Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – Christmas Traditions Le Pard Family Style by Geoff Le Pard

Welcome to the second Christmas guest post from Geoff Le Pard and this week Geoff shares some of the traditions that were observed at Christmas in his family.

My Christmases as a child were what we called traditional but everyone’s Christmas traditions have their own quirks, imposed by the characteristics of the participants. These are mine.

1. My father enjoyed a pint. Or several. He was an active member of the local rugby club and Christmas eve would often involve a social element. Mum wasn’t any less inclined to join in and since my grandmother (mum’s mum) would be staying there was baby sitting… The inevitable aftermath, however meant my mother had to get Dad to bed without waking us; my grandmother had plenty of fuel for folded-arm-tutting the next day; and woe betide we two boys if we woke the original bear with a sore bonce too early or the Christmas spirit would rapidly drain away down the plughole marked ‘hangover’;

2. Consequently there was never any sherry left for Santa – Gran didn’t think it prudent to intoxicate a man in charge of a sleigh, nor it later emerged, add to my father’s already considerable quantity of ingested Christmas spirit;

3. Christmas mornings were quiet affairs; after we emptied our stockings – dad’s rugby socks which had the unfortunate habit when stretched of covering our beds in the embedded grit that mum’s careful washing didn’t remove – we would repair to the living room to open our presents that had been carefully positioned under the tree. At this point the Archaeologist came into his didactic own – he would organize the presents into piles each gift having already undergone a fairly severe forensic analysis; back then no one x-rayed parcels or hand luggage but had they thought about doing so they might have first investigated my brother’s uncanny ability to ascertain the nature and cost of the wrapped present merely from judicious poking, prodding and shaking. As he handed the gift to the recipient he would tell them what they were getting which amused the adults and pissed me off no end;

4. For reasons I thought odd, but later realised were down to the alcoholic content of my father’s blood, we had breakfast after we had opened the presents; Christmas breakfast usually comprised a soft boiled egg and soldiers which again was portrayed to this gullible child as a simple fayre prior to the monstrosity that would later be served, but was also, and this was an incidental by product naturally, effectively hospital food;

5. Mum would now be tied to the kitchen with gran in tow while my brother and I would be dispatched to either play with our new presents, set up the model railway (there would often be a new train or coach or something) or start watching the marathon amount of Christmas TV. In the sixties the only days of the year, pretty much, when you could see programmes that might interest a pre teen were Christmas Day, Boxing Day (before the sport kicked in) and New Year’s Day. And unusually, given my father’s fixation with ‘no day time TV’ we were allowed to watch some of these shows. Later, as I developed a taste for pop music and culture I wanted the Top of The Pops Christmas special. The Archaeologist did not. Ever. And the duplicitous cad that he was, he would play a winning card with my parents: the educational card. Since the Beeb only had two channels they would try and alternate something fluffy and young on one with something drear and uplifting on the other and, if put to the Judgement of Solomon my parents would come down on the side of the improving. Grrrr

6. Sometimes people would come round. Usually that included my other grandmother – my nana. To a naïve and shallow and eternally optimistic (save when it came to TV programme selection, of course) child, that meant everyone in the family must love everyone else as I did. And to be fair they maintained that charade pretty well… until the two women had had enough sherry, port and lemon and gin and tonic to found a distillery and the dentured smiles slipped (often with the dentures) into barbed asides. My mother would play eternal peace keeper, my father would find ‘something’ to do somewhere else and my grandmothers would use my brother and I as surrogate battle grounds, one supporting one again the other until my brother lost and went and found Mum. If the guests included either or both my uncles my father saw it as his bounden duty to get them out of my mother’s hair, and away from their mother, by dint of a trip to the pub (pubs back then opened on Christmas lunch time but not in the evening). These hairs of a not so much the dog as of whole slavering pack of hounds would have the desired emollient effect on the male branch so that, by the time they returned for lunch, they would be unhung, mellow and ready for some serious grease and carbs to be delivered via an enormous roast turkey, heaps of roast potatoes and all the usual trimmings.

7. The aftermath was both narcotic and fissile: narcotic in the speed with which the grandmothers and the men folk were rendered insensible – British Christmas afternoon TV which generally involved a rerun of some well trodden film (What a Wonderful Life, The Sound of Music or The Great Escape, discern a theme if you can) aided this process; and fissile in the quantity of global warming components being released into the contained atmosphere of our living room: given we had an open fire back then you have to wonder that there was never an explosion.

8. At some point in the early evening, people would stir and hunger pangs, brought on I guess as much by the amount of alcohol that needed to be processed as by lack of food, meant the introduction of one of the best bits of Christmas: the turkey and stuffing sandwich. Why were these so great? Maybe it was the setting. By then my father, uncles, grandmas and mother were beyond moving very far. They were happy to watch any TV put in front of them and my brother and I were by now in agreement over the latest comedy special, be it Morecombe and Wise, It Ain’t ‘Alf ‘Ot Mum, The Good :Life or whatever; or they were up for some Christmas games like monopoly or charades. Or sometimes they might stir enough to rebuild the trainset, this time on a board on the dining room table and we would play with this for hours, imagining scenarios that could sway from the mundane commute to some war time escape. The men would do the washing up, to much hilarity and we boys were banned from joining in, possibly due to the ribald nature of the story telling that went on.

9. And so, too early for our liking but because we were deemed ‘tired’ by omniscient parents we were dispatched to bed leaving the adults to their interminable games of cards and snifters of scotch and assertions that this had to be the best Christmas ever.

PS I should perhaps add that the Archaeologist sussed the implausible non-Newtonian nature of Santa at about three but entered a pact with my parents that he would still benefit from the gifts if he didn’t break the spell for me. It was a treaty that involved a domestic balance of terror, uneasily kept each year: on the one hand he so wanted to be the one to break the bad news to me; yet on the other he saw little merit in risking sanctions. I have no idea why he didn’t end up in politics.

©Geoff Le Pard

About Geoff Le Pard

I have been writing creatively since 2006 when at a summer school with my family I wrote a short radio play. That led to a novel, some more courses, more novels, each better than the last until I took an MA at Sheffield Hallam. I published my first novel in 2014 – Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. In 2015 a second followed – My Father and Other Liars. In 2016 I have an anthology of short stories out, Life, in a Grain of Sand. I have now added ‘memoir’ to my list of genres with the launch of Apprenticed To My Mother. Other novels can be found here. I write in a range of genres so there is something for everyone..

Before writing, I was a lawyer, ending up at the London Olympics. Now I mix writing with a range of activities, often walking to find inspiration or taking in a variety of sports events.

Good news for Geoff Le Pard Fans…..Coming in the New Year.

About Life In A Conversation

Over the last few years, I have written a lot of flash fiction, often in response to a prompt. These pieces are mostly 500 words or less (with a few longer pieces thrown in) and cover pretty much every major genre apart from YA, MA or children’s fiction. A lot are purely dialogue, or contain a lot of dialogue – hence the conversation.

Now a look at Geoff’s other books

Apprenticed to My Mother: A Memoir Of Barbara Le Pard 2005 to 2010  is a memoir about an extraordinary woman.

When my father died in 2005, I assumed my mother would need more support and someone to help with decisions she previously shared with her husband. What I didn’t realise was the role she had in mind for me: a sort of Desmond 2.0. Over the five years until her death, I played the role of apprentice, learning more about her and her relationship with my father than I had gleaned in my previous 50 years. We laughed, we cried and, occasionally we disagreed, and throughout she manipulated me as, I learnt, she had my father. Neither of us minded much; we were both her so willing fools, for she was an extraordinary woman and we both knew we were in the presence of someone very special.

One of the reviews for the book

Jul 27, 2018 Darlene Foster rated it Five Stars

A wonderful heartwarming book that will leave you laughing and crying, sometimes on the same page. Mr. Le Pard has a great way with words and gives us a delightful glimpse into the lives of his parents. Sprinkled in between amusing episodes of his life as the youngest of two sons, are poems brilliantly composed by his father, most written for his wife, the love of his life. The stories paint a picture of past times in a lovely part of England, where issues are resolved with a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake. Barbara Le Pard is a delightful character, strong-willed, tough and with a huge heart. This book is well written, entertaining and most important, it is written with love.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

Other Books by Geoff Le Pard


Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon US:

Read more reviews and follow Geoff on Goodreads:

My thanks to Geoff for his lovely tribute to Christmas and also to his family who sound like a wonderful clan…


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – #Poetry ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Geoff Le Pard

Welcome to the first of two guest posts from Geoff Le Pard today.. we all know that Geoff has a way with words….. and this poem is no exception.

‘Twas the night before Christmas by Geoff Le Pard

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
The only sound to be heard
Was the old man, who’d grouse

‘Why is it my job
To play Santa each year
And eat the raw carrot
That’s left out for his deer?

While you get the sherry
And another mince tart
Knowing they’ll wake me
Before a sparrow can fart.’

‘You are such a whinge,’
Said the lady in charge,
‘For tomorrow we know
You’ll give it so large.

And over indulge
On turkey and stuffing
And after the Queen
You’ll be good for nuffing.’

‘That isn’t quite fair
Oh light of my life
Since I will shoulder
My share of the strife

That having your mother
To lunch will entail
As we all know that
By five and without fail

She will surely hold court
In front of the fire
Airing complaints
Of which she’ll not tire.’

‘Now hang on a mo,
Your dad ain’t much better.’
‘At least his moaning
Is confined to a letter.’

‘Oh husband, my love
Let’s us try and stay calm
And ride out the worst
Of these Christmas storms.

It’s only one day
Out of three sixty five
That one way or another
We just have to survive

And then we’ll go back
To life as before….’
‘And before we know it
It’s Christmas once more.’

©Geoff Le Pard

About Geoff Le Pard

I have been writing creatively since 2006 when at a summer school with my family I wrote a short radio play. That led to a novel, some more courses, more novels, each better than the last until I took an MA at Sheffield Hallam. I published my first novel in 2014 – Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. In 2015 a second followed – My Father and Other Liars. In 2016 I have an anthology of short stories out, Life, in a Grain of Sand. I have now added ‘memoir’ to my list of genres with the launch of Apprenticed To My Mother. Other novels can be found here. I write in a range of genres so there is something for everyone..

Before writing, I was a lawyer, ending up at the London Olympics. Now I mix writing with a range of activities, often walking to find inspiration or taking in a variety of sports events.

Good news for Geoff Le Pard Fans…..Coming in the New Year.

About Life In A Conversation

Over the last few years, I have written a lot of flash fiction, often in response to a prompt. These pieces are mostly 500 words or less (with a few longer pieces thrown in) and cover pretty much every major genre apart from YA, MA or children’s fiction. A lot are purely dialogue, or contain a lot of dialogue – hence the conversation.

Now a look at Geoff’s other books

Apprenticed to My Mother: A Memoir Of Barbara Le Pard 2005 to 2010  is a memoir about an extraordinary woman.

When my father died in 2005, I assumed my mother would need more support and someone to help with decisions she previously shared with her husband. What I didn’t realise was the role she had in mind for me: a sort of Desmond 2.0. Over the five years until her death, I played the role of apprentice, learning more about her and her relationship with my father than I had gleaned in my previous 50 years. We laughed, we cried and, occasionally we disagreed, and throughout she manipulated me as, I learnt, she had my father. Neither of us minded much; we were both her so willing fools, for she was an extraordinary woman and we both knew we were in the presence of someone very special.

One of the reviews for the book

Jul 27, 2018 Darlene Foster rated it Five Stars

A wonderful heartwarming book that will leave you laughing and crying, sometimes on the same page. Mr. Le Pard has a great way with words and gives us a delightful glimpse into the lives of his parents. Sprinkled in between amusing episodes of his life as the youngest of two sons, are poems brilliantly composed by his father, most written for his wife, the love of his life. The stories paint a picture of past times in a lovely part of England, where issues are resolved with a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake. Barbara Le Pard is a delightful character, strong-willed, tough and with a huge heart. This book is well written, entertaining and most important, it is written with love.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

Other Books by Geoff Le Pard


Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon US:

Read more reviews and follow Geoff on Goodreads:

My thanks to Geoff for his contribution to party week… starting Thursday with the First Day of Christmas….

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – My Favourite Christmas Gift Ever by Paul Andruss

As always Paul Andruss heeds the call for a guest post for special occasions by producing an entertaining and in this case emotionally charged piece.. get your tissues at the ready.

My Favourite Christmas Gift Ever by Paul Andruss

When I was a youngster my dad was a merchant seaman. He travelled all over the world on everything from cargo steamers to luxury liners. This led to a bit of a falling out with a new neighbour. Seeing two kids, and no man around, the woman asked, ‘So, what does your husband do?’

“He works for Cunard,” said Mum brightly.

‘My husband works quite hard too!’ the woman answered stiffly.

Actually that is not true.

The true story is even more hilarious.

I went to a catholic junior school run by the Christian Brothers. Every month we’d to buy a magazine called The Crusade Messenger, which was full of stories, articles and jokes. The Cunard Joke was in that.

Aged 8, none of the class understood the joke. For some reason the teachers could not explain why it was funny either. It puzzled me for years, until the penny dropped at the age of 11.

That was not my best Christmas present ever.

As I said my dad was a merchant seaman. While his ship was in Spain, Dad was told to paint the forecastle, or whatever the big bit at the front with the steering wheel is called. I am not nautically minded. He was sitting on a plank, suspended between two ropes about 50 feet in the air, when a freak gust of wind sent him tumbling. He landed flat on his back on the deck.

He was lucky. He could have died. Instead he landed on crates and injured his back. At first, they thought he would not pull through. Then, he would never walk again. I was about 9. That would make Mum and Dad about 32.

Dad was in hospital for six months. In those days international travel was a luxury. Mum never got to see him. Nor, as we had no telephone, speak. She must have been out of her mind. Despite this, she kept it together and protected us kids from what was going on.

I knew dad was in an accident; fell off while painting the ship. I thought he was painting the side and hit the sea. Talking to him, years later, he told me it was just as well he hadn’t. From that height, hitting the sea like he did would have killed him stone dead. One of the things he did say was the nuns in white running the hospital fed him oranges, and beef from the bulls slaughtered in the bullring next door. I thought it very glamorous.

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas when Mum heard Dad was coming home. The shipping company not only paid for an airline ticket, but also for a return trip between Liverpool and Manchester Airport by taxi, to pick him up. At the time a 40 mile one-way taxi ride would have cost a week’s wages.

I didn’t know what was going on, except it was exciting and confusing. Actually, the long taxi rides through the night were exciting for the first 10 minutes, then uncomfortably dull. I could not understand why Mum had to stop herself crying all the time.

As a kid you accept things. Growing up I came to realise how different our lives would have been if mum was a widow with three young kids.

Best Christmas Present ever?

That’s a no-brainer.

Getting your dad back from the dead (without using the Monkey’s Paw).

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels

Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen

When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.

Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.

The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.

The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?

The latest review for the book

I stumbled across this book one day while reading a historical piece written by the author. He had included an image of this book cover at the bottom of his article which immediately drew my attention. This author often writes long historical dissertations so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took a chance and purchased the Kindle edition. What a delightful surprise! I couldn’t put the book down!

What I found was a fantastic story about one of my favorite subjects, faeries! Not only was it geared to the YA genre, but it also included a fair amount of historical fact to make the story shine.

When Jack’s older brother Dan is abducted before his very eyes, he is stunned by the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance. The fact that Jack witnessed the strange abduction and doesn’t tell his parents only adds to his troubles. Jack’s mother is suffering from a chronic illness and his greatest hope is that the situation will rectify itself, and Dan will come home on his own.

One night, Jack starts receiving cell phone calls from Dan, and when he answers, there’s no one on the line. He tries to tell his parents and the police the truth about what happened, but every time he opens his mouth to speak, his throat closes up and he is unable to utter a single word. Faery glamours? Could be!

In the meantime, Jack starts seeing a dirty tramp hanging around his house who only speaks in rhyme. It becomes apparent that no one can see the tramp but Jack, so he enlists the help of his friends to help him solve the mystery behind his brother’s disappearance.

Jack and his friends are thrust into the magical world of the fey where the kids experience the light and the dark, of a failing faery kingdom. They learn about ley lines and how the fey evolved beside mankind. The story progresses with plenty of magic and suspense until you reach the satisfying end.

Let me just say, that this is one of the most creative books I have ever read about the fey. Jack’s friends are reminiscent of the characters in the Harry Potter series and I had no problem connecting with their personalities. The plot is brilliant, although I had a hard time separating fact from fiction. That’s what I call good writing!

I enjoyed this novel and will read it more than once. I feel children and adults of all ages will enjoy this book. Do you love magic and all things faery? Then, have a read because this book is reasonably priced and will keep you entertained for hours.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And Amazon UK:

Finn Mac Cool

Find out more and buy the book:

and Amazon UK:

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page:

I am sure that you have enjoyed Paul’s post as much as I have and please feel free to share.. Thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Guest Post – Flease Don’t Come Home for Christmas, Willie Tharpe by Linda Bethea

Flease Don’t Come Home for Christmas, Willie Tharpe

Daddy wasn’t just a magnet for strange characters. He beat the bushes to flush them out. If that hadn’t worked, I believe he’d have up tacked up posters. Mother had no way of anticipating who he might drag in for supper, overnight, or until further notice. I never did understand why she didn’t murder Daddy. He must have slept sometime! Willie Tharpe was a holdover from Daddy’s childhood.

Daddy came in late from work one evening a few days before Christmas about eight-thirty, after one of his rambles, as he so often did. Though he worked shift work, Mother could never anticipate his arrival. As the “Man of the House” his time was his own. Making the living was his only responsibility. It was up to Mother to handle the rest. That evening, Willie Tharpe creaked up behind him in an ancient truck with a shack on the back; not a camper, a shack.

About fourteen dogs piled out of the truck windows and shack as he coasted to a stop in a place of honor, right in front of our house. Eventually, Willie emerged, swatting dogs with his hat and cursing inarticulately, in the style favored by the toothless. Mother was appalled, knowing anyone Daddy dragged in this late, especially anyone from such an interesting position on the social scale, was likely to be a houseguest. This was especially concerning a day or two before Christmas, when we’d be having company. In an expansive mood, Daddy ushered in Willie Tharpe and as many of the dogs as could squeeze in before the door slammed on them. The dogs, unused to houses, ran around jumping on us, knocking over end tables, and peeing on the Christmas tree, till Daddy had us shoo them out. Daddy was clearly thrilled to be able to show off his home and family to Willie, an old and valued family friend.

The house had looked pretty good till Willie’s dogs ransacked it, but it was a wreck now. Mother had “waited supper” for Daddy, since Daddy insisted we all eat as a family. We’d been starving for hours. We scurried to the table as Mother served up the reheated beans, potatoes, and gravy, just serving the fried chicken and biscuits cold. Though Willie’s toothless mumbling was impossible to understand, Daddy interpreted for us as Willie loaded his plate time after time, after first reaching for the liver and gizzard with his hand. The liver and gizzard were such favorites that we took turns at getting them, a matter of such import that Mother managed it herself. He ate with his knife, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and spewed food as he mumbled. We stared in fascination. Mother never even noticed his terrible manners.

After supper, he poured his coffee in his saucer, blew on it noisily, and drank from the saucer, smacking loudly after each slurp. It was repulsive. He burped without covering his mouth. When all the chicken was gone, he reached for the platter and scraped all the “scrambles” onto his plate. The “scrambles” were the crunchy bits left on the platter at the end of the meal, the prize Mother divided among us children. My mouth flew open to protest, only to catch Mother’s dirty look to “mind my manners.”

A meal with Willie did more to reinforce the importance of manners than a hundred hours of instruction. Mother should have thanked him. When it came time for bed, Daddy explained Willie would be sleeping in Billy’s room. Billy could bunk in with Phyllis and me. Mother looked fierce, but didn’t say a word. She pursed her lips and left the room. In a minute she was back with Billy’s night clothes. “Where are the dogs going to sleep?” She spat at Daddy. Daddy had always prided himself on never allowing dogs in the house until the mishap earlier that evening. “Oh, the dogs will sleep in Willie’s truck.” He was jovial, obviously not unaware of Mother’s malevolent mood and his longstanding rule on no dogs in the house. Willie looked surprised and pained. It was late December 22 and really cold. Willie muttered the first thing I’d understood that night. “I allus’ sleeps with them dawrgs. Thas’ the onliest thing that keeps an old man like me from freezing. We all pile in together. We sleeps good thataway.”

Daddy was clearly torn between his principles and his old friend. “Willie, I ain’t never had dogs in the house and I can’t start now. The dogs can’t sleep in the house.” He was saved. Willie didn’t argue, just mumbled and went off to the back bedroom. Mother was still furious. While Daddy was at work the next day, Willie hung around by the kitchen heater, smoking his smelly hand-rolled cigarettes. He was in Mother’s way all day, as she sputtered around baking and making her Christmas preparations. He smelled like his dogs, becoming more rancid smelling by the hour. The odor became more nauseating combined with the scent of cinnamon, candied fruit, orange slices, and vanilla. Mother periodically opened the doors and windows to air the kitchen.

Her mood was black by the time Daddy came rolling in at three thirty. Uncharacteristically, he’d come straight home from work, probably concerned for Willie’s safety. He took Willie off gallivanting. For once, we didn’t have to wait supper. Mother’s mood improved with Willie out of the way. We made popcorn and sang Christmas Carols. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve! Santa would be coming! Mother sent us on to bed.

The next thing I knew, Daddy was yelling, “Get some water! Get the kids out of the bedroom!”

As we flew out of our bedroom, a wet, naked old man made his rickety way into the kitchen, followed by a swirling pack of panicky dogs. Meanwhile, Daddy dragged smoking quilts out to the back yard. As the story unfolded, it seems Willie had been smoking his hand-rolled cigarettes in the comfort of the nest of hounds he’d slipped in after the house was abed and drifted off to sleep. Alerted of the burning covers by one of the dogs, he’d called out for help, getting Daddy in on the action.

Not surprisingly, Willie moved on the next day. Wisely, Daddy didn’t protest. We enjoyed a lovely Christmas. It was a few days before Willie’s Christmas gift to us became apparent.

The house was infested with fleas. Deprived of their host, they attacked us with abandon.

Happy Christmas…..

©Linda Bethea

win_20160620_13_24_45_proHere is Linda with a little bit about herself.

Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.

51qb8fm4dql-_uy250_About Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad by Linda Swain Bethea (Author) with Kathleen Holdaway Swain (Collaborator & Illustrator)

Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.

She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.

Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.

One of the many excellent reviews for the book.

Entertaining  on November 5, 2018

Linda Bethea is a truly gifted story teller! I genuinely enjoyed reading the stories of her mother, Kathleen, growing up. My grandparents never told me stories of the Great Depression, so these stories provided me with much needed insight. The stories are told in a colorful, humorous tone that was a joy to read.

Read the reviews and BUY the book:

And Amazon UK:

Also by Linda Bethea

About the book


In this collection of six serials, Linda Swain Bethea weaves narratives of women through several centuries. The stories span from 1643 to 1957. Beginning in England in 1643, a young couple travels to Jamestown, Virginia, to begin a new life in the American frontier. The rest of the stories travel from West Texas to North Louisiana to the Texas Panhandle to East Texas.

Disease, death, starvation, and prison are faced with stoicism and common sense, and always, with a sense of humor.

The women in each tale stand tall and possess the wisdom and tenacity to hold families together under the worst conditions. Through it all, they persevere, and Linda Swain Bethea’s storytelling is a testament to the legacy they left.

Conversational and homey, you’ll fall in love with the women of Just Women Getting By – Leaving a Legacy of Strength, which celebrates the courage of those women who had no choice but to survive.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Connect to Linda


Another wondeful story from Linda Bethea and we would both love your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – Christmas book promotions, Music, Humour, great food and fantastic guests.

I cannot believe that it is December and we are less than four weeks away from Christmas Day. I am on target to feature all the authors in the Cafe and Bookstore before the big day and I hope you will enjoy this week’s selection of gift ideas.. They will also be in the main menu in their directory and I will be sending that out on social media regularly.

Apart from that we have been sorting out our own Christmas. Usually David puts up our artificial tree which we have had for about 20 years, adds the lights and then I decorate. Last year because of getting ready for visitors, he actually decorated it and did such an amazing job, I have volunteered him to do it again. I will sit with a glass of Cava and admire his expertise.

Next week I have a Christmas fair locally and I am selling some of my books (not the weight loss one!) and homemade fudge. I am about to have a practice run… and will try not to eat too much of the first batch. I have downloaded a fail safe recipe from the Internet, which in my case usually just ends up as a fail….will keep you informed.

It is getting close to the wire for new books on the shelves but still have a couple of slots left for the week after next. So please let me know if you are in the Cafe and Bookstore and have a new release before Christmas.

Also I have 6 spots left for the Christmas party – Twelve Days of Christmas so please think about sending your 100 words about your best Christmas Gift Ever ASAP.. here is the link… and don’t forget it is another opportunity to promote your blog and books, even if you have already been in one of the promotions.

There are a lot of posts to get through… so on with the show.

As always a huge thank you to my regular contributors William Price King, Carol Taylor and Jessica Norrie.

If you are new to book marketing… or would like to find out how to maximise your presence on social media.. you might like to pop over to Lisa Burton, whose author is Craig Boyack, and take advantage of some of the promotional opportunities offered by some seasoned bloggers. They include The Story Reading Ape, Colleen Chesebro, Sue Vincent, Annette Rochelle Aben and myself..

William Price King introduces us to the amazing Flutist, Herbie Mann

It is 1992 and fun and games in the Docklands in London… plus music from Roy Orbison.

Cranberries have a wealth of health benefits which I share, and this is followed by some amazing recipes from Carol Taylor that will make your mouth water.

Jessica Norrie shares an interesting way to find some bestsellers: Ahem! Shortly I’ll have a significant birthday present from Transport for London of free travel on bus, tubes and some trains. If you’ve never tried people watching from the top deck of a London bus, put it on your bucket list. But I’ll need a book for those long underground rides. Where better to start a stockpile than rereading bestsellers published in the year of my birth? When I googled them I was surprised and rather moved to find how many I’d read and how they still resonate. (Do this for your own year of birth and see if the same thing happens. Obviously, I read them at appropriate stages in my life, not when they first appeared!)

Joy encourages to dust of our shelved creative work, and also shares a short story that is very topical at this time of year.

It is that time of the week when I throw my hat and my syllables into the ring prompted by Colleen Chesebro Poetry Challenge no. 112

This week the two prompt words are ‘Cold and Safe’ and we can only use synonyms… so I have opted for ‘Chill and Protected’.

Beast from the North

The first of the two short stories this weekend was about Yves… a ladies man with a penchant for attracting the lost but loaded widows and divorcees in the South of France… but what happens when he falls in love for real?

The second story is about Zoe.. who offers her services as a clairvoyant… with some surprising results.

This week a look at dairy which does have many nutrients that the body needs, and for most of us… there is no problem in eating moderately (too much cheese and butter, whilst good for you, can put weight on). But for some eating dairy results in a number of digestive problems.

The subject of eating fat has had us all going around in circles for years. One minute you need to dump it all and the next it is poor carbohydrates on the chopping block. I have written a number of posts on the subject. Unhealthy fats: Industrially produced fats and Healthy Fats: Essential Fatty Acids and Good fats

Some new guest comedians with a wicked sense of humour about the drinks we embibe and some health posts as well..The Lords of the Drink

Thank you for visiting and all your support during the week, every week. It is much appreciated…

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – ‘Disinterrment’ by Joy Lennick #shortstory #writing

Delighted to welcome Joy Lennick back again with another of her stories and this one will resonate with many of us I am sure.

Disinterrment by Joy Lennick..

If you are a writer like me, every now and then you have to practically dig your way out of a wordy mess to make sense of your world. Right? Or maybe you are one of those ultra-organized souls who I envy? Either way, I bet you have files or drawers full of half or unfinished articles/poems/short stories or m/s of books waiting attention. A sort of ‘semi-burial’ place. I find this sad, especially if your work is more or less finished. Obviously, if it stays buried, no other eyes but yours will see it.

What a waste of all the hours you worked and why are you withholding what could give another person much pleasure?! Why not have a ‘Disinterrment ceremony?’ Treat your literary efforts with the respect they deserve. Lift them out of their premature graves and say ‘Hello, my beauties. I’m going to polish you until you shine and publish you too. What do think of that?’ (Make sure you’re alone when this occurs…) A person very dear to my heart fits in the above category. Why, if you have a talent, hide it away? So, all you shrinking violets/procrastinators/lazy/lost-mojo souls lurking out there, GET REAL!

The above said, most of us appreciate that some of our early efforts should, quite rightly, be either buried or destroyed, but – every now and then – it’s good to double check and give promising work a new lease of life. So, is this leading to anything specific you may ask. Well, yes. The following was written for a newsletter and then filed away. See what you think…


As we arrived – husband and I – the animals: packs of them, amassed and gathered near the enclosure. They were edgy, eager, impatient and hungry The morning was innocent enough. An already hot sun blazed down and the air was filled with the sweet smell of wood-smoke and the cries and calls of birds in the nearby trees.

In its eagerness to breach the enclosure, a more daring animal tried to push past the larger pack-leader, but its audacity was soon dealt with. There was a savage scuffle and dust rose up to form a small cloud as a great snarling noise erupted at the front of the pack which seemed to further inflame the other animals. Even from my safe distance, I could sense great danger. I grew uneasy and tense. My mouth was dry and perspiration wet my palms.

All at once – almost as if a starter had fired a gun – the packs surged forward as a gap appeared in the enclosure. With the scent of the prey in their nostrils, their eyes grew wild with greed, desire and hunger. At a safe distance, I cautiously followed, with feelings so mixed they are difficult to describe…A curious, unpleasant desire to be in at the kill? Perhaps.

I reached the opening in the enclosure and witnessed something I had never before seen. My eyes grew wide with disbelief as the scene unfolded before me.

A scene somewhere in Africa maybe? No. Bargain morning at a Lidls store near Los Altos, Spain. The ‘prey’? A few, highly reduced TV sets (we were buying one for a friend).

I had never seen human beings acting like that, EVER! About half a dozen human beings – their provenance a secret, lest it start World War 111 – acted like wild beings…Two actually charged each other with shopping trolleys, like rutting stags. It left me speechless!

©Joy Lennick

Thanks to Joy for sharing something we may have all witnessed in such an entertaining way.

About Joy Lennick

Having worn several hats in my life: wife, mum, secretary, shop-keeper, hotelier; my favourite is the multi-coloured author’s creation. I am an eclectic writer: diary, articles, poetry, short stories and five books. Two books were factual, the third as biographer: HURRICANE HALSEY (a true sea adventure), fourth my Memoir MY GENTLE WAR and my current faction novel is THE CATALYST. Plenty more simmering…

A selection of books by Joy Lennick

One of the reviews for My Gentle War

I found this book totally enchanting, not just for the way it was written (which was completely original being unfettered by any rules on writing and therefore delivered with great feeling). It evoked some long lost memories from my childhood, of family forgotten or misplaced by faulty memory. I thought of my grandmother clasping a homemade loaf of bread under her arm, giving it a good buttering, then with a large bread knife, sawing it off and setting a ‘doorstep’ sized slice free for jam or honey to follow. I wasn’t born at the time of the war, which doesn’t spoil any of this account and although I know it from history books and oft heard tales, was not a good time to live through, yet I’m left thinking there was another side to these times, told here with great fondness. Sometimes I think we’ve lost a great deal for all our modern ways. This is a lovely book and worth a read. Pat McDonald British Crime Author.

Read the reviews and buy the books:

And on Amazon US:

Find all the books, read other reviews and follow Joy on Goodreads:

Connect to Joy


Thank you for dropping in today and I am sure that Joy would love to receive your feedback. Thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – Halloween Party, Harp in Jazz, Garlic and Book Gifts for a Daughter (everyone)

Welcome to the weekly round up of posts you might have missed.

It is unlikely that you missed the fact that it was Halloween….and certainly it was pretty horrific around here on Thursday with plenty of spooky goings-on.. Thanks to those who dressed up and participated and to everyone who dropped in and played along.

My husband cut off my head (from a photograph and created a costume for me..Like all supermodels there was a fair bit of air-brushing (well quite a bit actually) and I am afraid I am back to my original body shape again. It was fun whilst it lasted.

Here they are along with the fabulous guests in their fancy dress magnificence…

There is still some left overs, music to dance too and enough Bloody Mary frozen to keep us going until next Halloween….

My thanks as always to the contributors to the blog who share their expertise, experience and effort to create amazing posts.

This week William Price King shares the life and career of Dorothy Ashby who was one of the few harpists to play jazz. Normally associated with classical music, this was not the only barrier that this talented musician broke through.

I am sharing some of the Cook from Scratch posts that Carol Taylor and I collaborated on last year. And since it was Halloween... it seemed appropriate to give you plenty of reasons to liberally consume onions and garlic…to keep the vampires and the doctor away


At this time of year, as we start to think about gifts for Christmas, we turn to books. But picking the right book for the person you are buying for is an art. Jessica Norrie shares the books that she has gifted her daughter….

Joy Lennick shares the fun and games of entertaining a small house guest…

Personal posts

Musicians have voiced their protest for governments, wars, inequality for centuries, sometimes camouflaged with pretty words and secret codes that were only recognised by those within an inner circle.

Meet Queenie who finds new purpose in her life following the death of her husband.

Meet Rosemary – The First Date

Colleen Chesebro #Poetry Challenge -#Tanka

Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves.

Cafe and Bookstore – Update

The first of two posts on Arthritis. This week Rheumatoid arthritis that takes its toll on organs of the body.

Jacqui Murray, One Spoiled Cat, Callum McLauhglin

Alison Williams, Beetley Pete, D.G. Kaye..

C.S. Boyack, Lisa Burton, Robbie Cheadle, Annette Rochelle Aben, Sue Vincent with Dorinda Duclos

Halloween Special with contributions from D.G. Kaye.. Debby Gies

Guest comedian D.G. Kaye shares some funnies she has discovered recently.

I hope you have enjoyed the recap and will join me again next week. I will be starting the Christmas promotional posts soon and news of a few more opportunities to party….Thanks for all your support.. Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – St. Kitts, Mother Sauces, Family Drama, Music, Short Stories and Humout

Welcome to the weekly round up and October has raced in with high winds and very high seas in the Irish Channel… Thankfully not bringing the devastation suffered by residents in Florida and along that coastline. But in Ireland the weather does not get us down for long and wellington boots are to be found in all our porches, and sometimes put into service around the house.

The nights are drawing in, and just as the sun goes down we are treated to a visit from hundreds of crows who gather on the electricity lines. We had to take out three 30 foot trees that were undermining the outside wall to the garden facing the road, with roots beginning to cause the pavement to crack. We think these trees might possibly have been a roost for many years for one of the murders of crows in the area and they still return to glare through the windows at us.

Unfortunately from a safety perspective we had no choice, and certainly after the hurricane last year when many trees like ours fell across roads and caused damage, it was necessary. However, they have got their own back by stomping around, cackling and picking the moss of the roof and throwing it all over the back yard at sunrise.. which in the summer is about 5.00 am.  Here they are gathering at dusk. In the next week or so this patch of ground, will welcome a brand new lawn and the garden will be finished.

Anyway.. on with the posts from the week. And as always my thanks to the regular contributors and guest writers who have shared their talent. And to you for dropping in and supporting the guests and my posts. It is much appreciated.

Over the last few months the news that the 5.0 WordPress release would include the Gutenberg editing platform, has caused a lot of uncertainty with recommendations to upgrade to be able to install a plug-in so you could still use the Classic Editor etc. I asked for clarification this week and was delighted with the response.. including a screenshot, that for bloggers at least.. there will be the option to choose when adding a new post. Thank goodness for that..


Welcome to the October edition of the Travel Column with D.G. Kaye. This month we’re going to another small, beautiful and still developing Caribbean island – Saint Kitts.

This week Carol Taylor takes us through the five basic or mother sauces that every cook will find useful.

Linda Bethea shares the lengths to which her two grandma’s would go to annoy each other…delighted that Linda will be sharing more about her family on a more regular basis.

Getting to Know You Sunday Interview – Author Jaye Marie

A lovely poem from Joy Lennick on the Third Season ( A Poem for Autumn)

Talent runs in the Lennick family, and Jason Lennick shares some entertaining recollections of life growing up.

Jason is halfbananas

A short story with a very important message from author Andrew Joyce

I am enjoying gathering my syllables and participating in Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 105.

Smorgasbord Book Reviews

Smorgasbord Short Stories What’s in a Name? Volume II

Kenneth – A Love for Life

Lily – The Collector

Houston and Chester 1986/1987 and Dirty Dancing… also requests from Robbie Cheadle and D.G. Kaye.

New book on the shelves

Cafe updates

Blogger Daily and Meet the #Reviewers

Jennie Fitzkee, Balroop Singh and Nicholas Rossis

D.G. Kaye, Carol Taylor, and Jane Bwye.

Sue Vincent, Judith Barrow and Lizanne Lloyd.

Jean Lee, Shehanne Moore, Beetley Pete and Nicholas Rossis.

Anne Copeland, Carol Taylor and Evie Gaughan

An immune boosting eating programme to help prevent and recover from the flu.

One of the herbs that may help you ward off the flu and other infections is goldenseal.

Humour and afternoon video

Cat humour and a joke..Part One.

Cat Humour and a joke Part Two.


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Life with the Lennicks by Jason Lennick

Please welcome freelance writer, designer and social media specialist, Jason Lennick to the blog, with a witty and entertaining look at being part of the Lennick family.

Life with the Lennicks by Jason Lennick

I was brought into this world by two kind and decent people who wanted nothing but the best for me. Sadly they fell upon hard times and were forced to sell me to Joy and Eric Lennick for ten shillings and a packet of Hobnobs. And things deteriorated further when my brother Damon arrived on the scene some year and a half later, to steal my thunder (and my peace and quiet).

Younger brother Robert completed the picture, a beautiful child with angelic features and a winning smile that would one day conquer the nightclubs of Romford like Attila the Hun, but with better teeth.

Childhood was a confusing time and never more so than when Dad would randomly refer to us as Fred, Bill or George. But he was a kind man and worked hard to ensure our fridge was always filled with at least seven kinds of pickles. My beloved Mother Joy, when not scribbling poetry, could often be found in the kitchen, toiling for hours over vast cauldrons of soup, or exotic delicacies of Welsh-Jewish-fusion cuisine. Dad would torture/regale us over dinner with devastating puns and tales of his life in the army post WW2, and we would bicker and gulp down our food greedily like the little ingrates we were. Children are monsters.

All families have their quarrels and siblings inevitably squabble and scrap at times. Of course not all families deal with it in the same way, and perhaps the full-size boxing ring, complete with seating and judges was a little unconventional. I sometimes like to think I coulda’ been a contender.

My memory is a little hazy now, but I can still recall my parents taking us on long trips in the car: to the coast or the dark woods, far from our semi-civilized Essex home town. And yet somehow we always managed to find our way back, much to their chagrin.

Despite all the rivalry, the tantrums and the tears of family life, we made it to adulthood relatively sane and with most of our teeth. And there were so many happy moments to treasure: watching favourite TV shows together on our eight inch, steam-powered black and white television set; Christmas parties with beloved aunts and uncles and my first taste of alcohol; visits to our kind and loving grandparents; the smell of those roast dinners drifting up the stairs on a Sunday; football in the park and swimming at the Lido; riding our bikes for hours, on those crazy, hazy days of Summer. Where did the years go?

Now, each day, as I kneel before a vast golden altar to the gods of Monty Python, I recite a little prayer: “Dearest Mum and Dad (and the other two), may the gods smile upon you all and keep you safe and well. And may all Dad’s puns be forgiven. Amen, Shalom, Ni!” And somewhere, far off in some exotic distant corner of the globe (actually Alicante, Spain), I can almost hear someone say: “Ni!” right back.

Some might doubt whether my account of life with the Lennick’s is entirely true, or if perhaps a pinch (or a large sack) of salt might be in order. One thing that I can tell you in absolute honesty is this: my parents gave us a wonderfully warm, loving and supportive upbringing. The New Year’s Honours list doesn’t include a category for good parenting, but if it did they’d be a shoo-in.

Joy and Eric Lennick

©Jason Lennick 2018
Jason is halfbananas

About Jason Lennick

It’s tough growing up in the bug and ‘gator infested swamp-lands of Louisiana. So it was just as well that I was born and raised in the relatively ‘gator-free south of England.

When I reached the tender age of forty, my parents callously abandoned me, seeking a life of sunshine and sangria on the Costa Blanca in Spain. Luckily I was able to survive by using my finely-honed skills as a ninja assassin and snake-charmer.

I now have the good fortune to be residing in wonderful Copenhagen, with my long-suffering partner Ann, and a cute but very annoying old cat called Minnie, who seems to believe she is Empress of the universe. Who are we to disagree?

When not blogging, instagramming or comically mangling the unpronounceable Danish language, I can often be found arguing with strangers in Facebook groups, or creeping silently across rooftops in the dead of night with a deadly cobra in my backpack.

Connect to Jason

Freelance Designer, writer:

My thanks to Jason for sharing his memories of his life as a Lennick… most of you are already very fond of Joy and her poetry and stories. It clearly runs in the family.  Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Andrew Joyce -Short Story – One Word……..

A short story with a very important message from author Andrew Joyce

One Word

I’ve been angry all my life. Everyone was always out to take from me. I’d never had any friends. When I was in high school, the other kids would go out to lunch together while I sat by myself, just off the school grounds, and felt the loneliness that had become my life.

On Saturdays nights, the other kids would go out on dates or pile into a car for a night of adventure. I would hitchhike to the main drag, plant myself on a bus bench, and watch the world go by, wishing I was a part of it.

Things didn’t get much better after I became an adult. I existed in the world, but was not a part of it. I had no use for anybody. My loneliness had long ago morphed into hatred. Hatred for the whole damn human race.

Then one day, I saw a dirty beggar down on 8th Street, by the 7-Eleven. I took great joy in his miserableness. At least someone was worse off than I was. There was no way that he could have any friends. He was both lonely and homeless. I, on the other hand, had a roof over my head.

I tarried to revel in the spectacle. I was enjoying myself.

He held out a plastic cup, imploring me to contribute. Was he joking? Could he not tell from the sneer on my face what I thought of him?

I was turning to leave, when a well-dressed man came up to the beggar and grabbed his filthy hand. He shook it vigorously while saying, “How ya doing, Tim?”

“Not too bad, Jim. Not too bad,” answered the tramp.

“You know, me and the wife still have that room for you. It would do you good to get off the streets and have a decent meal every day. If you’d ever accept one of my invitations to dinner, you’d see what a good cook Ruth is.”

“Thanks. But I’m doing just fine … for now. Let me take a rain check on that. Okay?”

“Sure, Tim. Sure.”

Before he left, the man took out his wallet, extracted a five-dollar bill, and put it into the cracked, plastic cup held by the beggar.

I shook my head in disbelief, turned, and walked into the 7-Eleven to get my cigarettes and a few scratch-offs.

When I came out, the beggar was in an animated conversation with a well-dressed, good-looking woman. I figured that he was harassing her and decided right then and there to go to her aid—if for no other reason than to harass the tramp.

“Excuse me, ma’am. But is this man bothering you?”

She looked at me as though I had two heads. Then she started to laugh.

“Oh my God, no! It’s the other way around.” She turned to the beggar and said, “Tim, would you like this gentleman to intercede on your behalf?”

The beggar smiled and answered, “It’s alright. He’s a friend of mine. And he knows how I get around beautiful women. He was just trying to protect you from my lustful ways.”

The woman broke into a big grin. “Tim McCarthy, if you aren’t the living end. Okay, we’ll finish this discussion later. But I’m going to get you into a decent place to live if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

She dug into her purse and came out with a twenty and into the cup it went. She then wrapped her arms around that disgusting person and gave him a long, tight hug. She patted my hand before she left, saying, “You make sure to take care of our Timmy.”

I have to admit, as she strutted away, I was thinking what a great-looking ass she had.
I was brought out of my thoughts by, “She really knows how to swing that thing to hold a man’s interest.” It was the beggar.

Okay. Hold on one goddamn minute. What the hell was going on? I tore my eyes away from the rapidly retreating woman and her shapely butt and confronted the beggar. “Please tell me … what is it with you? Why do those people have anything to do with you?”

The tramp smiled and asked if I minded if we walked as we talked. He had someplace he had to be and did not want to be late. I shrugged. As long as he didn’t get too close to me as we walked, I had nothing else to do.

I opened the conversation by asking, “Why did you tell that woman I was your friend? I’ve never seen you before.”

He winked, took a few dollars out of his cup, and handed them to a homeless man as we passed by, without saying a word. Finally, he said, “Even though we have never met, I consider you a friend. I mean, here you are, accompanying me to my luncheon engagement.”

“I’m walking with you to get an answer to my question. I’m no friend of yours. So, tell me. Why do these well-off people treat you like a long-lost friend?”

We passed another homeless person and, again, he dipped into his cup and shared his bounty.

I had to know. “Why are you giving away the money that you spent hours begging for?”

“It’s only paper with green ink on it. It doesn’t mean that much to me.”

“Then why do you stand on the street and beg for it?” I had him there. Or so I thought.

“I do it to meet people. Like I met you this morning. I think we’re going to be good friends.”

“You do, do you? I can’t stand your smell, I can’t stand being around you. I think I’ve gone as far as I want with you. I don’t care why people like you. It has no bearing on my life. Forget that I even asked. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a life to live.”

“What kind of life?”

That stopped me in my tracks. I turned and took stock of the slight, skinny, disheveled man who stood before me. With contempt in every syllable, I said, “A hell of a better life than you’re living or are ever apt to live.” I was so proud of myself.

He smiled. “Please have lunch with me. It’s my treat.”

I was taken aback. “What restaurant is gonna let you in?” I mocked.

He held up his right index finger and simply said, “I got a place.”

Strange as it seems, I was starting to warm to the guy. I had hit him with my best insults and nothing bothered him. At the moment, I was unemployed and had the entire day to kill before my nighttime TV shows came on, so, for the second time since I met the dude, I shrugged my shoulders and decided to go with the flow.

“Okay. As long as you can find a restaurant that will seat you—and you’re paying—I’ll have lunch with you.” I thought it a safe bet. No one was going to let him through the front doors of any establishment, let alone a restaurant.

I’d never noticed before, but times must have been rough. Well, I was unemployed, but that was my own fault. I just couldn’t get along with people. But what I mean is, there were homeless people on almost every corner. And every time we passed one of ’em, the little guy passed out money from his cup.

After his last spurt of generosity, I sneaked a peak into the cup; there were only a few bills left and none of them were a twenty. He must have given it away.

At last we came to a restaurant, and I must admit, it was pretty fancy. I doubt if they would have let me in. But my new-found friend walked past the front door and around the corner. Did I say “friend”? That sounded strange coming from me.

“Follow me,” he said.

We went down an alley and stopped at a door. Obviously the back door to the place. A slight knock and we were granted entry. We walked down a short hallway that came out into the main kitchen. The head chef, when he saw us, yelled across the room, “I’m a little busy right now. Your table is ready. We’ll talk if things slow down before you’re ready to leave.”

Tim (I might as well call him by his rightful name; after all, I was going to break bread with the guy) yelled back over the clamor of the hectic kitchen, “I’ve brought a friend. Is that okay?”

The chef smiled a broad smile and waved the large knife he was holding, indicating it was just fine and dandy with him.

Tim steered me to a table over in a corner. Before we could get situated, a busboy came out of nowhere with two glasses of water and a basket of rolls. A minute later, he was back with two glasses of white wine that he placed on the table. He said not a word. But his smile bespoke many words—he was also a friend of Tim’s.

As we sipped our wine, Tim apologized. “I hope you don’t mind, but we won’t be ordering off the menu. My friend over there,” he said, pointing at the chef, “likes to feed me his special of the day. He’s always quite proud of what he comes up with.”

“No problem. I’m impressed. But now that we have a few minutes, please tell me why everyone loves you. I’m almost as old as you. I’m certainly a lot more presentable and cleaner, no offense, but I’ve never had a friend in my entire life.”

“No offense taken. I do have a secret and I will tell you what it is, but first I want to hear about you and your life.”

This was all new to me. Someone cared enough to want to know about me? I took a deep breath and then let out everything I’d been holding in for years. I held back nothing. I told of all the rejections and hurt I had endured. I told that man all my deepest, darkest secrets—all my disappointments.

And when I had finished, I was crying. Nothing loud or out of place, but the tears were streaming down my face. Tim handed me a linen napkin and pretended not to notice.

By the time the food arrived, I was composed and kind of hungry. The plates were garnished, and the presentation was like any of the plates going out the swing doors and into the dining room. Maybe ours were even a little bit better looking. The food was wonderful. It was some kind of French dish, and probably the best meal I had ever eaten.

We didn’t speak much while eating, but as I was mopping up the last of the sauce with a piece of bread, Tim cleared his throat and began to speak.

“You wanted to know what my secret is for having so many friends. Well, it comes down to one word.”

In anticipation, I leaned forward a little. But no secrets were forthcoming. “Hold on a minute. This is better said with spirits in hand.” He held up his empty glass and a busboy, a different one this time, but still with a wide smile, filled our glasses.

Tim raised his glass in salute and spoke these words:

“The one single word that you have to know … that you have to live by … is Love. It’s so goddamn simple. Love every person you meet as you would want to be loved. The more love you put out there, the more love you’ll get in return.”

I waited for more. And after a minute, Tim looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, but that’s it, my friend. Just one simple word. Love … Love with a capital ‘L’ .”

I leaned back in my chair, disillusioned. So there was no secret after all. Well, at least I’d had a good meal.

Tim saw my disappointment and said, “Why don’t you meet me tomorrow at the 7-Eleven? I’ll take you to the park and introduce you around. You’ll meet all sorts of people, and I guarantee you’ll like every one of them. And in time, they’ll be your friends too.”

Long story short … I took him up on his offer. Today I have a new job and I am one of the most-liked persons in the office—and it’s a big office. I have a girlfriend, and on the weekends, we help out down at one of the food banks, or just take long walks in the park and say hello to our many friends.

And when I see Tim on the street with his cup, I always put in a twenty and shake his hand. I don’t offer him a place to stay because I know that’s not in his cards. He has to be out on the streets … meeting new people, making new friends … saving lonely souls.

©Andrew Joyce

My thanks to Andrew for sharing this story… he did not want anything to distract you from the message…. I think we have all got it…. right…..Sally