Sunday Salon – Astraens and Agents

Two novels, a short story collection and a film to take your mind off the real world.

The book reviews have been posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

A Marriage of Convenience by Stevie Turner

4.0 out of 5 stars A modern fairy tale for adults.

By Janet Gogerty on 17 October 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

This could be described as a fairy tale for our age; a story that crosses from last century into the present. There is a love story, but there is also the bad fairy. Here is a tale of young people making rash decisions and bizarre plans which the reader knows can’t go well, which we hope they won’t go through with… There are dreams that come true and dreams that fade. The final part of the tale keeps us in suspense; can the dark spell be lifted from our heroine, can she ever forgive?

Coffee BreakEscapes: Twenty Short Stories To Set You Free  by Phillip Howlett

5.0 out of 5 stars Twenty tales lyrical or snappy, often taking you where you did not expect to go.

15 November 2018  Verified Purchase

A blackbird singing in the garden, a sure bet at the racecourse, poignant memories and a young lad’s sixpence. All life is here, though not always confined to the living. Secret meetings, terrible mistakes and deaths that shouldn’t have happened. Spare time for the last two longer stories ‘Radio Man’ and ‘Your Turn Will Come’, two very different tales exploring beyond our earthly limits.

Harmony ( Sanctuary Part Two ) by Maureen Turner

5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction for all…

18 November 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I bought Harmony as soon as it came out as I had been waiting in suspense since reading Sanctuary. It was good to be back amongst the two communities, humans and Astraens. They are not so different from each other, which makes this such agood story. Can harmony be achieved when both sides have various agendas andthe Astraens are not as angelic as their appearance suggests? The tentative peace between the two races is constantly at risk because of the action of some individuals. But this is also a story of good characters trying to do their best and a tale of love blossoming.
Cosy science fiction perhaps? We don’t need to know how the motherships work, though we learn more about their travels since having to leave their own planet, nor why the aliens are conveniently sexually combatible with humans… lucky the woman who has a chap with wings to shelter her on a chilly night. But don’t get too cosy, the pace of the story escalates to a stunning ending.

Johnny English Strikes Again

‘Rowan Atkinson returns as the much-loved accidental secret agent in “Johnny English Strikes Again”. When a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, the country’s only hope is called out of retirement. English’s new mission is his most critical to date: Dive head first into action to find the mastermind hacker. A man with few skills and analogue methods, English must overcome the challenges of modern technology-or his newest mission will become the Secret Service’s last.’

 Would you go to the cinema at 11am? One of my favourite places in Christchurch is the Regent Centre, a rescued and restored Art Deco cinema. On a damp grey winter day why not go and watch a film guaranteed to take your mind off the real problems of the world… and Johnny English has to save the world from a very big disaster. The film was silly but very funny. Just under an hour and a half, a sensible length for any film and certainly for this sort of film which is non stop slapstick send up with lashings of wit. Our hero creates nearly as much collateral damage as James Bond and doesn’t get the girl. A clever plot line somehow turns every disaster to advantage and Johnny saves the day.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Pudsey Bear Goes Missing

Despite his mother’s misgivings, Oscar enjoyed his new nursery. He was nearly three, very bright and very lively. The nursery teacher had assured Oscar’s mother that ‘Busy Bees Nursery’ had a very active programme and his energies would be directed.

‘We don’t keep them cooped up, we go for a walk every day.’

His mother had been alarmed.

‘You do keep them safe? We never take him out without his reins.’

‘I’m sure you have seen us out in the high street, no more than four children per helper, double reins; we certainly don’t want to lose anybody.

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As Christine reached the post office counter, she noticed the sign.

‘Pocket Calendar, ten pence for Children in Need.’

After the ordeal of trying to post a parcel overseas, with Mrs Grumpy behind the window, she thought she would earn a few brownie points.

‘…and a calendar please.’

‘Ten pence in the bucket’ came the terse reply.

The calendar would not be released until she moved along the counter to the bucket. Already holding up the queue, she fumbled in her purse. It was a good cause, so she emptied all her small change with a satisfying clatter into the empty bucket; then collected the flimsy piece of card with dates much too small to read.

Ten minutes later, staggering out of the greengrocers, she saw a couple of women struggling in the wind to tie up their banner.

‘Children in Need Cake Sale.’

Good idea,  that would save her baking before her sister came round for tea tomorrow. If she donated here as well, she could, with a clear conscience, keep the television turned off all night and avoid those irritating celebrities with their grand totals.

 

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Busy Bees Nursery was humming with activity; six children were to be chosen to go and help at the cake stall. Dressing up was involved and one child must don the yellow fur suit. Oscar was chosen for his outgoing personality.

‘Remember to hold his hand as we can’t get the reins on over his outfit’ were the teacher’s last words to her young assistants.

 

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As Christine chose her cakes, a posse arrived, two young women and six strangely attired little children, firmly attached to reins and adult hands. The little ones gathered behind the wooden trestle table.

‘Would you like to guess the weight of Pudsey Bear?’ asked one of the cake ladies.

Christine looked around for a teddy, then her attention was drawn to a sweet little boy in a yellow furry suit. The other children were eyeing up the cakes and one of the young ladies was trying to take photographs.

‘Shall I still hold on to them?’ asked the other girl.

‘I should certainly hope so’ Christine replied, uninvited.

Cake lady produced a flimsy sheet of paper that flapped in the wind.

‘Just put your name and phone number and the weight.’ She turned to her friend. ‘Are we doing Imperial or metric?’

‘You should have a clip board’ said Christina as she deliberated. ‘How old is he?’

She wrote down three stone and set off for the butchers. When she emerged, laden down with shopping, she caught a glimpse of yellow out of the corner of her eye. It was Pudsey Bear, about to walk into the road. She had no free hands to grab him and looked around for his companions. There was no one else in sight. She put two bags down and tried to locate a hand inside his suit, hoping no one thought she was a kidnapper. If she edged him back towards the cake stall, she was sure to meet a search party. The child’s hands had disappeared back inside the suit and the best she could do was place herself between Pudsey and the road.

‘Anyone seen the nursery outing?’ she asked passers by, but they just smiled and said how sweet her grandson was.

The cake stall had gone, only an empty trestle table remained. Even if Christine had any hands free to dial her mobile, she had left it at home. Lost children should go to a police station, but that was miles away. Pudsey was bouncing around in excitement at his adventure, at any moment he could bolt. She herded him into the newsagents, they could phone the police. The lone man was busy serving. Christine tried to get his attention and block the doorway at the same time. Finally he looked up.

‘One pound twenty five, thankyou.’

She looked down to see Pudsey had found his hands and was holding packets of sweets and crisps.

‘No, you don’t understand, he’s not mine, we have to ring the police.’

At that very moment, two policemen swept into the shop. One talked into his radio.

‘Can you confirm description; white male, three foot tall, wearing a yellow furry suit.’

The other officer thanked the shopkeeper for looking after Oscar. Christine slipped out of the shop; perhaps it was better to be a guardian angel than be arrested. Though if the shop had CCTV, that could be a problem.

 

 

 

 

Occasional Cathedrals – no. 3 Chichester

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We stopped in Chichester for lunch on the way back from our little break in Kent; as the clocks had just gone back this meant the afternoon was short. The roof is being restored and much of the cathedral was covered so just one outside shot. You do not need to pay entry, but it will help pay for the roof if you make a donation; if you don’t carry cash you can pay a fiver by contactless card.

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Chichester was the first cathedral I visited when I was eight. We were staying for a fortnight’s seaside holiday, not far away in a converted railway carriage at Wittering. We went to the beach when it was low tide and had sand. When it was high tide and only shingle with a greater risk of drowning ( Mum and Dad never went in the sea themselves) we visited historical sights.

https://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk/

It was a very long time before I visited again and nothing evoked any memories except the general cathedralness, but I do know my lifelong collecting of picture post cards started that year and I acquired black and white cards of the cathedral which featured quite a few stone tombs. I recall I was most fascinated with the stone effigies, what a strange child I must have been!

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As well as preserving ancient beauty such as stained glass windows and the stonework that holds them in place, cathedrals also acquire new art and music. The first thing you may spot if you are following the leaflet will be a gleaming font made of Cornish polyphant stone (easy to carve and burnish ) with a copper bowl, designed by John Skelton in 1983.

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At the high altar is the wonderfully bright Piper Tapestry designed by John Piper and woven in France in 1966. It depicts the Holy Trinity. In contrast is the simple altar in the Mary Magdalene chapel with the 1961 Graham Sutherland painting depicting Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning.

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Another colourful creation is the1978 Marc Chagall window based on Psalm 150 ...let everything that hath breath praise the Lord..

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I completely missed a statue …mounted high over the entrance to the Lady chapel, there is a model at floor level… I only saw the model, no wonder I wasn’t that impressed. One should always look up in cathedrals.

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The cathedral is also celebrating the centenary of the birth of composer Leonard Bernstein. He isn’t one of my favourite composers, but there is one work of his I love which is the Chichester Psalms. While reading the exhibition I saw you could buy in the cathedral shop a CD recorded by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with their previous conductor the American Marin Alsop. But when we got to the shop it had already closed at four o’clock, so I came away with no souvenirs.

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https://bernsteinchichester.uk/

 

The Game of Life

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

Round Two  – Word from Dagenham.

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Reasons to be cheerful.

  1. So far this is better than a sudden death, time to prepare, hope instead of shock.
  2. Cyberspouse had thirty years in the Metropolitan Police without being murdered on duty and collected his pension; like most officers, collecting some of it as a lump sum to make the most of it just in case…
  3. It follows on from no. 2 that you can’t be bitter at something that is nobody’s fault.
  4. There are no definites; even though your friends have lost other friends in the past year, they reassure you that they know numerous people who have been living with terminal cancer for years.
  5. We have been absorbed into what seems to be a very caring game, with a lot of people playing. Those suffering more obscure medical disasters would not get the same wrap around treatment.

Tales of birth and death.

One set of grandparents only met me and not their following five grandchildren. I don’t remember them.

My other grandfather lived long enough to know I was marrying a policeman; having lived through the depression he was so delighted it was a chap with a secure job. He has turned out to be right!

My other grandmother lived long enough to meet her first great grandchild and literally dropped dead at 82. At the time this seemed old, now I actually have friends that age!

Our friend’s father was dying of a brain tumour as his wife was about to have their first baby. When he was born they got special permission for the baby’s father and grandmother to take him from London to Bristol to meet his grandfather. He saw his grandson, uttered his last words and was dead by the next morning. This story has always chilled me because I don’t think I could have let my newborn baby out of my sight!

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Jigsaws

Why is it called the jigsaw building? I have no idea, but it is very nice; free treatment with our National Health Service ( after a lifetime of contributions ), added comforts from a charity which we have contributed to. A friend used to arrange Pink Promenades along the sea front, from Hengistbury Head to Sandbanks and back again, a walk of 14-16 miles; lunch at the Jazz Cafe, coffee and tea at Bournemouth Pier then back to her house for fish and chips with the husbands. We didn’t collect money from others, just put in a contribution for a very pleasant day out.

Perhaps it’s called Jigsaw as they take you to pieces and can’t put you back together again.

Cyberspouse’s friend sent a message, he had word from Dagenham, he was going on the 13th November to collect his new car, the first day of chemotherapy. No outing for C.

All went well, we gathered 21 days worth of tablets and as I waited outside to flag down our lift from a friend had I found the answer to the puzzle?

Completing the Picture

At least the jigsaw has been blessed by the bishop. Move forward one space.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Who am I?

At my beginning unnoticed,

Disturbing a few blades of grass.

At my departure miles wide,

Or so it seems to those who pass.

 

Older than any empire,

I’ve watched over cities and towns.

Crossed by legions, traversed by millions,

So often I’ve changed my bounds.

 

I am the setting for history,

For politics and power.

Painted and prosed by the famous,

Unfortunates dreaded my tower.

 

I’ve sucked down many to their deaths,

That was never my intention.

Gentle meadows are what I love,

Not man’s intervention.

 

The city turned me dark,

Hemmed me in with squalor and hate.

I’ve been loched, bombed and tunnelled,

Till my very bed vibrates.

 

My fortunes like tides fall and rise,

Stories captured for many to tell.

Painted by Turner, Canaletto,

Written by Dickens, Jerome and Wells.

 

I dream of a spring in the meadow,

And wonder am I still me,

As my banks sink and salt currents swirl

And I’m swallowed by The North Sea.

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Bed and Breakfast

Why stay in airbnb when you can pay more for the same chance of not knowing what to expect at traditional bed and breakfast establishments? We have stayed in strange hotels and at the ubiquitous Premiere Inns, where you know exactly what to expect and we have stayed in a variety of B&Bs all over the British Isles. They are all different, that’s the fun. Some are wonderful, better than your own home. There are strange hosts and strange guests. We arrived at one place in a seaside terrace to find no one at home, the landlady was out walking her dogs.

But my most embarrassing near disaster was the second night of a holiday to Scotland with my daughter, sister and sister’s friend. This part was my responsibility as I had booked us to stay at a B&B in Blackpool, owned by relatives of an in-law, we had even met them once at a family wedding. When the door opened we were met with blank expressions, they didn’t seem to recognise us, let alone be expecting us. They weren’t, the booking had been forgotten, but that wasn’t the worst, the ceiling in one of the guest rooms had just collapsed.

All was not lost ‘I’ll pop across the road and ask the boys’ said the lady of the house. And so we found ourselves at the superior Hotel Babylon with delightful landlords Craig and David who kindly charged us only what we would have paid. The bedrooms were very swanky with red nets draped from the ceiling in one room and similar pink decor in the other. I’ve just looked them up and they are still in business, so if you are going to Blackpool I can recommend Hotel Babylon.

2

Our stay at the weekend was in a guest house in Hythe, Kent, a lovely old house with beautiful gardens. Satnav got us there, but the usually available private parking, a small triangle of gravel at the back of the house, was blocked with a huge horse box and a couple of cars. Further up the steep hill we found a side road. We then slid back down the hill, with our luggage, on a pavement carpeted in wet autumn leaves. A car was backing out of the guest house; it drove back in and a woman half climbed out, we assumed she was our hostess but she said ‘Mother will look after you’ and drove off.

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At the back door we were greeted by an elderly lady who showed us into the hall and up to the landing; all the walls were covered in shiny silver flowery wallpaper. Upstairs everything was a pink time warp and the three rooms and guest lounge were named after Winnie the Pooh characters. In our room there was a 14inch television perched on the dressing table with lots of interference, but there was WiFi. The For Sale signs we had seen outside did make us wonder if the place was being gently run down.

We left from the front door to find somewhere for dinner, but as it was dark by then the descent of the uneven, steep front path was an adventure.

At breakfast four guests were seated at the other table, we were all sitting in the hall and the daughter and granddaughter wandered back and forth in their dressing gowns with mugs of tea. The other guests asked the elderly lady if she ran the place by herself.

‘Oh yes, I’ve been doing it for forty years’ she answered cheerfully as she brought us tea and coffee; no pots, the cups rattled in their saucers as they shakily descended to the table.

As we left on the second morning we asked if the place was for sale because she was retiring.

‘I am 82, so I suppose I’ll have to retire sometime, but I don’t want to.’

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

Visit my website ‘Travel Notes From a Small Island’       if you enjoy looking at other people’s holiday snaps   and want to read about some very different places.

 

 

The Game of Life

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

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Round One: No word from Dagenham yet.

Game Rules:

Everyone’s life is a story and every story has an ending.

It is generally agreed that life is not fair, at least from our earth bound perspective.

Life is a game without rules, or if there are any we don’t understand them.

The further round the board you get, the less you should complain when you’re OUT.

Tragedy is when children or young parents die, by the hand of nature or by the hand of man.

When they say everybody is living longer, they don’t actually mean every person.

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We have to leave Summertown, the days of being recycled teenagers are over.There is a very real possibility that Cyberspouse will be outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh and my mother.

His attitude? These things happen, don’t get upset.

None of us REALLY thinks they will happen to us.

How is the game of life playing out in our families?

We heard only third hand via Facebook that someone in Cyberspouse’s large family had lost their only daughter, who leaves behind two young children. We know little about her life or death.

My mother is the only one left of her generation in the immediate family.

I am the first grandchild on both sides, the next one down, my bachelor cousin in Australia, had already cheated death after a massive stroke and just as our bad news was sinking in we heard he had died in an horrific accident. He had become the first one OUT in my generation of the family, Cyberspouse moved on an extra space.

You get the prognosis and you have to start telling people. Cyberspouse, as is the modern way, e-mailed one of his best friends, who was recently widowed, with the up date. He replied with suitably sympathetic words ( modern men do talk ) but without pause added ‘no word from Dagenham yet’. When Cyberspouse read it out from his phone we both burst out laughing. This was a reference to the annual ‘boy’s outing’ to collect friend’s new car. He loves cars and when his wife was in hospital he had said ‘we might not get to Dagenham this week’.

Today we went to the group workshop on understanding treatment, patients could take one ‘friend’. It was like being back in the classroom, but quite jolly. Next week it all starts. In the meantime he says we should carry on as normal, although he has now got a good excuse for getting out of my writers’ group Christmas dinner and splashing out on Sky sport.