Monday, 16 July 2018

Poverty

     

    When I worked in the city several years ago, homeless people on the streets was part of the everyday landscape and unfortunately, it is on the rise in our cities as well as in our towns. Such an everyday occurrence that I believe it becomes easier for us all to walk on by, somehow we become dehumanised.

    The office I managed in the centre of Glasgow had a basement area that a homeless man whom we will call John used to call his home at night. John wandered the streets by day and when darkness fell he shuffled down the grey stone steps in his ill-fitting shoes to shelter from the cold Scottish weather. He made up his bed of flattened cardboard boxes underneath an overhang from the walkway above which also gave him the means of seclusion from the passers-by.

    In the morning I used to arrive at around 8.00a.m. by this time no matter how cold or wet it was John had packed up and tidied away his bed neatly into a corner where he knew it would stay safe and dry for his return.

    One dark, cold November morning when I arrived at the office I was surprised to see John's small bundle of belongings at the top of the stairs that led to the basement. Looking down I could see John lying at the bottom, his shoes still on the steps, his feet lying bare to the elements. I knew instantly that he was no longer alive, but in case I was mistaken I hurriedly, unlocked the door and called the emergency services.

    Sadly, I wasn't mistaken and as I watched John's body being taken away in a body-bag I asked one of the attending policemen how they would go about getting in touch with John's family or friends. He answered coldly, " What family or friends? He's homeless."

    My heart sank, yes John was homeless but he was a man, someone's son, brother, friend. How long had it been since someone told him they loved him? How long had it been since he had been hugged and kissed? How long had it been since someone had spoken words of friendship to him?

    Being homeless isn't just about not having anywhere safe at night to put your head down. Homelessness cuts an individual off from society pushing many into isolation. Poverty of any kind doesn't discriminate, it is something that can happen to any one of us at any time.




    There is much suffering in the world ...physical, material, mental. the suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. The material and physical suffering is suffering from hunger, from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases. But the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more and more to realise that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.

Mother Teresa (1910-1998)

   

   

 

 



Friday, 13 July 2018

Harry's Gift



    The youngest child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, 11 weeks old, Prince Louis, was christened in the last week, which I'm sure you will have heard about. Without a doubt, he would receive an abundance of gifts from all over the world, in all shapes and sizes, as well as price tags.

    However, there was one that to me no matter what anyone else gave him would be the best gift of all and that was the 1926 first edition of, 'Winnie the Pooh' by A.A. Milne gifted to him by his uncle, Prince Harry.

    Yes, this edition is said to have cost a mere eight-thousand pounds/ten thousand US dollars, not too much if you say it quickly. But let's forget about the cost, it's the sentiment in which this book was given. Prince Harry had put lots of careful thought behind his choice of present like any good uncle should do. He is quoted as saying "That he wants to create an exclusive library for the royal children." This is said to be because he has fond memories of his mother, Princess Diana, reading him bedtime stories.

    I was delighted to receive a paperback copy as a school prize when I was aged eight, along with a copy of,  'When We Were Very Young' and 'Now We Are Six.' I treasured them for many years until I'm afraid to say the well-read pages began to disintegrate and fall away from the binding.

    A.A. Milne's fictional story 'Winnie the Pooh' is so much more than a children's story though, it tells the reader about some of the best qualities that can be found in a human being.

  • Patience: "If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."
  • Thoughtfulness: "A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference."
  • Self- love: "It's not much of a tail but, I'm sort of attached to it."
  • Love: "How do you spell love?"------ Piglet
  •            "You don't spell it.......you feel it."------ Pooh
    A.A. Milne


     Well done Harry!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Happy Birthday NHS

   

    Over the last week, I haven't been feeling on top form and because I do keep reasonably good health when I do require to visit a medical professional my partner has to coax and cajole me to make that all-important call.

    I take deep breaths before I dial the number and try to ignore the little nagging voice inside my head that tells me to hang up. I was told once that I have what is known as white coat syndrome and the diagnosis was correct without a doubt.

    Now my fear is not just of doctors but of dentists too and because of this, I am ashamed to say that I don't go for regular check-ups.

   However, when I found myself with a raging infection, a misshapen face due to swelling because one of my somewhat neglected teeth was protesting, it was time to push those buttons on my telephone key-pad. Otherwise, .......... I dread to think.

   Eventually, I did find a dental clinic that would accommodate me, a non-registered patient and at three that afternoon, I entered the clinically clean building, like a pirate walking the plank.

    The interior of the building was clinical but the staff were not, they were warm and friendly from the onset. I told them of my trepidation over the phone and this had been noted, meaning that each person I made contact with went out of their way to put me at ease. The dentist himself made me feel I had made a new friend and by the time I left I was feeling confident about making my return visit for a full check-up, clean and repair of the offending tooth.

    Unlike, the rest of the world this clinic and many others in the UK provide this service free of charge to patients on low income. For those who do not fall into this category although charges do apply, the full cost is subsidised by the government-funded NHS (National Health Service).

    This funded healthcare system founded by Aneurin Bevan July 5, 1948, applies to all UK citizens and helps us access hospitals and clinics for the medical help we need without facing hefty medical bills.

    I have experienced medical treatment overseas and before a doctor would even speak to me I had to show I had the wherewith to pay. Thankfully, I did have medical insurance and my much needed medical treatment went ahead. But, it brought home to me how lucky we are in the UK to have the NHS.

    HAPPY 70th BIRTHDAY NHS.

 

   

   

   

  

   

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Take Care of Your Memories


    Memories are described in words when we want to share them with others. In our minds, memorable and not so memorable events are replayed in our mind's eye like old movies.

    We believe when we recollect the happening from the past that we piece together the facts as they really happened, but of course, that is not the case. Our brain selects only certain pieces and puts them together, retrieved and decoded from the deep dark sections of our brain.

    Depending on how old they are however the quality can be grainy and faded like a well-worn jigsaw puzzle. Words of love, anger, fear, envy, pity, joy, friendship and sadness whirl around in our heads until they are added as the crackly soundtrack.

     Distant memories can pop into our head for no apparent reason at all, others because words we have read or pictures we have looked at act as a trigger for our recollection process.
 
    If we want to communicate our feelings now we are likely to use one, or more of the many electronic communication tools that are available to us.

    The messages we receive are unlikely to stay in our possession forever as they will be lost through time. They cannot be stored in a box like the old cards and letters that many generations before us kept, to capture memories forever. That is really sad I think.

    The larger cards in the picture were part of my Aunt's collection and are all forty plus years old. They are filled with words of motherly love from her mother, my grandmother and live on after both are no longer with us.

    The little notelets in the background are ones that I wrote to her thanking her for the gifts and kindness that she bestowed upon me all of my life.

    There is nothing in this small collection that is grainy, faded or crackly. She took care of her memories.


Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.
                                      
                                            Bob Dylan
    

    

Friday, 29 June 2018

Meet Author Raymond Greiner




   I am honored today to introduce you to an accomplished Indie author of multiple genres, Raymond Greiner. He lives in Southern Indiana and a lover of all creatures great and small, which is evident in his writing. 

Q&A

    • Raymond, you have had books, novellas, short stories and poems published, as well as essays in literary journals. When did you begin writing?
         I've been a passionate reader my entire life, and wrote a few essays in my early twenties but was caught up in the flow of mediocrity, which placed monetary earning and employment as a priority, therefore my writing stopped shortly after it began. If I were able to go back in time I would not place so much emphasis on an employment career and follow the social outline presented. I'd probably live like a pauper and writing would be a priority.         

             

    • What was your first piece of writing published?
        I submitted an essay to Canary Literary Journal titled “Pond Food” describing observances of activity at a pond on my rural property. It has since been published multiple times in various journals and magazines. I was sixty-two and retired when I wrote this essay. 
    • You write fiction and non-fiction. Which genre do you prefer?
        I enjoy both rather equally. Fiction tells stories, and I've always loved stories, but non-fiction is gratifying, as it concentrates on particular subjects of circumstances. Research is connected to essays and this results in learning for the writer and reader.
    • The relationship between animals and humans are featured in many of your publications. Is this a subject you have always had an interest?  
       Yes, life forms other than human are fascinating and perform unique ways to find balance and harmony within their given social structure yielding longevity. Early humans were less warlike than current human social design. They functioned with similar social patterns as the wild critters and hunter-gatherers relied on each other similar to the wolf pack. They needed each other for survival, which is quite a contrast to modern humanity. 


    • Having read reviews of your books Hinterland Journal and Hinterland Narrative I noted several of your readers describe your writing as thought-provoking. Do you think your readers think this because you are passionate about your chosen subjects? 
      I am passionate about all of my choice of subjects.

    •   Finally, Raymond, you have had five novellas published Millie And Ami, Trella’s Gift, Queenie, Ezra’s Story, Saving Canis Lupus and your recent publication, Atsa. Any further works you plan to publish?          

    Yes, I have just recently published a full-length novel titled, Atsa and I have a second novel presently in the works, titled, The Twig Is Bent. All sales from my animal-themed books go to animal rescue organizations. I'm mailing copies of my published works with this theme to various humane societies across the country. I'll donate the books and they can sell them and keep the proceeds to apply to their cause.




        Raymond, thank you for featuring today and allowing us into your world. I want to also thank you for giving me the chance to read some of your work. There are two words that describe your writing and that is wonderful and passionate. Readers if you want to know about Raymond and his books I've included the links below. 

    Facebook: Raymond Greiner
    Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Books-Raymond-Greiner/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3ARaymond%20Greiner

    Monday, 25 June 2018

    We Are Members of One Body

       

        Over the weekend I watched a TV adaptation of J. B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' produced by the BBC in 2015, stars Davis Thewlis as the formidable, fantastical, Inspector Goole. I studied the play at school, however as my school years are a distant memory so was the eery tale of a police inspector calling on the Birling family.

        The story set in the year 1912 is about how the actions of five members of the one family contributed to the death of a young woman called Eva Smith. The play written by Priestley in 1945 is written with ease and expertise. The suspense he creates linking the past, present and the future scene by scene leaves you wanting more and more.

        He was an author known for his strong political views and this play certainly puts a strong point across, with a touch of fire and brimstone added. A point which in today's political climate I believe is still very relevant.

        The Inspector leaves his audience with these words,

        "But, remember this. One Eva Smith has gone, but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will come soon when, if men will not learn that lesson then they will be taught it in fire and blood with anguish. Good night."

    J.B Priestley 1894-1984

    Thursday, 21 June 2018

    Summer Solstice

     

        As we've headed for the Summer Solstice in the Northern hemisphere this week, the hours of daylight never seem to come to an end. I've been going to bed in daylight and waking up at an unearthly hour as the sun streams through my bedroom window.

        I'm not complaining because it won't be long until the long dark days are upon us once again. With, of course, the cold thrown in for good measure.

        Here's a short poem I found in an old book my aunt left me several years ago. I'm not so sure the American author, George Birdseye had solely the summer solstice in mind when he wrote these words, as they suggest to me there was love in the air.




    The longest day is in June, they say
    The shortest in December
    They did not come to me that way
    The shortest I remember
    You came a day with me to stay
    And filled my heart with laughter
    The longest day, you were away
    The very next day after 

    George Birdseye circa 1840

    Monday, 18 June 2018

    It's Not All Make Believe

     

        Have you ever felt that you've felt extreme sadness for doomed lovers, as I've done while reading a book by authors such as Carlos Ruis Zafon? Cried when a woman and her children are evicted from their home as happened in Frank McCourt's, Angela's Ashes? Or wanted to change the cruel world that Charles Dickens character Oliver Twist lived in?

        Yes, I know you have and I'm glad I have you for company when I immerse myself into various fictional worlds. We empathise with fictional characters if a writer gives them traits that we recognise as human beings.

        Encouraging children to read teaches them empathy, something that we need all through our lives if we are going to beat racism, bullying and all the other nasties that plague our world.
     
        My editor told me when she was editing my first published book which is a fantasy, that even fantastical worlds have to be believable if you want readers to connect with you.
     
        While I don't often give writing tips, that's mine for today, keep it real because it's not all make-believe.

       

       

        

        

       

    Thursday, 14 June 2018

    The Wonder of Nature



        It's Nature Photograph Day in North America today and the beauty of nature deserves to be celebrated all over the world, every day. Even if we're in a bad place the creatures, plants and scenery that surround us can lighten our load.


        I want to pay tribute to the world we live in, by featuring a few of my own photographs.

      
        HAVE A GREAT DAY, READERS.

    Sunday, 10 June 2018

    The Killing of the Thousand and Second Night CHAPTER THREE

               

        Sorry, I missed posting a blog on Friday, but unfortunately, the circumstances I found myself in were beyond my control. I didn't plan to post this chapter, of The Killing of the Thousand and Second Night, however here it is and I hope you enjoy it. Have a great week friends.


    Chapter 3



         When Harriet opened the large oak door of the library, it creaked loudly, causing Inspector MacGregor to jump slightly in his seat beside the window. He had been reading over his notes, whilst waiting to speak to Mrs Ashdown and hoped that this was her joining him. But the beauty he saw before him surprised him even more than the creaky door had.
         Harriet could see the surprise on the policeman’s face, at seeing her and she said confidently,
        “Well, a smile and a hello would be a good start, Guy.”
        “Harriet Robinson; my goodness. What on earth are you doing here?”
        “The name’s Lady Harriet Huntley now, Guy.”
        “Of course, I’m sorry. I did read about your marriage to Lord Huntley, please forgive me,” the normally unshakable policeman stumbled to his feet.
        “No need to stand on ceremony though Guy. I’m still the same Harriet, only the surname has changed,” Harriet could feel old emotions stir inside her, at seeing her first love, after all this time. Moving towards the policeman Harriet noticed that the years had been kind to him; he still had a certain boyish look about him. His blonde hair had darkened, but there were no traces of grey and his deep blue eyes hadn’t lost their twinkle.
         Putting her hand on his shoulder she said,
        “Sit down Guy, I’ll sit down here,” before Harriet sat down opposite Guy, she smoothed out her skirt, so it wouldn’t crease below her and continued, “I’m a good friend of Charlotte’s; I had sent my bell-boy here earlier today with a bouquet and a note to welcome her home, after her being away from Glasgow for several weeks. On Ian’s return, Ian being my bell-boy; to my home in Devonshire Terrace, he told me of the terrible tragedy that had occurred. He also relayed a message from Mr Ashdown, requesting that I come here to support his wife. She is of somewhat of a nervous disposition.”
        “You had no idea before you arrived that I was the officer in charge?”
        “No, and even if I had done, it wouldn’t have stopped me from coming here, to be by my friend's side.”
        “Must have been a bit of a shock?”
        “Guy, I am a very happily married woman and I’m not about to go all doe-eyed, when an old beau, crops up unexpectedly in my life.”
        “Harriet, I wasn’t any old beau; I was the man you intended to marry. The man you would have married if it hadn’t been for your father ending our relationship. The man you would have had children with, the man you would have spent your old age with. Till death do us part.”
        “Guy this conversation is most inappropriate and I ask that you move onto the more important matters in hand,” Harriet’s face was now flushed with anger, Guy’s impropriety towards her, had somewhat came as a surprise.
        “I’m sorry, this is very difficult, meeting you again like this,” his tone was genuine and he continued,  “Yes let’s talk about the more important matters in hand. There’s been a young woman violently killed in this household, sometime over the last two or three days. There’s no sign of unlawful entry into the property and everyone that may be able to help shine some light on the past seventy-two hours is indisposed, or makes little sense. So Harriet unless you can tell me something that’s relevant to my case, I would ask you to go about your own business and let me get on with mine, please.”
        “Violently killed?”
        “Yes, bludgeoned to death, probably with a meat cleaver. So the police surgeon advises me.”
        “But surely you don’t believe anyone in this household would be guilty of this odious crime?”
        “At present, I have no idea. I just want to speak with Alexander Ashdown and his daughter-in-law, so I can rule them out of my inquiries.”
         Harriet knew that the quicker the police could get on with the questioning of the innocent parties, the easier it would be for the Ashdown’s to get on with their daily routine. She smiled and said,
        “Guy, I’m not here to interfere as I told you previously. But I might actually be able to help you. I can see that you’re very frustrated at not being able to speak with Charlotte. But I was under the impression you had already questioned Alexander?“
        “I did speak with him briefly but he couldn’t explain to me why he didn’t think it was unusual that he hadn’t seen Jeannie for two days, after all, she was supposed to be looking after him.”
        “Oh I understand, but he’s elderly,” she saw that this excuse made no impression on Guy, the shrug of his shoulders made that perfectly clear. “John tells me that he was very fond of the girl. Please can you give me some time to talk with both of them? I’ll try my best to put them at ease and hopefully they will agree to talk with you,” she said with a hint of pleading in her voice.
        “Two hours Harriet that’s all they have. If they don’t agree to speak with me here I’ll have to take them to the police station,” Guy was angry with himself, at allowing Harriet to detour him from his original plan. She was right, she was still the same Harriet, trying to keep everyone happy. But that wasn’t always possible, he knew that and life’s experience should have taught her that. No use crying over spilt milk, there were other things he could be getting on with for now and a couple of hours delay was unlikely to cause him any problems.
        “I give you my word Guy,” Harriet reached over and touched Guy’s hand, briefly.
        “Please don’t give me your word, words can always be broken. Please arrange for me to speak with them,” Guy MacGregor hastily got up and left Harriet sitting alone in the room. Seeing her again had opened up old wounds for Guy, that she could see. But surely his life had moved on; hers had.
    ***

    Sunday, 3 June 2018

    The Killing of the Thousand and Second Night Chapter Two




        Here's the second extract from my historical murder mystery.
    The Killing of the Thousand and Second Night, A Harriet Huntley Mystery

    Chapter 2

        As well as responses to her invitations, there were a few invitations for both Harriet and Henry to consider as a couple and on an individual basis. Being a popular former MP of the west end of Glasgow and now a member of the House of Lords meant that Henry was very much in demand for both social and official engagements. When he could free himself from the House of Lords, he attended as many of them as possible.
        Lady Harriet had a busy schedule of her own, she was very much involved in the suffrage movement and of course, there was the charitable work she did for the Samaritan Hospital for Women.
        Although Henry hadn’t asked Harriet to give up her position in the hospital when they married five years ago it had been one of the hardest decisions she had ever had to make in her life. But being the wife of a dignitary was a full-time job in itself and she would not have been able to give the patients the commitment they needed and deserved if she had remained.
        Henry realised that giving up her post had been a great sacrifice, so it was he who suggested that she continue to help the hospital, but in a very different way. As the hospital, survived solely on charitable donations and subscriptions, she could raise funds for the hospital.
        She now had the advantage of an influential position in society; she had new means of helping the hospital, at her fingertips. Therefore she wouldn’t be turning her back on the people she loved; she would be carrying on helping them.
        So the ball she was busy organising would do just that, raise some more badly needed funds for the hospital. The Ladies Auxiliary Association, who undertook the door-to-door collection of subscriptions in aid of the infirmary, were always grateful for any help given.
    **
        Harriet checked the small gold fob watch she had pinned to her pale blue shirt blouse, it was fifteen minutes before one. My goodness, how the morning had flown by. She had better go wash her hands before lunch was served at one o'clock. She placed her papers and her journal in one of the drawers on the left-hand side of the desk. Locking it with one of the small silver keys she had attached to the keychain, that hung from the waist of her navy coloured, gored skirt.
        Straightening the blotter on the mahogany flat leather top desk, she quickly looked around the book-lined room, just to check that everything was as it should. Yes, everything was neat and tidy, just as she liked each room in the house to be.
        As she rose from the leather upholstered revolving chair, the door burst open and Ian the bellboy came running in, with Charles and Mary directly behind him.
       Mam, Mam. The polis, they're every whar. You’ve to go to her,” Ian ran straight to Harriet and began pulling at her arm.
        “I’m sorry my Lady, we can't make any sense of what the boy’s talking about,” said Charles breathlessly, having tried to stop the boy before he barged into the library. But, the lad had proven too much for the butler's seventy-five years and easily won the semi-tussle they had in the hallway. Afraid that the boy was going to hurt their employer, Charles shouted angrily, “What on earth are you doing boy? Let go of Lady Huntley this minute.”
        But Ian didn’t let go of Harriet’s wrist, even when Charles took hold of his ear and tugged at it hard. Harriet was flummoxed by the chaos that had erupted around her and she said,
        “Charles, leave the boy alone. Calm down now Ian. What are you trying to tell me? And please speak in English.”
        Before the lad could even answer his mistress, Mary said defensively,
        “I told Charlie here that no one was to disturb you unless it was a matter of life or death Lady Harriet, I’m so sorry.”
        “ Mam, I’m sorry for botherin yea. But as I tried to tell Charlie here, although it’s no a matter of life, it’s certainly a matter of death I need to tell you aboot. You see, Jeannie Vicars, The Ashdown’s servant has been murdered and they say there’s loads o blood,” Ian let go of his mistresses arm, now that he knew he had her undivided attention.
        “Murdered, are you sure?”
        “Aye, Mrs Ashdown’s in an awfy, I mean awful, state. Big PC. McTavish let me speak with Mr Ashdown and he told me to ask you to go o’er, I mean go to their hoose, right away. He said he needed you to help calm her doon. She’s wailing an greetin.”
        “Oh, my word. Good lad. Charles take him to the kitchen and have cook give him some hot sweet tea. And, be sure and give him the rest of the day off.”
        “Surely Lady Harriet,” Charles had regained his composure and said to Ian, “Come on lad, we’ll get you sorted out.”
        Ian nodded and went quietly with the butler, out of the room. Slightly shaken at the events that had reigned in her household for several minutes, she took a deep breath and Harriet said calmly,
        “Organise a cab for me Mary and get me my cravanette raincoat and boots, as it looks pretty wet out there.”
        “Yes, Lady Harriet. But are you sure you want to go to a house, where someone’s been murdered?”
        “The Ashdown’s are my friends and Charlotte is of a fairly weak disposition, so it’s my duty to support her, in her hour of need,” Harriet said obstinately. Her mind was made up and Mary knew by her employer’s tone that it would be disrespectful to say any more on the subject.
    **
        “Thank you for coming over, Harriet. Charlotte’s up in her room, having a lie down” John Ashdown rushed forward to greet his guest, who had been shown into the drawing room by PC. McTavish.
        “Oh my goodness John, how is she? How are both of you?” Harriet took hold of John’s hand.
        “I’m in a state of incredulous disbelief and Charlotte’s in a terrible state, crying all the time. But the police are demanding that they speak to her as soon as possible. I’ve tried to tell them that she won’t be able to tell them anything barely comprehensible. But Inspector MacGregor is insistent; I don’t know if I can stall him for much longer.”
        “Guy MacGregor. is the officer in charge?”
        “Yes Harriet, do you know him?”
        “My goodness me, I didn’t know he was back in Glasgow,” Harriet could feel her face flush when the policeman’s identity was confirmed. But John didn’t seem to notice her reaction and he said enthusiastically,
        “If you know him that’s all the better. Maybe you could try and persuade him to delay her questioning until the doctor can see her.”
        “Yes, yes. Where is he?”
        “In the library, I’ll take you to him.”
        “No John, I can find my own way. Settle yourself for now. By the way, where’s your father?”
        “In his room, he’s having a lie down too. He’s devastated, Jeannie was like a daughter to him. The police have already questioned him, but he didn’t have much to tell them. He’s now wondering if there was some way he could have stopped her killer.”
        “But surely he didn’t know that she was in danger?”
        “Of course not, but the fact that he didn’t find it strange that he hadn’t seen her for two days, should have alerted him that something was wrong. But it didn’t so it’s now praying on his mind.”
        “Oh I see, poor man, how old is he now?”
        Eighty-nine.”
        “A good age for sure and he’s still so mentally alert.”
        “Yes, it’s only his mobility that’s a problem. That’s why he’s now living on the ground floor.”
        “Oh yes, Charlotte was telling me about making alterations to some of your downstairs rooms to accommodate him.”
       Yes, he was struggling with the stairs.”
        “Yes, I know,” Harriet could hear the compassion in John’s voice when he spoke of his father. She decided it was time to and reacquaint herself with Guy MacGregor, so she said, “John don’t worry, MacGregor’s a good man, he’ll get to the bottom of this horrendous situation.” She left John looking into the roaring fire that filled the grate of the spacious room in his ‘Kirklees Garden’ home.


    ***

    Friday, 1 June 2018

    The Killing of the Thousand and Second Night (Book Extract)

     


        Here's the first chapter of a historical murder mystery I've written, not published as yet.


    The Killing of the Thousand and Second Night A Harriet Huntley Mystery

    Chapter 1



        Harriet hoped that the post would bring the last of the responses to her ball invitations today.  Why on earth, were the same people always tardy with their replies?  How tiresome; she sighed and pushed her breakfast tray to Henry’s side of the bed.  She looked at the empty pillow beside her longingly. Stroking the white cotton pillowcase gently, she smiled.  Her heart felt as though it was going burst, every time she thought of him. Never mind, he would soon be home from London.     
        The thought of his arms entwining her, made her feel...  How did he make her feel when he was with her? When he held her and of course when he made love to her?  Loved, desired and very lucky.  Yes, that’s exactly how she felt, every day, every moment he was with her.
        She sank back into her deep feathery pillows and looked around the master bedroom of her Devonshire Terrace home.  She had chosen the bright wisteria frieze that bordered the white papered walls, the mauve drapes that adorned the high sash windows of the room and the Italian wings of her brass bedstead, to brighten up the dank dismal days, which they experienced so often in Glasgow.
        The weather had been so changeable of late, one day the cobblestones of Great Western Road, the main road that ran parallel to the Terrace, were white with frost, the next; they were awash with heavy rain. Today it must be the latter; she could hear the heavy traffic splash through the puddles. It was going to be a long winter, she sighed again. She must try and shake the melancholy mood she could feel hanging over her.
        Harriet’s mind drifted from the gloomy weather, on hearing the sound of water filling the bath in the adjoining bathroom. She hoped Mary, her lady’s maid, had remembered to add some of the musk oil, she had picked up on her last trip to Paris.  Paris the gaiety of it all, Henry and her had a wonderful ten days. The parties, the balls and the dancing, her feet tingled with the thought of the wonderful dancing.
        But Paris was all but now a dream; a dream that memories were built on. She would have to content herself. Reaching over to her night-stand, she lifted her small leather-bound prayer book and a sheet of folded writing paper which was neatly tucked away behind the last page dropped onto the lilac coloured quilt. She looked towards the bathroom before unfolding the paper and she began to read the beautifully handwritten words;

    My dream.
    I saw her as an angel fair, with sparkling eyes of blue,
    With cheeks like blossomed roses and lips of a reddish hue,
    Her body formed like Venus, as graceful as a queen,
    I never thought I'd find a girl, like the angel of my dream.

    But yet you came into my life,
    Bringing with you boundless joy,
    My angel soon will be my wife,
    And life together we'll enjoy.

    I still dream of my angel fair,
    With sparkling eyes of blue,
    But now I know my angel's name,
    Harriet dear it's you.

        A tear trickled down Harriet’s cheek, but on hearing the bathroom door open she quickly brushed away the droplets and folded away the paper, placing it carefully back into its private place. The words would remain in her heart for the rest of her life, without a doubt. 
        Mary Innes bustled in, having prepared her mistress's bath water and having laid out fresh white fluffy towels for her. The young woman in her late twenties had been in Lady Harriet's employ for three years, they got on well and both were very satisfied with their arrangement.
        Although both women were born and brought up in Glasgow, their upbringings had been very different. But the close bond that had formed between the two of them immediately, had wiped out any problems they might have had because of the differences in their backgrounds.
        “Hope you've eaten your breakfast this morning Lady Harriet,” Mary’s tone was that of a mother questioning her picky child, even although she was some ten years younger than her mistress.  Making her way over to the bed, she quickly glanced over the tray and seeing the contents had been consumed, she removed it and placed it beside the bedroom door, so she could return it to the kitchen later.
        “Yes I have; I don't intend to lose any more weight.  My final fitting for my costume is later today and if any more drastic adjustments are needed to be made, I think Clarissa might finally lose patience with me,” Harriet having pulled back the bed covers; rubbed her left hand over her flat stomach.
        “Huh, it wouldn't take much for Miss Clarissa to lose her patience.  I’ve always found her dead crabby,” Mary offered a silk kimono to her employer, for her to put on.
        “That’s what I love about you my dear Mary, your honesty,” Harriet giggled girlishly at her maid's forthrightness.  Getting up out of bed she slipped her feet firstly into a pair of black mule slippers, then her arms into the kimono and she said, “Whilst I’m bathing I have a few things I need to be done.  If you make sure Charles puts all my mail on the library desk when it arrives.  I’ll spend the morning in there; if you can tell him I'd rather not be disturbed. Only disturb me if it's a matter of life or death.”
        “Yes, Lady Harriet.  What time are you expecting crabby Clarissa?”
        “About two o’clock, if you want to take lunch then that's fine with me.  Charles can send her up here when she arrives.” Harriet stopped before entering into the bathroom, turning to look at Mary she said, “And if you can arrange for Ian the bellboy to pick up the bouquet I ordered from the florist yesterday and deliver it to Mr and Mrs Ashdown’s, along with the note I’ve left over on the dressing table there.  They returned home from Wemyss Bay last night, after visiting with her mother. Charlotte will be heartbroken at having to leave her and return to that cantankerous father-in-law of hers. I thought I would try and lift her spirits.”
        “Certainly Lady Harriet.  That’s a lovely gesture,” the lady’s maid never ceased to be amazed at Harriet’s thoughtfulness and kindness.

    ***

        You can read the second chapter Monday, June 4th.

    Sunday, 27 May 2018

    Meet Author Kristina Gallo

       

        I know how hard it is to learn and speak another language, it's a work in progress for me personally. Therefore, I admire authors who are up for a challenge and choose to write a book in a language other than that is native to them.

        Today, I want to introduce you to one such indie author and blogger, Kristina Gallo. Kristina is Croatian and has published four self-help/motivational books to date in English, giving advice in how to take control of our lives no matter what is thrown at us.



    Q&A

    • Kristina, thanks for wanting to connect with readers by taking part in this feature. Tell us about how you started writing?
             I started to write as a teenager, initially I used a notebook and pencil, because I was born in the age without the Internet, computers and smartphones. Then later, I began to type my work on a typewriter, very similar to the ones you see in old movies. Luckily at high school I learned secretarial skills, so it helped me type faster.


    • What inspired you to write self-help books?
              I had no luck in love relationships, as well as some friends who turned their backs on me. I learned about disloyal people, therefore I was inspired by my own personal problems and experiences. I believe I can help someone not repeat the mistakes I made. If  I had such a book in my possession in the past, I probably would have thought twice about some of the situations I found myself in.


    • Have you written your books with a particular audience in mind?
             Yes. My work is aimed at people who don't fit into one social group, or another. I know how it feels to be rejected by a popular social circle. I have a message for those individuals who were never invited to parties, or who could not find a group to hangout with because they're not so popular.
            My message is simply, it's okay to be different and when you're different, things like this happen. Yes, you don't want to lose friends, but there is also nothing wrong with standing on your own two feet.


    • How did you come up with your titles?
             I had a struggle with  my titles. I wanted to make a title which hadn't already been used, was inappropriate, or too ordinary. In the end, I chose a few sentences from my books.


    • Your latest release 'Seduce Her With a Fist' was published earlier this year. How did  you come to the decision to use such an evocative title?
             That is an excellent question. This is a story about a girl who falls in love with a hooligan. This is how he shows her love, with his fist. This is a kind of sarcasm, he did not know any better. I love to say, my story is anti-romance. This is not a fairy tale with a happy ending.


    • Kristina, you'll be glad to know this is my final question. Do you have any new titles due for release and if you have can you tell us if they are of the same genre?
             I love to write about human psychology, no matter if it is chic-lit, or self-help. I would like to write a thriller, but I need more time and to do more research. I am a big fan of Agatha Christie and Virginia Woolf, at first point, it would seem that they don't have much in common, however I adore this style of mystery.

             Thank you for letting us get to know you Kristina. I love getting to know my fellow authors and today has been a pleasure. Readers you can find out more about Kristina and her books by clicking on the links below.


    Twitter           :https://twitter.com/ViperGallo

    Blog/Books     :https://kristinagallo.wordpress.com

    Facebook        :https://www.facebook.com/ironlady39

             











    Thursday, 24 May 2018

    Insatiable Appetite

       

        Eleven years to the day after the poet, Robert Burns was born, another boy was born in Scotland who would reserve a place in the history of Scottish literature, his name was James Hogg, born on January 25th, 1770.

        Burns and Hogg's lives were very similar, their fathers were both tenant farmers and both boys only attended school for several years due to the financial restraints of their families. Burns became a ploughman and Hogg a shepherd, their education came from books and of course life.

        While it seems never the twain did meet, their social circles had crossed. Hogg had the privilege to be mentored by Sir Walter Scott although having only met him once at the age of sixteen, was inspired by the great bard.

        Having only a little education as children didn't hold these two men back,  because they had a hunger for knowledge. An appetite that can only be satiated by books. Keep on writing authors.


    "What is the life of a man more than the life of a lamb, or any guiltless animal?" - James Hogg




    https://www.amazon.co.uk/James-Hogg/e/B001ITTH56 

       

       

       

    Sunday, 20 May 2018

    Let's Fly Away



        There have been so many women in the world that have fought for equality in the sexes and as we know the fight goes on. The Pankhursts both mother and daughter famously campaigned for the right for women to have a vote and their names instantly come to mind when we think about historical role models for women.

        There are so many gutsy women in the history of the world that I admire, however today I want to highlight one woman who I believe we haven't heard enough of and her name is Winifred Joyce Drinkwater.

        Winifred was born April 11th, 1913 in Cardonald, Glasgow and at the age of 17, she gained her pilot's licence making her Scotland's youngest pilot. At the age of 19, she became the youngest professional pilot in the UK and then went on to be the first woman in the world to hold a commercial pilot's licence.

        Yes, she was doing all this amazing stuff when many in the world thought that women should be barefoot pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink. Of course, there are those who believe that this still to be the case.

         I know I overheard a fellow passenger on a flight recently say "The woman outside checking the aeroplane must be the co-pilot on our flight. As she was too young and pretty to be otherwise." How I laughed inwardly when she introduced herself and her male co-pilot over the intercom.

        It's women like Winifred who sadly died October 6th, 1996 in New Zealand who are an inspiration to all women and we should celebrate every single one of them.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12085020.Winnie_Drinkwater/

    https://scotlandonscreen.org.uk/browse-films/007-000-000-227-c

       

       

    Friday, 18 May 2018

    A Highland Folly

       


        It doesn't matter if it's a winter's or summer's day, each time I have visited, Oban, over the years it's beauty has never failed to disappoint me. Ferries sailing in and out of the harbour, transporting people and goods to the inner and outer Hebridean islands, add some bustle to the otherwise laid-back small Scottish town.



         The views from the town towards the islands are nothing more than spectacular and make the hairs on the back of my neck stand-up. My Scottish blood hurtles through my veins and my feet twitch on hearing the wailing of the bagpipes, that always seem to be playing in the background.


        The bells ring from the tower of St Columba's Cathedral inviting worshippers to mass daily, stopping the promenaders in their tracks as the sound echoes around the horseshoe-shaped bay.


        Then when prayers are finished it's time to try out one of the fish and seafood restaurants that give this gateway to the highlands the name of 'Seafood Capital of Scotland'. On the few occasions that food isn't on the agenda a walk up to the summit of Battery Hill, finishing within the magnificent walls of McCaig's Tower is worth the hike up the arduous incline.


        There are two reasons why anyone would take a sharp intake of breath on entering its towering walls, that is because of the exertion that has been applied to reach the top of the hill and the glorious sight that the eyes now behold.

        This folly commissioned by, banker John Stuart McCaig in 1897, five years prior to his death in 1902 was built as an everlasting monument to his family and to provide philanthropic support for local stonemasons during the winter months. One hundred plus years on, this dominating landmark makes an everlasting impression on each and every visitor to the town and port. Giving all who enter a birds-eye view of this part of the Scottish Highlands.


        Once back down the hill the blistered heels rubbed toes and tired legs can be eased with a glass of the whisky distilled in the town's distillery, which is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.

        Slangevar!

        

       

    Sunday, 13 May 2018

    Waters Run Deep



        I have two thoughts about soaps on the TV, one they can help you disengage from the reality that is going on round about you for a half hour, or it connects you with real issues that many people all over the world have to face in their lives.

        Recently, Coronation Street a soap opera that is aired a few times a week in the UK has focussed on some really tough subjects, one being male rape and the other male suicide.

        They were criticized by many for broaching these raw subjects, however, they have been applauded by a majority of their viewers.

        If we take the first subject of male rape, sexual violence towards men and boys isn't a topic that many of us have ever thought about. Reports of violence towards women and girls are featured in our news daily and encouragement is given to those who have been affected to seek help. But, in the case of males by not putting the facts out there we are keeping the harsh truth hidden away, leaving the victims alone and helpless.

        Then we have male suicide the biggest cause of death in the UK for men under the age of 45 years-old, again because the subject is kept locked away in a closet, those who have suicidal thoughts, mental suffering, pain and anguish don't get the support and help they need.

        These storylines in Coronation Street, have made the UK talk and that's what we need to do. Talk and share.


    https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

    http://ok2talk.org/

    http://www.projecteightyfour.com/

    https://www.samaritans.org/

    https://www.survivorsuk.org/question/male-sexual-abuse-and-the-law/

    https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/



     

    Friday, 11 May 2018

    Some People Walk In The Rain

        Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
                               Thomas Jefferson
                                                    


        It's National Walking Month in the UK and over the last year, walking has become part of my everyday life. I've been trying hard to shed extra pounds and as going to a gym isn't an option due to a musculoskeletal problem, walking fits the bill.

     
        I always have tried to get off my butt at least a couple of times a week, but now walking every day has had the desired effect and the pounds are slowly but surely shifting. Yes, there are days that I still want to hide from the unpredictable Scottish weather. But, a good raincoat and water-proof boots have meant that I have no excuse. Although my style isn't a cool look in summer, the health benefits are what keeps me focused.



        I've included a few photographs of some of my favourite walks in Scotland and abroad. I'm off to get my boots on. Yes, it's raining.



           Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.
                                                        Roger Miller

        https://www.bhf.org.uk/get-involved/fundraising/just-walk/national-walking-month