Sunday, 8 December 2013

Gone, but not forgotten

One of my passions is genealogy - regular visitors here will know that for this year's A-Z blog challenge I concentrated on the joys (and frustrations!) of family history.

Most of it is just names, dates and places, but every now and then there comes a bit of information or a photograph that brings the individual almost 'back to life'.

One such occurrence happened quite recently when an off-the-cuff remark by a family member led to the discovery of a number of letters from WW2 - from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

Donald 'Donnie' Brown was my husband's Great Uncle. He was in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and when the island was captured by Japanese forces he was interned in Stanley Camp for the duration.

A few of his letters managed to find their way back to his sister in India and we have been privileged to see them and preserve them for posterity.

They make harrowing reading, as they are filled with positive emotions of looking forward to the day when the war would be over and the family could be reunited. Sadly, although he survived and was able to get back to India, his sister was just returning from England. They later realised their ships would have passed each other in Bombay.

Donnie returned to Hong Kong and resumed his career with the RHKP, married and started a family and finally relocated to New Zealand. Though both he and his sister lived well into old age they never saw each other again, although they communicated by letter and phone.

Seeing the cards he wrote from prison, with their Japanese pictograms, brings home an aspect of WW2 in the Pacific that I'd never really considered; in the UK, most of our knowledge of the war is centred on the European conflict.

Reading the four-page letter he wrote on release, unfettered by lack of censorship, it seems a romantic engagement had been called off and he found himself footloose and fancy free......there's a novel in that, somewhere!

And the story of Donnie is still bringing new discoveries, for just today I received this picture at the top of this post - taken as preparations for defence were being carried out; sadly they were not to know how swiftly the enemy would arrive, nor in what numbers that would quickly overwhelm them.

Still, he looks rather dashing, at the wheel - a bit of playboy charm about him!  You may be gone, Donnie, but you are most definitely NOT forgotten!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Banging The Drum For 'FRIDAY GIRLS' !!

One of the best things about blogging is that every now and then you come across people who you will probably never meet face to face, but with whom you have an instant rapport. One such, in my case, is the extremely talented writer, Cathy Olliffe-Webster.

(the delightful Cathy, with husband Dave)

We met through a love of writing and now she has published not one but two books! So here I am to 'bang the drum' for her in promoting her work and......

......oh, here's the lady herself:

I wouldn’t know Sue Harding if it wasn’t for #FridayFlash. I wouldn’t know that she has a brand new kitchen almost ready for bangers and mash. I wouldn’t know she is an absolute knitting fiend who, if she had a dollar for every ball of wool she has stashed in her cubby, could afford to buy Buckingham Palace.
Or at least the services of one of those taciturn but extremely handsome fur-hatted guards at the palace gate. I myself would skip the palace and opt for four or five of those guards. Ménage a cinq, anyone?
But I digress. The fact is, I wouldn’t have any idea who Mizz Harding was, I wouldn’t be a writer and I wouldn’t be the author of two (count ‘em) books if it wasn’t for #FridayFlash. I would, however, be a sad and lonely homeless person laying on a subway grate, sluicing down a bottle of cheap plonk and peeing on storefronts. That is the amazing way #FridayFlash changed my life.
You may be wondering what it is, this marvelous life-changing thing. It’s an Internet meme, actually, the brainchild of American writer/poet Jon M. Strother who, back in 2009, wanted to create something that would encourage, support and showcase short fiction from writers around the world. The writers wrote a story of 1,000 words or less, they posted it on their blogs and tweeted it with the hash tag (that’s the # thing-a-ma-bob on Twitter). Then they ran about reading and commenting on all the other writers’ stories. A bloggy friend named CJ Hodges MacFarlane introduced me to the phenomenon and I took to it like toddler-pee to swimming pool water. The absolute rush of having other people read my work was stunning and I quickly picked up on a lot of writing know-how.
Basically I was a #FridayFlash addict. I wrote a story every Thursday night for more than a year. On my honeymoon. The night before my wedding. I wrote when I was sick and I wrote when I was run off my feet. I became part of a community and meeting people like Sue was as good or better than the writing itself.
Eventually my attention turned to writing a novel, Green Eggs & Weezie, an all-consuming 

voyage that put Flash on the back-burner. But I never forgot the stories that made Fridays magical, and eventually I chose my favourites and created an anthology called Friday Girls. Why girls? Well, there are some stories featuring men, but mostly my stories are about “girls” of all ages, of all backgrounds, but all with the same insecurities and foibles that mark my own life.
When it came time to give the collection a title, Friday Girls seemed perfect. In my mind, Friday girls are tough when they need to be, with big hearts and even bigger dreams, and they launch into the weekends of their lives with fearless abandon.
The book is one of the best things about being involved with #FridayFlash – next to getting to know Sue Harding, of course.

Starting tomorrow, Friday Girls will be available for free, for five days, on Amazon. Here’s some  links:

If you read Friday Girls or Green Eggs & Weezie, and you like them (!), please tell your friends and leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon. If you don’t like them, take your dear old mother’s advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”


You can catch up with Cathy over at her blog- 'Cold Lake Cathy' - Cold Lake, Alberta, being the place her and Dave have recently relocated to. I don't take it personally that she decided to move several states away just at the time when I announced I was coming over from the UK to visit cousins in New England and we might even take a run up to Toronto and be within striking distance of meeting Cathy and Dave  from their their home on the Muskoka River, Ontario! There's friendship for you!! ;-p

(...and what happened to my #fridayflash stories? Well, a lot of them are just over to your right, in the sidebar, if you fancy trying them out for size! Maybe I shall have to think about following Cathy's lead and publishing them myself....... ;-p)

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Words for Wednesday - a rather irreverent poem!

Over at 'Under the Porch Light' , the blog-host, Delores, is running a word-meme each Wednesday; she provides a prompt which may be a group of random words, a phrase or a picture, and invites us to let our imaginations get to work.

This week's words were:

insignificant, crimson, mottled, track, border, and spinning


"She was stiff as last years Christmas tree...."

So, here's my version of what that little lot inspired me to write:

The Big Send-off

She was stiff as last years’ Christmas tree,
Laid out in her Sunday best,
The family had gathered to toast her passing 
And pay their last respects.

The trestles, draped with a crimson cloth,
Supported the weight of her coffin,
And outside stood, as red as blood, 
The hearse they would carry her off in.

“It borders on the ridiculous!”
said an elderly aunt, “Why not black?”
“She refused to go quietly,” muttered another,
“it looks like her plans were on track!”

An insignificant cough stilled the scene,
Disguising a deep-bellied snort,
As a mourner tripped over the cat on the floor 
And let go of his glass of fine port.

Uncle Bert raised his beer and we all gave a cheer
As the errant glass flew through the air,
As it hit the deceased, the port was released 
And quickly spread everywhere!

We all gasped in shock, as down her best frock, 
Appeared a trail, mottled and red,
But the silence was broken by what was next spoken, 
As Aunt Maud leaned forward and said:

“It’s all for the best  - she’ll be laid out to rest
In the dress she last wore as a bride,
“And at least she now matches 
The hearse that despatches her off to the ‘other side’!”

We had to admit that the dress did now fit, 
As we looked round the room at each other,
Uncle Bert chipped in fast, “Well it worked out at last
 - 'cos she told us to “have a drink ON 'er!”

With a laugh and a cheer we banished each tear 
As we toasted her name with a smile,
With the angels she’s singing, and what a yarn spinning
- how we sent her off in such style!


This has turned into just a wee bit of an homage to "Ackroyd's Funeral", by comedian and folk artist Mike Harding (no relation), you can judge for yourself :

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Back to the drawing board (...or should I say - 'writing' board?)

There was a time when I used to pen little bits and pieces here; some prompted by writing memes from other bloggers and sites, some for my own meme: 'Thursday@3' (see the side bars and please try one, why don't you?).

Sadly, the 'muse' wandered off one day when I wasn't paying attention and then 'normal' life got in the way of me chasing after her......  :-/

However, thanks to the prodding/nudging of one of my blogging-friends, Cathy Olliffe-Webster , I was 'introduced' to the amazing Delores who's hosting a word-prompt called Words For Wednesday and when I ducked in there for a gander yesterday I couldn't resist 'trying it on for size', so to speak!

Anyway - the prompt was thus: create a short piece of fiction or poetry inspired by the use of any (or all) of the following words:-

crow, evening, mist, rapid, blazing, emerge 

An added incentive/option was to use this picture as inspiration:

It didn't take long to get the mental machinery into operation again and I came up with this little ditty of doggerel verse:

Beware the CROW, your unseen foe, as EVENING MISTs descend,
For by and by, with RAPID eye, he notes the nuts you tend.

He waits his chance, and as you dance through leaves of BLAZING gold,
His cawing dirge, as you  EMERGE, is screaming shrill and bold.

So hurry! Flee!  Get up that tree, for time is now a-wasting,
It’s not the nuts, but squirrel guts, he has in mind for tasting!


Friday, 27 September 2013

From the 'old' (England) to the 'New' - part two

....and into Vermont!

OK - so we only just rolled over the state border from New Hampshire but there was a noticeable difference in the lush forestation and certainly explained the reason why Vermont is known as the 'Green Mountain State!

We visited Quechee Gorge, Vermont's 'Little Grand Canyon:

In particular, we visited a glassworks studio which had amazing views of the weir
and a beautiful covered bridge:

Further along the road and over that amazing bridge (newly constructed to replace one which had been washed away recently!) there were some quaint little shops - the sort that run one into another - where we bought souvenirs and enjoyed tasting samples of fudge and cheese; you could say it was sort of a 'balanced diet'!


Later in the holiday, we crossed to the other side of New Hampshire and over into Maine, to indulge my penchent for lighthouses - don't ask me what it is, but seeing these quaint New England
lighthouses just seems to sum up the rugged vistas of the North Atlantic coast.

We visited the Nubble Light at Cape Neddick, apparently the most photographed lighthouse in America - you can see why:

....and here I will totally bore you with a few more pictures I took (under the tutelage of my cousin!)

Then we headed over to Perkins Cove - seriously out of my price-range!
A random selection of shots, from the bridge and it's unusual bird-houses: the views from the coastal pathway:

Of course, if I ever won the lottery I think I could be tempted to buy one
of the palatial houses along the coast road in Ogunquit:

This one quite took my fancy!


With our time in New England drawing to a close, we ventured northwards in New Hampshire to the White Mountains 
- I'll leave you with a few of the pictures I took here;
'breathtaking' seems too simple a word to describe the views!

DD and O trying their best to conceal a look of horror as I backed away to
get them 'in shot' - a little too near the edge for their liking!

And no wonder - I was a wee bit nearer the edge than the (unknown to us) chap in this picture:

Too early for the wonderful 'Fall' colours, but I did manage to get a picture of leaf-change on one branch - probably because we were so far north:

DD and I were sad to leave this corner of New England; we had such a wonderful holiday with K, my cousin, and O, his wife. There was much feasting and merriment (and I think I've forgiven them for taking photos of DD and I coping with eating a lobster, complete with our bibs in place!) - plus the cookery 'lessons' and photographic 'tuition' washed down with truly 'wicked' cocktails  (just so O could play with her new Ninja Bullet blender!), we had such a fantastic time.


One last look - my favourite picture of all: 

(click on the picture to get an idea of what 'breathtaking' means!)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

From the 'Old' to the 'New' - England, that is!

Earlier this week DD and I flew back home from visiting my cousin and his wife in Merrimack, New England. We had a wonderful time touring various places (managed to clock up visits to four states!) and as cousin's wife is a chef we were VERY well fed! :-)

The new camera I got before my trip to Prague earlier this year came into good use. Before, I'd never got past the 'point and click' stage or even moved off the 'Smart' setting; however, my cousin is a whizz with photography so I picked his brains for a few pointers and under his careful tutelage I ventured into new 'territory' selecting the different features my camera has to offer!

Herewith (over the next few posts) some of the things we saw and got up to (I'll try to keep it in chronological order so I don't forget things!)
starting with a trip over the state line to Massachusetts:

Amazing restaurant in Lowell, 'Life Alive' - surprised by the wonderful food, as well as the interior decor!

Suitably replenished we strolled across the road to the New England Quilt Museum. There was a special display of antique quilts from Pennsylvania on view - some of the colours were as bright and fresh as they were originally. Although photos without flash were permitted for personal use we were told they could not be used on blogs or websites :-/  So, here's a link to their own site, if you're interested.

With handicrafts in mind, we ticked off one of our 'must do' items with a trip to 'Michaels'! Here in the UK the nearest thing we have is Hobbycraft - but it's weeny compared to Michaels. In anticipation of our visit DD and I had deliberately packed 'light' in order to leave plenty of room in our luggage for yarn, etc.!

Only half-way round the store!

A few days later, at a Labor Day BBQ, we learned of yet another craft store which out did even Michaels - so that was swiftly added to our itinerary and DD, together with my cousin's wife and I, decided to drop in for a quick look. A couple of hours later, the three of us had spent some serious money!

Some of our treasure!! I'll be posting about this on my alter-ego, The Knitting Assassin!

Next - a trip on a schooner out of Gloucester (Of 'Perfect Storm' fame)

One of the boats in the harbour

Hoisting sails on the 'Thomas E Lennon' - we declined the offer to join in!

Views around the shore

Back to the dock - and a view of the lobster buoys hanging from the rafters

A few days later we visited the Butterfly Place in Westford.
The photography 'lesson' for the day was 'close-ups'!

An Atlas or 'snakeshead' moth
(see the Snake-head image on the tips of the wings!)
This was a 'biggie' - about 8" across.

Butterflies weren't the only things in the enclosure:
Koi carp in one of the pools

Tiny Japanese Quail were scurrying about under our feet!

That's all for now........more to follow, as we venture into Vermont!