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

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

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 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

Places in our Memories: With Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene #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 Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, who is going to tell us about what first occurred to her when I invited her to remember one of the places that has remained in her memory, and how it made her feel.

Hi, Judith.  Thanks very much for allowing me to participate in this series.  My mind works in twisting ways.  The kind of memory I’ve chosen to share may seem strange.  However, the first thing that came to mind when you asked me about this topic was old amusement parks.

When I was a small child there was an amusement park in the next town, which was slightly “less small” than my hometown.  To my shock, visitors from real cities scoffed at it.  I thought it was utterly magical.  Not long after that, we visited a carnival in the mountains, and even to my tween self, that one was ragtag.  Getting on the rides was… questionable to say the least.  By the time I was in my teens, back at the local amusement park, I could see the truth of how small, and how rundown it actually was.

The park didn’t create magic for me anymore.  Rather, it gave me a feeling I could only describe as otherworldly.  That sensation stuck with me and I’ve used “strange” amusement parks in two of my books.  One is a work in progress that I’ve stopped and started several times over the past few years.  The defunct amusement park is a central figure of that story.

The other is “Hullaba Lulu, a Dieselpunk Adventure.”  On that magical train-ride, one of the places Lulu and her friends land in is a “sideways” version of Atlantic City in the 1920s.  To Lulu’s surprise, admittance is paid in cheeseburgers.  Although it’s not all whimsy.  In fact, it’s downright sinister.

Here’s a snippet where Lulu and Pearl have gotten separated from their friend Rose.  Pearl found a fortuneteller automaton:

Go ahead, Lulu!  Ask it a question.  It gave me ‘the lovers’ card,” Pearl enthused.

“You always ask about love, and they always tell you that you’ll find it.  I never know what to ask,” I complained.

“Okay, then, gypsy king.  Here’s my question.  How is the Loop the Loop still here when it was taken down in 1912?” I asked in a snarky tone.

The gypsy’s flat mechanical eyes shifted to me with a click.  There couldn’t be life behind those eyes.  It couldn’t really see me… but I felt like he looked right through me.

“Did we go back in time?” I added in a softer voice.

The automaton sat motionless for a heartbeat.  Something about the sudden change in clockwork movement gave me the heebie-jeebies.

The gypsy gathered the tarot cards and spread them again.  It drew out a card with a drawing of a man hanging by his foot.  The fortuneteller moved the card so that the man was laying down.

“Sideways,” was all the automaton said.

“We didn’t move north or south, or forward or backward…” I began.

“Sideways,” it repeated with a mechanical nod.

I gave a frustrated sigh.  Why couldn’t the blasted thing be useful?  I turned to Pearl and asked her where Rose was.  My fair-haired friend shrugged, then she giggled and asked the fortuneteller the question.

“Where is our friend, Rose?”

The gypsy automaton gathered the tarot cards, spread them, and turned over the Three of Swords.  The design on the card was like the leaflet I found in the automat.  There was an image of a heart pierced by three swords.  Pearl and I both shuddered at the gruesome picture.  My worry had rubbed off on her.  She gave her long hair an anxious twist.

“Betrayal,” the fortuneteller said.

The air was split by a loud scream.  The sound echoed around the amusement park.

“Rose?” I yelled.

***

That’s only the beginning of the strangeness Lulu finds at the amusement park.  Wait until she gets to the Tilt-A-Whirl…

Sometimes memories go into our heads.  After they’ve been stored for a while, there’s no telling how they’ll come back out.  They might even get sideways.

Judith, thank you again for inviting me.  It’s been a delight.  I’m including my links.  I hope your readers will check out my blog, and follow me on my Amazon Author page.  Hugs on the wing!

I’m sure they will, Teagan. And thank you for participating in Places in our Memories.

Amazon Author Page:  relinks.me/TeaganRiordainGeneviene

Hullaba Lulu, universal purchase links:

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08JKP1RS4

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08JDYXPZM

Blog (Teagan’s Books):  Teagan’s Books – Founder of the Three Things Method of Storytelling (teagansbooks.com)

About Teagan:

In addition to the “Author Tool Chest” of non-fiction works, Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene writes whimsical and humorous stories.  She also writes high fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and mysteries with historic settings.  Yes, that’s a variety of genres.  However, you will always find a sense of whimsy in what she writes.  It’s just that sometimes it takes a more serious form.

Teagan’s work is colored by the experiences of her early life in the southern states and later in the desert southwest, as well as a decade in Washington, DC.

When did Teagan get serious about writing?  She had always devoured mysteries and fantasy novels of every type.  Then one day there was no new book at hand for reading — so she decided to write one.  She hasn’t stopped writing since.

Places in our Memories: With Robbie Cheadle #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 Robbie Cheadle, someone I’ve known and admired as an online friend for many years.

Thank you, Judith, for inviting me to talk about my memories.

As a little girl I was quiet and self-contained. The oldest of four daughters, my mom was often busy with a new baby and so I spent a lot of time alone. I do believe I was a lonely child and passed my time reading, listening to Broadway musicals on my mother’s record player, and doing numerous artistic projects.

By the time I was eighteen, I’d lived in twenty-one houses and attended fourteen schools. Twelve of my school changes occurred before I was twelve and once, I changed schools twice during the same academic year.

I never developed lasting and strong friendships with other girls which may have been a consequence of all these disruptions. Instead, my sisters and I played together. Their births were the highlight moments of my younger years.

A typical picture of me as a child

My time as a baby and a toddler are grey mist to me, but the first powerful memory I have is of the entrance of my sister, Catherine, into my life. She displaced me as the only one and I wasn’t pleased about it at the time.

I wrote a short story about Catherine’s birth, she was born prematurely at 32 weeks, and the subsequent turmoil that ensued. The story is called The New Baby and is included in an anthology called Memories of Mom: Rave Soup For The Writer’s Soul Anthology, 2022 available here: https://www.amazon.com/MEMORIES-MOM-Rave-Writers-Anthology-ebook/dp/B09ZRK4L6B

The following extracts illustrate how I recall feeling about my new sister:

“I prayed: “Thank you, God, for sending me a sister. I don’t mind being an only child though, so would you please take her away and give her to another girl who really wants a baby sister?” 

My prayer went unanswered, and my mother continued to visit the hospital every morning.”

“On the morning Catherine came home from the hospital, everything started to change. I no longer went to school as my mother didn’t want to risk me picking up a cold or other illness. I stayed at home and helped Mom look after my sister.  

The baby was a disappointment. She was nothing like the baby in my nursery rhyme book. That baby was pink, with golden curls and fat, dimpled hands, and feet. My new sister was pale and almost translucent looking. I could see blue veins under her delicate skin, and she had bruises on her head from the drip. Her hands were tiny and clenched and she had no hair at all. When she cried it came out as a faint mewing and I couldn’t see how she would ever be any fun at all. She also took up nearly all of Mom’s time with her numerous feeds, nappy changes, and other needs.”

The entrance of Hayley into my life was unremarkable. We were living on a plot in Honeydew, Johannesburg, and my life was filled with exploration of the tracts of veld that surrounded our house.

Hayley was a howler and I remember my mother walking round and round the sitting room with her while she cried and cried. Her endless crying is how I remember Howling Hayley. She did, of course, grow out of it eventually and became one of my living dolls.

A defining memory I have of Hayley as a baby is one evening when I took the screaming bundle and walked her around to give mom a break. She went to sleep in my arms and Mom and I watched an episode of the television production of She (by Rider Haggard) together. It contained the scene where Ayesha goes into the fire and ages from a young and beautiful woman into a hideous, shrivelled 2,000-year-old woman and then disintegrates into ash. I have never, ever, forgotten that scene and I’ve read the book several times. It is a favourite of mine.

Laura is the youngest and she arrived when I was nine, Catherine was five, and Hayley was one.

Laura’s birth coincided with my family’s relocation from Johannesburg to George in the Western Cape. My grandparents on my father’s side had moved to George a year previously and they had persuaded dad to move to this beautiful city.

Dad drove Catherine, Hayley, and I to George. It was a fourteen-hour drive as frequent “wee” stops had to be made with three small girls in the car. We were driven to George ahead of my parents moving as Mom was heavily pregnant at the time with our new sister. The new baby would be born at the hospital in Johannesburg. We three girls would be cared for by our grandparents for two weeks until my mother was able to make the long car trip.

I loved George. It was totally different from dry and dusty Johannesburg with its violent thunderstorms and frightening lightning and thunder. George was green. There was an abundance of trees, flowers and bushes and it rained a lot of the time.

My grandparents lived in a cottage near the outskirts of the town and their tar road suddenly ended about 1000 metres from their house and became a dirt road and then a dirt track that led into the forest.

The forest was dark and mysterious. Full of huge, tall trees and thick bushes and foliage. We were forbidden from going into the forest on our own as it was easy to get lost amongst so many trees that all looked the same.

Along the sides of the dirt road were trenches where the municipality had been digging. I don’t know why they were digging there but the trenches were so much fun. Catherine and I climbed into the trenches and walked along them, hidden from view.

The bottoms of the trenches were covered in clay. It was deliciously squelchy and sticky, and we loved the feeling of the clay between our bare toes.

One dinner time, I told Granddad Jack about the clay. He said you could make things from it and dry them in the sun. The sun would bake them and make them hard.

What a delight! The very next day, Catherine and I went into one of the trenches and mined for clay. We scooped the clay into a plastic bag and hauled it out of the trench. Very soon, we were sitting on the back doorstep and making all sorts of pots and figurines out of clay. It was a happy time for me.

One morning, Granny Joan said that Mom and Dad were in the car and on their way to George. Catherine and I were excited, but Hayley was too young to understand what was happening.

Eventually, late in the afternoon, the car arrived with both my parents and a very funny looking, wrinkled, and red baby. I got such a fright I ran away. I thought that Laura was the ugliest baby I had ever seen.

Poor little Lu! She looked like that because she had become dehydrated during the long drive.

In retrospect, I was fortunate to grow up in a family with three sisters. We all still live in Johannesburg and our families spend the high days and holidays together.

Back row: Robbie and Laura.
Front row: Catherine and Hayley.

Thank you, Judith, for giving me this opportunity to share about my memories of my childhood. I’d like to close with this poem I wrote about my sisters for Catherine’s fortieth birthday.

A sister is … by Robbie Cheadle 

 a thief, stealing attention that is rightfully yours;   a port in a storm, when your house of cards falls; 
a fountain of knowledge – your problems, not hers;   a megaphone whose voice is louder than yours; 
an expert on everything you try for the first time;   a comedian who’ll dance and make you laugh till you cry; 
a cloths horse, ‘specially when she’s borrowed your clothes;   a home where your children are always welcome; 
a confidant with whom you share secrets and hopes;   a purse to help you out of a bind
a competitor who always shines brighter than you;   an advisor when your spirit is battered and bruised; 
a shoulder to cry on when life lets you down;   a beauty queen, who’s face is fairer than yours; 
a diary of shared memories, the old and the new;   a voice of reason, when yours has taken a day off; 
a provider of wine, in good times and bad;   an embarrassment who recalls your drunken antics; 
an artist, who’ll make up your face, if you beg; the best thing anyone could ask for. 

From Open a new door, a collection of poems by Robbie Cheadle and Kim Blades available here: https://www.amazon.com/Open-new-door-collection-poems-ebook/dp/B07K4RRC4W

Author CV – Roberta/Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with eleven children’s books and two poetry books.

The eight Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie and Michael have also written Haunted Halloween Holiday, a delightful fantasy story for children aged 5 to 9. Count Sugular and his family hire a caravan to attend a Halloween party at the Haunted House in Ghost Valley. This story is beautifully illustrated with Robbie’s fondant and cake art creations.

Robbie has also published two books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has two adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories, in the horror and paranormal genre, and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle contributes two monthly posts to https://writingtoberead.com/, namely, Growing Bookworms, a series providing advice to caregivers on how to encourage children to read and write, and Treasuring Poetry, a series aimed at introducing poetry lovers to new poets and poetry books.

In addition, Roberta Eaton Cheadle contributes one monthly post to https://writingtoberead.com/ called Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends which shares information about the cultures, myths and legends of the indigenous people of southern Africa.

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Website:

https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog
https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/bakeandwrite


YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyFo_OJLPqFa9ZhHnCfHUA


Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle

Purchase links:
TSL Publications (paperbacks)

Lulu.com (paperbacks and ebooks)

Amazon US (paperbacks)
https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ


Amazon UK (paperbacks)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

Places in our Memories: With Carol Lovekin #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 pleased to welcome Carol Lovekin.

Since Judith invited me to contribute to this strand, I’ve spent weeks mulling over too many memories of a myriad places. A moment here, a memory there, this place briefly visited and only half remembered; this one part of the fabric of my life. And it occurred to me, perhaps I could take the premise literally and highlight ‘places’ plural.

Maggie, my mother

Many of these places and moments featured my mother. She was and remains a huge influence in my life. She was Irish, she played the piano and had a way with words. My mother held space, she had an authentic sense of the importance of place and my memories are littered with moments and memories of her.

The word ‘moment’ reminds me of the Kate Bush song, Jig of Life* and the line, ‘I put this moment, here…’ In the song she asks, ‘Can’t you see where memories are kept bright?’ I can and still do: places with moments stitched to their seams. And at the centre, my mother invariably making more sense than, at the time, I gave her credit for. These memories are in no particular order.

Memory:

I’m nine and can barely swim; riding on my father’s shoulders in a chilly stretch of the river Avon, roped off to resemble a lido. There are rocks underfoot and he slips. I’m falling, it’s cold and deep and I’m swallowing water . . . drowning. . . drowning. . .

I didn’t of course. Dad hauled me out and ‘kissed me better’ while my mother announced her disapproval. (‘I told you not to do that, Ken! What’s the point of the rubber ring if she doesn’t use it?’) And that was indubitably that. Instead of throwing me back in, they fussed, although, to my horror, my mother did suggest a swimming pool and proper lessons. Really? No way; it has a Deep End!


It wasn’t until I became a mother myself and the children were learning to swim that I made myself venture back into the water. It didn’t last. The children were soon fearless and there were too many rivers near where we lived, too much deep water. Years later – decades in truth – I started going to the local pool and discovered a real love for swimming. I’m not very good and I still don’t entirely trust deep water, but I’ve come a long way from that day when I was a little girl, tumbling from my daddy’s shoulder.

Memory

With my green-fingered mother in the garden of the house I grew up in. It’s full to overgrown perfection with flowers. A drooping rose and Mum’s pulling a stick from the undergrowth. ‘That’ll do it.’ The rose firmly staked. Weeks later, noticing the straggler has expired, but the steadying stick is beginning to throw off green shoots.
‘That’s magic,’ says my mother. ‘Gardening is magic. If you have a garden, you’ll always have a place to be peaceful.’

(My father photographed it. He rarely took photos of people which is why I have so few from my childhood.)

The rose eventually grew into a rambling, delicate pink wonder with a glorious scent. We never did identify it. Mum just called it her magic rose.

Over the years I’ve made several gardens. All of them magical, all of them with a pink rose of some sort or another. Now I am ‘reduced’ to a balcony, I’m looking for one that will work in a small space. A pink one, of course. In memory of that perfect place. And my mother.

Memory

My mother, quietly and with no drama, delivering my first, born-too-quickly-for-the-midwife, daughter.

One of Dad’s exceptions and one of my favourite photographs.


‘She’s got her eyes open already,’ says Mum. ‘That’s girls for you.’ She hands me the baby and yes, her eyes are wide open and I know she can see me.
Mum, smiling, nodding her head. ‘We’re a proper matriarchy now.’
And that’s when I became a ‘proper’ feminist.


Memory

I’m in my bedroom. Mine, at last, because Dad has given up his darkroom and decamped to the shed, so my sister and I can have our own rooms. I’m scribbling a story for ‘English Composition’ homework.
‘It’s rubbish,’ I say to my dusting, tidying mother.
She straightens the bookshelves. (She’s bought me most of the books.)
‘Read all the books,’ she says, ‘and you’ll write better stories
.’

She wasn’t wrong. Now, decades later, I find myself realising, although my mother didn’t live long enough to see me published, she is everywhere in my books. Not always obviously, but nonetheless there. I write about mothers and daughters a lot and it took me a while to understand how my own mother influenced some of the mothers I imagine. I like to think she would have approved.

So long as the stories come, I shall continue to write them, and both consciously and unconsciously place my mother at the centre of them.


* Hello, old lady
I know your face well

I’ll be sitting in your mirror…
Will you look into the future…?

One with the ocean and the woman unfurled
Holding all the love that waits for you here… 

I put this moment here…

© Kate Bush

Find Carol here:

Twitter: twitter.com/carollovekin

Website: carollovekinauthor.com/

Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01ADAWMPC



Places in our Memories: With Thorne Moore #MondayBlogs #Memories #SlightHumour

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m pleased to hand over to Thorne Moore. These are Thorne’s memories. Well, they will be, once she’s got the following out of her system!

So, a rabbit walks into a pub and orders a pint of beer.

‘Anything else?’ asks the barman.

The rabbit checks the menu and says ‘Yes, I’ll have a toasted cheese and pickle sandwich please.’

Coming up,’ says the barman.

Next day the rabbit is back. He orders a pint of beer, peruses the menu again and chooses a toasted ham and tomato sandwich.

Third day, ‘What can I get you?’ asks the barman, presenting the rabbit with his pint.

‘A toasted beef and onion sandwich, please.’

Next day, no sign of the rabbit, nor the day after. Finally he reappears, looking very limp and wan.

‘You look rough,’ says the barman. ‘What’s up with you.’

The rabbit wipes his eyes. ‘I’ve had a bad case of mixing my toasties.’

What has this extremely awful joke got to do with anything? Nothing really, except that I was born in 1954, and when I looked up records to discover what important events happened to commemorate my birth, I discovered that it was the year that myxomatosis was introduced into Britain to control the rabbit population. Actually, it now seem to be recorded as 1953, so I can’t even claim that milestone.

I wasn’t actually aware of myxomatosis at the time. I wasn’t entirely aware of anything much for several months, if not years, but when I was, I assumed, as children do, that all around me was permanent. The world was there purely for my benefit so how it was must have been how it always had been. There was a thing called The Past, but it wasn’t real. There had been a war, but it was something black and white, literally and figuratively, that happened in films on our television. It was a fable that had nothing to do with the present that I inhabited.

I was ten when it suddenly struck me that the period between the end of the war and my arrival was actually less than the length of time I had been alive. It had been lurking all the time just behind me, almost within reach. My first real grasp of history. The past was just under my feet and nothing was permanent after all. My parents had not, as I always assumed, sprung fully formed from the earth for the sole purpose of being my parents. They had, in fact, once been ten-year-olds like me, living through a war that must have been terrifying rather than exciting.I became conscious at that time that the physical world I occupied, a housing estate on the outskirts of Luton, was not a permanent fixture on Planet Earth either. Most of the streets I walked along on my way to school, the houses I passed and even the school itself had only been built a year or two before my birth. What had existed there before was farmland, and its ghost still lingered. The huge wild cherry tree breaking through the pavement opposite our house (responsible for all the pretty but inedible cherry tree saplings in our garden), must have been growing in the hedgerow of a field even before my parents were born.

The lane, generally known as The Lane, that offered me a delightfully dirty alternative route to school, was not just a muddy connection between my road and the houses of Ackworth Crescent, but an old farm track, leading presumably to a farm house that had disappeared long ago. The very dark brooding little house near the top of the lane, in an overgrown garden full of bluebells, was probably as old, but to us it was just self-evidently a witch’s cottage. Some of us claimed to have seen the witch.

The lane was dark and unfrequented, overhung with trees and with no houses in sight, the sort of ominous place that no child would be allowed to walk alone along today. But them was innocent days and no one bothered. The lane crossed a brook on a rotting plank bridge, wide enough to have once supported a horse and cart. Beside the bridge ran a huge pitted iron pipe. I imagine the pipe was fairly recent, the sewer for the growing housing estate, but for us children, of course, it was the only possible means to cross the brook. Who would use a boring bridge when you could balance precariously on a curving pipe?

The brook wove through the estate, in several branches, channelled under new roads in culverts that you could walk through if you didn’t mind falling victim to killer leeches that were in there, just waiting to suck your blood. I don’t remember anyone actually coming across a leech, killer or otherwise, but only a few boys ever attempted it. There was a perpetual mystery about the way streams would emerge from such dark culverts, run in deep gullies between houses and then inexplicably disappear again.

Elsewhere, alleys between the new houses crossed the brooks on footbridges, which you had to run across because Coal Black Charlie lurked beneath them and would grab you if you dawdled. I have no idea who Coal Black Charlie was supposed to be, but I am sure every childhood map has a hiding place for such a character. It remained a mystery what he would do to us if he ever caught us – which he never did.

Eventually the brook disappeared into the most sinister culvert of all, round and pitch black, under the railway, to join the “River” Lea, which at that point was a marshy rivulet seeping out from the ugliest possible grating in the middle of a Neolithic campsite. No one ever ventured into the culvert under the railway.

Any illusion of the permanence of my housing estate was swept away in my last years at junior school, when the prefabs at the centre, including the one where my grandparents had lived, were demolished, the land turned into a massive building site.

There is always something sad, insulting, about the demolition of houses, even prefabs, their inner privacy and wallpaper stripped bare briefly, before being reduced to rubble. It wasn’t just structural entities that were being rubbed out, but homes, people’s pasts. The future, as it was then predicted, rose in their place. Walking to school, my sister and I laid bets on which huge tower block of flats would be finished first. They weren’t complete until I was at High School far away (well, a couple of miles anyway). One was called Hooker’s Court. For some reason the name was later changed.

If I needed a reminder that time moves on, leaving an imprint, but also forever morphing into something new, I visited the scene of my childhood many years later, long after moving to Wales, and found everything both the same and changed, the estate no longer on the very brink of town but engulfed in it, so many new roads and houses that I had trouble identifying my old school route at all. The lane is miraculously still there, surrounded by flats amidst the trees and shockingly gentrified with a pretty lamppost and a new footbridge. No one would think now that it had once been a farm track. The pipe is still there, unchanged. Do children still walk across it?

I found myself realising how differently children and adults see everything – people, places, time itself. To us children, the estate was full of secrets, possibilities, opportunities for play and sources of potential nightmare. We saw the brook and its culverts with unfettered imagination, conjuring up mysteries and monsters. Adults saw a logical scheme of town planning and drainage systems. It was that contrast that first inspired me to write The Unravelling, which is largely set in my old estate, though elements have been moved around a little and names altered.

To the best of my knowledge, no murder ever happened while I lived there, so I invented the plot, and my characters are purely fictional, but the place, through a child’s eyes, with all its sinister potential was real enough.

Thorne can be found at…

Website: https://thornemoore.com/

Twitter: @ThorneMoore

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7

My Review of Only May, by Honno Author, Carol Lovekin #Honno #familystory #secrets #magic

Book Description:

A young woman haunted by ghosts, magic and long-kept family secrets in a new novel from the author of the Wales Book of the Year 2021 shortlisted, WILD SPINNING GIRLS.

I give you fair warning, if you’re planning on lying to me, don’t look me in the eye.

It’s May’s 17th birthday – making the air tingle with a tension she doesn’t fully understand. But she knows her mother and her aunt are being evasive; secrets are being kept.Like her grandmother before her, May has her own magic: the bees whisper to her as they hover in the garden… the ghosts chatter in the graveyard. And she can’t be fooled by a lie. She becomes determined to find out what is being kept from her. But when May starts to uncover her own story, she threatens to bring her mother and aunt’s carefully constructed family to the edge of destruction..

My Review:.

Only May is a story that could only have been written by Carol Lovekin. Her writing style is unique, filled with poetic prose that evokes layer upon layer of wonderful imagery, juxtaposed with stories that gradually emerge to reveal fascinating plots, strong characters and atmospheric  settings.

Set in Wales in the nineteen fifties, the narrative portrays seventeen-year-old May as a young woman who has been gifted the power to recognise lies. Even so, she  becomes increasingly and uneasily aware that her family hold a secret about her past that shocks and distresses her.

Throughout the book there is a sense that the freedom that May cherishes in the natural world vies with the restriction of her home life.

The main characters are multi layered: May’s protective but hard-working mother, Esme, who, although she loves her, sometimes irritates May, Billy, her father, a man suffering from both physical and mental disability, but with whom May has a close and loving relationship. And then there is Esme’s sister, May’s unconventional aunt, who encourages her to explore the magic of folklore and the mystery of nature. All ably supported by a community of well-drawn minor characters, each with their own foibles, each adding to the revelation of the central theme – the truth of May’s life. A truth that could mean the destruction of the family. And of her trust in them.

Only May is what I always call a slow burner of a story, with a steady exposé of the plot through a narrative that is Insightful and philosophical. Therefore, this complex and spellbinding novel is one to savour. As such I thoroughly recommend it.

About Carol Lovekin:

Carol is a writer, feminist & flâneuse based in west Wales. She writes contemporary fiction exploring family relationships & secrets, the whole threaded with myth, fairytale, ghosts, Welsh Gothic mystery & slivers of magic.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3ykGaFY

Carol’s Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/carollovekin

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2SVpYaR

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Carol Lovekin #Honno #authors

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno, the publishers.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Carol Lovekin

Hello and welcome, Carol. Lovely to see you here today. 

And glad to be here, Judith

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

Four. Favourite is tough. Like my children, I love them all for different reasons. But I’ll pick Wild Spinning Girls as it’s the one everyone says they like best. And it was shortlisted for a prize: the Wales Book of the Year (Fiction Award) 2021.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

During a read through, I spotted it, almost at the end. It was a moment when one of my characters was musing on the essential nature of ‘girls’ and it was perfect.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The opening chapter! It wasn’t until my editor pointed out, during our initial structural edit, that I’d started the story in the wrong place, I realised I had. Once she told me, ‘It begins with Ida’s accident’ (which feeds into the fairy tale element and the story of The Red Shoes), the penny dropped. I was able to draw on my own background in ballet and had the scene written in my head almost before I got home!

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

The scenes involving Olwen – my ghost. I love her. She is my role model and any hauntings I plan will be an homage to her!

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

Heather, probably. And some of my readers have expressed an interest in Roni, wanting to know more about her. This is the nature of story however – they are never finished and some threads get left to spin in the wind.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

My next book is due out this May. Which is perfect, as the story takes places over the month of May. Only May is the story of May Harper, a girl who can look you in the eye and see your lies. As gifts go, it’s a double-edged sword; May doesn’t always want to know people’s secrets. But at the heart of her family hides the biggest lie of all, one she is determined to see. 

At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

Before I was published, I was a scribbler with no directions. Once I retired, I decided to take my writing seriously, with a view to publication. And I had an idea I knew could work: if I could write it, it had legs, so to speak. Luckily for me, it had wings. When Ghostbird was published, that was when I knew I was a writer.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Get a grip!? In my view and in my writing life, there’s no such thing. Sometimes (mostly) I write, sometimes I don’t. Regardless of any circumstances which may take me away from physical writing, I’m always thinking about my current story. Every aspect of creating a story is a writer’s work.

Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

Absolutely. I did it with my second book, Snow Sisters. Allegra, the mother in this story is a narcissist. While I was writing the book, I finally said ‘No’ to a long-time friend whose narcissism had pushed me to my limit. ‘No’ is anathema to a narcissist and she instantly ended the friendship. Stealing a few of her attributes was a small but satisfying therapy. And the thing about a narcissist is, they will never guess you have modelled a character on them because in a narcissist’s world, everything is about them anyway. They are perfect, and that arrogant, self-involved, manipulative character couldn’t possibly be them!

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Beginnings. On every level. Sometimes, even though I know exactly what a chapter is about, I can’t start writing it. Can’t find the perfect opening sentence never mind a paragraph. It can takes hours. And don’t get me started on – well – the start! Once upon a time . . .?   

How do you use social media as an author?

Carefully!

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

Although, ultimately, Honno chose me, I always had them in mind. I thought they would be a perfect fit for the first book I submitted. Ghostbird has a quintessentially Welsh feel to it. Added to that was my admiration for Honno as a feminist women’s press supporting women’s voices. I got my debut break with them as a result of taking part in a Meet the Editor session with Janet Thomas. This was life-changing for me. At the age of 71 I became a published author and my fourth book is on the horizon.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Hilary Shepherd

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Hilary Shepherd

Hello and welcome, Hilary. Good to see you here today.

It’s good to be with you, Judith

Could you tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

Five written, three published. My favourite is ‘Albi’.

What inspired the idea for your book?

The book is based on a village in Aragon in Spain where we have a house. Over the last 20 years we’ve been told a lot of stories about the impact of the Civil War on neighbours who have all died now. Our house is full of farm implements that would have been in common use then and the sound landscape has changed little – the streets are too narrow for traffic so human voices dominate. The sheep flocks still graze to the sound of their bells and the shepherds call to them as they always did. The golden orioles still sing. I couldn’t not write about it!

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.

Albi himself, a nine-year-old boy who is catapulted into a strange and forbidding world but is still only a child. I think of him whenever I’m in the village and things he got up to and it’s a jolt to remember sometimes that he exists only in my head. And in the heads of my readers.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The ending, because there were so many threads to draw together and I wanted to do justice to my characters and also to history, which doesn’t have resolutions.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

The pranks Albi gets up to, and the irony of what he sees compared with what he understands.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Now I’m older, a comfortable chair. 

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

At the moment it’s to keep writing when making physical things seems so much less of a self-indulgence. This is a knock-on of covid though I’m not sure why. At the moment I find myself preferring to make a window than spend time at my desk, which isn’t very conducive to finishing off my next novel.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Writing that isn’t tied to the earth by too many words in the wrong places.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Both – they leapfrog each other until it gets difficult to remember which was the trigger, though I’m pretty certain the characters come second but then drive the plot, sometimes surprisingly.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I’m afraid I don’t. I used to, but I really didn’t like it.

 Why did you Honno as a publisher?

Because they were there, and because Caroline responded so generously to my first submission. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the community that Honno is and the chance to be aware of others’ progress through the otherwise deeply solitary experience of being published.

About Hilary:

I live on a hillside in the middle of Wales where I have spent most of my adult life farming and woodworking, and also writing. My first novel was set in the Sudan where I lived for two years, the second in Ghana, and the third in Spain. Writing about other places is a wonderful way to spend time in them when life keeps you somewhere else.

Tenby Arts Festival 2016: Day Three: Monday 26th September.

Tenby Arts Festival 2016: Day Two: Sunday 25th September.

Tenby Arts Festival 2016: Day One: Saturday 24th

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Brass Ensemble

To announce the opening of the festival with a swing, a brass ensemble will perform a medley of popular musical numbers.

Outside St Mary’s Church
High Street

11am

Free


 

Book Fair                               11998866_10152946036952132_7601875809175322308_n

For the fifth year running the Book Fair is the popular opening event in Church House for the Tenby Arts Festival. We will have twenty-eight authors and two publishers for all to chat with, who are either Welsh based or have set their books in Wal12049533_502977976546241_4653897117982364739_nes. There will be three competitions this time: an adults short story competition, one for teenagers and one for children. Details to be announced separately in May through the media.
Talks, books, relaxing music, refreshments; a morning of friendly chatter and discussion – a great morning for all.

Here is what a visitor said of last year’s fair (see picture):

“This weekend I’ve attended the Book Fair at the Tenby Arts Festival. Having seen the busy London Book Fair last year and on the other end of the spectrum some deserted halls with only two tables and four attendees elsewhere, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good vibe and a great buzz in a busy hall with lots of mingling and literary delights.”

Church House
11am – 3pm

Free


 

Sand Circles

Marc Treanor

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The essence of all you see, only exists because of a very profound order of certain repeating mathematical formulas that create the foundation of all matter, from atoms to galaxies. Sacred Geometry is the ancient science that explores and explains the energy patterns that create and unify all things, and reveals the precise way that the energy of Creation organises itself. On every scale, every natural pattern of growth or movement conforms inevitably to one or more of these geometric shapes. The strands of our DNA, the cornea of our eye, snow flakes, pine cones, flower petals, diamond crystals, the branching of trees, the path of lightning, a nautilus shell, the star we spin around, the galaxy we spiral within, and all life forms as we know them emerge out of timeless geometric codes. Sacred Geometry may very well provide the answers that you have been looking for.  (http://www.maya48.com/)

The patterns Marc creates on the beaches are all inspired by sacred geometry. The idea of ‘sacredness’ transpires from the  realisation that these patterns appear everywhere from the very small, the quantum field or the microcosm, to the very large, the cosmic realms or the macrocosm.

North Beach

Free

 

Jack Harris                          Jack Harris

Jack Harris writes and performs literate, compassionate songs, about subjects as disparate as Caribbean drinking festivals, the colour of a potato flower and the lives of great poets like Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop.
These have won him considerable acclaim. The Telegraph voted his album ‘The Flame and the Pelican’ #5 in their top 10 Roots/Folk albums of 2012. Q magazine praised his ‘unique lyrical mind’, and Maverick UK awarded the record its full 10/10 rating.
Jack is happiest when playing live. He has brought his music to a loyal, ever-growing audience, at festivals, venues and skating rinks across the world. On occasion he has opened for some of Folk’s biggest names, including Anais Mitchell, Cara Dillon and Dick Gaughan. His live show is a riveting mix of song craft and theatrical story-telling, delivered with warm voice, dry humour and nimble, string-picking fingers. Come on out and see.

Church House
8.00pm

£10

 


 

Cantemus

The Messiah

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Under the baton of Welsh National Opera chorus master, Alexander Martin, singers from all over Pembrokeshire and beyond, choir members or not will rehearse and perform Handel’s Messiah  in the beautiful surroundings of St Mary’s Church.

Born in London, Alexander Martin studied Music at St John’s College, Cambridge, and the piano at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1992 he was appointed répétiteur at the Opéra National de Lyon in France under Kent Nagano. From 1995 to 1998 Alexander spent four seasons in Germany as répétiteur at the Opera, and répétiteur and conductor at the Hesse State Opera in Wiesbaden, before returning to live in France to pursue a freelance career. He has worked as guest conductor, assistant and coach for Lyon, Marseille, Avignon, le Capitole Toulouse, l’Opéra National du Rhin (Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia), La Monnaie, le Grand Théâtre Geneva, as well as for Aix-en-Provence, Glyndebourne, and Montepulciano Festivals. Alexander also worked closely with Philippe Jordan Britten’s Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw (Graz), and collaborated with René Jacobs in Rome for Tancredi. Following three seasons as Chorus Master in Bern (where he also conducted Cendrillon and Dave Maric’s Ghosts), Alexander worked as Chorus Master at the Opéra National de Bordeaux from 2010-2014. During this time he also worked in Bayreuth with Philippe Jordan on Parsifal (2012). He became Chorus Master at WNO at the start of this season.

The choir will be accompanied by Jeff Howard, organist.

Jeffrey Howard was born in Cardiff and studied at the University of Wales College, Cardiff, and the Royal Academy of Music, specializing in organ performance and church music. Since graduating, he has pursued a freelance career as organist, pianist, singer, coach and conductor. He has accompanied leading international singers including Bryn Terfel, Sir Willard White, and, Rebecca Evans.

Jeff has performed throughout the United Kingdom and Europe including the Wigmore Hall, The Goethe Institute, Brussels, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and has worked with orchestras such as The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Royal Philharmonic. He made his Royal Albert Hall debut in 2002 as soloist in Shostakovitch’s second piano concerto. Recent performance include performed Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff with the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra and a recital with Bryn Terfel at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.

Jeff frequently provides arrangements for the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, S4C and various solo artists. He is accompanist, singer and arranger for Only Men Aloud!, winners of the BBC competition ‘Last Choir Standing’ who recently won a Classical Brit Award for their second album on the Universal label. Jeff is also involved in cabaret and music theatre having worked with names such as Michael Ball, David Owen Jones, Peter Karrie, and more informally, Dame Shirley Bassey!

For the past 18 years, Jeffrey has held a post as vocal coach at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and at Welsh National Opera and Welsh National Youth Opera.

For those wishing to join the choir there will be rehearsal before the performance during the day. There will be a charge of £10 for those taking part and in addition a refundable deposit for copies of the music/text.

St. Mary’s Church

Rehearsals will be at 3pm – 5.30pm
Performance 6.30pm – 8pm

Tickets £8 


 

 


 

Enquiries to: tenbyartsfestival@yahoo.co.uk