It’s like living on the set of Eastenders sometimes.

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My week started well with a visit to Drayton Manor Park where we met up with some Swedish friends and their children. Had a great day with the kids going on about every ride possible. When they said we should go on the log flume my thoughts were of a gentle ride down a winding rill. Was I surprised, this flume was not called STORMFORCE for nothing. Well, STORMFORCE lived up to its name. No sooner as we got into the raft to go through the gates at the top after climbing about 100 feet to get there, we immediately dipped down at about 60 miles an hour. We got drenched. But on the second dip we travelled backwards, so not only did we get sprayed from the front, but from the back as well. The biggy, though, was the last dip. We travelled down at a rate of knots which left my stomach in my mouth, and yes, we got drenched again. When we came to a stop the kids shouted they wanted to go again, but we all decided to shoot the rapids instead. Luckily it was a glorious sunny day so we all dried off quickly, but I squelched around in soggy socks and trainers for the rest of the afternoon incubating trench foot.

Then the week turned to shite. I am not only trying to decorate a bedroom which has not seen the bristles of a paint brush for 9 years, but looking out for Hubby who, a year after having triple heart-bypass surgery, is still in rehab and tires very quickly, so I have to keep my eye on him. Then apart from the usual domestics, I am always the matriarch family members turn to when they have barnies with their partners. I just make a brew and sit and listen without trying not to comment. Then I had to babysit my 13 year old grandson and his 10 year old cousin as they were both off school. Last, but not least, my eldest, after suffering an acute bout of IBS, ended up in the hospital. When do I write? I haven’t this week, and when that happens I’m like an Exocet missile ready to launch. I’ve even turned to the bottle – I had one G & T last night. And I couldn’t do that right; I picked up M & S’s own instead of the Tanqueray export strength or the Bombay Sapphire we bought at Copenhagen airport.

I did enjoy my day with my grandkids, though. The grandson is into war and stuff so we watched a couple of SAS’s greatest missions on the Yesterday channel. He knows his weapons too. Then in the afternoon, which was sunny and hot, he took his cousin for a walk through the village to the church where our neighbour is buried. She always gave them bars of chocolate when they were very young and they always talk about her. They visited her grave and my granddaughter put a flower by the headstone. Her cousin snitched, though, by telling me she had picked it from someone’s garden on the way.

It’s only Thursday and I wonder what the following two days will bring. But after having been told by my family and a virtual friend, whose opinion I value and trust, that I am not marketing myself properly, I am thereby in the process of trying to change book-covers as well as titles. So that’s what I am working on at the minute, the covers, but it’s not coming easy because as far as the computer is concerned I am a dinosaur. As for the titles, that’s proving more difficult.

I will say sayonara for now so I can reduce my stress levels by using the exercise above. May your God go with you. My God? the bottles of gin that sit in the drinks cabinet.

Thursday, 26th June, 1.23pm. Things aren’t getting any better. Just made ham salad sandwiches for lunch. Bit into mine and broke my front tooth. Made an appointment with the dentist.

Friday, 27th June, 5.37am. Been awake since 4am; head spinning with trying to find an appropriate title for a novel, so got up to respond to my emails. Not looking forward to visiting the dentist.

What’s Your Favourite Book?

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I was reading a virtual friend’s blog recently and he was saying how he came to start collecting books. It got me remembering my most exciting find when in Hay-on-Wye a few years ago. I had already bought a few DHL – Lawrence – not the freight firm, but upon walking into the next shop I discovered the translated poems of Heinrich Heine. It is my favourite book, not only because it’s bound in red Moroccan leather – now faded – but its pages are thick parchment: a real find. Don’t care what it might be worth, I just love it, and it always sits right in front of me when I am at my desk. He inspires me.

Other books I always keep by me are big, thick ones like a Mosby’s medical dictionary, a Chamber’s dictionary, a Roget’s thesaurus, and an Oxford dictionary of foreign terms in English. Last, but not least is, The Big Book of Filth – 6500 sex slang words and phrases. You may laugh, or think to yourself, dirty bitch,  but it’s been invaluable since writing about the 40’s and the 80’s. For instance, I discovered a ‘pre-dawn vertical insertion’ is not some early morning mission by the SAS.

As I have just finished writing two books set in the 40’s and 50’s, I endeavoured to use language and phraseology reminiscent of that era. I was brought up in a family where cursing was seldom used. I overheard the odd ‘bloody’ or ‘bugger’ but nothing else. I remember when I was 5 years old and had just started school. I came home having heard the word ‘fuck’ for the first time and I used it. The look on my parents’ faces was a picture. It was totally different to the look I got when I was 4 and told them I had just buried our tortoise in the back garden. Promptly my father frantically started digging it up with his hands. The problem was it was still alive at the time.

I feel I must explain about the tortoise incident before I get a knock on the door from the RSPCA. My father had told me they hibernated over the winter and had to be put in a box and covered with straw.  At 4 years of age I obviously got the wrong end of the stick as when I ‘hibernated’ our tortoise I was wearing a thin cotton dress as it was the middle of July.

When my kids were little we nurtured little bunny rabbits, gerbils, hamsters,  and, yes, a tortoise we named Steve McQueen as it was always escaping from the garden. I would then have to go looking for it and would usually find it halfway down the road – it didn’t half travel at a rate of knots. This happened on many occasions. Was it trying to tell me something, do you think?

I will state, here and now, I am not an animal killer. And no animals were harmed during the writing of this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food For Thought.

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BRITISH ARMY RATION PACK

An Army marches on its stomach, so they so say, and as I am about to publish my third novel with the back-drop of WW11, which touches on the shortage of food especially towards the end of the war, I watched the run-up to the D Day celebrations with interest, along with the BBC coverage on Gold Beach on the 6th June.

What especially caught my attention was the 89 year old man geared-up, sitting in a plane, ready to make a parachute jump. I thought, surely not at his age. But he did, albeit attached to someone, but he did it all the same. Then there was that 90 year old guy from Hove who went AWOL for two days from his nursing home because he couldn’t get a ticket to be with the rest of his comrades. He made it there all by himself. The determination of these men was admirable indeed, but what came over loud and clear was that it meant so much to them just to be there to remember the fallen.

That same night I watched the culmination of weeks of heats where top chefs from all over the country vied for the privilege of cooking a banquet for the veterans. Ration Packs was the name of their starter, but the food inside the veterans box was nothing like the food they had in their Army ration packs on D Day. My 14 year old grandson complains about them when he’s on ‘manoeuvers’ with Army Cadets, but his father gave him a short lesson on how to cook them properly. He’d survived on it, along with the occasional squirrel.

A few years ago when a great aunt died, my uncle and I went to clear her house. I found a large tin trunk in one of the bedrooms, the sort you usually saw on cruise liners in the early 1900’s. It was like opening a Pandora’s box, as inside was a 100 year old tin with Crawford’s Hero Box on the front along with a picture of two men in the trenches. I believe a tin was sent to every soldier during WW1 and was an assorted choice of biscuits.

The biscuits have long gone, but inside this tin I found 2 pieces of lead shot, a Christmas card sent from the City & County of Nottingham, dated 1915, a couple of cards with delicate embroidery – I believe the womenfolk sent these cards to their menfolk as inside the embroidered pouch were other little cards with words of endearment on them. A postal order for 2s 6d, an assortment of other postcards, and a khaki wallet with a number on it. Last, but certainly not least, was a piece of very brown bread which is rock-hard and could be used to shore-up a building.

When I first discovered this tin and its contents I thought it would be of some historical interest, so I rang a couple of museums to find out if they were interested. They both turned them down as they said they weren’t important finds. But one unfriendly man I spoke to: a ‘Rupert’ of high military ranking, spoke  to me in a rather upper-class, haughty manner, making me think he was pissed-off because I’d interrupted his mid-morning tiffin. After putting down the phone I came to the conclusion I wouldn’t send them to him even if he begged me.

Anyway, this tin still sits in a cupboard; taken out occasionally to show my grandchildren. And the bread? that’s still there in all its solid glory, and as I look at it now I am wondering just where this bread came from. I have a notion that its German, as the family member involved was taken POW by the Germans. I suppose their bread is like their cars – will last forever.

I would rather these items be on display than kept in a cupboard in my conservatory. So any suggestions on finding a very good home for my little piece of military history would be much appreciated, even though I am particularly attached to the piece of bread.

N.B.    We found out after my great aunt had died that she had buried all military medals in the back garden along with her dog. She was always known by members of the family to be rather scatter-brained, so apart from digging up the back garden before we left the house for the last time, we left them to rest where she had buried them.