitchen patio window, and he’d give me his special wink full of love and acknowledgment of our perfect life. His smiling eyes could tell me so much.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to transport back to one of those what seemed ordinary Sundays that turned out to be not so ordinary, but a beautiful reminder of love and joy in simplicity. Those were the days most of us think were unremarkable, but just another day. Looking back at that snapshot of bliss taken for granted, I can see how those were far from ordinary days, but a culmination of days that were part of a patched quilt of days which became the pattern of a happy life together. ©DGKaye2022