Here Come the Stories of a Hurricane… If My Auntie Had Testicles…

I love Max’s views from Ireland; hopefully they will not be hit too hard by the tail of the hurricane, either way he’s sure to have a tale to tell next time.

Maxpower's Blog

The first tentative drops of rain, a precursor to the on rushing Hurricane Ophelia, tip-tapped on my window pane as I bushed my teeth this morning, and I reconsidered my choice of coat. It is unseasonably warm in the mouth of this behemoth, but I’m Irish, it rains a lot, we always prepare for the day ahead coat wise.

In the car I watched cyclists and motor-cyclists clearly ignore the strong advice of ‘not to travel by bike’ that has been issued over the last couple of days. Schools and colleges are closed, hospital outpatient appointments cancelled along with air, bus and train services on some routes. We are being warned in the strongest possible terms not to take this storm lightly.

Now this is where this little island runs into trouble. Taking things lightly is a national past time.  We can be serious when we want to, but in…

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Tides and Tourists

We have been to Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, how different could Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France be? Just a bit bigger? In Cornwall you know you walk across the causeway at low tide and go by boat at high tide. The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel experiences some of the largest tides in Europe, but the island is not surrounded by the sea every day; it’s far more complicated than that, depending on the movement of heavenly bodies and other factors. All the tourist needs to know is that you can go on guided walks across the vast low tide bay, but you certainly should not go alone. For the photographer the scene is ever changing according to the weather and the tide; the island itself is fascinating with so many buildings, narrow alleys and winding flights of steps clustered below the abbey.

Mont-Saint-Michel is a World Heritage Site and experiences huge tides of tourists. Recently, changes have been completed to preserve the ecology of the area and cater for tourists. Le Barage across the river controls the flow of water into the bay while a big car park and tourist centre, a safe two and a half kilometres from the island, controls the flow of people. Free shuttle buses go endlessly back and forth till midnight or you can take Les Maginotes, carriages pulled by pairs of draught horses. It is also easy to walk along the causeway and the boardwalk bridge, a pleasant stroll past grazing sheep, salt marsh lamb acclaimed for their meat.

Back at tourist base the roads all have barriers, ‘rue impasse’. The effect is to feel you are on a campus; hotels, restaurants and campsite all quiet and traffic free except for coaches bringing tourists. In contrast to the melee of mixed visitors were the neatly controlled groups of Japanese tourists and lively groups of school children. The few days we were there we saw an endless procession of school children being marshalled for the walk across the bay, followed by picnic lunches on the island; evenings in restaurants we sat with Americans, Canadians and Australians while the Japanese were still in their regimented groups. Perhaps none of this was ‘real life’, but the whole tourist experience was well organised, pleasant and stress free.

Even in October the island was packed, people walking, eating, drinking and filing into the abbey. We gathered on a wall with many others to watch the tide creeping in and laugh at teenage boys vying to be the last standing on a rocky outcrop. The top terrace of the abbey had the best view out over the bay and back across the way we had come. Those who work on the island in catering must be constantly busy; for those who live here their homes are unique, but they must be constantly stared at by tourists such as myself, trying to peep in their  front doors as they unlock them or peering down into their tiny gardens.

Writers can take inspiration; what a perfect place to be anonymous in the crowds, or elude capture if their character needs to escape. The abbey itself is a maze of stone arches and flights of stone steps, if you did not adhere to the signs and follow the correct route it’s unlikely you would get out of the building; even following the route I thought we would never get out… But we did emerge into the sunshine to enjoy coffee with a view at one of the many cafes.

For holiday pictures visit my Beachwriter’s Blog, this month ‘Ecrivaine de La Plage’.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

and read more about the trip to Normandy in Chapter Four

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-four-travel-diary/

 

Goerge Had Six Moths To Feed.

After nearly five years floating in the ether, the first novel I published on Amazon Kindle is now available as a paperback. Quarter Acre Block was inspired by my family’s experiences emigrating to Australia as Ten Pound Pommies; ironically the paperback costs £10.00  (£9.99 ).  I have not yet written a novel inspired by my return to the United Kingdom, as a twenty year old on a six month working holiday which has stretched till now; suffice to say I have family on both sides of the world and there have been many journeys back and forth over the years, few of them mine.

Project Paperback QAB took on some urgency as Australian visitors were coming to stay; Kindle Direct Publishing paperbacks are not yet available in Canada or Australia.

Technology at our In House Publishers is rarely new; second hand computers, smart phones and other devices pass through the house, passed down from family who are upgrading or bought from ‘Pete at work’. Quarter Acre Block documents were in my new computer, in the external hard drive and on various memory sticks, but we couldn’t find the HTML document that had formed the original Kindle book. I wanted to add pages at the beginning and end that could not have existed in the first version, ‘By the same author’  ‘About The Author’, so with my Kindle at my side as reference I treated the Microsoft word document as a final edit. It was good to read the novel again and the Palmer family were pleased I had not forgotten them, but I was mortified to find more than one mistake in spelling and grammar. Had gremlins crept in? There was no escaping the fact that the same errors occurred in the Kindle version.  I am not alone in this, I have enjoyed plenty of e-books where letters have swapped places and full stops have fallen off; perfection is hard to achieve, but it was galling to read that George had six ‘moths’ to feed.

At last the book was ready to download, with a new cover and perfect pages. Before you press Publish, Amazon comes up with a helpful spell check, a feature not available when we first published. Six errors… four were colloquial, wheatbelt should have been The Wheatbelt, but the glaring mistake was Goerge. One of my main characters, George, had endured the indignity of having his name spelt incorrectly in the first chapter; I can only hope that like the jumbled letter quizzes on Facebook – only people who are highly intelligent can read this – readers did not notice.

We ordered one copy to check it was fine. The visitors arrived on Thursday, the book on Friday. I ordered ten more; they were due on Sunday, an e-mail from Amazon on Sunday afternoon stated they had been delivered and left in the porch. The porch was empty, the visitors were going on Tuesday morning. On Sunday evening the neighbours came round with a parcel that had been left in their porch. On Monday evening we gave our visitors their gift and luckily they had enough room in their suitcases to take copies for my mother and niece; at 95,000 words the book is quite heavy, I had saved a lot on postage and packing.

In all the excitement we had not noticed one glaring omission. There was no title on the spine… on Amazon Kindle nothing is set in stone, you can go back in at any time and change the book, future copies will not be spineless. Perhaps those first eleven copies will be famous rarities in a hundred years time…

Read my previous blog on how KDP print on demand first came into my life.     https://wordpress.com/post/tidalscribe.wordpress.com/383

 

A Tale of Two Sons


Writers are not alone in observing people, pondering on their background story, or even inventing a whole life and family for them. I wonder how wrong our assumptions might be.

Out and about on holiday I saw two very different lives, two very different sons. Thanks to modern technology and perhaps thanks to fund raising friends or rich relatives, the disabled are able to get out and about more easily than ever.

Wheelchairs for those who cannot walk, or cannot walk far have been superseded by bespoke motorised thrones controlled by touch pads for the severely disabled.

Sitting outside a coffee shop, enjoying lunch and the scenery, the table next to us was soon occupied by a young man, perhaps still a teenager, and his carer, or was it his mother? He was a cheerful chap despite his obvious limitations. Chatting to them, they were locals having a regular but simple treat, coffee in a cup with a straw for the young man and a chocolate muffin shared with his mother. Then the son told us proudly he was leaving home tomorrow, his mother cheered, they both had a sense of humour. He was going to the National Star College near Cheltenham, a further education college for the disabled.

However dependent they are, however loving their families, I’m sure most disabled young adults want to be independent and move away from home when they choose, the same as anybody else. I wonder what the future will hold for that young man?

The next day found us at an air museum, where outside and in the hangars there was plenty of room and level access. I spotted a boy skipping alongside his father’s motorised chariot. Strangely, everywhere I wandered I kept seeing them and couldn’t help wondering whether disease or disaster had left the father so disabled.

At lunchtime they turned up near our table and someone brought them over huge plates of fish and chips that neither could possibly manage. The staff behind the self service counter had been particularly bored and uninterested when we were getting our food, so I hoped they had shown some patience and empathy with the father and son. All along I had been expecting a mother or wife to appear, or at least a responsible adult, but they sat alone at the table. We should not make assumptions about how independent disabled people are.

There was plenty to see and they were still exploring late into the afternoon. The son looked a cheerful cheeky lad, but obviously a child who could be trusted not to run off and get lost; a child most parents would be delighted with, who did not get bored, whine or beg to go to the gift shop. I wondered what the future held for them.

 

 

 

Jumping and Falling

Some of the first words I uttered were to ask for a horse. I never did get one, though horses have featured in my life. While other children were reading the Famous Five I was reading pony books, the three Pullein-Thompson sisters wrote about children from a completely different world who all had their own ponies. I knew all the parts of a horse; I could catch, bridle and saddle a lively horse – in my dreams. My favourite gifts were book vouchers with which I bought new volumes of Kit Hunter Show Jumper; my most precious volume was The Observers Book of Horses.  My parents knew nothing about horses though they did love watching show jumping on television. In the school playground and in the street we played horses, a skipping rope round the shoulders of whoever was being the horse, while the ‘rider’ galloped behind gripping the rope reins.

Real ponies came into my life in junior school years, my friend and I spent our pocket money on half an hour once a fortnight lessons at the local stables. Bored ponies carrying children were led in single file down old lanes and through new estates by teenage girls. Exploring on our bikes one day we discovered a cheaper ‘riding stables’, an old pig farm and teenage girls with horses.  Our mothers were naively unaware of the dangers of riding; we never possessed the proper cloths or riding hats, we went armed only with sugar cubes, most of which we ate ourselves.

One school morning at breakfast, when I was nearly eleven, my mother had a surprise announcement; considering that I was always sent to bed early and lay awake eavesdropping on parental voices from downstairs, it is amazing that I had no inkling my parents were planning on emigrating. When Mum asked me if I would like to go to Australia there could only be one response – ‘If I can have a horse.’

We stayed in the New Forest for our last English holiday; still blissfully unaware of my lack of riding skills, my parents found stables and arranged for me to have an hour’s ride. My eleven year old self was sent off with a young chap, a complete stranger, I clung on for dear life as my pony followed his. I was doing quite well till the end of the ride; my pony’s speed increased and he took a sharp turn down to a stream. I fell off but remounted, the horse repeated his manoeuvre twice; thee falls, hatless, but unharmed.

In Perth, Western Australia my best friend and I used to cycle off to Forestfield, where Perth International Airport now stands. We spent most of the ride urging the hired horses to do more than walk, only for them to gallop out of control when we turned back to the stables. On one memorable occasion we took my younger sister out with us as a birthday treat. She had never ridden a horse before and hers bolted; helpless we watched as she disappeared down a dusty track, fortunately the horse came to a wire fence and halted.

Then my friend and her sister acquired a horse. Their mother, with little equine knowledge,  went off to an auction, bought them a stumpy palomino called Sabrina and found a paddock to rent. But it wasn’t quite the stuff of pony books, one pony to share. We all soon realised that looking after Sabrina wasn’t as easy as in the books, we couldn’t even catch her in the paddock, let alone get her saddled up.

For teenage girls and women it is not just the horse they admire. When we watch historical dramas or Olympic Three Day Events , men in riding breeches astride large horses are bound to set hearts aflutter.

When we went to the New Forest Show recently I still got a thrill. Pony club children living my childhood dream and beautiful show jumpers pounding the turf.

In my new novella one side of the love triangle is a fine grey stallion hunter called The Major. Read his story in Ralph, one of two novellas in Someone Somewhere.

See plenty of pictures of horses at my website Beachwriter’s Blog.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

 

 

Shocking Images on Facebook

My first memory of thunder is of an afternoon in the living room with my mother and her friend. Mum and Dad rented the top half of a terraced Edwardian house. When I heard the deep rumbling I thought the house was going to fall down. Being told it was thunder meant nothing, but the obvious fact that the house didn’t fall down and the calm reaction of the grown ups allayed my fears. But how to explain to young children what is happening when most adults find it hard to grasp the science?

Last night the south of England was treated to thunder and lightning of epic proportions; in these modern days of forecasting we were expecting storms, but the early evening display seemed disappointing and only enough rain to water the garden. But by midnight thunder had returned with a vengeance. Our chalet roof slopes over the bed, only camping out would bring one closer to nature and I love hearing the rain pounding on the roof. Satisfied that my empty water butts would be filled and the garden happy I did drop off to sleep, but within half an hour I was awake again.

I had dreamed lightning was going through my hands to my fingertips; maybe it wasn’t a dream! Lying there, the thunder was so loud, the lightning so frequent I began to wonder if perhaps this really was a timely warning from angry gods, a reminder we can’t control nature. How frightened our ancestors must have been with no understanding of electricity; Thor at his angriest. How bright and vicious the bolts of lightning in the utter darkness before tamed gas and electricity. To add to the terror, we know lightning does not stay safely high up in the sky, it can strike your home or strike you down dead.

We decided to go down to our tiny conservatory and watch through the glass roof. I tried filming on my phone and at 2am enthusiastically posted a ‘can’t sleep’ video on Facebook for Australian friends to enjoy.  One minute 32 seconds of darkness and  pattering of rain with a brief flash that lit up the glass ceiling; it did not convey the drama of the night.

This morning Facebook was filled with shocking images, revealing that many photographers had not gone to bed at all. From Somerset round to the Isle of Thanet, Glastonbury Tor to Margate Harbour, on cliffs and rural hillsides hours of patience and the ability to take infinite number of digital photos, resulted in beautiful pictures even an artist could not imagine. Local television news showed viewers’ pictures, no need for their own reporters to go out these days.

And still I don’t really understand where all that crackling electrical energy comes from and where it goes to when the skies are blue and calm. No modern scientist would dare to suggest it was Thor and other ancient gods and no politician is going to listen to their warning…

 

Do you kNow who you Are?

If someone wanted to make a clone of you they could; people are already getting their dead dogs cloned, claims have been made that humans have been cloned. Most people have had a blood test of some sort, many of us have parted with gallons of blood to the NHS at blood donor sessions. If a blood sample was secreted away to the establishment of a mad or bad scientist they could be making clones of you at this very moment, supplying childless couples perhaps, it’s unlikely you would recognise your baby self in a pram. Or perhaps your hapless clone is being reared in a laboratory at this very moment for experimentation purposes, would your clone inherit your memory, is our DNA who we really are?

Recently I thought it would be fun to have a go at one of those on line tests, AncestryDNA. It involved spending money and quite a wait and how would we know the results were genuine? This particular test did not involve tracing your mitochondrial DNA back to Neanderthal man; it merely shows you what percentage of people in areas of the world share your DNA and is totally biased towards the Americas and Europe, because the system works on the basis of the data they have already collected. Did I believe the results? Yes; my husband’s results were neatly divided in half as we expected, although his born and bred Scottish half was classified as Ireland, a look at the map clarified that Ireland also covers Scotland and Wales.

I was hoping for something exotic, but was disappointed, I blame my parents; it seems I was neither mysteriously adopted nor are there any skeletons in our family cupboard. However I am only 14% Great Britain, so my gut instinct to voted Remain in the Eurpean Union Referendum was correct, I am 77% Europe West. The other 9% grey area of ‘low confidence region’ with some European Jewish, Irish, north west Russian and a dash of Iberian does add a bit of seasoning to the mix.

We have not so far delved into tracing family trees, finding out who shares similar DNA, but I did agree to accept a message from a name I’d never heard of and was astonished when one set of grandparents’ names came up. The granddaughter of my grandmother’s brother had traced me! I had never met this great uncle because he and his wife emigrated to Canada before they had their children. Perhaps my grandmother vaguely mentioned her older brother, but I now know for certain I have lots of Canadian relatives.

But does our DNA really matter? Only an adopted person who has never been able to trace a single blood relative can answer that question. We are all individuals who have to make what we can of our lot in life; the adopted person might be moved to have a large family of their own, or perhaps they will be forever genetically unique.

Depending on your religious beliefs  you might subscribe to the wardrobe theory; the true individual a soul waiting to be popped in to any available baby body until the return to heaven or reincarnation, or perhaps you think our whole personality and memories are passed on through our genes.

DNA remains a delightful mystery for lay people and a source of inspiration for writers. My novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ explores what happens when the DNA of ordinary people is tampered with.

Chatting With The Queen

One of my earliest memories is of standing outside a building with a tall policeman while my parents went inside to vote. He was dressed in his smart Metropolitan Police uniform with the traditional helmet. The police have always been there to look after the innocent as well as catch the guilty. Many voters this week would have been guarded by visibly armed police, but going to vote is still safe in this country. A snap election that most people didn’t want, other important issues clouded by terrible terrorist attacks, people braved the rain to vote and the result was as confusing as the run up. If you enjoy political discussion you will find it twenty four hours a day on radio, television and the internet.

I am more interested in what The Queen says to the stream of prime ministers who have had weekly hour long private audiences with her throughout her long reign.

After an election the new Prime Minister must visit Buckingham Palace to tell the queen he or she is forming a new government. While the PM returns to Downing Street to utter the words ‘I have been to see The Queen’, Her Majesty has to sit down and write her speech for the opening of parliament.

Alas, the speech is written for her and I wonder how often the words ‘My government will…’ nearly choke her.

It does not matter whether you believe in God or The Queen, I’m sure she does and unlike politicians who never keep promises, has kept her sacred vows to serve the country. Wouldn’t it be great if she decided she could best serve us by writing her own speech.

As part of my research I wondered if The Queen would like to be my Facebook friend. To my surprise she actually has a Facebook page;

https://www.facebook.com/HMRoyalQueen/

I’m sorry to say only 196,569 people have Liked it, which is poor considering how many people in her kingdom are on Facebook. I was also disappointed she had made no comments about the election; not even a sad or angry emoticon.

I sent a message to see what would happen. Watch this space to see how the conversation continues.

Chat conversation start

09:43

How wonderful it would be if Her Majesty was allowed to write the Queen’s speech herself and hand out some sensible suggestions.

Thanks for messaging us. We try to be as responsive as possible. We’ll get back to you soon.

Her Majesty has not replied yet, but I’m sure she will soon when she’s finished writing her speech.

London Bridge Is Not Falling Down; It Never Will #londonbridge #Ilovelondon

TanGental’s thoughts speak for all Londoners.

TanGental

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady

It’s nothing special, London Bridge. Not as iconic as Tower Bridge; not as twee as Albert or as sharply modern as the Millennium. Its popularity stems as much from the ability to take pictures of other parts of London. Functional, really.

How many times have I crossed it? Stood on it? Dad used to tell of the London smogs of the 1950s when he feared walking into the parapet and falling into the river.

How many ways have I crossed it? I’ve walked, I’ve run, I’ve cycled. I’ve driven and been driven. I’ve caught buses, shared cabs. I’ve been sober and drunk. I’ve tripped and fallen and I’ve smiled and cried.

What views have I taken in from it. Tower Bridge…

by day and

the new, the Shard

and the old, The Tower…

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Ringing Round

When I was in my last year of The Brownies and aiming to get my Golden Hand badge, part of the test was to make a phone call; a far cry from this week’s news of a major revamping of badges with Rainbows, Brownies and Guides encouraged to take part in new challenges involving app design, entrepreneurship, “speaking out”, upcycling or vlogging.

But my little task was still a big challenge for me. We did not have a telephone at home and it was about this time that my friend and I were sent up the road to the phone box with some coins, a set of instructions and a mission; to phone my father at the office. To this day I have no idea what was so urgent that could not wait till he came home from Waterloo with all the other commuters. My friend was sensible and two years older than me, but still we did not achieve our task; the mysteries of Buttons A and B defeated us.

Meanwhile, back at the house of a complete stranger, a respectable middle aged woman, my task was to phone Brown Owl. I was as terrified as anyone going for a driving test or important job interview; I failed, probably the only Brownie in history to have to do a re-sit for her Golden Hand.

A letter in the paper the other day suggested we had forgotten how intrusive the telephone was, how wonderful emails are and how infuriating people are who refuse to use them. I heartily agree, emails were made for me. I have never liked phone calls; they always come at the wrong moment, or the phone stops ringing just as you race in from the garden with muddy hands. Hands free phones are a help, but still interrupt your favourite programme.

I admire people who efficiently get on the phone the moment something breaks down or a letter arrives in the post requiring action; I’m more inclined to write on my list of things to do – phone insurance co. ring boiler repairs.  When it comes to personal calls I procrastinate… they might be cooking/eating their dinner, feeding the baby, making love, watching Eastenders, I’ll call later… later they might be having an early night… I’ll call tomorrow…

Emails can be written any time and the receiver can read them when it suits and not be caught off guard; with time to think of a good excuse not to come to your coffee morning. The other advantage is to message all your friends, club members etc at the same time, but there is always one person in every club or group who does not do email and constantly complains ‘Why can’t you just ring round.’ We should not rush to judge; how many decades passed between the phone being invented and everyone having a telephone in their homes? Even people who are on the internet forget to check their emails and miss important messages.

Technology rolls on rapidly; we don’t use our mobile phones as phones, but to read our emails. Emails themselves are being superseded by What’sApp and Facebook Messenger. How easy it is to message six people at once on the other side of the world and send them photos. On your computer you can follow Facebook and have several message boxes open in the corner of your screen…

And then there’s Skype and FaceTime etc which bring us round full circle to actually talking personally to someone. Ironically ‘Televisionphones’ have been invented, but they are not the screens attached to our immovable house phones that we once imagined. Now we can wander around in our pyjamas showing relatives on the other side of the world what our new house looks like.

But emails are so useful if you wish to avoid eye contact or awkward conversations.

The first story in my latest collection ‘Someone Somewhere’ starts with the words ‘I got an email from him…’ an enigmatic message is the only clue to a lost son…