Two Many

Among the fervent discussions on how to save the planet, inevitably it has been noticed that there are a lot of people in the world; apart from humans pushing aside other species who have just as much right to exist, we are using up the earth’s resources and increasing global warming.

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‘In 1798 Thomas Robert Malthus famously predicted that short-term gains in living standards would inevitably be undermined as human population growth outstripped food production, and thereby drive living standards back toward subsistence.’
But the population has grown to numbers which probably should have caused our mass extinction by now according to Malthus. Science and technology have increased food yields and provided the means to curb reproduction. ‘… the eightfold increase in population since 1798 has also raised the number of geniuses in similar proportion and it is genius above all that propels global human advance.’

https://www.intelligenteconomist.com/malthusian-theory/
Despite over two centuries of Gaia curbing us with natural disasters and mankind drastically reducing numbers with warfare, we are still growing. It has been suggested that Malthus’ predictions could still come true. If a couple have two children they have replaced themselves, TWO is a logical number to work on, so we can all reduce our carbon footprint by only having two children. When I was at school we assumed that is what we would be doing; considering the vast populations of China and India we naively thought a few years of communist government would help India. China has now discontinued its one child programme and is faced with 33.5 million more men than women, because sons were preferred. Now they are worried about their ageing population.
Meanwhile, Japan is currently the 11th most populous nation in the world, but its failure to boost birth rates in recent decades has left it with a significantly older population base and a dangerous shortage of young adults. No more crowded trains in their future? Some European countries have a similar problem. For Gaia it could be good news, she probably does not care much about individual societies working.

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History, with its various terrible regimes, means that no democratic government is going to tell people how to plan, or not plan their families and is certainly not going to put into place more sinister designs for reducing their country’s population.
But could having more than two children go the same way as drink driving and smoking indoors, become socially unacceptable? Hopefully not; it would be a dull world if we were all the same. Two is not a bad number, better than just one? Lots of couples choose or find themselves having one child and singletons might say they enjoyed their status or had a bunch of cousins to play with. In China the one child policy left a generation without siblings, then further down the line a generation without cousins or aunties and uncles. A lone child stifled by adoring parents and grandparents; the first time such a huge social experiment has been carried out.

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Having just one child is nothing new; in the 1920’s and 1930’s ordinary people in Britain found themselves able to buy into the suburban dream with mass building of terraced houses and they also had access to contraceptives. Coming from big families, the prospect of less children and less work must have seemed attractive and those houses may have had the delights of an inside bathroom, but they were too small for a big family. Many people did choose to have one child and my aunt said my grandfather used to be introduced with ‘He’s got THREE daughters.’
I don’t write about my family, but here I must confess that my father also had two siblings and they had three of us; we have three and it does work out mathematically or that’s my excuse. Take my siblings and cousins, they all have two, one or none, so the ten of us have more or less replaced ourselves with eleven children. A male cousin had twins at fifty, so there is twenty five years between my first born and his – do they even count as the same generation?
There is nothing simple about families. A couple have two children, then break up, meet new partners and in a rosy romantic glow decide to have more children. If you’re an ageing rock star you repeat this process quite often. But there seem to be enough people having one or none to offset this. Births in England and Wales in 2018 were 1.7 per woman so do we need to worry? Now it’s not how many children can you afford to raise, but what is their carbon footprint?
We all have a carbon footprint just by being born, though being born is not our fault. We hope our children will make a contribution to society, we expect them to be a combination of the best characteristics of both parents, with none of the negative qualities ( in my case our children actually are! ) and we certainly don’t want them to be in prison for serious crimes.

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So your daughter is a top surgeon, your son an astronaut, another child a famous musician, how proud you must be. But how much fossil fuel is the astronaut using to get up to the space station, what is the carbon footprint of the musician jet setting round the world to concerts? Your neighbour’s prisoner son is sitting in his little shared cell not going anywhere, a carbon footprint of practically zero, while your top surgeon daughter is living in a massive house full of every electrical device and a gas boiler pumping heat round a vast number of rooms. If you have produced a leading scientist who cycles to work and is busy inventing ways to save the earth, well done.

How do you see the future of the human race?

In Three Ages of Man the stranger comes from a society where births are strictly regulated and prospective parents are genetically tested first, a glimpse into one possible future…

Sunday Salon

I haven’t posted any reviews since last year… for a good while actually. All these reviews are on Goodreads, but I am still not having much luck with Amazon. I reviewed ‘Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive…’ last year and Amazon rejected it. I submitted my review for Dog Bone Soup yesterday and the rejection email came back in ten minutes! The other two reviews I submitted today, but have yet to hear back.

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I’m starting with the poems of Frank Prem, because the fires in Australia have been on all our minds. He has been posting new poems about living in fear and smoke and I have put a link to one of his recent blogs.

Devil In The Wind by Frank Prem

When I started reading Devil In The Wind I couldn’t have imagined that the latest fires in Australia were going to build up to the most terrible conflagration ever known. Frank Prem’s unique style of poetry tells of the 2009 Black Saturday in Victoria. His opening dedication says ‘For all those affected by wildfire. May our love for the bush remain, while our hearts grow ever more resilient.’ Words needed more than ever.

As soon as I started reading, the voices were real; what people saw, trying to explain how it happened. His brief lines, often just one word, no punctuation or capital letters, tell the story perfectly ‘…anyway … out of the smoke came a sort of convoy…’   ‘she could see the glow from over murmungee way…’

This is the second book I have read by the author and I am looking forward to reading his third volume. Looking back at the words of Devil In The Wind I find myself reading it again. 5 Stars

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/111750606/posts/29533

 

Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car:: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark

Kindle Edition
by Jo Elizabeth Pinto (Author)

We all love to peek into other people’s real lives and I expect most of us who are sighted played that game when we were children, screwing your eyes tight shut to imagine what it is like to be blind. Computers have made the world more accessible for the visually impaired, as long as they have the right technology, but this author tells us about the domestic side of life, shopping, cooking and caring for a child. The title came about when the young daughter was envied because her mother was allowed to bring her dog into school. The teacher asked what it was like to have a blind mother; silly question because the child knew nothing else, but this little girl sounds a very sparky character and replied ‘Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive The Car’. The short episodes from the lives of the mother and daughter are told with humour and the problems faced are not always the disability, but other people’s attitudes. A big positive side is the time together; walking everywhere means time to talk and a child looking about her so she can describe the world to her mother. How much better than being stuck in the back of a car. Most of us find it hard to cope with a lively toddler. This book mainly covers 8 and 9 years old, I would love to read about the early years. 5 Stars

 

DOG BONE SOUP (Historical Fiction): A Boomer’s Journey Kindle Edition
by Bette Stevens (Author)

If you are not from the USA or have never been there you will surely know this country through the eyes of your television set. Starting with Hollywood and moving on to the television era this was the first country to project an image to the English speaking world and beyond. By the fifties and sixties other countries were catching up with television, but most of us will have grown up with American programmes, funny or glossy. As adults we know life is not always as portrayed on television. The story of Shawn and his family is totally captivating. Poverty is relative; if everybody is in the same boat there is no shame. Shawn’s family are struggling to eat, no running water, but they have a television set. Most children at their local school are living the good life portrayed on television. The late fifties and early sixties were prosperous, the space age had started, but not everyone was sharing the good times. For everyone there will be the shock of Kennedy’s assassination. Shawn as the eldest has to use all his ingenuity to keep the family going. This is also a universal story that happens in every time and place; the woman who soon finds out she’s married a loser, alcohol leads to domestic violence. The story wisely starts and ends with Shawn leaving to join the army; a poignant ending because he has achieved his aim, but at what price with Vietnam surely his destination?
5 Stars

 

The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn

Two lives and two stories, people torn apart by war and brought together. The author has written engagingly about life during the war for ordinary people and the ironies; soldiers signing up to fight then finding themselves in limbo. There is the unique situation that usually only comes with war, when some couples were separated for years, not every soldier got to come home on leave; some are lucky, some families won’t survive the war, let alone see each other again. 4 Stars

 

If you enjoy crime fiction and television adaptations take a look at yesterday’s Silly Saturday.

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Here is the reply Amazon sent me for Dog Bone Soup

Thank you for submitting a customer review on Amazon. After carefully reviewing your submission, your review could not be posted to the website. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
Amazon Community Guidelines

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A few common issues to keep in mind:

Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. Feedback on the seller or your shipment experience should be provided at http://www.amazon.co.uk/feedback.
We do not allow profane or obscene content. This applies to adult products too.
Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively are considered spam.
Please do not include URLs external to Amazon or personally identifiable content in your review.
Any attempt to manipulate Community content or features, including contributing false, misleading or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited.

UPDATE

Today, Tuesday, I received the same rejection e-mails for Devil In The Wind and The Chalky Sea.

The Wonder of Wetherspoons

Christmas and Culture in Margate

We spent Christmas with Team H in Margate and as Team AK were also coming down we volunteered to stay at the Premier Inn.

Premier Inn is a British hotel chain and the UK’s largest hotel brand, with more than 72,000 rooms and 800 hotels.

On our various trips and breaks we do stay at blogworthy bed and breakfasts and hotels of character and weirdness, but Premier Inns are a good choice if the location is handy. You know what to expect; the rooms are big enough, the beds comfortable and everything is purple. The Margate Premier Inn is by the railway station, looks out to sea and the walk to the home of Team H takes us within view of many cultural landmarks.

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We have stayed a good few times and never had a room with a sea view, this time we did, but the view was blocked by the air conditioning unit on top of the Brewer’s Fayre pub and restaurant below. But the winter afternoon was drawing in and it was time to check in with the rest of the family, then back to the sea front for another family tradition – dinner at Wetherspoons.

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J D Wetherspoon plc is a pub company in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, the company operates nearly 900 pubs and a growing number of Wetherspoon hotels. The company is known for converting unconventional yet attractive premises into pubs.

Another chain where you know what to expect, Tim is obviously a chap who, unlike most politicians, cottoned on to what people want. Cheap pub food, refillable coffee cups, meals served from morning till night and a relaxed place where you can take your granny or your grandchild. As you order at the bar, or with your smart phone, you can wander in and out for a handy loo visit or perhaps hang out all day. The added bonus for writers is that you can watch all sorts of people and for photographers many of the branches are in amazing buildings rescued from neglect. Another interesting fact; it is claimed that every Wetherspoon has a different pattern of carpet, inspired by the location and specially woven; you can even buy a book about them.

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The Margate Wetherspoon has just been refurbished and now boasts comfy booths where you can charge up your various electronic gadgets. The walls are adorned with framed snippets of the town’s history. It is called The Mechanical Elephant, recalling the creature that used to give rides along the promenade in the 1950’s. This little bit of history inspired my short story ‘Thanephant an Elephantasy’ which was included in Thanet Writers’ anthology ‘Shoal’.

On Christmas Eve morning it was time to return to Wetherspoons for breakfast, but first another cultural landmark. At this end of the main sands is the Victorian Nayland Rock shelter. In the late Autumn of 1921, the bank clerk poet T.S. Eliot came to Margate on doctor’s orders to convalesce. He was in a fragile state physically and mentally and took a tram to sit on the seafront every day. While looking out at the expanse of grey water, watching children playing and war veterans exercising on the beach, he drafted part of The Waste Land.

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“On Margate Sands/ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing/”
I have to confess I haven’t read The Wasteland, but I have just downloaded it onto my Kindle for 99pence.

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Margate is on the Isle of Thanet, a real island until a few hundred years ago. It is on the east coast of Kent, but actually faces north across the Thames Estuary, so the sea can be grey on a grey day. The first day trippers used to come by steamer down the Thames.
On Christmas Eve morning the sun had come out and on the beach we saw the new attraction, a recreated bathing machine; the steam arising from the roof gives a clue to its secret, it is actually a sauna. I was almost envious of the chap emerging from the sea to clamber inside.

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Near the Mechanical Elephant is Dreamland. Amusements have been on this site since 1880, it was first called Dreamland in 1920 when the Grade 2 listed Scenic Railway wooden rollercoaster was opened. After going into decline early this century and being closed down there was a public campaign to restore the park and it re-opened in June 2015.

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Dreamland’s morale has been greatly boosted by the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in 2011, bringing a big buzz to the town. Cheap property prices and a fast train route to London have brought artists and fresh blood into the town – DFLs Down From London. The gallery is built on the spot by the harbour where the painter JMW Turner’s landlady had her boarding house.

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At the end of last year the Turner Prize took place in Margate, the four artists exhibited at the gallery and the award ceremony was held in the Hall-by-the-Sea in Dreamland. It was an unprecedented event as the prize was shared between the four artists.

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Our Christmas break finished with a family breakfast at Brewer’s Fayre. If you are staying at Premiere Inn and want breakfast this is where you go, sneaking in a secret door at the back…

Brewers Fayre is a licensed pub restaurant chain, with 161 locations across the UK, known for serving traditional British pub food and for their Sunday Carvery.

There are several advantages to be enjoyed, refillable coffee cups, up to two children under fifteen can eat for free at the breakfast buffet and there is a soft play area where your toddler can end up well beyond reach and stuck there forever unless you persuade him to come down in the slide tube. If your child is a strapping fourteen year old they will be too big for soft play, but can eat twice as much as the adults for free!

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Where do you like to stay when you are away? How many doctors these days advise their patients to go on holiday to convalesce and write?

Part of my novel ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ is set in Margate.

Wednesday in Welsh Wales

Due to an accident of birth which I blame on my parents, both of whom came from the same Surrey suburb, I am neither bilingual nor exotic. When we went to north Wales last week I was fascinated and envious of the Welsh speakers. Welsh is a Celtic language, the language everyone probably spoke on this island before waves of invaders. The lyrical accent and words also have similarities with Hindi, perhaps there are very ancient exotic origins for this language of poetry, music and Eisteddfods, but it is also officially recognised. Apart from Wales there is a small colony in Patagonia of natural Welsh speakers.

The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages be treated equally in the public sector, as far as is reasonable and practicable.

You know you are in Wales when the road signs are in both languages. Only about fifth of people in Wales actually speak Welsh fluently, but in the north the majority do.

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We stayed in Porthmadog for four nights, a lovely town with mountains in the background, a harbour and lots of trains, including the famous Ffestiniog Railway, Rheiffyrdd Ffestiniog. Being winter some places were closed. Our pub hotel was rather gloomy inside; someone had bought a job lot of brown paint. The dining room was in darkness and the bar rather bleak, but on our first evening we found a cafe at the railway station which was open till eight and was warm and cheerful. A family birthday party was in full swing and they were all speaking Welsh, even the children.

The next morning at breakfast our suspicions were confirmed that we and four chaps on a photography holiday were the only guests. A Welsh radio station played in the background. The weather was mostly heavy skies and damp, but stayed clear for our trip on the Welsh Highland Railway. As it was winter the Ffestiniog was closed and most of the line for our train. We went half an hour out, stopped for the engine to be moved then back again, but the little steam trains are gleaming and lovingly looked after and the scenery is lovely. That night a roaring open fire had appeared in the bar so we had our meal in there amongst Welsh speaking locals.

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The next day was the planned trip to Portmeirion, the fantasy cliffside village designed by architect and local aristocrat Clough Williams-Ellis. It is famous as the setting where sixties television series ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed, one of those dramas where viewers had no idea what was going on, thus  making it a cult film. You have to pay to go in, but it is well worth a visit and it must be even better on a sunny summer’s day. Colourful strange buildings cling to rock faces. Various winding steps, slippery in the damp weather, take you down to the edge of the estuary. No one lives there. We went to the hotel that was the house of a previous reclusive owner before Clough Williams bought the land in the 1920s and had coffee in front of an open fire. It was quiet, but apparently they had had a hundred guests for breakfast, those staying at the hotel and others in self catering apartments in the exotic buildings. Behind the village woodlands spread up the hill.

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Back up at the main cafe after more clambering around and photography we talked to a waitress who only spoke Welsh till she started school.  Her granddaughter goes to the high school in Harlech where every subject is taught in Welsh, except for English. If young children or English children arrive to start school and don’t speak Welsh they are whisked off by taxi for an intensive six weeks tuition and apparently come back speaking fluent Welsh!

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https://www.visitwales.com/en-us/product/516165?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-seFl8f35QIVBJ7VCh0UiA-1EAAYASAAEgLLsvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

On the third day we drove to Llanberris through the mountain scenery of Snowdonia in mist and rain to visit the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Of course that was closed till March, but we thought it would be fun to see the station; I had always imagined it sitting at the foot of the mountain. It isn’t quite like that and with the low lying cloud and mist we were not quite sure which mountain was Snowden. Since 1896 the little rack and pinion railway has been taking visitors up the mountain and there is now a new visitor centre and cafe at the summit, no doubt welcome after the one hour trip. I wonder if anyone would be allowed to build such a thing today?

liebster-award

Retro Blog Australia 1964

Read last week’s blog about our arrival  in Australia here.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2019/10/23/retro-blog-1964/

After a week in Perth, Western Australia, Mum and Dad had found a house to rent, but the blinds were down when they viewed it. When we moved in and the blinds were open it was very gloomy and not too clean – certainly not to my mother’s standards – but we did not realise that the aim of Australian houses was to keep the sun out and the house cool in summer. The other thing less visible, but soon revealed was the presence of fleas. They only liked Mum and my sister, so perhaps it was just as well that she was too young to go to school, as the teachers might have got the wrong impression when faced with a flea bitten pommie child.

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The wonderful thing about our new street was it had a library. With no television and only what we had brought in our suitcases, books were vital. We had no other possessions because our packing cases were still at Southampton Docks. Dad had made all our packing cases with rough planks from the timber yard; they were sent on ahead for their six week voyage, but there was a strike at the docks so they didn’t move. Mum and Dad had to eat into their capital to buy five of everything, bedding, plates etc. This was when we discovered peanut paste. Hard though it is to imagine a world without peanut butter, we had never tasted it in England and thought it was something exotic Americans had. In Perth it was called paste and came in jars that were actually drinking glasses; we had to eat our way quickly through five jars, lucky we loved our new treat.

The neighbours didn’t talk to Mum, except for a Dutch lady who introduced her dog.

He’s a Kelpie ( Australian sheep dog ) but mit the ears floppin down instead of mit the ears stickin up. Ever after, that was our term of reference for describing dogs.

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The summer term was well under way in Australian schools. Children started at six years old, so though my five year old sister had already started school in England she could not go. She was so bored Mum kept sending  her to the corner shop to buy one item at a time.

My seven year old brother could fit in with the right age group. I had already started at grammar school in England that September, now I had to go back to primary school. As Australian children started high school at twelve I could have ended up having to start another year of primary in January. Luckily I was put in Grade Seven and the teacher, Mr. Wooldridge, was excellent. He said it would be a disaster for me to be kept behind so determined that I would pass all the end of year tests. The maths setting out seemed to be back to front and upside down to what I was used to and of course I had no idea about Australian geography or history, but I got through. There are teachers who teach the work and teachers who talk to you about life and you always remember them. He told the dark World War Two story that I borrowed for Jennifer’s teacher in my novel, Quarter Acre Block.

The school was very different from my little Church of England junior school. No uniform, no school dinners; we just sat outside with our sandwiches, peanut past of course. The only other difference was the girls were a year older, more grown up and just liked sitting talking at break time instead of belting round the playground, but they were friendly.

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We were still going down by the river, but I hadn’t learned to swim yet. The school summer outing was to Yanchep Park – everybody went on outings to Yanchep Park, about 30 miles from Perth; a very large nature reserve with a lake and caves. There was also a swimming pool and I had not told my class mates I couldn’t swim. Everyone was jumping in and I figured I could drop in and catch hold of the bar on my way down and cling on. I just went straight under, but luckily came up again, only to hear some snooty girl saying people who couldn’t swim shouldn’t be in the pool. I suppose it would have been even more embarrassing not to have surfaced.

School broke up before Christmas and we had six weeks holiday ahead. Dad’s search for a job and a house to buy was still on and the packing cases had not yet arrived.

Read the story of the Palmer family for 99 pence or $1.27

 

Silly Saturday Falling Backwards

It is time to realign ourselves with the earth. Tonight our clocks will go back one hour to Greenwich Meantime.

It was a long time ago that a chap wandering up the hill from the River Thames noticed he was following a straight line etched in the ground; being a clever chap, a member of The Royal Society, he realised he had discovered the Prime Meridian Line. Longitude Zero (0° 0′ 0″). He set up some crowd funding and the Royal Observatory was built on the spot so no one would lose the Prime Meridian Line.

Every place on Earth is measured in terms of its angle east or west from this line. Since 1884, the Prime Meridian has served as the reference point for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

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British Summer Time was invented a century ago so cricket matches and Wimbledon could enjoy long summer evenings. Henceforth people have had two weekends a year to be totally confused; Spring Forward they might grasp, but Fall Backwards is harder as we call this season autumn… Even if we know which way to move the hand on our antique analogue clock we still can’t remember if we’re having an extra hour in bed or losing an hour’s sleep.

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None of this affects the tilt of the earth’s axis.

The actual time of the change is 2am on Sunday. You will either have to stay up late to change your clocks and watches, or if you have an atomic clock it will automatically change, so too will your computers and phones, this is done by magic.

If you can’t work out if the clock stops at 2am, then goes back to 1am, or stays at 2.00 for an hour, or goes to 3am then leaps back an hour, why don’t you stay awake and observe and tell the rest of us the answer tomorrow.

liebster-award

 

Retro Blog 1964

What if I had been blogging when I was eleven…

My novel Quarter Acre Block is based on our family’s experiences as Ten Pound Pommies migrating to Perth, Western Australia, but is not autobiographical. Readers ask which parts are real? Some people say ‘weren’t your parents brave.’

Brave is going to a country with a different language or as an asylum seeker, being invited by the Australian government and given free passage with only £10 per adult to pay for administration costs, is not in the same league. Of course leaving your relatives behind and burning your boats with no job to go to and little capital is braver than staying put…

I needed my mother’s help to get the adult point of view, but the Palmer family are not my family. I wanted the story to be realistic, so the Palmers follow the same journey as we did. The ‘six week holiday of a lifetime’ sounded fun and I was envious of those who had come by ship, crossed the equator and met King Neptune, but the Palmer family had to fly.

I knew no one who had been in the migrant camps: I don’t think my father would have persuaded Mum to go at all if she had to face the prospect of a camp! She hadn’t been in the services during the war and had gone from home straight to marriage, so barracks and camps did not fall within her experience. Dad knew ‘someone from the office’ who had migrated and they sponsored us. The chap met us at the airport well gone midnight and as we drove across to the other side of the little city Mum was already looking out of the ‘station wagon’ in dismay. Once on our own, inside the caravan booked for us, she was soon saying ‘Rob, what have you brought us to’. We hadn’t seen much in the dark, but Mum had apparently focused on endless rows of electricity poles. Full of the whole big adventure I was exasperated that she was complaining when we had only been in Australia two hours.

The friend returned at nine am to take us down to Scarborough Beach. His family had taken to beach life and were living ‘the dream’. My younger brother and sister were terrified of the waves and I clung to a plastic surfboard, too embarrassed to tell their children I couldn’t swim. After that experience the only beach my parents wanted to sit on was Crawley Beach by the Swan River. It was very pleasant and Mum and Dad treated this first week as a holiday, we even had an ice cream every day, unprecedented, though it was not like Mr. Whippy and tended to have lumps of ice. Perth City was small then and you couldn’t get lost. Supreme Court Gardens were very pleasant and down by the Swan River was the wide open esplanade, so far we were living the dream.

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After one night in the cramped caravan I had been despatched, or invited, I’m not sure which, to stay with the family of our sponsor. I was to be in the boy’s class at school and his younger sister did ballet, so I had nothing in common with her! I cringe now to think of my prepubescent self wandering around a house of strangers in my flimsy baby doll pyjamas, but all was above board.

After a week Mum and Dad had found a house to rent; as the venetian blinds were closed they didn’t see properly what it was like until Mum pulled the blinds up when we moved in. The only neighbour to speak to Mum was a Dutch lady. It was also time for me and my younger brother to start school, where their summer term was in full swing. This was nothing compared to the reality that Dad had to find a job and a house to buy and our packing cases were not going to arrive… more next week.

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Read about the strange year leading up to our departure from England in last year’s blog.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/quarter-acre-blog/

Read more about my novel at my website.

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

Peek inside the book.

 

 

Robes and Royalty

The State Opening of Parliament was on Monday, a colourful and dignified distraction from politics and Brexit. If you like history, colourful costumes and beautiful horses watching it on television is a good way to spend a rainy morning. These royal events always present curious questions, often little to do with the ceremony.

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Television presenters must do a lot of homework to enable them to tell ( confuse ) us who all the participants are and their duties. All you need to know is that there are a lot of horses and members of the armed forces and the Palace of Westminster is packed with ‘Important People’ in uniforms, with red being a popular colour. They have to take part in the  processions; in turn they have lots of smartly dressed people looking after them, who in turn have lots of security and organisers making sure it goes smoothly… and it did.

It all starts very early in the morning; breakfast television news goes over to the Royal Mews where the horses have been groomed to perfection. I wonder if they are like children, you get them ready to go out in their best clothes, but it’s raining and they are soon muddy.

 

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In the studio a presenter has gathered some people we don’t know; people who are no longer MPs or who didn’t get a ticket to the show? They talk about politics, history and what will happen during the morning’s events. There have been a few tweaks to the ceremony in concession to Her Majesty’s age. Prince Charles is her escort as The Duke of Edinburgh has retired from royal duties. She will not wear the heavy crown, thus creating another job opportunity for a costumed person to carry it in on a cushion.

 

The Royal fairytale coach to be used is not old, but made this century in Australia and apparently warmer and more comfortable than the old coaches. The Queen’s two ladies-in-waiting arrive in the next carriage and climb out with a little difficulty, they are not young either. Off they go to the robing room to help The Queen get ready while we hear more important names reeled off. The Marquess of Chumley sounds like someone out of a children’s puppet show, but his name is not spelt how it sounds – David George Philip Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, The Lord Great Chamberlain has charge over the Palace of Westminster.

Enough of hereditary positions; how do you get to be Black Rod? What do you want to be when you grow up? Black Rod… The current Black Rod is the first ever woman to hold the position. Black Rod is sent from the Lords Chamber to the Commons Chamber to summon MPs to hear the Queen’s Speech. Traditionally the door of the Commons is slammed in Black Rod’s face to symbolise the Commons independence. She then bangs three times on the door with the rod. The door to the Commons Chamber is opened and all MPs – talking loudly – follow Black Rod back to the Lords to hear the Queen’s Speech. This is the fun part because there is not room for them all in the House of Lords so there is jostling to the front. Boris and Jeremy, leader of the opposition, lead the way, not talking to each other. Like school the rest of the MPs shuffle along in pairs with their friends… I guess there will always be some who have no friends to walk with…

https://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/principal/black-rod/

How do you get your sons to be Pages of Honour and carry the Queen’s train? Teenage sons of nobility who look fresh faced and do not have any piercings…

Prince Charles escorted his mother to the throne and sat down on the other throne, yet another person delivered the speech in a little bag. Alas the Queen did not write this speech which tells what Her Government will do in the coming session of Parliament. Each time I hope she will toss it onto the red carpet and from her robes produce one she wrote earlier…

https://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2019/october/state-opening-of-parliament-2019/

The 199 Steps

Whitby is a scenic harbour town on the east coast of Yorkshire; the harbour piers face north so it has an east and west cliff, both of which are worth clambering up. You don’t have to climb the cliff face, you can arrive at the west cliff hotels or the east cliff abbey ruins by coach, bus or car, but it is more interesting to tread the many paths and steps that wind upwards. Count Dracula took such a route up the east cliff after his ship was blown off course in the north sea. Disguised as a black dog he ran up the 199 steps to the church of St. Mary and the ruins of St. Hilda’s Abbey, thus creating a tourist attraction for the fitter holiday maker.

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Author Bram Stoker is not the only famous person to have lived here, son of Yorkshire, Captain James Cook attended school in Whitby and was born in a nearby village.

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This was not our first visit to Whitby, but it was our first attempt at airbnb. We chose a cottage in town according to good reviews; as first timers we had to register with some personal info and after being accepted received reams of instructions on where to park the car and how to get in the door. I know from people who use airbnb, when working away from home, that some places are literally a room in someone’s house, someone often glad of the company. We were not to be greeted by a real human. However, we managed the key box without any trouble and were delighted to find ourselves in a cosy three storey home. The bathroom was on the middle floor and the bedroom at the top, the two flights of winding narrow stairs were more like mountain climbing and getting our luggage up was more of a struggle than reaching Everest base camp.

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Exploring on foot is the best way to enjoy Whitby, the swing bridge is a quick way to get from one side of town to the other and if you like fish there is no shortage of fish restaurants to choose for your dinner; many have claims such as best fish and chips in town, best east side fish restaurant, best harbour view fish and chips… Though we were self catering we didn’t actually cook any dinners on our four nights there – a fact that made it easy to keep the pristine kitchen clean.

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On the first evening, after a meal, we popped into a quaint harbourside pub that looked full of character and was full of characters. Anyone popping in later on would have thought they were in a scene from Fisherman’s Friends, happening upon some local folk singing, but none of the people we met were locals. Two Australians were delighted to meet someone who had lived in Perth (me) and the lady from Edinburgh to discover Cyberspouse was Scottish. It turned out the Aussies were originally ten pound Pommies who went out on the very first jumbo jet to Australia in the early seventies. Their friend, who looked like a local fisherman, spent half a year in Perth and the other half in Whitby. The highlight for me was when the two chaps started singing and had great voices.

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The next day we easily walked up the 199 steps, but were soon soaked in the rain, photos of the abbey would have to wait. The abbey was ruined by Henry V111, but St. Mary’s church is fascinating with all the pews in boxes; respectable families had their own boxes, strangers were kept separate and the rabble squashed into the more uncomfortable boxes. There is also a lovely building which now houses a youth hostel with its restaurant open to the public; in the rain this was too busy, but we visited on the next two days.

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Other highlights of our stay were climbing up the 81 steps of the harbour lighthouse and the long walk to Sandsend along the coast before the tide came in. Showers were followed by sunshine as we reached the lovely village with cottages either side of the little river.

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On the last evening, a stroll down the pier found us gathered with a few others round a man who was taking his five Saint Bernard dogs for a stroll, he said he had seventeen rescue collies at home which his wife exercised. Apparently the key to his happy dog household was that he was the leader of the pack. I would have loved to have seen his house!

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The next morning we packed up, tidied up and followed the unlocking procedure in reverse.  Later on we received a thanks e-mail from the owner; but to see his review of us, we had to review his cottage first. We gave it 5 stars and he gave us 5 stars; we’re officially airbnbers – though I’m never sure how to write it. And the host we never met? Well it’s obvious he must have been a vampire.

Read more about last week’s trip and my other travels this year at my website.

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

You can find out more about Whitby and the Yorkshire coast here.

http://www.whitby.co.uk/

 

 

Sunny Salisbury

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A day out is even more enjoyable if everyone is having a day out and everybody was out in Salisbury on Sunny Saturday. Our day started at the free Park and Ride; the drive north from Bournemouth is slow but pleasantly rural. The walk from the bus stop to our brunch destination took us through the busy market in the square. Then towards River Walk where we bumped straight into a cheerful ‘Salisbury for Europe’ march by our fellow Remainers. Every town and county seems to have a ‘For Europe’ group, I’m thinking of collecting all the blue badges.

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After brunch we strolled to the cathedral, time was limited because we were going to a matinee at the theatre, but the cathedral is timeless. We jostled with tourists and locals through the narrow arch to the swards of green that surround Salisbury Cathedral. Cathedral greens and closes are usually delightful, with all the interesting old buildings and houses that have clustered round the great cathedrals over the centuries. On a sunny day, flowers blooming in window boxes and gardens, to live in such places seems perfect, though perhaps not with all the modern tourists.

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We paused at a red telephone box, peering in to see if it was still active or turned into a safe place for a defibrillator; we had hardly had a chance to see if it still took coins when an irate voice said ‘Excuse me’ in an accent that suggested she was not local. We were standing in the way of a lady trying to take an iconic photo of her husband with a red telephone box in the background. That was the only grumpy note we heard all day, for the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral on a sunny day are a happy place to be. People of all ages, language students, tourists and families; running, picnicking, painting, taking photographs, playing badminton. Even if you are on a whistle stop tour you can still treasure a few moments looking up at the spire soaring into the blue sky.

https://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/

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The cloisters were also packed, I wonder what monks strolling along quietly contemplating would have made of modern visitors. There was a free grab a canvas event; children and adults busy painting on two sides while opposite, people sat with their refreshments.

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While in the cloisters you can pop into the restaurant and shop with glass roofs to gaze up at the cathedral.  There are also recently improved free toilets. Just wandering around is enjoyable. If you do get a chance to visit there is a voluntary donation to look around inside the cathedral. Surrounding the cathedral are museums, a lovely National Trust House and the home of the late Edward Heath, one of Britain’s Prime Ministers.

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Our first visit to the Salisbury Playhouse was to see Alan Ayckbourn’s first successful play, Relatively Speaking, which we had seen a long time ago. It’s a comedy so the audience were in a good mood and it was hilarious. The theatre is a pleasant light place which we hope to visit again.

https://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk/whats-on/main-house/relatively-speaking/

What is your favourite day out and does the weather make a difference to your enjoyment?

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Salisbury features in Three Ages of Man, a stand alone novel from my Brief Encounters trilogy.