Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Rum Cocktails, Blog Sitters and all that Jazz


round-up

I have had a lovely week with a birthday and Valentine’s Day and I am now about to pack my bags to head off for a girls week with my two sisters to celebrate all our birthdays which all fall in February. I will report on the activities they have planned on my return… at least those I can talk about!

I got very excited when I read the headlines in the Daily Mail online yesterday that promised hotter temperatures than Spain with a high of 16 degrees and sunshine.. As I was planning what to pack, I thought I better check a more reliable source than the DM!  Sure enough, apart from a couple of days with a glimpse of yellow behind the clouds there is a 45 – 55% of rain all week and a high of 10 or 11.

I have put away my swimsuit, shorts and flip flops again in the attic with the other summer clothes that I fear may never see the light of day again.

However, all is not lost as David bought me a therapy lamp with safe tanning for my birthday. I have been using as advised and retire upstairs to the spare bedroom and don goggles, my iPod and pretend for 15 minutes that I am on a tropical island on a sandy beach. It was not quite there…. but David solved that by buying a bottle of rum, and a dram of that in my coconut water and Bob’s your uncle.. (please drink responsibly with only one cocktail per tanning session and only at sundown)

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I was going to put up a few regular posts during my absence just to keep things ticking over. I then thought that it seemed a shame not to use this as an opportunity to promote a few of my blogging friends and so posted a part-time blog sitter vacancy.

I know how busy everyone is with their own blog and projects so was very grateful to receive a wonderful response to the advert.  I have put together a programme of events for the week that I am away beginning Tuesday with posts from this group of talent writers.

Paul Andruss, Tina Frisco, Colin Chappell, Debby Gies, William Price King, Geoff Le Pard, Noelle Granger, Susan M. Toy, Mary Smith, Robbie Cheadle, John W. Howell and Linda Bethea.

The full programme details can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-21st-28th-february-programme-of-events/

Time for some of the posts you might have missed during the week.

William Price King – Leontyne Price

classical music

As always my thanks to William Price King for his weekly music post and this week we follow the career and performances of Leontyne Price during the 1960s. Look out for William’s Creative Artist Interview on Wednesday March 1st.  It is an interactive interview and I hope that you will drop in and ask William questions about his life and career in the comments.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/classical-music-with-william-price-king-leontyne-price-part-three-1960s/

Paul Andruss

Thomas the Rhymer

Although Paul has contributed articles for the blog over the last couple of months I was delighted when he accepted my invitation to be a regular contributor going forward.. This is his official first post as Writer in Residence.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/writer-in-residence-paul-andruss-or-the-horse-might-talk/

Personal Stuff

A short story for Valentine’s Day.. about love.. of course..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/smorgasbord-short-story-the-other-side-of-heaven-sally-cronin/

Weekly Image and Haiku

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/weekly-image-and-haiku-aniseed/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-barb-caffrey-angie-dokos-and-deanie-humphrys-dunne/

glimpsesCover Art by Jon Hunsinger51abcfiqqgl-_uy250_

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-hugh-w-roberts-charles-e-yallowitz-and-stevie-turner/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-both-sides-of-love-by-kimberly-wenzler/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-the-beast-within-mended-souls-book-2-by-jacquie-biggar/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-who-said-i-was-up-for-adoption-by-colin-chappell/

hinting-at-shadows_ebook-cover_sarah-brentyn-resizedhttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-hinting-at-shadows-by-sarah-brentyn/

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily showcasing 25 bloggers and their posts.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-13th-february-2017-love-haitian-healing-50-words-reviews/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-14th-february-2017-upcoming-release-daisies-love-poetry-free-books-frank-immersed-and-sir-chocolate/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-15th-february-2017-devil-story-ruby-wedding-1960s-kathmandu-rrbc/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-16th-february-2017-valiant-blogger-angels-wings-runners-stretches-the-classics-and-columbian-roses/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-leyton-hollywood-trysts-llandeilo-and-dna/

Health

Smorgasbord Health 2017Seasonal Affective Disorder

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/smorgasbord-health-seasonal-affective-disorder-tryptophan-and-winter-blues/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/smorgasbord-health-seasonal-affective-disorder-part-four-immune-system-and-people/

Food to pep you up a bit.. and not just for Valentines Day.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/st-valentines-day-food-aphrodisiacs-a-meal-and-red-roses-here-are-the-ingredients-the-rest-is-up-to-you/

New series – Top to Toe – The Human Body – The Brain

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-brain-introduction-and-anatomy/

A -Z of Common Conditions… nothing more common than the cold!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/smorgasbord-health-a-z-common-conditions-nothing-more-common-than-a-cold/

Humour

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/time-for-some-laffs-from-around-the-usual-haunts-2/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/afternoon-video-how-to-beg-for-forgiveness/

That’s me done for the week.. It is a bit early for a rum and coconut juice but I might take a cup of coffee up with me to the tropical paradise and listen to some calypsos!

N.B. If you would like to promote your books and blog here on Smorgasbord the details are here. If you contact me and I don’t respond immediately don’t worry I will get back to you on my return after 28th of Feb.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-free-author-and-blogger-promotion-2017/

Thanks for dropping by and see some of you tomorrow for a few of the regular promotions before I head off.

Writer in residence – Paul Andruss – Or the Horse Might Talk


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Anton Pieck 1895- 1987

(Anton Pieck Museum, Hattem, Netherlands)

After sending a post to Sally, she wrote back asking if I fancied a regular guest spot on Smorgasboard – Variety is the Spice of Life. My blood ran cold as I read her words. I couldn’t write back. I couldn’t even think. I’d start then stop, struggling to answer. I was torn. Like a heroine in some Victorian melodrama, it was all…

But I can’t pay the rent

But I must pay the rent

But I can’t pay the rent

But I must…

In my heart I knew, just like our heroine, I would end up thinking… Blow the rent I’m off t’ hen party up Blackpool!

But knowing what you want to do is never really the hard part, is it? It’s convincing yourself you’re able to do it. It’s not dismissing things out of hand just because you’re scared of failing.

I woke in a cold sweat 8 am Sunday. I know it doesn’t sound much, but 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning for me is like the middle of the night for normal people. Why is it when you sit down at your computer to write something, you dry up? But come some God forsaken sleepless hour you can’t stop thinking?

The French philosopher René Descartes, ‘I think therefore I am’ (as opposed to Earnest Hemmingway – I drink therefore I am. For heaven’s sake stop it with the Hemmingway jokes. There are plenty of other alcoholic authors you know.) René said he did his best work in bed, claimed lying flat helped the blood rush to his brain. Let’s face it, if it rushed to the place we all first thought of, he would have been known for something a lot spicier than ‘I think therefore I am!

In those wee small hours…

(8 o’clock – wee small hours! Come on! Really? Some people have done a day’s work by then!)

Alright! IN THE BRIGHT EARLY MORNING – all that kept running through my mind was I’ve never done this before; never written to a schedule, much less an external one. What if I ran out of things to say? What if I was a fake and everything up to this point a fluke? Then I remembered of my ‘work’s mum’ Dorothy (more of her another time).

Once in a vain attempt to forestall an argument I snapped, ‘When all’s said and done Dorothy!’ She turned on me with a withering look. Or was it pity? Sometimes you couldn’t tell with Dorothy. But I knew exactly what she was thinking.

Dot could hold a grudge for Britain. In her eyes, nothing was ever done and there was always plenty more left to say. She had the ability to turn the coldest dead ash into a whole new conflagration. I almost said unique ability, but sadly the more I see of people the more I realise there is nothing unique about it. With no sense of irony, one of her favourite expressions was, ‘(insert name)… could cause murder in an empty house!’

Then it dawned, Dorothy had a point. She usually did.

There is always something to say. It’s what we humans do. We talk incessantly and often nonsensically, as though compelled by evolution to fill the void. It seems the only word that stops conversation dead is ‘no’. After ‘no’ there is nowhere left to go. So why, when in crisis, is it one of our favourite words?

That, my dear, is down to fear. That complicated set of visceral instincts designed over billions of years to preserve us from physical danger. But not, I hasten to add, the million and one things we hesitate to do as modern urbanites because we’re worried about looking foolish or worse, failing. This is why life coaches tell us to stop before saying ‘No’. Count to five or even ten and then force out a strangled ‘Yes’.

Chairman Mao once said, ‘A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step’. Which was my next thought lying in bed on that frantic Sunday morning. Yes is like that single step. You don’t know where it will take you, or even if you’ll ever get where you want to be. But it opens up a world of directions.

And just to whack the point home with a great big stick, I then remembered this story. I’m not too sure of its origin. It sounds like something from the Arabian nights, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. It was probably made up by some unscrupulous raconteur.

Wot? Wot are you looking at me like that for?

It about a thief in old Bagdad – you know as in pre-Saddam days. Taken before the Calif to be sentenced to death, he shouted out, even before his judge could speak, ‘Spare me for a year and I’ll teach a horse to talk.’

The calif was so intrigued, he agreed, ordering the prisoner comfortably lodged and fed while he performed this miracle.

As the thief was led away another condemned man sneered. ‘And how on earth are you going to do that?’

‘A lot can happen in a year, friend,’ the thief serenely replied. ‘The Calif might die. The horse might die. I might die. Or, who knows, the horse might talk.*

And suddenly I had the first post.

*The thief did indeed teach the horse to talk. In the early 20th century, its descendants migrated to the United States, where 50 years later one landed the starring role in the popular TV show ‘Mister Ed’.

©Paul Andruss 2017

Finn Mac Cool

Thankfully Paul saw reason and accepted my invitation…. You will have enjoyed a number of his previous posts before accepting this full time position…I have not promised any remuneration so I do hope that you will show your appreciation by following Paul’s blog and reading his books.. here is more about our Writer in Residence.

Thomas the Rhymer

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!

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: http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/

Connect to Paul

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

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

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/guest-writer-paul-andruss/

Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – New promotions, Leontyne Price, Myths and awesome talent.


round-up

Welcome to this week’s round up of posts that you might have missed. In particular I would like to draw your attention to these two new promotional series.

Although my Cafe and Bookstore is as yet, virtual.. it is still a platform for promotion. Apart from the twice weekly updates for new releases and outstanding reviews…You can now do a virtual book reading. To mix things up a little; I will not only send you a choice of questions to answer including some personalised ones about your work, but we will open the comments section up to questions from the audience.. i.e. those who pop in to read the post.  This does mean that the author in question will have to pop in on the day and perhaps the next once of twice to respond to the questions.  I hope that this little twist will bring a new element to boost the post’s promotional reach.  Here is the post with all the details.

Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/new-series-sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-book-reading-and-interview/

The second new series is for those who might not have published a book and are therefore not on the shelves of the bookstore. Bloggers, book reviewers, short story writers, artists, musicians, photographers and any other creative talent. The same format as the author book reading.. with personalised questions and the interaction with the audience. This is an opportunity to showcase your work and to meet new followers and possibly customers through the Q & A in the commments.  Here are more details.

creative artistshttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/new-series-smorgasbord-creative-artist-interview-musicians-bloggers-artists-photographers/

Look forward to hearing from you once you have read the posts.. I already have twelve authors lined up for the Book Reading posts and two for the Creative Artists…don’t delay.

As I am an author on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore I get to promote my latest book in the update tomorrow….I hope you will pop in and also take a look at the other two authors who will be sharing the post with me.

William and his music

In the meantime I would like to thank my two amazing contributors to the blog. William Price King and Paul Andruss who are amazing.  We are just coming to the end of the Classical Series in the next few weeks and this is going to be followed by a look at some of the iconic contemporary music artists. William is going to be starting this new series with an idol of mine and I am sure of many of you too.. The Boss.. Bruce Springsteen.

Finn Mac Cool

Paul Andruss has certainly made an impression on followers to the blog with his posts across different worlds… From Ancient Greece and the myths and legends of Ancient Ireland to the worlds behind the modern artists who have left their mark in history such as David Bowie and Mark Bolan.. You will find a wonderful and eclectic look at these worlds on Paul’s website. http://www.paul-andruss.com/about/

Also thanks to all of you who have dropped in this week…liked, commented and shared. It is so appreciated.

On with the show.

Classical Music with William Price King

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Part one of the American soprano Leontyne Price who not only enjoyed a stunning professional career but paved the way for other African American opera singers to perform in their rightful place on the world stage.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/classical-music-with-william-price-king-leontyne-price-the-early-years/

Guest Writer Paul Andruss

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A stunning piece on the myth of The Birch Maiden with the most beautiful illustrations by Donata Zawadzka.. I hope you will visit both their websites to enjoy more.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/guest-writer-the-birch-maiden-by-paul-andruss-illustrated-by-donata-zawadzka/

Book Promotions

new-on-the-shelves-updateFour new authors will be on the shelves from today and I hope you will enjoy their introduction to the Cafe.. If you are not currently on the shelves with your books then please take a look at the details.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-free-author-and-blogger-promotion-2017/

Click Cover for Amazon

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-passion-struggle-book-one-the-genesis-saga-by-john-fioravanti/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-naked-alliances-a-richard-noggin-novel-the-naked-eye-private-investigator-series-book-1-by-s-k-nicholls/

seeking-control-cover-front-onlyhttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-seeking-control-of-the-myths-that-never-should-have-been-guiding-council-book-2-by-mike-wolff/

51hcyukkqjl-_uy250_https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-the-viking-and-the-courtesan-by-shehanne-moore/

author-update-jpgCafe and Bookstore Update

This week’s look at new releases and recent reviews from the authors on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore.

51erbryflwl-_uy250_5122bdbz7ql-_uy250_tales-from-the-garden-cover

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-ali-isaac-n-a-granger-and-sally-cronin/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-kevin-morris-jane-dougherty-and-judy-e-martin/

Personal Stuff

A tongue in cheek look at our financial value.. and how we might perhaps encourage the universe to catch up to our expectations!

yacht

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/why-i-am-giving-myself-a-salary-increase-and-perhaps-you-should-too/

Weekly Image and Haiku

dawnhttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/weekly-image-and-haiku-from-a-grateful-world/

Special mention for Terri Webster Schrandt who has opened up her photography files for our use.. this was my reblog and the image for this week’s Haiku was courtesy of her generosity.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/how-to-get-hundreds-of-free-photos-for-your-blog/

Blogger Daily – 25 more bloggers showcased in the week day look at some of the outstanding posts of the day.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-30th-january-2017-castle-douglas-wordpress-addiction-change-and-author-interview/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-31st-january-2017-dragons-strong-women-peace-favourite-things-and-a-review/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-1st-february-2017-medieval-horses-fashion-savvy-bloggers-bash-caboodle-and-new-words/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-2nd-february-2017-three-things-crystals-oscar-and-audio-books/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-3rd-february-2017-jacaranda-trees-mental-health-dean-martin-dog-training-and-poetry/

Health

A final look at how we change as we grow and age and some of the voluntary and involunatry emotions we experience.

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/smorgasbord-health-the-dynamics-of-health-emotional-being/

When was the last time you had a really good laugh?

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/smorgasbord-health-why-laughter-really-is-the-best-medicine/

The second in the series of cancers that are most common… Prostate which is followed by lung and then bowel cancers.

smorgasbord healthhttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/smorgasbord-health-a-z-of-common-conditions-cancer-prostate/

Humour

purple-clover

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/time-for-some-laffs-life-span-speeding-and-highway-to-hell/

Thank you again for making this a regular stop on your blog tours.. Look forward to seeing you again..Thanks Sally

Guest Writer – The Birch Maiden by Paul Andruss – Illustrated by Donata Zawadzka


picture1The Legend

The Birch Maiden is a Scottish folktale about a beautiful fairy inhabiting a birch tree. One evening she is tempted by a basket of apples left on the ground by soldiers sleeping in the grove. One young handsome soldier awakens, and seeing her is instantly smitten. When discovered, the shy creature flees into her tree, which only makes the soldier desire her more. Eventually he learns of a way of making the fairy maid fall in love with him and she forsakes her tree to become his bride.

Here the story takes various twists and turns depending on the tradition that preserved it. Popular tales are rarely straight forward. Stories diverge due to being passed down for hundreds of years within the families of professional storytellers, from father to son. No doubt, some versions are embellished with orphaned fragments of otherwise forgotten tales.

Sometimes the fairy can only be freed if the soldier speaks her name three times under a waxing moon. Cunningly the soldier learns her name by hiding in the woods and listening to her sisters as they dance and sing in the glade. In this version the maid may sicken and die when she forsakes her tree for a mortal man’s love. In other versions she loses her memory, until one day she learns, from the song of a tame robin, her tree is dying and abandons her husband to resume her former life in the wildwood.

In darker versions, the soldier tempts her with an enchanted apple, obtained from a witch (sometimes the forest queen in disguise); traded for an impetuous promise to sacrifice what loves him most. He forgets to warn his wife to send out his favourite hound to greet him when he comes home from war. Thus his wife, or young daughter, is condemned to return to the tree, and the soldier learns the harsh penalty of trafficking with fairies.

The History

The Birch Maiden is reminiscent of ancient Greek tree-nymphs called dryads and hamadryads. The difference between the two is hamadryads die if their tree is harmed.
The word nymph requires explanation. Nymphs are girls of marriageable age. In ancient and medieval times, a girl was married off as soon as she was sexually mature, often around the age of 11. The classical world seeing women as inferior, and somewhat feral, feared their unbridled sexual appetite; which could only be contained in marriage.

Wild women such as Dryads and Maenads were viewed as sexual predators because they existed outside the civilised boundaries set by men. To be fair, the women followers of the wine god Bacchus, called Maenads, were pretty mean drunks who tended to rip blokes limb from limb after a night on the old Lambrini. But then again, with attitudes like that maybe the men deserved it. The Ancient Greeks were not half as trendy as we like to think.

Finding Grecian tree-nymphs at the northern edge of Europe is not surprising when considering the migrations of peoples during ancient times. An Irish tribe called the Scottii gave Scotland its name when they settled in the east by Hadrian’s Wall during the early Dark Ages. Here they met other migrants from Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark.

Many European tribes believed they originated in Greece. Germanic tribes and the Norsemen claimed they came from the ancient city of Byzantium. The antique Irish ‘Book of Conquests’ tells of the Fir Bolge, who lived as slaves in Greece.

Perhaps these are racial memories of an ecological disaster from 7,500 years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea broke through at the Bosporus (near where Byzantium would stand) in a mighty waterfall that caused the Black Sea to double in size in a matter of months.

Archaeologists estimate during this catastrophic flood, the water level rose by 5 meters a day. With farming established on the shores of the Black Sea for almost 4,000 years, the panicked population fled to Southern Greece where the first farming settlements in Europe are found around this time.

While we are familiar with the Biblical tale of Noah, not many people know is it is based on a number of flood stories thousands of years older that survived in the Greek myth of Deucalion and the Celtic of Hu Gadarn.

It is possible the Birch Maiden is an even more ancient. A tradition from the largely unknown aboriginal inhabitants of Northern Europe: the fishermen and hunters who had lived there since the Ice Age retreated some 13,000 years ago.

The incoming farmers already believed the gods punished mortals for clearing woodland without first propitiating the tree-nymphs, so it is easy to see them adapting the birch into their own traditions. Due to its shimmering white bark, the birch was already known as the Lady of the Woods and sacred to the primeval White Goddess of Old Europe.

The birch was the first tree to colonise Europe when the Ice Age ended and the mile-high glaciers that stretched almost down to London melted. Because it is well adapted to the cold it was also the first to leaf and so became a symbol of impending spring.

The Irish Ogham Alphabet names each of its letters after a tree which either leafs, fruits or flowers in succession throughout the thirteen lunar months of the year. The first letter is ‘Beth’: the birch. Its month starts after the winter solstice extending from the plough days of late December to the 20th of January. The first ogham message was 7 Bs, scratched on a birch twig that read: 7 times will they wife be carried off to fairyland unless the birch is her overseer. It is thought the word ‘book’ derives from its ancient name.

Associated with fairies, witches and the goddess, the birch encourages fertility and health. Cradles were woven from birch twigs to protect babies. Cows herded with a birch switch would be become pregnant. Maypoles were made from a birch trunk, and at Halloween witches flew to their Great Sabbath on birch brooms after first anointing themselves with a flying ointment made from the hallucinogenic fly-agaric, or fairy-cap toadstool, found growing amid birch trees roots.

Birch rods were used to beat wickedness from lunatics, criminals and children, a punishment used until recent times in the Isle of Man. Brooms made from birch twigs swept ill luck from the house and were used to beat the parish boundaries in spring to drive away all evil.

©Paul Andruss 2017

I would now very much like to introduce you to the wonderful artist and illustrator Donata Zawadzka who has graced my work with her art.

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Polish born Donata Zawadzka is one half of an accomplished husband and wife artistic team, now living in Gravesend. I have known Dona for 6 years.

After seeing her work on the internet and falling in love with it, I cheekily asked if she would mind doing some illustrations for Thomas the Rhymer. She agreed, but only if she liked the book. Fortunately for me she did!

Although she has many styles I fell in love with her delicate black and white line drawings reminiscent of the classic Victorian illustrators such as Charles Snicket, Walter Crane and of course the great Arthur Rackham. The Birch Maiden is a prime example.

I am sure that you will love her work so please to and view her outstanding art on her site. If you are looking for an illustrator you will find that Dona is a dream to work with and your books will be beautifully enhanced with her artwork.

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Connect to Donata Zawadzka

View her website : http://dezawadzka.wix.com/donatasgallery
Buy her work on Redbubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/donattien/works/7004053-the-birch-maiden?c=32080-ink-illustrations
Like Dona on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donataewa.zawadzka?fref=ts
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DonataEZawadzka

Thomas the Rhymer

Find out more about Paul Andruss and his books : http://www.paul-andruss.com/about/

Other guest posts by Paul: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/guest-writer-paul-andruss/

Thank you for stopping by and it would be great if you could share the post on your own networks.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Round Up – Kiri Te Kanawa, Ancient Greece, Bloggers, Authors and Parrots


round-up

Welcome to this week’s round up of posts you might have missed. All then new promotional series are doing well and you will find a link at the bottom of the post that gives you details of the ways you can promote your blog, books, art, photography and any other creative endeavour.

It was my husband’s birthday this week so I planned a surprise trip down memory lane. David moved from Wateford to Wexford when he was about 11 to Wexford and one of the beaches that they used to visit every summer was Curracloe Strand.  Apart from enjoying this sandy beach that stretches seemingly for miles; it was a chance to take a look at what is locally known as Omaha Beach.  This was the beach used in the incredible opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.

Here is part of an article in The Journal with a link at the bottom to read the full piece.

IN THE SUMMER of 1997, a massive Hollywood film crew headed up by director Stephen Spielberg landed on a Wexford beach.

They were there to film what would become one of the best known World War II movies and for many Irish men, it is their claim to fame, as hundreds featured as extras in the epic D-Day scenes.

As with Braveheart a few years before, the young army reserves of the FCA were asked to take part. Their reputation as a reliable and well disciplined band of extras on Mel Gibson’s film was the reason Spielberg decided to film those iconic scenes in this country.

Colonel Pearse McCorley told us previously it was Gibson who recommended them, despite the fact he thought they were a bunch of smartasses.

For now Captain Peter Kelleher, who was then just 17 years old, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he said he “jumped at the chance” to be involved in the scenes filmed on Ballinesker Beach, Curracloe Strand.

Read on….http://www.thejournal.ie/saving-private-ryan-wexford-2144259-Jun2015/

On Wednesday Ireland was enjoying the backlash from the blizzards raging in the UK and it was very, very cold and windy.. However it was great to bring back memories of warmer days and visit the beach used in the film.

We did enjoy a great lunch in the Curracloe Hotel.. a plateful and a half to be honest and the best onion rings I have ever tasted. So if you are coming over to Ireland and planning a road trip down the south east coast perhaps you can add Curracloe to your plans.

Apart from that it has been a week of getting some writing projects re-started after the holidays and enjoying getting back into the swing of reading othe people’s posts and planning new promotions.

My thanks as always to William Price King for his continued presence here on the blog as both friend and contributor. This week too, a welcome to Paul Andruss who will be writing a post for Smorgasbord the first Friday of each month.. His first post is below.

And of course I am very grateful for your generosity as you leave comments, share across your own networks and keep me motivated.

Classical Music with William Price King

classical musicThe first part of the story and music of New Zealand soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/classical-music-with-william-price-king-dame-kiri-te-kanawa-the-early-years/

Find the previous classical posts in this directory.  https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/classical-music-with-william-price-king/

Guest Writer – Paul Andruss

Thomas the Rhymer

Delighted that Paul Andruss is joining the blog as a regular contributor on the first Friday of each month, and if you missed his two posts before Christmas you can find them in this directory in the menu.  https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/guest-writer-paul-andruss/

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The myths and legends of Ionia.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/writer-in-residence-paul-andruss-ionia/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Update

glimpses-kdp-coverPure Trash Bette StevensYecheilyah Ysrayl

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-hugh-w-roberts-yecheilyah-ysrayl-and-bette-a-stevens/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore New on the Shelves.

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-allow-yourself-to-be-a-better-person-by-balroop-singh/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-almost-human-by-kenneth-l-decroo/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-storm-wolf-by-stephen-morris/

Smorgasbord Meet and Greet

This series if for writers, photographers, poets, artists, musicians who have never been promoted on the blog before. Have a look at this first post by Robbie Cheadle and then contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com so we can talk about your promotion.

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/smorgasbord-meet-and-greet-robbie-and-michael-cheadle-co-authors-of-the-sir-chocolate-book-series/

Blogger Daily

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

This week 30 outstanding bloggers and their posts featured every evening. My intention this year is to devote as much time to bloggers as to authors when promoting and whilst I go on a hunt everyday… please feel free to leave a  link to your latest blog post in the comments to make sure that I don’t miss.. It gives me an opportunity to share across my networks and I will also inlcude in one of the Blogger Daily posts in the next few days.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-monday-january-9th-2017-sight-sun-history-and-caboodle/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/smorgasbord-daily-blogger-tuesday-10th-january-interviews-swamps-freezing-texas-and-a-writers-worth/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-wednesday-11th-january-yellow-hair-earth-slices-of-life-sir-chocolate-and-david-bowie/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-thursday-12th-january-challenges-herbs-movies-and-motivation/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/blogger-daily-saturday-14th-january-2017-bananas-mystery-character-development-china-and-tea/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-friday-january-13th-blog-recommendations-ssl-prompts-editing-and-ancient-man/

Smorgasbord Health 

Smorgasbord Health 2017

Weight Reduction.

This year’s weight reduction programme continues with posts on boosting willpower, the benefits of food diaries, the small elements of your diet that may be sabotaging your weight reduction and some alternative rewards that do not contain chocolate!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/smorgasbord-health-2017-weight-reduction-willpower-and-written-evidence/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/smorgasbord-health-2017-weight-reduction-the-accumulative-factor/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/smorgasbord-health-2017-weigh-reduction-reward-system-and-calories/

A-Z of Common Conditions.

smorgasbord A - Z

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/smorgasbord-health-a-z-of-common-conditions-bronchitis/

Afternoon video – Equine Therapy

An extraordinary retreat where horses who have been born and trained to interact with humans, bring healing to the people that they come into contact with.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/the-afternoon-video-healing-equine-therapy-2/

The lighter side of life.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/time-for-some-laffs-pirate-rooster-and-parrot-comedians/

Personal Stuff

The R's of Life

Chapter Thirteen of my book.. The R’s of Life….Retail Therapy – The Real Cost.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/the-rs-of-life-chapter-thirteen-retail-therapy-the-real-cost/

Weekly Image and Haiku

sally cronin haiku

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/weekly-image-and-haiku-bronzed-and-athletic/

Thank you very much for all your support this week and in particular for your generous sharing of the posts featuring bloggers and authors. It does make a huge difference.

Look forward to seeing you in the week and don’t forget there are a number of promotional opportunities to showcase your work.  Thanks Sally

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-free-author-and-blogger-promotion-2017/

 

Guest Writer- Paul Andruss – Ionia


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Delighted that Paul Andruss is joining the blog as a regular contributor on the first Friday of each month, and if you missed his two posts before Christmas you can find them in this directory in the menu.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/guest-writer-paul-andruss/

Today Paul shares his trip to the land of gods and heroes....and you can see more photographs of this trip at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/book-drawings/sets/72157625509728092/

Ionia by Paul Andruss

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This land of gods and heroes fills me with irrational love and irrepressible longing. Here a sister married her brother and built him a tomb so magnificent it became a wonder of the world. Here, a nymph saw a young man drink from her spring. Fiercely desiring him, she prayed they would never part. With cruel humour, the capricious gods joined flesh to flesh, creating the first hermaphrodite.

This is Bodrum, once Halicarnassus, home of the mausoleum. Behind the town, hidden in hills of olive and pine, is the spring of Salamcis where the son of Hermes and Aphrodite took that fatal drink.

The heartland of Ionic Greece was already ancient when the Parthenon shone brand-new on the lion coloured rock of the acropolis. Cities, old as time, ringed the Gulf of Latmos. Even then a dying seaway choked with mud from the Meander River. First Priene and then Milatus were left high and dry. Abandoned since antiquity they provided tourist attractions for Ancient Romans.

To one side of the silted estuary is Lake Bafa, formed by the tears of the Moon goddess weeping for the shepherd boy, Endymion. On the other, the city of Miletus, where in the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Paul awaited the Ephesian elders.

Once, Lake Bafa was seashore. The freshwater lake only formed when the estuary silted. The men of Heraclea faced with the retreating sea, desperately dug navigable channels, causing seawater to turn the lake brackish.

Legend says the moon goddess, Selene, was so smitten with Endymion she threatened to forsake the sky. In response, the fearful gods made him sleep for eternity, and as she wept for her lost love, she cried a lake. It was a good day in November and Bafa was body warm, we swam and can confirm the water does indeed taste of tears.

The Meander estuary is now a fertile plain. Having never seen it in November we were surprised by hundreds of cotton wool balls littering the roads. It was cotton-pickin’ time. Turkish women, in traditional rural dress of headscarf and baggy trousers, picked tufts of gossamer from branches of stunted, scrawny bushes. It could have been a hundred years ago, if not for the huge blocky harvester devouring the adjacent field. Its parallel rows of vertical teeth left only broken, skeletal stalks. In factory courtyards were cotton castles of pearl-grey lint, while caught in the wire of the perimeter fence, grimy candyfloss streamed in the wind.

picture2First stop was the ancient city of Eurymos. All that is left is the Temple of Zeus. We were the only people there. It was like discovering it for the first time. As if we were some Victorian explorers with Sir Richard Burton – the one who translated the Arabian Nights, not the one who married and remarried Elizabeth Taylor.

The only problem with fantasy is truth. Although sites look undiscovered they are actually the result of extensive excavation. Unexcavated, they are under 2,000 years and at least 20 feet of wind blown soil – like the rest of Eurymos. One undistinguished field is the forum and another is the theatre. Each has its herd of indifferent sheep, munching as they have munched for millennia, placidly unaware of their contribution to history falling out the other end.

picture3The temple of Apollo at Didim was never finished because during the centuries it took to build, Christianity became the state religion and pagan temples were abandoned. It is impossible to convey the sheer size of the site. Nothing is on a human scale, the column bases; the cyclopean stones walls – now only a third of their original height. All of it dwarfs you; awes you. It is like something built by the giants who stormed Olympus.

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There is a sacred spring in the temple grounds. It had recently rained and the area was marshy. It should have prepared us for what was to come at Miletus. It didn’t. Here we saw tortoises mating. And it was lucky they were tortoises. When Tiresias saw two snakes copulate, he changed sex.

Because of his unique perspective, Zeus and Hera asked Tiresias to settle an argument about who needed love the most. Tiresias replied that if love had ten parts, women needed nine. Hera was so furious she blinded him. Leaving Zeus to compensate with the dubious gift of second sight and a lifespan increased sevenfold. However, thoughtless Zeus forgot to bestow Eternal youth so Tiresias grew old and stayed old for a long, long time. More of a punishment than a gift one would think.

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Back at the car, we saw a stone placed at the base of a wall. As it was obviously for looking over, we discovered part of the sacred way stretching from Miletus, 26 km away, to the shrines of Apollo and his sister, Artemis.

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We had read Miletus has a fantastic theatre but not much else. Because of this, our friends decided they had had enough of scrambling over ruins and went to the site café, leaving us to explore alone.

Reaching the top of the theatre we saw the rest of the city hidden to the side, the wreckage of the harbour mouth monument, now miles inland, the forum, the stoa and senate house lining the start of the sacred way.

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The site was boggy and halfway through, mosquitoes attacked. According to the guidebook the café owner was trying to sell our friends, when the Meander River silted up, the city became a malarial swamp and that was another reason it was abandoned.

One of our friends said we came tripping from the ruins like Tippy Hedron in Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ – obviously in search of a phone box to shelter in. In our defence, the mosquitoes were the size of seagulls.

One friend on the trip was thinking of writing a travel book. Caught up in the idea, he had a tendency to pause after each utterance as if waiting for an unseen amanuensis to jot down his thoughts for posterity, which is probably not far from the truth as he was feverishly committing the phrase to memory for future use.

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From Miletus we drove through the alluvial plain to Priene, crossing the mighty Meander, now tamed to the size of the Regent’s Canal. Approaching the site, we saw the remaining columns of the Temple of Hera on the hillside and a ruin-lined road snaking down to the old port, now farmer’s fields.

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Priene is another huge area of tumbled stones, smashed columns and fractured walls sheltering under black cypress and pine. Unchanged since the time of Caesar and Christ, the view across the plain takes your breath away.

The next morning, no doubt due to a sleepless night of trying not to scratch souvenir mosquito bites, we were up at daybreak. Duly covered up like Turkish cotton pickers, we walked down to the lake to watch the full moon turn the waters silver, while the light bringer, Lucifer, the morning star, ushered a dawn of lemon, pistachio and rose – the flavours of Turkish Delight.

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©images Paul Andruss Ionia 2017

About Paul Andruss in his own words…..

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: http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/

Find out more about Paul and connect to him.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

Smorgasbord Weekly Round up.. The last guests at the Christmas party!


round-upWelcome to the last round up of the party week and I am now going to be taking a break until Tuesday.  We are not going away but just enjoying food, fun and old films.. nothing like a little nostalgia to put you in the mood..

I really want to thank all those who have contributed to the Christmas Party for the last month.. I am very grateful and have loved every minute of the humour, stories, food and music that was contributed.. Certainly for me a Christmas to remember.

When I am back on Tuesday I will be spending the week sharing the highlights from the year with you. The top posts, the most popular humour, the most watched videos and a reminder of the guests who have featured.

The following week I will be starting my usual New Year’s Gentle Detox that I follow for six weeks until my birthday and I will be posting the easy to follow programme that gets your body back in sync after the excesses of Christmas.

I will also be sharing the new author and blog promotions for 2017 as well as new books that have been released in the New Year.

My special thanks as always to William Price King who has been a contributor to the blog for over two years and who continues to bring wonderful music into our lives each week. In the New Year we will begin a new series in the Classical Music theme with the wonderful Kiri te Kanawa.

I am also delighted to welcome Paul Andruss to the blog and he will be contributing one of his brilliant articles every fourth Thursday.

If you would be interested in a regular gig on the blog then tune in the first week in January.

One with the party… thanks again.. you are all stars for contributing, commenting and sharing. A very Happy Christmas … Sally

 

William Price King

christmas

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/classical-music-with-william-price-king-andrea-bocelli-up-to-date/

Smorgasbord Christmas Reading

bl-kindle

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/smorgasbord-christmas-reading-the-broken-life-book-3-by-jaye-marie/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Christmas update

51mlkwvudclthe-spirit-well-coverbook-debby-p-s-i-forgive-you1

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-christmas-update-tina-frisco-charles-yallowitz-and-d-g-kaye/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-christmas-update-susan-m-toy-marcia-meara-and-toni-pike/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-christmas-update-olga-nunez-miret-and-mary-smith/

Christmas Party Guests

Paul Andruss Mac Coolhttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/smorgasbord-christmas-party-stevie-smith-still-waving-after-all-these-years-by-paul-andruss/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/smorgasbord-christmas-party-guest-phillip-t-stephens-with-a-christmas-carol-the-sequel/

Christmas Party Food

christmas-pudding

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/smorgasbord-christmas-party-food-christmas-pudding-and-stollen/

cat

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/smorgasbord-christmas-party-food-and-drink-dinner-for-the-fur-family/

Christmas Party Music

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/smorgasbord-christmas-party-playlist-my-pick-from-the-last-40-years/

Personal Stuff

pigeons-on-roof-dscn0441

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/smorgasbord-christmas-party-the-missing-messengers-by-sally-cronin/

book-coverhttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/smorgasbord-christmas-party-short-story-grace-by-sally-cronin-and-a-christmas-gift/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/happy-christmas-and-new-year/

Humour

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/smorgasbord-christmas-party-afternoon-video-opening-the-presents/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/smorgasbord-christmas-party-just-for-canadians-part-one/

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/smorgasbord-christmas-party-just-for-canadians-part-two/

That is all from me until Tuesday.. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.. thanks for dropping in .  Sally.

Smorgasbord Christmas Party – Stevie Smith – Still Waving (after all these years) by Paul Andruss


Smorgasbord Christmas Party

I am delighted to say that my guest today, Paul Andruss is going to be a regular contributor to the blog in the coming year.. Paul not only writes fiction (details of his books are in his bio), but also writes articles on a wide range of topics. I am sure that you will enjoy his piece today on the life and work of poet Stevie Smith.

Please give him a warm welcome.

Still Waving (after all these years) by Paul Andruss

stevie smith

I am a camera with its shutter open.’

So reads the opening line of Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel ‘Goodbye to Berlin’. If Isherwood thought he was detached, he was wrong. Memories are not concrete like photographs. If memories are anything, they are pixels subject to change, reorganisation and deletion in the Photoshop of the mind. Like blind men with an elephant we grasp a tail, a trunk, a leg, and believe we see the whole.

As readers we imagine the author’s work reflects the life. While some writers are biographical, Isherwood certainly was, many are not. Gore Vidal complained even his fellow literati believed his scandalous novel ‘The City and the Pillar’ was based on himself. He was identified with the protagonist so strongly, it almost destroyed his career. ‘I made him up, out of my head!’ Vidal protested. No one believed him.

As writers we know our work is imagination. Even autobiography is an act of selective re-creation. If our lives were as exciting as our words, we would all be Earnest Hemmingway. (I’ll never know how that man found the time to drink so much, never mind write so much).

Isherwood’s partly fictionalised memoir of Nazi Berlin gave rise to the phrase ‘Life is a cabaret’. Stevie Smith invented ‘A good time was had by all’ when she used it as the title of her first verse collection. In relation to both lives, neither seems particularly apposite.

Born Florence Margaret (1902 – 1971), she was nicknamed Stevie after a friend remarked she looked like a popular jockey. After her father abandoned them she moved to North London, at the age of 3, with her mother and older sister. Aunt Madge joined the family when Stevie’s mother fell ill. After she died, Madge reared the girls as if they were her own – spoiling them rotten.

Stevie lived the rest of her life with her aunt, spending her own later years caring for the ailing woman she affectionately referred to as the Lion Aunt, in tribute to her courage for the life she chose; the sacrifices she made. Stevie only lived three years after her beloved aunt passed away, dying of a brain tumour at the age of 69.

It is safe to say Stevie was an all-round paradox. Intensely nervous, sensitive and shy, she was a woman without fear. In her poem ‘A House of Mercy’, she writes of her upbringing:

It was a house of female habitation,
Two ladies fair inhabited the house,
And they were brave.
For although Fear knocked loud…
…They did not let him in.

Although she had at least one beau, she never married. She couldn’t suffer fools and later confessed to having no time for men. Famously adding she had no time for Hitler either. Perhaps her determined spinsterhood had a lot to do with the social constraints marriage forced on a respectable woman in those days. Perhaps it was the thought of losing a husband to the war. Or maybe she felt she could not abandon her aunt as her father had her mother. But now I’m speculating, whereas I should be like a camera, confined to impression, ignoring imagination. Click. Click. No interpretation.

Stevie worked her whole life as a publisher’s personal secretary, retreating each night to the seclusion offered by the net curtain draped world of suburbia. Yet she corresponded and socialised widely with fellow artists and writers. They variously described her as naive and selfish in some ways, and formidably intelligent in others. A spoiled child while, at the same time, a resolutely autonomous woman.

Her work contains all the contradictions of her personality. She wrote 3 obscure novels, one she considered an absolute failure, and some books of a poetry that was at once comic and serious. An excellent word-smith, she effortless wrapped the most unsettling observations in simple jokey verses resembling nursery rhymes, to which she often added quirky line drawings.

In comparison, her contemporaries Isherwood and Vidal had far more adventurous lives. They were not only men but also from privileged backgrounds. Stevie was bourgeois, with all the ticks and winces of her class – which she never ceased to mock, while at the same time bowing to their restrictions. In religion she variously described herself as ‘an Anglican agnostic’ or a ‘lapsed atheist’ acknowledging…

‘There is a God in whom I do not believe
Yet to this God my love stretches.’

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In 1957 she published a poetry collection titled Not Waving but Drowning. It included her famous poem of the same name: observers seeing a swimming man mistakenly believe he is waving to them…

‘Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.’

Fame came late to Stevie. It was not until the early 1960s that she established a reputation as a bona fide British eccentric after making a number of broadcasts for the BBC. Fellow poet Sylvia Plath wrote to her in 1962 confessing to be‘a desperate Smith-addict’ and expressing an interest in meeting. They never did meet. Soon after writing Plath committed suicide.

Sylvia is easier than Stevie. Knowing the destination we examine her work for the chosen path, taking forensic snapshots along the way. As if her end was inevitable. Stevie leaves no trail of breadcrumbs. No clues, just speculation about what went on inside her head. Unless you really believe writers only tell the truth. Her life might be an open book, but it is not an easy read.

She stated the certainty of death was the reason suicide never appealed during her lifelong bouts of depression. She was fascinated by death, who she described as ‘the only god who must come when called’. It started at the age of 7 when she was confined to a sanatorium with a type of tuberculosis. When informed her mother’s end was so swift she ‘died in minute’, the 16 year old Stevie coolly asked, ‘How long is a minute?

Stevie claimed her life was one of quiet desperation. For this reason people often take ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ as significant. Yet unlike the man in the poem, Stevie never swam too far out. Her mind may have plumbed the dangerous currents of deep emotion, but life was lived in the shallows, even if they seem murky rather than sunlit.

If the poem is at all emblematic, perhaps it is of Stevie living her life waving not drowning. Something we should remember when life treats us harsh, as life invariable does. For even when things go well, somehow we manage to feel vaguely dissatisfied by it all.

At such times, we should count our blessings and celebrate our dullness and moments of brilliance, our contrariness and conformity; our innocence and guilty pleasures; the secret smiles (regardless if they were shared or solitary); the helpless laughter when tears ran down our faces and the tears that came when we weren’t laughing; the times we exceeded expectation and the times we failed to rise to the occasion; the fact that some people love us while others don’t; our disappointments and triumphs – no matter how small; our friends, and all the lion aunts.

And think, ‘You know what Stevie. I’m still waving too. Not drowning, but waving!

*******

Stevie is a 1978 biographical film of the poet’s (un)remarkable life. If the redoubtable Glenda Jackson playing Stevie Smith isn’t appeal enough, then I can only assume you are not reading this. So, if you feel stuffed to the gills with Christmas turkeys and want to clean house for the New Year then put your soul through a wash and spin here:

Image courtesy of http://therumpus.net/2016/02/all-the-poems-by-stevie-smith/

BUY all of Stevie Smith’s Poetry: https://www.amazon.com/Stevie-Smith/e/B000APHOPY

fairies

About Paul Andruss in his own words…..

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.

Paul Andruss 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: http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/

Find out more about Paul and connect to him.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks

My thanks to Paul for a fascinating look at the life and work of this enigmatic poet Stevie Smith.  If you missed Paul’s Christmas story earlier in December here is the link.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/smorgasbord-christmas-party-guest-paul-andruss-with-a-christmas-tale-of-woe/

Your feedback is treasured.. do please leave a comment and always delighted if you add a link to your own blog so that people can head over and meet you in person. Thanks Sally