Sunday Salon – Guest Blogger

Second in the series of occasional blogs by my Sister Down Under

Return To Sender

I often send Birthday cards to relatives in England, and as I seal down the envelope and stick my address label on the flap, I always find myself wondering if there is any point. If the address was to be incorrect, would they take the trouble and expense to send it all the way back to Australia?

37072684_10213413731471370_3835982618025787392_nI now have my answer. The other week, I received a blue envelope with an air mail sticker and an Australian stamp on it, and it was addressed to me. Someone had crossed the address out with a blue pencil, and there was a red Royal Mail sticker on it declaring that the address was unknown. It wasn’t a surprise that the address was incorrect, as it belonged to the youngest of my nephews, the inventor in the family, the itinerant creator of firework displays with a bedroom full of enough electronic equipment to drain the power grid of the Southeast of England. What was surprising was that the Australian postmark said it was posted at 6 pm on the 26th of July, 2011. Seven years ago. 

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So, yes, they do go to the trouble of returning letters. And an awful lot of trouble by the looks of it. Not for the Royal Mail the conventional route of placing it on a plane to fly half way around the world. No, this was more like the challenge taken on by Michael Palin to go around the world in eighty days without flying. The Royal Mail Postman was to get to Australia travelling overland, and taking sea journeys only when it was unavoidable.

What a tale that post man must have to tell! Imagine the deprivations and adventures he must have encountered on his 7 year odyssey! Crossing the channel to France was probably easy, but was he then waylaid by a French temptress, dallying with her for many months before silently slipping out at dawn one morning to continue his journey? Did he scale the Alps and get caught in a storm, to be nursed back to health by a local farmer and his daughter?

 One imagines him crossing the Mongolian plains, joining the Mongol herders, living in a Yurt and learning to survive off the land. He would have regretfully had to say goodbye, explaining the Royal Mail always gets through, and he would put his uniform back on with pride, not withstanding that it was getting a little threadbare. He would have gone on a pilgrimage through India – retracing the steps of his colonial forefathers who had first brought British law and the British postal service to that teaming and untamed land. Then on to South East Asia, tiring now of the crowds and the jostling, longing only to reach that wide, open land of Australia.

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What a relief he would have felt as he stepped off the small fishing boat at Darwin, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. He would have spent quite some time in detention, and despair would have been his companion as he waited for his superiors in London to confirm who he was and what his mission involved. There would have been a delay at their end, while they overcame their incredulity and double checked his credentials before rejoicing that he was not, as believed, dead – the first (or so they thought) postman to die in active overseas service.

And finally, catching a cruise ship (courtesy of the Royal Mail in gratitude for his services) around the coast to Fremantle. What a reception he would have from his Australia Post colleagues – glad to see him, but at the  same time a little jealous that they could no longer boast they had the longest mail routes in the world.

And as for me – time to tell my nephew that he isn’t unloved, and that I did send a card, but something happened to it along the way

Kate Doswell,  15/07/2018.

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Silly Saturday – Various Verses

                                              Beach Hut

 

Six years we’ve waited for this wooden box,

With flaking paint and rusty locks.

There’s barely room to stand,

The floor covered in sand.

The towels are damp and musty

And all the shelves are dusty.

 

But the kettle and mugs are well in reach

And there’s a great view of the beach.

In the sun we sit and read books

Waves beckon, costumes hanging on the hooks.

Wet and cold return for hot tea,

Strip off and dress in modesty.

 

The neighbours are close, two inches away,

Her next door is topless today,

His huge stomach should not be seen,

Thank goodness for the screen between.

The other side are out of sight,

Soaring under parachutes bright.

 

Their boards dip the waves, then ride up high,

We sit and watch them in the sky.

If we fall asleep as we usually do

We won’t notice when they drop from view.

Until we hear roaring whir above the wave

As Coastguard hovers, kite surfers to save.

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New Things

 

How to adore new things.

No need to buy, to bring

The sensual delight

Of touch, smell and sight.

 

John Lewis sells to you

Cotton, wool, silk, bamboo

Knitting yarns, skeins and such,

Many hues, soft to touch.

 

Call in at the bookshop,

Look out for new stock,

White paper, page pristine,

Smooth spine, jacket clean.

 

Tack shop for leather new

Saddles, bridles on view,

Shopkeeper hopes to sell;

No, just here for the smell.

 

Go down to the saw mill

Experience the thrill,

Newly sawn scented wood,

Golden sawdust feels good.

 

Ancient ocean, old land,

New waves, new tides, smooth sand,

Grains glitter, sparkling foam,

Before feet start to roam.

 

Sunrise reveals hard frost,

New scenery at no cost,

White landscape, yours to view,

Air sharp, breath anew.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Happy Days

 He leaned back in the chair and smiled; the best things in life were free. The afternoon sun bestowed its life giving warmth and he understood why the ancients worshipped the golden disc. Myriad specks of light danced on the calm turquoise sea, a scene to delight the impressionists, but no painter could do justice to such a view; the chalky cliffs of the Isle of Wight and the green sloping downs of the Purbecks.

He languorously reached out for his glass of wine; it tasted like the nectar of the gods. Silky arms wrapped themselves around his neck; Tasha crept up behind him and kissed the nape of his neck. He sighed contentedly, love in the afternoon.

Tasha stretched out on the other chair and they watched life below on the promenade and beach; happy cries of children drifted up to them. They pondered where they would eat tonight, what they might do tomorrow. The sea air made them pleasantly drowsy.

Friends said he would tire of the sea view, but if he did he would call a taxi to the station. At Waterloo he would step off the train and stroll along the embankment to another balcony, with spectacular views of the Thames; watch the sun set and the city light up. Then perhaps go to the theatre, dine late, take in a club.

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He opened his eyes from his daydream as he felt Tasha’s fingers on his cheek. It wasn’t a daydream, it was real. Money could buy you happiness; a seaside apartment, London penthouse, holidays to anywhere, a beautiful woman and a life free of debt and work. Winning the lottery was certainly helpful if you wanted to exchange a grotty rented room in a rundown house in a dreary suburb, for a new life.

Some Like It Hot

As new migrants in Australia, the first time the thermometer hit one hundred degrees we were very excited, a Century meant it was very hot; instead of sheltering behind venetian blinds in the relative coolness of indoors, in the days before most homes had air conditioning, I walked around marvelling at the sensation of the dry heat. If the thermometer hit one hundred degrees Celsius you would be dead. After a week of the temperature reaching over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit every day, the novelty wore off.

Since then the world has moved to Celsius, leaving only the USA and a few other countries using Fahrenheit. But one hundred sounds more dramatic than the slightly higher forty Celsius. When I worked at Heathrow, an English girl told me the first time she arrived in Kuwait she felt as if she had been blasted by a giant hairdryer. A Kuwaiti passenger told me no one had to work if the temperature rose above fifty degrees, but officially it never got hotter than fifty. A Singapore passenger told me the heat was not a problem as every building was air conditioned. I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He looked puzzled. Why would you want to go for a walk?

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Those who have lived in hotter climes might wonder at the fuss we are making about our heat wave in Britain. Temperatures over thirty, so early in the summer, have weather forecasters excited. We have had heat waves before and after our wet winter the reservoirs were full, so we shouldn’t run dry yet. Despite the usual comments such as ‘it won’t last’ and ‘we’ll pay for this later’ the heat wave shows no sign of ceasing, though some places have had rain. Our relatives, visiting back from Las Vegas, saw rain only once and looked forward to getting back to their air conditioned house.

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We are not prepared for hot weather, we don’t have air conditioning, shutters and awnings or a tradition of siestas. In the garden, early morning or evening watering has become part of the domestic routine for those who cherish their flowers. The holiday atmosphere is fun; breakfast and dinner in the garden and days by the sea. Our beach hut feels worth the rates we pay the council for the tiny patch of concrete it stands on; it provides shade, changing room and a kettle. Daily swims have become the norm; as far as I’m concerned there is no point in having hot weather unless you can paddle or swim in a pool, river or sea.

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Hot weather is no fun for those who have to work out in it and especially fire fighters. The heat has brought destruction to the moors with peat fires. It is equally oppressive for those who can’t get out. A lady told me it’s the first time in ninety four years she hasn’t worn a vest!

But the biggest cloud, or absence of cloud hanging over our holiday mood is What if it never rains again, is this another big warning about global warming?

If you go down to The Woods today…

The first national park I knew well was Jellystone Park, home of Yogi Bear, one of my favourite television cartoons. He wasn’t the only bear in the woods; closer to home I spent my early years in the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie-the-Pooh, the real teddy in AA Mine’s books, not the Disney animated version; I have never left that wood!  And there was the more sophisticated Rupert Bear who lived in pine woods much like the ones we visited on family outings.

Rupert Bear

More exciting was our first and only holiday in the New Forest when I was eleven. As I loved ponies it was heaven; cattle, ponies and donkeys roaming around open land. There were also the dark woods carpeted with green velvet moss and the seaside, pebble beaches facing the Isle of Wight.

Read more about my pony mad years in last year’s blog

https://wordpress.com/post/tidalscribe.wordpress.com/481

 

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The New Forest is very old, William the Conqueror designated the area his Nova Foresta in 1079; forest then meant any area of land reserved exclusively for hunting. I do not think he would be pleased to see so many commoners enjoying themselves there today, it is still mostly crown land. The newest thing about the forest is its designation as a National Park in 2005.

People live and work in the forest, there are towns, campsites and all sorts of activities, but it is still a vast area of natural habitat with ponies and other livestock having right of way. The Verderers look after The Commoners rights to graze their animals. In the late summer and autumn, round-ups, or ‘drifts’ are held throughout the forest to treat any health problems the ponies and cattle may have, and to keep a count of the stock roaming the Open Forest. Mares and foals are marked during this time – foals are branded and the tails of mares are cut in distinctive patterns.

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When we first moved to nearby Bournemouth I read in the local paper that bears were to be reintroduced to the New Forest, that seemed an exciting idea until I read the date at the top of the page, April the First. But rewilding has been seriously suggested for remoter areas.

Britain once looked very different with vast natural forests, glades and wild spaces; wolves, bears and lynx roamed the land. The first Britons lived alongside woolly mammoths. Humans chopped down the trees to make space for farms and hunted the large animals to extinction, we have no natural predators to keep down deer numbers.

We took our recent visitors and their children for a visit to the New Forest, cream teas at a lovely cafe that used to be a railway station, paddling in the river, a cow being chased off the cricket field, more cows wandering in the car park. Close to nature, but not really part of the ancient forest. How amusing it would be to see keen photographers surprised by a bear coming into view, or families having their picnics stolen.

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You may still meet another ancient being in the forest, The Green Man…

There’s a New Forest theme at my website this month, read two dark short tales and enjoy a day out in Beachwriter’s Blog.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-six-fiction-focus

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As well as short stories, I enjoyed using the New Forest as one of the settings in my novel Three Ages of Man; the bewildered stranger has to find his way from Waterloo Station down to Brokenhurst and hike to a secluded cottage, there are many places to hide in the woods.

Silly Saturday – Potty Poems

                        Garden Gate         

 

The man next door has a notice on his gate,

ALL CATS WHO ENTER, BEWARE YOUR FATE.

For he prefers two legged creatures,

Those with wings and feathers as features.

 

Four legged creatures who climb, chase and bite

Beware of getting in my neighbour’s sight,

For the man next door is a very good shot,

His eyes are sharp and his fingers hot.

 

Blue Tits swing on the latest contraption,

Before grey squirrels get into action.

Wood Pigeons plummet, Sparrows flutter,

He presses a button and snaps the shutter.

 

Doves coo, Crows squawk, Magpies chatter.

Wren in the hedge hears him natter.

Blackbird sings, Robin hops and follows him around,

Worms and grubs aplenty when his fork goes in the ground.

 

The man next door tied a letter to my gate,

Welcome new neighbour, we surely will be mates,

If my views you share; dogs and cats detest

And make friends with all creatures who build a nest.

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                                     True Love        

 

Robbie was my true love,

He stole my heart one day.

He came to fix the plumbing,

When I was in dismay.

 

He said ‘Where is your stop cock?

That’s where we must begin.’

As leaks sprung all around,

My feelings he did win.

 

It’s location I knew not,

As the kitchen he did roam.

‘May I search your cupboards?’

‘Please make yourself at home.’

 

His voice was melted chocolate,

I did not mind the flood,

As eyes of startling blue

Stirred something in my blood.

 

Shall I put the kettle on?

Was all that I could say,

When Robbie the hunky plumber

Stole my heart that day.

 

He soon was in my cupboard,

Found the valve to turn.

As he knelt upon the floor

My cheeks began to burn.

 

I caught a glimpse of waistband,

Calvin Klein was what it said.

An inch of sun tanned back

Made my face turn red.

 

He filed and sawed and screwed,

As he mended all the pipes.

The sweat began to pour

Down his manly big biceps.

 

We sat out on the patio,

At last his work was done.

Wine and chunky sandwiches

To eat out in the sun.

 

He called upon his mobile

To cancel his next call.

‘Shall I check your heating,

Then will that be all?’

 

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https://www.seanhenry.com/sculpture/

Friday Flash Fiction – Summer of Eighteen

Summer of Eighteen

 It was the Summer of Eighteen, the summer we thought would never begin, then never end. Flowers bloomed in a blaze of late glory then withered under the relentless sun; first there was the hosepipe ban, then the pipe ban. The ferryman was out of business, people could walk across the river at low tide. Until they emptied the municipal pool, to send tankers to market gardeners, it had been a duck and swan rescue centre. Everyone became a fisherman till the last gasping fish was scooped off the river bed.

The heath fires never went out, they joined up. After the power cuts people gathered at the edge of the heath to bake the last of the vegetables in the embers, though there was no shortage of venison. When the wild fires started on the cliff top the promenade was put out of bounds. At high tide we made our way down the narrow river channel round to the cove where we trod on burning sand and pebbles.

The leaves dropped from the trees, but autumn never came.

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As I surveyed the cracked river bed I noticed him, Ben the Boiler, Evan the Inventor, we’d called him at school. Nobody had wanted his inventions so he went to work for Plumbprompt Services. Now, nobody wanted heating and there was no water to fill the boilers. Benjamin Evans was rolling logs under a stranded boatwreck. He wiped sweat from his brow, more from habit than any chance of relief.

‘How’s the sailing going Ben?’

‘Laura? Green Laura Green from school?’

‘Yup.’

I picked my way across the baked ruts; a river bed does not look how one imagines.

‘Did you get your degree in environmental science Laura?’

‘Got a first,’ I retorted ‘work for the National River Authorities now.’

He laughed. ‘Made redundant then.’

‘Planning to sail across the world?’

‘Only to the Isle of Wight.’

‘Conditions are no better there, Tennyson’s rolling green downs are the colour of toast and Freshwater Bay has none.’

‘It will soon, I can turn sea water into fresh.’

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Views and Reviews

When I first joined Goodreads, with no idea what I was doing there and with my picture sideways, I did figure out how to write reviews and it seemed a good way to record all the books I read.

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My Kindle was a birthday present five years ago and the first books I downloaded were my own. I had already published two novels and one short story collection on Amazon Kindle, relying on a local friend and my sister in Australia, the only people I knew with Kindles, to tell me if they had ‘come out’ alright.

Once the Kindle was in my hands it opened up the whole world of Indie Authors. I had no desire to download 3000 free classics, we have a house full of dead authors in paperback. Reading about other writers on line, choosing books that sparked my interest and downloading them in a matter of seconds was part of the fun. I review all my fellow Indie Authors on Amazon and Goodreads, though it is often a while before I actually get around to reading. With all the angst about Amazon deleting reviews I decided to also put new reviews on my blog. I love variety so here are three very different books. One novel, one set of three short stories and my favourite, a collection of stories, flash fiction and poems.

on 4 July 2018
I read this collection on my Kindle and one disadvantage of Kindles is you don’t have the book lying on your coffee table showing off its cover. Coming back to Amazon to review this book I remembered how I loved the imaginative cover which does justice to the contents. I was really taken wih the stories and poems. I love writing short stories that are often dark so I appreciated the author’s style. Here are tales gruesome and scary, but also poignant poems. The book ends with a longer story that held me in suspense all the way through…

Finding Hunter: Riverbend Book 2 Kindle Edition

on 2 July 2018
A very different novel from the first Riverbend book and it would work fine as a stand alone novel, but those of us who enjoyed the first were eager to see if it was Willow’s turn to find true love, only to fear she would lose the love of her life so soon after finding him. Anyone who has had strange experiences when meeting the boyfriend’s family for the first time will sympathise with Willow and admire the way she stands by her man. But how can she stand by her man when he disappears? Hunter is a complex man with a difficult life, can love be strong enough to save him? I am looking forward to reading Book Three and following the next part of Willow and Hunter’s life together.

The One That Got Away and other short stories

4.0 out of 5 stars  Chances missed and chances taken.

on 4 July 2018
Three gentle stories, very different, but all about finding love and new paths later in life. My favourite was ‘More than a Mere Bagatelle’ . Modern grandmothers don’t just sit at home, they have lives of their own, but that can bring difficult choices.
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What do you like to read and do you review?


Last Gasp-Germany

Grace ends her journey.

Anecdotage

There is much to love about Germany; black forests, picture perfect , historic towns, grand rivers bordered by gorges and fairy-tale castles, exciting cities like Hamburg and Berlin, charming, engaging and eager-to-help citizens. But not the motorways-oh no. The motorways are strings of roadwork-riddled tedium, clogged with miles of crawling, wheezing lorries spewing fumes and large, gas-guzzling speed machines reduced to inching along with everyone else.

The drive to Wurzburg was one such journey, with roadworks every 10k and frustrating traffic queues at every junction. And once we’d arrived there was further idiocy from the Tom Tom, which led us around the city in ever decreasing circles with no sign of the camper stop, even though it was flagged on the tiny screen. At that point when we were about to give up I spotted the parking place-beneath the bridge and by the river, a smattering of vans and motorhomes…

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Silly Saturday – Strange Stanzas

 

I’m not averse to writing verse,

Or the occasional stanza.

Chapters, blog, Captain’s Log;

Language is a bonanza.

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                                  Bus Stop

 

He doesn’t have a shiny car,

I met him on the bus.

He asked me if I came from far,

Upstairs was only us.

 

Next morning at my stop we met,

He asked me where I worked.

Lunchtime in the park was set,

The sun shone and we talked.

 

He walked me to the bus stop,

When my day’s work was done.

He took my hand, we sat up top

And soon my heart was won.

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         Shout     

 

I hear a shout,

I turn about.

Two figures dark,

Out of the park.

Two shadows meet

Across the street.

Loud voices talking,

Best keep walking.

Across the road

Cigarettes glowed.

Could take a chance,

Another glance.

Calling, waving,

Are they raving?

Tough drug dealers

Or car stealers?

Leather jackets

What’s their racket?

Home no nearer

Voices clearer.

‘Hey Mum wait,

You’re out late!’

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