Smorgasbord Round Up – Bruce Springsteen, The Borgias, Illustrations and New Review series

Welcome to this week’s round up of posts that you might have missed. I don’t want to speak too soon but the sun has been shining for the last two days and it looks like the week might be good too. I have spent some time sitting in the wind shade the last couple of days and it has been wonderful. Let’s hope I do not upset the rain gods in the next few days.

As always I am very aware that the blog is a collaborative effort. Not just with guests who are regular visitors but those of you who have popped in, left comments and shared posts across your own networks.  You are much appreciated.

On with the show.

William Price King meets some legends and we join Bruce Springsteen as his career hits an all time high with such iconic albums as Born in the USA.

Thomas the Rhymer

Writer in Residence Extra –  Paul Andruss takes us back through the ages with an exploration of the religious penalties for disobedience!

Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Reading and Interview with award winning children’s author Bette A. Stevens. Bette is still taking questions about her life and work and you can leave them in the comments section of the post. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Creative Artist Interview with artist and illustrator Donata E. Zawadzka who shared some of her stunning artwork and her life and training.

The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin

My father-in-law’s book continues with some building advice and devilish behaviour

Book and author Promotion

If you would like to join the other authors on the shelves of the bookstore then please check out the details.

This week Lyn Horner introduced us to the Western Romance anthology The Posse.

Authors on the shelves of the bookstore enjoy regular updates including new releases, great reviews and offers on their books.

New series Air your Reviews – an opportunity for authors and reviewers alike to share excellent reviews. Open to everyone and not just those on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore.

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

The Blogger Daily – do leave your links to your most recent post in the comments so that I can share.

Personal Stuff

My thanks to Robbie and Michael Cheadle for a wonderful review of Tales from the Garden.

Book Marketing – Smashwords and its affiliates.

An offer on What’s in a Name on my publishing website – £1.95

The Soldier by Sally Cronin

An estate in London is being overrun by teenagers on the rampage. An old soldier feels powerless.


Health – Top to Toe The Digestive System

Smorgasbord Health 2017

Thank you again for being so supportive. Enjoy what is left of the weekend and look forward to welcoming you again next week. Thanks Sally

My two guests this week for the Cafe and Bookstore Book Reading are John Fioravanti on Wednesday and Darlene Foster on Saturday.. get your questions ready.






Writer in Residence Extra – Bonfire of the Vanities by Paul Andruss

Writer in Residence Paul Andruss is contributing posts for the blog every three weeks. I know that many of you look forward to those, so Paul has sent me a number of posts that he first published on his own blog to be posted between his contributions.

I watched the series of The Borgias and I must say that the expression ‘holier than thou’ does not apply. Of course it was a dramatisation and therefore carried the usual licence to elaborate but as Paul points out in his post they probably drew the line at some of the shenanigans..

I am sure you will enjoy and if you have any questions I am sure Paul would be delighted to answer them.

Bonfire of the Vanities by Paul Andruss

Bonfire of the Vanities (Andruss)

In 1494 a Dominican friar called Savonarola preached against the Vatican. He did not mince his words.

‘They preach chastity but keep mistresses; poverty and think only of worldly riches. They have made the church a prostitute whose poisoned breath rises to the heavens.’

He caught the public’s imagination by demanding the city of Florence become a ‘Religious and Christian Republic’. In a fit of excessive zeal the populace held bonfires of the vanities, burning anything that smacked of pleasure: mirrors, cosmetics, clothes, books, gaming tables, musical instruments and even painting by Michaelangelo and Botticelli.

According to Savonarola, the root of all evil lay with Pope Alexander IV, otherwise known as Rodrigo Borgia. Even today, the Borgia name is remembered as a by-word for treachery and depravity.

Yet Rodrigo was not such a bad pope. He had a slight issue with the 10 commandments – mainly the excessive use of the word ‘not’.

But he was an able administrator and unlike many of his predecessors absolutely never ever murdered anyone unless they stood in his way. Despite being a cardinal since the age of 25, Rodrigo had 4 children to his beautiful mistress. Two are notorious.

Lucrezia, allegedly a poisoner, was believed to have committed incest with her father and brothers. This is unfair. There is no evidence, only scandal. Married at 13, she was divorced on the grounds of non-consummation (despite being pregnant) when her husband outlived his usefulness and churlishly refused to be murdered. Then her brother Cesare killed her beloved 2nd husband. Lucrezia is often seen as her father’s pawn. Regardless, she was no bimbo. He twice left her in charge of the Papal Palace during absences.

If Lucrezia’s reputation is undeserved, Cesare’s doesn’t do him justice. His ruthlessness inspired Machiavelli to write ‘The Prince’ – the essential how to manual for the medieval noble on the make. At 22, he murdered his brother. It was never proved because his father prevented an investigation. Then it was his brother- in-law and eventually everyone else standing in the way.

Cesare also liked the girls. The family orgies would make any decent Christian blush. Fortunately there were not many decent Christians in the Vatican at this time so we know quite a lot about them. Cesare died at 31. Towards the end he wore a mask, due to being hideously disfigured by syphilis.

As for Savonarola, Rodrigo was far too laid back to give a toss about the ravings of some mad monk. But it was inevitable even his patience would eventually wear thin. In 1497 he excommunicated Savonarola, and when the monk ignored him demanded his arrest.

By this time the novelty of repentance had worn off with the Florentians. For once they not only obeyed the pope but took it one step further by burning the turbulent friar at the stake. I wonder if Savonarola appreciated the irony of his grisly end. Surely he knew the greatest vanity of all is pride.

©Paul Andruss

My thanks to Paul for another wonderfully constructed post that makes us view those in the past in a different light.

About Paul Andruss

If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.

Finn Mac Cool

I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

About Thomas the Rhymer.

11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother

What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’

‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’

Download Free from Paul’s website:

Connect to Paul

Facebook Page:

Please find the previous posts from Paul in this directory.. you won’t be disappointed.

Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Bruce Springsteen, Books and Blogs and A Musical

Welcome to this week’s round up of posts you might have missed. The weather is still a bit erratic but on our morning walks there are signs of spring. Daisies are appearing on the grassy parts of the park we walk in and there is a smell of garlic in the air.  There is wild garlic growing abundantly along the paths and into the woods so apart from snakes, it looks like we don’t have vampires here either.

Now the weather is a little more stable it is time to pick up the house refurb again and we have 14 windows and a new back door on order for a few weeks time. We noticed this first winter here that despite having new insulation in the roof and attic we were still bleeding heat. The windows are the old metal doube glazing in most of the house so they will be replaced. Then there is the jungle outside.. We cleared a huge amount last year but already with a little sunshine and plenty of rain spring has sprung.. The birds and wildlife love it and having put birdseed out all winter we are delighted with the variety of birds who visit us.  We want to make sure that we keep their habitat whilst bringing some sort of order to the garden.. bring me my rake and hoe and into battle we go!

Thank you as always for dropping in this week and for your lovely comments and shares. Do please also remember that you are very welcome here as a guest in either an author or blogger promotion or with a post of your own. Here are the options for you.

On with the week ….

William Price King meets some Legends

Part two of the Bruce Springsteen story and Bruce’s career begins to take off.

Writer in Residence Paul Andruss.

Thomas the Rhymer

Paul is writing exclusive posts every three weeks for Smorgasbord but has kindly thrown open his archives for us so that we can enjoy some of his older posts on his blog for a second time. BTW.. I have been reading Thomas the Rhymer this week and really enjoying it..

Serialisation of the Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin – life in Waterford in the 1930s

Two more chapters from my father-in-law’s first book the Colour of Life and this week life before television and putting food on the table during tough times.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Reading and Interview with Mary Smith.

Mary is my guest this weekend and has already received some great questions. Please read about her fascinating life in Afghanistan and Pakistan and her interesting work as a journalist.

Creative Artist Interview

This week poet, storyteller and blogger Kim Blades talks about her life and work.

Blogger Promotion – please leave a link to your most recent post in the comments section of any of the following posts.

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Book Promotion – Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves

This promotion is for authors who have not been promoted here on Smorgasbord before and would like to join the other authors on the shelves of the bookstore. Once there all authors can enjoy regular updates of their new releases, great reviews of offers on their books.

Book Promotion – Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update

This promotion is for authors already on the bookshelves and whilst I do check every author every four to six weeks it does help if you let me know if you have news you would like to share.

Book Promotion – Collaborative Anthologies

This promotion is for anthologies with several collaborating authors.

Personal Stuff

A woman has had a tough week in the office and needs to talk through her problems with a friend on the drive home.

A trip down memory lane and gratitude for a very patient prickly pear farmer.

St. Patrick’s Day – Irish Weather – The Musical

A musical tribute to the ever changing face that is the weather here in Ireland.. bring your dancing shoes and brollies.



Thank you once again for being such an important part of my blog.. you are welcome anytime.  Thanks Sally

Writer in Residence Extra – Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee by Paul Andruss

Writer in Residence Paul Andruss is contributing posts for the blog every three weeks. I know that many of you look forward to those, so Paul has sent me a number of posts that he first published on his own blog to be posted between his contributions.

I love my cup of coffee in the mornings and savour the flavour of fresh ground straight from my cafetiere.. however despite my love of the brew I have never been tempted to drink the very expensive and aromatic coffee that has been processed in a very unique way.. Now that I have read Paul’s post I am very glad I have resisted the temptation.

Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee by Paul Andruss

An ideal name for a fair trade ethically sourced coffee shop (Andruss)

Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee is the most expensive coffee. A new must have luxury item of the rich and those who want to be seen to be rich. Asian Palm Civets eat coffee berries as part of their diet. The seeds (coffee beans) are excreted after passing through their digestive systems and collected out of their poo.

Allegedly the coffee tastes better because the Civet’s stomach acids break down the peptide chains in the bean. Traditionally small amounts were produced by farmers collecting wild civet poo, but due to demand this has given way to intensive farming methods where the animals are kept in battery cages in horrific conditions and force fed coffee cherries.

This factory farming has raised ethical concerns about the treatment of the animals due to isolation, poor diet, small cages and a high mortality rate. A 2013 BBC investigation found conditions of animal cruelty. According to an officer from the TRAFFIC conservation programme, the trade in civets to make kopi luwak constitutes a significant threat to wild civet populations.

A four month old Luwak is tempted by some red coffee beans at the BAS Coffee plantation January 20, 2011 in Tapaksiring, Bali, Indonesia.

The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines.

If I owned a coffee shop I would make sure I only sold coffee that had not first come out of an Asian Palm Civet’s bum.

On an entirely different note I would also make sure the coffee was sustainably sourced and purchased from collectives of small independent coffee farmers, so they can make a living.

Given the fact I would be such an all-round hero, I would call my coffee shop Koffie Annan.

About Paul Andruss

If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.

Finn Mac Cool

I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!

Thomas the Rhymer

About Thomas the Rhymer.

11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother

What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’

‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’

Download Free from Paul’s website:

Connect to Paul

Facebook Page:

Please find the previous posts from Paul in this directory.. you won’t be disappointed.

Smorgasbord Round up – Bruce Springsteen, Book Readings, Creative Artists and Top to Toe.

Welcome to this round up of posts during the week and a second chance for me to showcase the guests and authors and bloggers who have featured.

This blog is sustained by the everyone who comes to visit whether as a guest or to view the posts. I am not very good at talking to myself and whilst I love to write it is so much more satisfying when it is read.  So a huge thank you for stopping by and collaborating with me here.

Special thanks to William Price King for his new series on the iconic legend that is Bruce Springsteen. I have most of his music and since working on the new series I have been playing my favourite tracks and also revisiting some of his earlier work. I was only 17 when his career began and we in the UK were behind when it came to appreciating his work. I must have been in my early 20s when Born to Run hit the charts in 1975 and I have been hooked since then. Part two this coming Wednesday.

Paul Andruss is now firmly into his tenure as Writer in Residence and in addition to new and exclusive posts for the blog every three weeks, he has opened up his archives so that we can also enjoy some of his earlier posts in the intervening weeks.  This week it is an original in the form of Dorothy – My Gift from God.  At a time when Paul was in need of a work mum, Dot stepped in to offer a shoulder and a sense of humour that lifted his spirits. I am sure that when you read the post you will identify someone in your life who has occupied a similar role.

The new interactive interviews are going very well and I am delighted that so many are takiing the opportunity to ask their own questions of the guests. There are two formats for Creative Artists across every talent and the Book Reading in the Cafe for authors. Earlier in the week storyteller Raili Tanska who lives in Australia shared her live and work with us and you can still ask her questions in the link below. Yesterday author, poet and blogger Sue Vincent was in the hot seat and is looking forward to responding to you.

I would like to remind you that your participation is always valued and that if you are an author the Cafe and Bookstore with its various promotions is there for you.

If you are a blogger and would like to share your most recent post then all you have to do is let me know. Either in the comments section of the Smorgasbord Blogger Daily or by email

But for now it is time for a recap of the week’s posts…. enjoy.

New Series William Price King meets some Legends – Bruce Springsteen.

Writer in Residence Paul Andruss – Dorothy – My Gift from God

Creative Artist Interview – with Raili Tanska of Soul Gifts – still open for questions.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Reading and Interview – Sue Vincent – still open for questions.

The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin – My father-in-law’s stories of life in Waterford in the 1920s onwards.      Chapter Two  Chapter Three Chapter Four

Book Promotions – How to get the best out of a book promotion here or any blog.

Book promotions are more effective with a joint effort and to get the most out of them you need to have some basic essentials in place. Help me to share your work.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore New on the Shelves

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Author Update

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Another 25 bloggers in the spotlight.

Health – Top to Toe – Heart Health

Smorgasbord Health 2017   Dandruff

Personal Stuff

A look back at some exceptional people doing ordinary things is an inspiring way.


Thank you again for being part of my week.. look forward to seeing you again. Sally


Writer in Residence – Paul Andruss – Dorothy – My Gift from God


Dorothy – My Gift from God by Paul Andruss

Stevie Smith had her Lion Aunt. I had a work’s mum. Her name was Dorothy, which is Greek for ‘Gift of God’. Although at those times she was absolutely driving me up the wall, I could have sworn she was from a different place entirely.

Like many significant people, I cannot remember meeting her. Presumably it was day one at my new job. The first memory is Dorothy announcing I should treat her like a work’s mum. So it must have been after she’d found out she was the same age as my mother. Like mum she had her son, Paul, at the age of 23. He was a month younger than me.

At 5 foot 2, Dorothy was the same height as mum. Hard to believe as she always wore 6 inch stiletto heels. She once took her shoes off and for a horrible moment I thought the earth had opened up and swallowed her. ‘Even my slippers have heels,’ she confessed in that coy way of hers. ‘I can’t even walk in flats, they cripple me calves.’

And very shapely calves they were too Dorothy.

In fact all of Dorothy was shapely; and glamourous. Imagine if you can a mature Sophia Loren, beneath a huge pair of Nana Mouskouri glasses and a swept up lion’s mane gathered into a chignon at the neck. Lacquered to within an inch of its life, her hair added at least another 2 inches of height.

Her poitrine, as the French so delicately put it, was classic 60’s lift and separate; more suited to movies such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes than a place of work. What an addition she would have made to those two little girls from Little Rock; the complementary red head to Russell’s brunette and Munroe’s blonde.

No man could resist Dorothy’s cheeky grin and winning ways. God knows I couldn’t, even when I could have cheerfully choked her. Like during the days she chattered all afternoon while I was desperate to get some work finished. Happily those days were few and far between – the days I would rather work than listen to her outrageous tales I mean.

My favourite was the Shirley Bassey concert when an admirer threw her a diamond bracelet. Best remembered for two James Bond themes ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever’, Shirley Bassey didn’t just sing her songs; she lived them. Even down to crying on stage.

Dorothy skilfully pantomimed Bassey stopping; looking down in surprise; hand clutching trembling heart; picking up the token; holding the glittering bauble to a spotlight in admiration; her vehement protests and finally the reluctant acceptance. It was all probably staged but Dorothy bought the act hook, line and sinker. In much the same way I bought Dorothy’s performance. Tell you what, if Bassey had one tenth of Dorothy’s ability, I can see why she was so popular.

If men liked Dorothy, Dorothy liked men. She only tolerated other women; except for her sister and the mother she worshipped. Dorothy’s mum had been a small large woman; a homebody. Dorothy’s dad was a womaniser. Dorothy’s sister never forgave him for what he put her mum through, whereas Dorothy admired her old man.

She visited his sheltered accommodation twice a week, picking up shopping, doing his laundry, making sure he was eating and slipping him a few quid for a couple of pints and a flutter down the bookies on a Saturday afternoon. In many ways, she was the son he never had. She was certainly a chip off the old block.

Dorothy married quite young. Her husband had a serious accident when they were courting and I think it bought out her maternal side. Some years later, she met the second love of her life; Tom, a big strapping man’s man. It was love at first sight on both sides. He wanted them to run away together. But Dorothy was sensible. They both had families; kids. How could they ruin so many lives? In the end, she convinced him to do the right thing – a 25 year long affair.

I know what you are thinking, but actually I’m with Dorothy on this one. What the eye don’t see, the heart won’t grieve over. Dorothy prevented more heartache than she ever caused. And when she finally did break someone’s heart, it was not the one you think.

Dorothy and Tom’s magnificent obsession was worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald; a love story to put Erich Segal in the shade. If love never means never having to say you’re sorry; then keep your gob shut. The only soul confession is good for, is a selfish soul. Leaving someone worse to make yourself feel better is not love. It is not even decency. Your guilt is your burden. Deal with it. If you can’t bear what you do then perhaps you shouldn’t do it.
On a lighter note, here is another remarkable coincidence. Just as I had the same name and was the same age as her son and she the same age as my mother, Tom’s wife was called Dorothy. Make of this, what you will.

Dot made me roar laughing with tales of Tom, who she ran as thoroughly as the rest of us poor dumb men. When they first started going out, she said to him. ‘If you think I’m carrying on in the back of your car you can think again!’ and made him book hotel rooms. When she realised how much it was costing him, she told him rent a small furnished flat as it was much cheaper, and it also saved the expense of nights out.

‘In the early days,’ she once confided, grinning, ‘I saw Tom three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then it was my husband Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I couldn’t wait for Sundays, I was bloody knackered. It was my only night off!’

When I knew Dorothy, they were down to Friday night in the flat and every lunch time. No, nothing so strenuous I’m afraid. Every day she brought sandwiches and a flask of coffee, which they would eat in his car with her chattering or, more often than not, arguing. There were no long comfortable silences with Dorothy. If it was his wife’s birthday, Christmas or an anniversary coming up, she’d take Tom up to town to pick out a card and present for his Dorothy – as she coyly referred to his wife.

After we’d worked together some dozen or so years, Dorothy contracted lymphoma and took early retirement due to ill health. On the day she finished work she came back from lunch and told me she’d broken up with Tom. She left this tough giant of a man crying in the car.

‘But Dorothy,’ I protested, ‘why…?’

‘I’m not sneaking out of the house behind my husband’s back!’

‘But …’

But nothing! Dorothy was implacable. She never saw Tom again.

I fared better. But then, I was her son. We kept in touch for all the years it took the cancer to finally kill her. The chemo hit her hard. It left her heart so weak, they couldn’t give her anymore. During that time I had moved away, so it was only phone calls, birthday and Christmas cards, and thank God for Interflora!

One day her husband phoned to say Dorothy had died. ‘She was a little old woman in the end,’ he told me. ‘You wouldn’t have recognised her.’

Stupid isn’t it. After all these years I’m still filling up. But you know what, I’m glad I never saw her. Dorothy was no little old woman. Dorothy was a glamazon, a monster, a fiend, a friend and a thoroughly guilty pleasure. She was also the woman who met me in the corridor one day as I was coming back from a meeting, took me in the office, sat me down, and said…

‘There’s just been a phone call love. It was your brother. Your mama’s dead.’

She offered me a cigarette (I’d just spent 6 months giving up) and a cup of tea; then held my hand waiting for whatever came next.

A few months later a colleague said Dorothy went into the general office as soon as I left and gave them a grisly blow by blow account, freely inventing those details she felt I had overlooked in my grief – such as wailing like a banshee. Maybe they wanted to get her into trouble, but I howled with laughter. How can you resent someone for being so totally and unashamedly themselves? Bloody Dot eh? What a liberty. I felt better than I had in weeks.

As a writer I realise that you can’t make up a character with as many contradictions as Dorothy. If she was in a novel there would be no room for anything else. And in the end I think that’s what this is all about. This remembrance is not just for my Dorothy, but all our Dorothys. For like it or lump it, one way or another, we are all friends of Dorothy.

I don’t know if there is an afterlife. But I do believe nobody really dies until they are forgotten. Though Dorothy was as seductive as Cleopatra and as frightening as Attila the Hun, history won’t remember her because history never knew her. In the great scheme of things she did nothing of note. And that goes for all our Dorothys. So if that’s the case, why are we now thinking of all the remarkable things they ever said or did?
©Paul Andruss 2017

Have you had a Dorothy in your life ?. I had one but she was called Betty and like Dorothy was actually quite tiny when she too off her six inch heels.. But she taught me a lot about life from the age of 14 when I started working in a souvenier kiosk along Southsea seafront until I was 18.   Once met never forgotten.. tell us your story in the comments.


Finn Mac Cool

About Paul Andruss

If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.

I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!

Thomas the RhymerAbout Thomas the Rhymer.

11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother

What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’

‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’

Download Free from Paul’s website:

Connect to Paul

Facebook Page:

Please find the previous posts from Paul in this directory.. you won’t be disappointed.

My thanks to Paul for this wonderful story of a woman who knew how to make an impression and who once met would not be forgotten.

Blog Sitting Special at Midnight – Writer in Residence – Paul Andruss – The Devil in Devon

Welcome to tonight’s midnight post by Paul Andruss.. over the last week we have been introduced to the foibles and fancies of some of the legends in history.. Tonight is no exception with a dark tale of Devil’s work in Devon.

The Devil in Devon by Paul Andruss


Devil in Devon: looking for his hotel in the stinking weather

In February 1855 around the Exe Estuary in Devon, England, a trail of cloven hoof prints stretching for between 40 and 100 miles appeared overnight in a fresh fall of heavy snow. The footprints were about 4 inches long and 3 across in single file with a stride length of between 8 to 16 inches. They continued for miles travelling over the snow-covered roofs of houses, high walls, haystacks, rivers and other obstacles in their path. More puzzling, some led up to and exited from drainpipes as small as four inches in diameter.

The local people assumed they were made by Satan himself, abroad in the night working mischief. This assumption seemed to be confirmed when rumours circulated about sightings of a “devil-like figure” in the area. Many townspeople armed themselves and without success attempted to track down the beast responsible.

The story was reported in a local paper ‘The Western Times’ a few weeks later in an article entitled ‘Topsham – The two-legged Wonder’. Topsham was the village in which the incident was first reported. Despite such sensational claims there was very little contemporary evidence to support the story until a 1950 article asking for documentation brought to light a number of letters written in 1855 to a local vicar along with several tracings of the footprints.


Devil’s hoof prints showing scale in feet – no pun intended

Over the years many theories were put forward to explain the event. These range from misidentification of some of the prints with those of donkeys, to hopping mice and even badgers.

Sceptics point to inconsistencies with the date reported; making the footprints appear over 2 or 3 consecutive nights rather than 1. They point out that different accounts describe the footprints differently. And say it would be physically impossible for one person to follow the whole 40 to 100 mile course of footprints in single day. Despite such doubts, the mystery remains.

There is a postscript to the story. In The Daily Mail of 13th March 2009 the Devon devil seemed to have resurfaced when a woman woke to find ‘Satan’s hoof prints’ dotted across freshly fallen snow in her back garden. The single track of cloven-like prints, which appeared to have been made by a two-legged creature, precisely resembled the footprints recorded in the area in 1855.

©PaulAndruss 2017

You can find more about Paul Andruss via his about page on his blog:

Buy Paul’s books:


Previous Posts by Paul Andruss can be found here:

My thanks again to Paul for another post that shares some of the more devilish events in our history.. please share on your own networks.. thanks Sally


Blog Sitting Special at Midnight – Writer in Residence Paul Andruss – Rosabelle : B-E-L-I-E-V-E

Welcome to the midnight blog sitter post by Paul Andruss. Tonight we follow on from the story of the Collingley Fairies to another mysterious and oft disputed authenticity of spiritualism. The great Houdini yearned to speak to his mother on the other side.. and this is his story.

Rosabelle : B-E-L-I-E-V-E by Paul Andruss


Houdini with his ‘Two Sweethearts’ : Mother & Wife

World-renowned illusionist and escapologist Harry Houdini was devoted to his mother. Devastated when she died in 1913, he blamed himself for being on tour and not by her side. Harry was suspicious of claims made by professional mediums, yet his grief was so great he allowed his friend Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Homes and a devout spiritualist) to persuade him to attend séances to contact her departed spirit.

Instead of desperately needed solace, all Harry found was fraud and calumny. Easily spotting the stage magician tricks  that professional mediums used to dupe the grief stricken, he wasted no time in exposing them.

Despite Harry Houdini’s life-long crusade to expose fraudulent spiritualists he never abandoned hope there was an afterlife. Perhaps it was vanity, as much as anything else, that made him promise Bess, his wife: if possible he would return to prove the existence of a life after death.

Houdini made the same pact with around 20 friends as well as Bess. To each individual he entrusted a unique secret coded message, making it easy to prove any message from beyond the grave was genuine.

On Halloween 1926 Harry Houdini died in hospital from blood poisoning caused by a ruptured appendix. Most film versions of his life have Harry dying on stage, suffering agonising abdominal pain while drowning inside his Chinese-Water-Torture-Cabinet. In fact Harry died in hospital after an operation to remove his appendix and drain the infection spreading through his body.

picture30Houdini & the Chinese Water Torture Trick

Some of Houdini’s friends openly reported mysterious events after Harry’s death: an inscription from Harry mysteriously vanished from a book; framed photographs fell from walls and a sculptured bust of Harry shattered. But none of these events were considered the unique proof Harry promised.

Soon after Harry’s death spiritualist mediums began contacting his wife Bess. Their messages were vague uplifting blandishments about how swell things were on the other side and Bess dismissed them as rubbish. Frustrated by time-wasters, Bess issued a $10,000 reward to anyone able to provide the unique secret proof she and Harry had agreed.

Legend has it Bess offered the £10,000 for a 1-year period, and it was not until the year expired that a medium got in touch with a 10-word coded message from Harry.

In fact two and a half years elapsed before Arthur Ford told Bess he had the agreed message. Arthur Ford and an entourage (including two journalists) arrived on 8 January 1929 for a scheduled meeting at Bess’ apartment. Bess, recuperating from a fall a few days earlier, had her press agent and an old friend in attendance as witnesses.

The medium Arthur Ford delivered the message: ‘Rosabelle – answer- tell- pray, answer- look- tell- answer, answer- tell’

He then added Houdini said the code was one used in one of their mind reading acts. He instructed Bess to tell the assembled group what Rosabelle meant.

In a tremulous voice Bess began to sing a song from her first show with Houdini: ‘Rosabell sweet Rosabell I love you more than I can tell.’ The message, translated from the mind reading code, was B-E-L-I-E-V-E

Stifling tears Bess confirmed it was indeed the secret message and had been delivered as she and Harry agreed. She then dramatically swooned.

The next day the story made headlines around the world courtesy of the journalists attending the séance. It seemed not even eternity could hold Houdini.


Press Cutting

When the spiritualist medium gave Bess the coded message she had agreed with her husband, Harry Houdini, before his death, Bess swooned exclaiming… ‘Yes, yes. That is the message. Harry – Harry!’


Medium Arthur Ford with the invalid Bess who had taken to her bed

Soon afterwards Bess recanted, claiming it was a magician’s trick. It may not surprise anybody to know it was a trick; but it was Bess who was the magician’s stooge.

Stooge seems a harsh word to describe a grieving widow. It is not meant as an insult. All magicians’ used stooges – accomplices, planted in the audience – to be chosen seemingly at random, and used at crucial points to help the magician achieve the impossible.

The truth is Bess was not a strong, independent woman; not Houdini’s equal partner. Like most marriages of the period, while Houdini was the big man; the breadwinner, Bess played second fiddle as his devoted, adoring companion; in short the wife.

Houdini treated her like child. Constantly reassuring her with love-notes and arranging exaggeratedly romantic, clandestine dates together. Bess and Houdini could not have children. Anecdotal evidence suggests Bess had a medical condition. She was described as frail and was often ill.

There was never any doubt Houdini’s mother came first. If Bess was resentful she did not show it. It was not until her mother-in-law’s death Bess got her husband’s full attention.

Even then she shared him with the phony mediums he used, and exposed in trying to contact his mother. And she shared him with flesh and blood rivals too: Houdini’s other women.

Perhaps because of their claustrophobic relationship, Houdini’s death devastated Bess. The first anniversary of his death found her physically and mentally exhausted. A diary entry for October 1927 reads; ‘Dined at Village Grove – home early, no drink or weed.’


The widow Bess: as trapped by Houdini’s death as she was by his life.

Bess had been drinking heavily, using prescription drugs and marijuana, since before Houdini’s death. Now her addictions spiralled out of control. She mixed with ‘colourful characters’ in the wild jazz-age nightclubs she frequented – including Arthur Ford; the medium who would deliver her husband’s secret coded message.

Although Bess claimed not to know Ford, she had been infatuated with him for at least a year before the séance. They planned a lecture tour together based on its successful outcome – the grieving widow and the medium who bought her sceptical husband back from the dead.

As if this was not damning enough, one of the journalists who witnessed the Houdini séance claimed she wrote the story before it actually happened. The whole charade was dictated – word for word- the previous day by Bess.

In a classic entrapment scenario, she invited the medium Arthur Ford to discuss the previous day’s séance in her apartment while her editor and a colleague, concealed in the kitchenette, recorded everything on a Dictaphone. Initially triumphant, Ford’s bubble was soon burst as he realised the journalist would not succumb to his charms, wheedling, or even threats.

On Halloween 1936, on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood, Bess conducted a final Houdini séance. Like all the others it failed. At its conclusion, Bess dramatically put out the candle she had kept burning beside the photograph of her husband since his death. She later commented… ‘Ten years is long enough to wait for any man.’


The widow Bess on the cover of an American magazine for magicians

©PaulAndruss 2017

You can find more about Paul Andruss via his about page on his blog:

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Buy Paul’s books:


Thanks to Paul for another post that lifts the veil of mystery on stories that have mesmerised us for generations.  Please send it through all the parallel universes we might inhabit… thanks Sally

Blog Sitting Special at Midnight – Writer in Residence Paul Andruss – Cottingley Fairies

Welcome to the midnight feast that is the posts by Paul Andruss.. I write fairy stories and I am sure that I have seen one or two in my gardens over the years.. perhaps a flash of light on a butterfly’s wing… or not!  Paul looks at one of the hottest sightings of fairies in 1917 that was to divide the nation between believers and non-believers.. I know where I stand!

Paul presents both sides of the story… and it is up to you to decide which side you believe!

Cottingley Fairies by Paul Adruss


In 1917 Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins from the village of Cottingley near Bradford in West Yorkshire, England, took photos of fairies. At the time Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10. The girls often played together beside the stream at the bottom of the garden. When Elsie’s mother complained about their wet feet and clothes, Frances and Elsie said they only went to see the fairies. To prove it, Elsie borrowed her father’s camera and returned 30 minutes later.

Elsie’s father, Arthur, was a keen amateur photographer, and had his own darkroom. The picture he developed showed Frances behind a bush on which four fairies appeared to be dancing. The girls borrowed his camera again and this time returned with a photograph of Elsie sitting on the lawn holding out her hand to a 1-foot-tall gnome.


The photographs became public in mid-1919, after Elsie’s mother attended a meeting of the Theosophical Society in Bradford. The lecture was on “Fairy Life” and at the end of the meeting she showed the fairy photographs to the speaker. As a result, the photographs were displayed at the Society’s annual conference in Harrogate, where they came to the attention of Edward Gardner, a leading member of the society.

Gardner sent the prints and the original glass-plate negatives to a photography expert, who said they were genuine. Gardner used the prints in the illustrated lectures he gave around the UK.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a keen spiritualist. He used the photographs to illustrate an article on fairies in the Christmas 1920 edition of The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle interpreted the photographs as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena.

Gardner and Conan Doyle sought a second expert opinion from the photographic company Kodak. Several of the company’s technicians examined the prints and agreed the pictures showed no signs of being faked.

In July 1920 Conan Doyle sent Gardner to meet the Wright family with two Cameo cameras and 24 secretly marked photographic plates. Frances was invited to stay with the Wright family during the school summer holiday so she and Elsie could take more pictures of the fairies. The girls took several photographs, two of which appeared to show fairies.

The first shows Frances in profile and with a leaping winged fairy close by her nose.


The second shows a fairy hovering or tiptoeing on a branch offering Elsie a posie of harebells.


Two days later the girls took the last picture, showing fairies waking in the sun.



Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths’ two photographs of fairies became public after Elsie’s mother took them to a Theosophical Society meeting. They soon came to attention of Edward Gardner, a leading member of the society. Seeking to verify them, Gardner sent the original glass-plate negatives and contact prints to a photography expert.

The expert replied they were genuine – ‘with no trace of studio fakery involving cardboard cut-outs or models’. But Gardner’s expert also enhanced the prints to make them more ‘conducive to printing’. He also provided copies of the enhanced prints for Gardner to sell in his lectures.


Original Photograph – Original un-enhanced Contact print

It is not easy to find originals. But some show the fairies as over-exposed outlines rather than the pretty detailed figures on the enhanced versions.


Pre-enhanced – fairy offering harebell posie


Enhanced -fairy offering harebell posie

When Arthur Conan Doyle saw the enhanced prints, he believed they were ‘clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena’. Having lost a son in the First World War a few years earlier, Doyle and his wife were enthusiastic spiritualists. Lady Doyle was a much lauded amateur spiritualist medium.

Doyle and Gardner took the enhanced prints to two photographic firms, Kodak and Ilford, to confirm they were genuine. While Kodak agreed there was no obvious signs of fakery they declined to issue a certificate of authenticity. Ilford unequivocally thought there was evidence of fakery.

The historical novelist Maurice Hewlett had the last word when he pronounced – knowing children, and knowing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has legs, I decide the young ladies have pulled one of them.

Interest in the Cottingley Fairies gradually ebbed after 1921. Elsie and Frances married and lived abroad. In 1966, a reporter from the Daily Express newspaper traced Elsie. She admitted the fairies may have been ‘figments of her imagination’, somehow transferred onto the photographs. Psychic photography was a new and exciting phenomenon around this time.

In 1983, the cousins admitted the photographs were faked, although they maintained they really saw fairies. The 16 year-old Elsie had copied illustrations from a children’s book and added wings. They supported the cardboard cut-outs with hatpins.


Comparison of figures from Princess Mary Gift Book


Dancing Figures illustration in Princess Mary Gift Book

Elsie said they were too embarrassed to admit the truth after fooling Arthur Conan Doyle – ‘Two village kids and a brilliant man – well, we could only keep quiet.’

Frances added- ‘I never thought of it as fraud – we were having a bit of fun. I can’t understand to this day why they were taken in. They wanted to be taken in.’

Frances’s memoirs ‘Reflections on the Cottingley Fairies’ record often bitter exchanges between Elsie and Frances. In one letter from 1983, Frances wrote – ‘I hated those photographs from the age of 16. When Mr Gardner presented me with a bunch of flowers and wanted me to sit with him at a Theosophical Society meeting, I realised what I was in for if I did not keep myself hidden.’


Fairy Sunbath

The cousins disagreed about the final photograph of a fairy sunbath. Elsie maintained it was faked. Frances insisted it was genuine. This made some wonder if the print is a double exposure; both girls taking the same photograph without the other’s knowledge. But who knows… Perhaps, just perhaps…

©Paul Andruss 2017

You can find more about Paul Andruss via his about page on his blog:

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Buy Paul’s books:


My thanks to Paul and to you for dropping in to read this post.. please send it flying around the world on its gossamer wings… thanks Sally

Blog Sitting Special at Midnight – Writer in Residence – Paul Andruss – Of Cabbages and Kings

My thanks to Paul for providing such wonderful posts for the Blog Sitting project.  Tonight an exclusive article for the blog that sheds light on some of the most unfortunate and sometimes fatal consequences of belonging to a Royal family.

Of Cabbages and Kings by Paul Andruss


Gore Vidal & Princess Margaret 1951

In one of her wire-tapped phone conversations Diana, Princess of Wales, referred to her in-laws as ‘that ‘king’ family’. Actually, there were three letters in front of the word KING; the first being F. But I left them out.

I have no axe to grind with the monarchy, but equally neither have I had the same provocation. While having no strong feelings either way, I will say that anyone who by their very existence prevented Tony Blair making himself lifelong President cannot be entirely useless.

Someone who did know royalty was American author Gore Vidal; bon vivant and member of the jet set. A term coined after the de Havilland Comet -the first purpose-built commercial jet airliner- made the world the playground of his generation’s rich and famous.

Vidal was great friends with Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princes Margaret. He records their first meeting at a costume party where she wore the blood stained shirt King Charles I was beheaded in; borrowed from Kensington Palace for the occasion. When you think about Prince Harry turning up to a fancy dress ball in a Nazi uniform, it’s easy to see where he gets his sense of style.


David & Wallis on their wedding day
(Getty Images 1937)

Vidal also knew the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during their exile in Paris. The Duke was Edward VIII (called by his 7th Christian name, David). He abdicated the throne to marry American Wallis Simpson. Vidal cheerfully admits to liking Wallis for her intelligence, and David because he was ‘deeply stupid’.

In 1936 Edward VIII abdicated because parliament would not approve his marriage to Wallis as she was divorced; or twice divorced to be pedantic. His speech contained the famous line so beloved of romantics: I cannot discharge my duty without the help and support of the woman I love. As they left England, his brother, Queen Elizabeth’s father, became king and the rest as they say, is history.

The British press always referred to the Duchess, somewhat disparagingly, as Mrs Simpson. They loved to portray her as a gold digger, who could not wait to slip the royal crown on her grubby colonial head. Vidal records Wallis remembering it differently. She was a wealthy divorcee who claimed never even wanting to get married. ‘It was all his idea,’ she told Vidal. ‘They act as if I’m stupid, not knowing who can be queen. But he insisted.’

‘I remember the morning after we were married,’ she continued. ‘There was David saying – And what do we do now? My heart sank. Every day of his life had been arranged for him and now I was the one who had to take the place of the entire British Government, trying to think up things for him to do.’

‘The Duchess took a long drink of vodka,’ Vidal finishes devilishly, ‘then began the denunciation of all the Royal ladies. And very entertaining it was.’

Like Diana, Wallis had a legitimate axe to grind.


David & Wallis meet an avid fan
(Getty Images 1937)

Vidal records the exchange in his memoir Palimpsest. As he explains it, a palimpsest is a parchment, scraped clean by a medieval monk for re-use. Such finds are invaluable as the original text is still faintly visible – a bit like memories. Sagaciously, he adds memoirs do not need to be weighed down by historical fact. So perhaps one should not take Wallis’s protestations of innocence entirely at face value.

Vidal’s recounts a story from the Duke of Windsor that’s worth repeating.

‘I was there at breakfast with my father and mother, the King and Queen, when an equerry came in. The King was furious. I mean this was breakfast for heaven’s sake! Not done, you know, ever! But the man went straight up to him with this note which the king read and gave to my mother. She read it and gave it back saying ‘No!’

‘Later that day I asked her what it was about and she said the British government was willing to send a ship to rescue my father’s relations Tsar Nicholas and his family, but she did not think it would be good for us to have them in England. So the Bolsheviks shot the lot of them.’


The unlucky Romanovs: intimate family portrait
(Archive Source)

Historically, a lot of reasons are put forward why Britain denied the Romanovs refuge. Explanations tend to focus on the fear of Bolshevism taking hold. Princess Margaret had another theory. She believed her grandmother was deeply resentful of real royalty. Even admirers describe Queen Mary as cold and hard.

Vidal tells the tale of Margaret’s outrage when reading Nicholas and Alexandra – the biography later made in to a film. ‘They were so perfectly ordinary. I mean it could be us!’ she bemoaned in stentorian Hanoverian.

Although that might leave you smiling or shuddering depending on your perspective, Margaret had a point. In private, the Romanovs lived the ‘simple’ secluded life of any upper middle class European, and fiercely guarded their privacy. Indeed, their daughters complained of a claustrophobic upbringing.

Yet politically, Nicholas was the supreme autocrat who could not bear to surrender an iota of power and focused much of his energy enforcing a medieval stranglehold on his deeply troubled and backward country.


Nicholas & Alexandra
Father & mother of all the Russias
(Archive source)

His ineptitude and stubbornness consigned Russians to privation and doomed wars. He approved of anti-Jewish Pogroms, believing they unified the country behind his regime. He did nothing when his army slaughtered peaceful demonstrators. And he thwarted all attempts to introduce basic human rights, fearing it would erode his God-given authority as the ‘Father-of-all-the-Russias’.

All in all, Nicholas was rather like King Charles I, who also believed he ruled through Divine Right, ignored Parliament, caused a Civil War (between the Cavaliers and Roundheads) and was executed for his troubles.

So while Princess Margaret had a point about the Romanovs’ perfect ordinariness, perhaps she also needed to remember just whose shirt she was wearing at that fancy dress party. And exactly why it was blood stained.

©PaulAndruss 2017

My thanks to Paul another illuminating look at history.. and for blog sitting so elegantly.

You can find more about Paul Andruss via his about page on his blog:

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Buy Paul’s books:


Thank you for dropping in and please feel free to share Paul’s article around the universe… thanks Sally