The Game of Life is being played on the biggest scale ever with the worldwide virus scare. A game of chance with good odds for most of us, but with the rules being made up as we go along and every team making up their own rules, or so we might think… But it is viruses that make the rules, mutating at will; do they have an agenda? It is not hard to believe that Gaia has her hand in this, as travelling and normal life grind to a halt it must be good for the environment and non human creatures.
Meanwhile, if we zoom in like Google Maps to my family, even without the virus there has been drama. Our daughter has clocked up five different hospitals visited, with her younger son and father in hospital at the same time. Luckily the little one is fine. After a year and more of being well, Cyberspouse’s condition went off at an unexpected tangent and he has been in three different hospitals. Now I am officially a carer, having persuaded the discharge nurse and social care team I would manage – not mentioning that once I was back on my computer writing I would probably forget all about him! Luckily our daughter is a physiotherapist and has been organising us, her brothers and the NHS. Our aim was to get him out of hospital before it went into virus lockdown!
Blogging and writing was put on hold and once my scheduled blogs ran out it was quite liberating to know there was no chance of writing anything or catching up with fellow bloggers. But what a fund of material I have acquired in my head; a blog about the NHS and patients and visitors…
Latest virus update… Cyberson 1 now back in the USA has to stay home as he has been to the UK within the last 14 days. Team H are now self quarantining as our son-in-law came home from work with a sore throat and cough. Cyberson 2 can’t come down as his boss’s wife has symptoms. We are lucky all the family got together before the virus kicked in. How have you and yours been affected by the virus?
I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday when the doorbell rang. I only half opened the door, hoping to keep out the torrential rain and wind. On the doorstep stood a complete stranger, or at least it was hard to recognise who she might be with her head bowed and face concealed by the hood of her sodden coat. When she looked up, her expression was one of confusion.
‘Oh, er sorry, is your daughter in?’
I relaxed, pushing the door back another inch. ‘I think you must have the wrong house, I don’t have a daughter.’
‘Oh erm… is this The Lighthouse? Only I was a bit confused because it doesn’t look like the pictures and it isn’t very near the sea.’
Who was this stranger and what pictures?
‘It is only ten minutes walk from the cliff top’ I retorted.
And what business of hers what I called my house? It was a bit of a joke, my fantasy of living in a lighthouse on a rocky outcrop hadn’t quite materialised. The little featureless home in a row of similar houses could have been in any suburb anywhere, but I could walk to the sea; if my knee wasn’t playing up or the weather wasn’t too dreadful.
‘I don’t suppose mine is the only house called The Lighthouse, did you use SatNav?’
‘I came on the train.’
That explained her drowned rat appearance, a cliché, but she did actually look like a drowned rat; it was a good walk from the station. What was I supposed to do with her? She had an accent I couldn’t place.
‘I’m sorry I can’t help you, is it a friend or relative you’re looking for?’
‘I was sure this was the right place, Sandbourne, Wessex, I’m over in England for a writers’ convention in London next week.’
I felt a touch of sympathy for a fellow writer and a niggle of guilt that I had not invited her to put even a toe inside the door.
‘What a shame you have such awful weather for your day at the seaside, it might brighten up later. I hope you manage to find your friend.’
‘She’s a fellow blogger, I’ve never actually met her.’
A disquieting bell began to ring inside my head. I am a blogger, but who on earth would want to meet me in real life. Perhaps Sandbourne was full of bloggers who would welcome a visit, but I had no desire to meet fellow bloggers in real life. The whole point of blogging was surely to avoid people.
The woman blinked away large drops of water splashing down from my gutter. ‘She’s called Scribbletide, her blog’s called ‘To The Lighthouse’ … you know, after the Virginia Woolf novel.’
‘Yes, yes, I have read it, they never actually get to the lighthouse.’
Hmm, just like me, that’s why I called my blog that… I never get to the lighthouse. But how on earth had this bedraggled refugee from abroad found out where I lived and how long before she cottoned on that I no longer looked like that picture of me taken thirty years ago, nor do I live on Portland Bill. I could carry on feigning ignorance and hope she cleared off, but what if she told the rest of the blogging world the truth? No more Likes and ‘hugs’, no more followers. And I was intrigued, which of my thirteen followers was she?
‘You had better come in, as long as you promise not to write a blog about me.’
With her dripping coat hanging over the kitchen chair and a mug of tea in her hands she looked a bit more presentable, but with no resemblance to any blogger I could think of.
‘So are you Scribbletide?’ she stared at me suspiciously.
‘Well it’s a long story… why don’t you tell me what your blog is called.’
‘Leaping into the Unknown, it’s my day today, my sixth birthday.’
It took me a few moments to cotton on. ‘Leap Year, 29th February today, your birthday, not a very exciting way to spend it. I don’t Do birthdays, but if you only have one every four years I guess it should be special. Do I follow your blog?’
‘Yes, all the time, I’m Jolly Jumper, you love my daredevil adventures.’
Now I knew why she did not look familiar, her blog persona was a cartoon superwoman who wore a colourful Scandiknit jumper. Her real self looked like she would get vertigo climbing a step ladder.
I took her to the cliff top café for tea and a big slice of cake. She wouldn’t go near the edge of the cliff as she was scared of heights, but with the dreadful weather, we were happy to sit inside and chat. After seeing her off on the train back to London I went home to start my new blog post.
What a thrill today to meet a fellow blogger from over the ocean. My special visitor, Jolly Jumper, was dropped off by the Sandbourne Lifeboat and scrambled up the craggy rocks to knock on the door of my lighthouse. It was so windy I could hardly open the heavy wooden door…
How far will people go to protect other people, what secrets will be kept to protect those with power?
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), estimated to have cost £150 million since being launched in 2014, has just announced its findings. IICSA concluded that while there had been individual cases of wrongdoing, there was no organised VIP paedophile ring and no establishment cover up.
Lord Steel, the former Liberal leader, has quit the party after he was criticised for failing to flag up concerns over the late Cyril Smith, Liberal MP for Rochdale, who was later exposed as a serial paedophile.
IICSA was set up by Theresa May when she was home secretary. She came under pressure following claims, including one from Labour MP Tom Watson, that a VIP paedophile ring existed.
A series of false allegations by fantasists were exposed, including claims from Carl Beech that he was abused by a string of high profile politicians and public figures. Beech, himself a convicted paedophile, was subsequently jailed for eighteen years for perverting the course of justice.
“The report concludes that there are examples of a political culture which values its reputation far higher than the fate of the children involved.”
Truth and lies; the inquiry had also investigated abuse and cover ups in the church and other institutions. After so many revelations in so many countries, going back into the past, but also in the present, it’s no wonder that the public are likely to believe any new allegations.
When I was writing my novel ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears you Scream’, cover ups by people in power became one of the themes. Who keeps the secrets, who is trying to find out the truth? It seemed credible that the character Griff would believe someone in power knew what had happened to his schoolboy brother, who had disappeared without trace years ago. If MPs and the Metropolitan Police were taking seriously the claims there had been a Westminster paedophile ring and even murders of boys, so would anyone looking for answers.
Before I finished writing the novel it was discovered Carl Beech had been lying. His crime was terrible in itself, ruining the lives of innocent men and damaging the credibility of genuine victims. But back in 2014, when the novel is set, it seemed credible that Beech was telling the truth and it is true that people in power have abused children and others have kept their secrets.
Tobias Channing, in his search for his missing girlfriend Anna, meets Griff and discovers her disappearance could be part of a web of truth and lies.
Exactly six years ago we had just had the Valentine’s Night Storm; we did not know it was called that till we had had it. The next year, in 2015, the Meteorological Office of the United Kingdom and Met Eireann decided to name storms in advance, with an alphabetical list of popular names they picked out from Facebook. It was claimed this would make people take storms more seriously and it worked, because since they started naming storms they have got worse, with more flooding. Last weekend it was Storm Ciara and as you read this we will be having Storm Dennis. Female and male names alternate, so luckily by the time we get to N ( probably in a few weeks time ) we can have Storm Noah.
Storms come with amber and red warnings, plus constant warnings from weather people in the cosy news studios to stay away from coastal areas. They then show photographs the public have taken just before they get washed away by waves and ‘go over’ to reporters being blown off the sea front to give us live coverage. It is so windy we can’t actually hear what they are saying.
This photo of Storm Ciara, thanks to Mike Jefferies Photography, saving me getting wet, appeared on Facebook. It is the famous cob at Lyme Regis in Dorset, one of the settings for Jane Austin’s novel Emma, where a trip to the seaside nearly ends in tragedy when a young lady contrives to fall off the cob. I don’t think the weather was this bad in that scene, but if you ever go to Lyme Regis the cob slopes and if it is wet it is very slippery.
Meanwhile back to Saturday morning 15th February 2014; after a night of the wind shaking our house I suggested ( insisted ) we go down to the cliff top at high tide for some bracing fresh air and this is what we saw.
It gave me an idea for a story and eventually became the opening scene for At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream.
I am enjoying several books on my Kindle, one novel, two short story collections, poetry and a cutting humorous slice of real life, but no new reviews since the January’s Sunday Salon… in the meantime we have been to the theatre and seen some excellent programmes on television. Here are two stories that have stood the test of time…
Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952 and has been running continuously ever since then. It is the longest-running West End show, the longest initial run of any play in history; there is a twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre.
The play began life as a short radio play called Three Blind Mice, written as a birthday present for Queen Mary, The Queen’s grandmother and broadcast on 30 May 1947. The theatre play is based on a short story based on the radio play, but Christie asked that the story not be published as long as the play ran in the West End of London. The short story has still not been published within the United Kingdom, but it has appeared in the United States in the 1950 collection Three Blind Mice and Other Stories.
When she wrote the play, Christie gave the rights to her grandson Mathew Prichard as a birthday present. In the United Kingdom only one production of the play in addition to the West End production can be performed annually. Under the contract terms of the play no film adaptation can be produced until the West End production has been closed for at least six months. So don’t expect to see any time soon a block buster movie brought into the 21st century and set in Bollywood or Hollywood, or perhaps on a space station. The play was set in ‘the present’ but has been left safely in the 1950’s.
I first saw The Mousetrap in London in the seventies while over from Australia on the ‘working holiday’ that never ended. As for many visitors to London it was a must see and my mother had always talked about the audiences being sworn to secrecy; how amazing that no one has ever given the game away! I enjoyed it and was proud to have guessed who dunnit.
This time we were at The Lighthouse in Poole, an early stop on the play’s 2020 UK Tour. I remembered who dunnit from last time, but recalled nothing of the plot so it was a fun evening. There is one set, the interior of Monkswell Manor, recently converted to a guest house run by a young couple. On the radio we hear of a murder and the police looking for a suspect in a dark overcoat; as each character appears on stage they are all wearing dark overcoats. Heavy snow leaves Monkswell cut off from the rest of the world, so of course when a murder occurs we know the murderer is in the house… A plot happily repeated on islands and trains etc. by Christie. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep us guessing and the second half especially moves along at a good pace. I’m not going to tell you what happens and if you know, don’t mention it in the comments.
We move along a few years into in the early 1960s for an excellent six part BBC Sunday evening drama ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’. This is a story that never seems to lose its fascination, there have been documentaries, books and a film; the scandal has been examined with 21st century eyes. When I was a child it seemed to be on the news all the time, though I had no idea what The Profumo Affair might be. John Profumo was the Minister for War in the turbulent times of the Cuban Missile Crisis; not only did he have an affair with the naïve ( perhaps not sexually naïve, but in every other way ) Christine Keeler, who also slept with a Russian spy; to make matters worse, he lied to The House of Commons, his chums and presumably to his wife, who happened to be famous actress Valery Hobson. Stephen Ward the society osteopath was another leading character, a ‘libertine’ who mixed with the aristocracy and politicians, groomed Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler and was responsible for Keeler meeting these men in the first place. The press had a field day.
It is a tribute to the actors that our sympathies were with the two girls and Stephen Ward. They enjoyed living at his flat, looked after them is hardly the right term, Keeler was only seventeen when Ward met her, but to them he was a friend and they were having fun. When Profumo suggested he put Keeler in her own flat she replied ‘But what about Mand?’ She didn’t want to live by herself, she wanted to stay with her friend at Ward’s.
The six part drama was able to explore a lot more about Christine’s early life and the ex boyfriend dramas also going on at the time. Most viewers probably knew Ward ended up committing suicide, perhaps making all the more poignant the lead up to the sham trial of Ward. He was expecting his many important friends and clients to step forward as witnesses for his defence, but in the end they all deserted him. James Norton was brilliant as Stephen Ward. So too were Sophie Cookson and Ellie Bamber as Christine and Mandy, two girls who were real people, not just two dumb models to be exploited by everyone. From Stephen Ward’s elegant mews flat to the sixties clothes, makeup and hair do’s this was a polished production.
Have you seen the Mousetrap?
Do you prefer fiction or real life drama?
As promised, Tidalscribe will be remaining in the European Union.
Everyone welcome here.
I walked down the hill to Tuckton Village and passed boarded up shops; as I rounded the bend I saw the guards at the bridge over the River Stour turning people away; it was true, we still had twelve hours before we left the European Union, but Remainer movement was restricted more each day. There was still a chance; I slipped past the ruins of Tuckton Tea Gardens and joined a straggle of people wandering aimlessly, their eyes darting to the river. One man suddenly dashed to an empty boat, struggling to untie the mooring, a shot rang out and the rest of us dived for cover. Round the bend we kept to the trees, it was quiet, we all had the same goal.
‘Fifteen pounds each, this is my last trip!’ whispered the Wick ferryman.
I was the last to squeeze on board, we lay low in the water. I proffered two notes, my last cash now the dispensers were gone. I doubted I would need them; no annual literary dinner now all the Christchurch hotels were commandeered; our writers’ group was unlikely to last another four weeks. As we landed across the river I scrambled to get off, whilst others struggled to get on. They looked desperate, carrying as many belongings as possible, waving wads of money; the only words on their lips ‘Isle of Wight’. I watched as the little boat set off down river, things were worse than I thought. My fears were confirmed when I heard the bell of the Priory tolling. Many people were still around, madness in the air; we surged towards the high street and saw a spiral of smoke rising up.
Brexit Extreme had grown in power, disconcerting the respectable conservative Brexiteers, confounding the confused abstainers and putting terror in the hearts of Remainers. Hiding amongst the crowds, I made my way towards a bonfire in the centre of the road. The rabble were rushing out of the Regent Centre tossing paintings on the fire. Outside the tourist office a guard urged people to destroy the seditious pamphlets inside. As I edged along the pavement towards the library, guards and civilians came out carrying piles of books, throwing them gleefully on to the blaze. Anything that smacked of elitism or liberalism was being destroyed. I looked up, from an open window fluttered white sheets of paper, the precious work of our writers’ group. I tried to catch them.
A guard spoke gruffly to me ‘You don’t belong to the writers’ group do you?’
‘No, No of course not’ I stuttered, moving on.
Someone fleeing from the library, shielding their eyes from the glare, shouted to me.
‘Aren’t you from the writers’ group?’
‘No, you must be thinking of someone else.’
I tucked my blue scarf with its gold stars deeper under my collar and fled into Saxon Square away from the heat; coming towards me were two members of my writing group; I put my collar up, turned and slipped back into the crowds. I heard a cheer go up, someone was coming out of the Regent Centre carrying aloft the Wooden Quill Poetry Award; he tossed it into the flames. I patted my pocket, inside was the memory stick with all my writing on; was I too late to get to the Isle of Wight?
A second anthology from the author of Dark and Milk; some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.
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.
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
Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car:: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark
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?
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.
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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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.
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Today, Tuesday, I received the same rejection e-mails for Devil In The Wind and The Chalky Sea.
First there was slow food, then there was slow television, the antidote to 24 hour news, sport and noisy, violent dramas. With slow TV you can spend two hours drifting down a canal or take a real time steam train journey.
At this time of year in the northern hemisphere you may be settling down on winter evenings to watch your favourite dramas and probably your favourite crime dramas. January 2020 saw the start of new series of two popular and enduring detectives.
As Vera drove her Land Rover through the wilds of Northumberland a thought occurred. What if she just kept driving and didn’t bother to arrive at the police station, didn’t get any urgent calls on her mobile about a murder? Two hours of lowering Northumberland skies and rugged green landscape, advertisements providing the only drama. How relaxing.
Vera Stanhope is the creation of a crime writer I enjoy, Anne Cleaves and is played by one of our national treasures, Brenda Blethyn. Antidote to glamorous cops, a middle aged woman in sensible, scruffy clothes and the muddy Land Rover. Some of her team have changed but she’s still going strong in this tenth series.
A complete contrast is Granchester, set in a delightful village near Cambridge in the nineteen fifties. The stories were originally written by James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. His crime solving vicar Sidney Chambers has been replaced by an impossibly handsome young vicar who rides a motorbike and fortunately also has a talent for talking to people ( getting confessions out of them ) and solving crimes, helped by the police inspector Geordie Keating. Life in the lovely village is slow, but a surprising number of murders occur. Life in the village would be pleasantly slower if there were no murders or crime of any sort and the police inspector became a lay reader and helped the vicar with his church services instead.
Slow Crime, No Crime could be applied to dramas set in any part of the world. There is always ‘the drive’ – through Scandinavian snow or the red dust of The Kimberleys at the top of Western Australia. Frantic chase scenes in cities could easily be slowed to a halt with road works or green protestors.
But how soon before the novelty wore off for viewers? The truth is, most of us don’t want people being killed just for our Sunday evening entertainment. We want to see scenery and in winter we like to watch anything filmed in summer, but we also want to peep into other people’s lives. The advantage of murders is that they give the perfect excuse for screen writers, the police and us to dissect every detail of the life of the victim and the lives of every person known to the victim.