Smorgasbord Weekly Round up – Let’s walk a marathon, Shirley Bassey, Marc Bolan and magical writers


Welcome to the weekly round up and the links to the Smorgasbord posts you might have missed.

This week David has been swinging through the trees in the garden. Not doing a ‘Tarzan’ but wearing a hard hat and safety harness.  He is removing some old and dead trees and also some that have grown too tall and are causing severe cracks in the garden wall.  If you have read his father’s memoir Tales from the Garden earlier today you will know that Geoff was part of a logging team in his late teens and the skills that he learnt he passed on to David. He had plenty of practice in our home in Spain which had a lot of trees that needed regular attention and having heard the prices for removing a tree by a Tree Surgeon we are saving enough for a holiday later in the year.

We still have some palms and evergreens along with some cherry trees in full bloom but the jungle we inherited is now cut back revealing a lovely space. I have not been quite so energetic but have begun planting large pots at the front of the house to add some colour.

On the energy side, I gave myself a damn good talking to a few weeks ago because I was sitting too much and the weight was increasing as a consequence. There have been quite a few dry days but the weather is still unpredictable and so I now have replaced my old treadmill left behind in Spain with a new and more efficient model. I am back in my daily routine and have just completed my first marathon – 26 miles in 10 hours spread over 14 days.  I had to ease my dodgy knee into a regular exercise regimen again and now on my second marathon I have picked up the pace.

I have done several 5k and 10k charity walks over the years and would normally walk at least 40 minutes a day plus an hour of swimming.  I am 64 and have no intention to getting to 65 with my ass out of my trousers.. so I am pleased to be back in the zone. I have just started my next marathon challenge today with an increased distance in less time.

On Friday I introduced a fitness challenge for anyone to join me in walking a number of marathons over the next few months, gradually increasing the speed in the process. The aim is not just to fit into a smaller size and look better but to improve the internal health of our internal organs such as the heart.

We only see the external love handles and fatty deposits but it is the fat around the heart that is the most dangerous. Here is that post and tomorrow at midnight I have the second in the series with the preparation and planning to begin the challenge.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/lets-walk-a-marathon-the-internal-fitness-programme-coming-next-week/

Thank you to my contributors William Price King and Paul Andruss for their wonderful work that brings music and legends to the blogs. Both are irreplaceable.

William Price King Meets some Legends. – Dame Shirley Bassey

Part two of the story and music of one of the music legends of the 20th century who still gives outstanding performances at 80 years old.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/william-price-king-meets-some-legends-dame-shirley-bassey-part-two/

Writer in Residence – Paul Andruss – Bolan’s Millions

Finn Mac Cool

This week Paul looks behind the stories in the press about the flamboyant and talented Marc Bolan who was tragically killed in a car accident. Not only did he leave us music but also left millions in a trust fund. This was intended to protect his assets for his family but instead they had to fight for any share at all whilst those who administer the fund reap the benefits.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/writer-in-residence-bolans-millions-by-paul-andruss/

Serialisation of my father-in-law’s memoir – The Colour of Life

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/the-colour-of-life-the-snipe-shoot-1939-by-geoff-cronin/  The Snipe Shoot

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/the-colour-of-life-work-on-a-timber-gang-1942-by-geoff-cronin/ Work on the Timber Gang

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Promotions.

Book Reading and Interviews.

Two lovely writers this week. Firstly the feisty and magical author Ailsa Abraham on Wednesday and then poet and humourist Judy E. Martin yesterday.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-reading-and-interview-with-ailsa-abraham/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-poetry-reading-and-interview-judy-e-martin/

New on the Shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-pamela-d-beverly-the-love-labyrinth/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-doll-god-by-luanne-castle/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-tales-of-ejoma-dual-realms-book-one-by-paige-addams/

Cafe and Bookstore Update

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-amy-m-reade-s-c-richmond-and-regina-puckett/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-toni-pike-jaye-marie-and-christy-birmingham/

Air Your Reviews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/smorgasbord-book-promotion-air-your-reviews-john-w-howell-and-marcia-meara/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/smorgasbord-book-promotion-air-your-reviews-toni-pike-and-lorinda-j-taylor/

Book Marketing – Reviews

For any new books I will be putting a page at the end of the text inviting readers to review the book. I have also included some elements that I would like them to cover in their review to give me a better understanding of how they viewed the plot, characters, ending as well as the look and readability. The response to the post was terrific and I am delighted that so many writers will also include a more detailed request to review. We have to remember that whilst consider writing to be a gift and something to be embraced… some readers are intimidated about voicing their opinions.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/how-can-we-encourage-more-readers-to-leave-reviews-for-our-books/

A review for Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story by Brigid Gallagher

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/when-sally-met-sam/

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-17th-april-2017-bloggersbash-nominations-beyond-the-flow-meg-dowell-and-kim-gosselin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-19th-april-2017-hugh-roberts-darlene-foster-sue-vincent-robbie-cheadle-c-s-boyack-jaye-marie/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-20th-april-2017-kim-blades-anne-stormont-with-jan-ruth-reflections-books-and-lisas-everyday-life/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-21st-april-2017-neysa-sanghavi-visits-rawanda-damon-ashworth-psychology-and-victory-mums/

Weekly Image and words.

Birds of Paradise

Vibrant red against the green

Suckle the nectar

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/weekly-image-and-thoughts-birds-of-paradise/

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Shopping by Sally Cronin

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/smorgasbord-short-stories-shopping-by-sally-cronin/

Time for some Laffs and Afternoon Videos.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/time-for-some-laffs-under-the-influence-with-a-few-cats-thrown-in/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/afternoon-video-no-words-needed/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/afternoon-videos-me-walking-the-dog-and-how-we-do-the-ice-bucket-challenge/

Smorgasbord Health

Smorgasbord Health 2017

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/smorgasbord-health-2017-nobel-prize-winning-research-into-sugar-and-how-it-creates-cancer-discarded/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/smorgasbord-health-2017-latest-research-vitamin-c-and-cancer/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/smorgasbord-health-2017-the-digestive-tract-candida-and-the-link-to-milk-allergy-lactose-intolerance-and-leaky-gut/

Thank you for your contribution to the blog by dropping in and liking, sharing and commenting on the posts. Havea  great week ahead.. and if I can do anything to help you promote your work in anyway let me know.  Here are some options.

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

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore/

Thank you again for your contributions to the blog this week by dropping in, liking, commenting and sharing.. It is much appreciated. If I can help promote your work in any way please let me know. Thanks Sally

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

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore/

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Shopping ….. by Sally Cronin


Shopping…. by Sally Cronin

‘Come on let’s whip into that lane over there.’

‘No, I am fine here, look the line is moving already.’

‘Are you kidding me?’ He glared at her in frustration. ‘We are going to be here till Christmas at this rate and the game starts in twenty minutes.’

She shrugged her shoulders. ‘It’s only football for goodness sake, just be patient.’

‘Patient, patient!’ Hands in pockets he made a face.

‘I came shopping with you didn’t I? He put a hand on her shoulder.

‘Come on Penny, please we only have three items and that line is much shorter.’

She shrugged his hand off and took a deep breath.

‘She doesn’t like me.’

‘Who doesn’t like you?’

‘The woman in that checkout.’

‘Excuse me!’ He looked at her in disbelief. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘I have been through that checkout several times when I was in a hurry and each time she has made rude comments.’

‘Love, you’re losing it babe, big time.’ She glared at him.

‘Okay last time I went through that checkout with a pizza and ice-cream, she said that she could see why I was fat.’

‘You must have imagined it doll.’ Laughingly he grabbed her waist fondly. ‘I love every inch of you and you are not fat just cuddly.’

‘Alright, I’ll prove it to you.’ She turned and stomped off to the now empty check-out and waved the first item, which happened to be a packet of fish fingers, under the scanner.

A slightly metallic female voice spat out of the speaker. ‘Oh my, still picking the fat options I see.’

Penny turned to her husband and gave him a glare…. ‘Well, do you believe me now?’

‘It must be a wind up… Candid Camera or one of those stupid programmes. Put another item through.’

Penny put the two other items under the scanner one by one. The voice smugly pronounced. ‘That will be four pounds and eleven pence and half a stone madam.’

Fuming Penny put her debit card into the reader and completed the transaction. She threw the offending items into her bag for life.

‘Okay Penny let me have a go.’ Her husband picked up some gum from the stand next to the checkout and passed it under the scanner.

‘Hello handsome,’ spoke a silky sexy voice. ‘What are you doing for the rest of my life?’

 

©sallycronin 2016

Thank you for dropping by and wave to me next time you go through the automatic checkout because I am likely to be in a queue!  Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Round Up – Dame Shirley Bassey, Easter Treats, Music Memories


Welcome to the round up and a Happy Easter Sunday. Easter for me holds a special significance as my father died on Good Friday 21 years ago. Although the date moves every year it is Good Friday when I think of him although not in religious terms as he was not a man who went to church. He had a very strict religious childhood but I believe he saw too much during the war to sustain his faith. For some people experiences that bring you close to death will turn towards God for others it can erode their beliefs.

He might have been a tad old fashioned as far as this wild child of the 1960s was concerned, but he was honest, fair, hard-working, took care of his family, tried to keep us on the straight and narrow (tough one that), told slightly smutty jokes and loved Morecombe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, Shirley Bassey, steamed treacle puddings, experimenting in the kitchen.

It is hard to believe that he has been gone 21 years and would now be 101. Of course it is not only at Easter that I think of him. He was a pudding man and everytime we are out for a meal and have a particularly good dessert I will think to myself ‘Eric would have liked this one.’  I hope that wherever he is that they serve good puds.

Anyway enough of the reminisces – time to get on with this week’s posts and as always my thanks to everyone who has contributed in any way. My blog is a collaborative effort and liking, sharing and commenting is a huge part of that. Thank you.

William Price King Meets Dame Shirley Bassey

The start of the new series and this time a powerhouse of a voice and a woman who significant challenges to overcome to become the worldwide star she is today. Dame Shirley Bassey has elegantly wowed generations of fans and in this first post William Price King explores her early years.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/william-price-king-meets-some-legends-dame-shirley-bassey-the-early-years/

The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin

Two more chapters from my father-in-law’s memoir set in Waterford Ireland from the 1930s through to the 1940s.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/the-colour-of-life-the-shop-part-one-1938-by-geoff-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/the-colour-of-life-the-shop-part-two-1938-by-geoff-cronin/

Guest Post Robbie Cheadle – recipe for Lemon Flavoured Cake and Homemade Lemon Curd.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/guest-post-oranges-and-lemons-recipe-lemon-flavoured-cake-and-homemade-lemon-curd-by-robbie-cheadle/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/home-improvements-ireland-all-about-replacement-windows-guest-post-shane-kavanagh/

Short Stories for Easter.

A story from Geoff Cronin’s second book The Black Bitch and Other Stories which I will be serialising after The Colour of Life.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/the-black-bitch-and-other-stories-the-lost-sheep-geoff-cronin/

And one from me…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/smorgasbord-short-stories-the-easter-eggs-by-sally-cronin/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Reading and Interview

My first guest this week for the book reading was Paul Andruss our very own Writer in Residence.

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andrusshttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-book-reading-and-interview-paul-andruss/

And the second guest for yesterday’s post was the lovely D.G. Kaye (Debby Gies) non-fiction and memoir author.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-book-reading-and-interview-d-g-kaye/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore New on the Shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-one-of-the-few-by-jason-b-ladd/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Author Update

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-update-annabelle-franklin-terri-webster-schrandt-and-william-savage/

Book Promotion – Air Your Reviews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/smorgasbord-book-promotion-air-your-reviews-brigid-p-gallagher-jacquie-biggar-robbie-and-michael-cheadle/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/smorgasbord-book-promotion-air-your-reviews-dan-alatorre-and-carol-balawyder/

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

A selection of posts from exceptional bloggers..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-10th-april-2017-shallow-reflections-effrosyni-moschoudi-marlena-smith-and-the-travel-blog/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-11th-april-2017-linda-bethea-debby-gies-claire-huston-and-nicholas-rossis/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-12th-april-2017-paul-andruss-anne-r-allen-david-prosser-and-carol-taylor/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-13th-april-2017-the-story-reading-ape-jean-cogdell-d-g-kaye-opinionated-man-and-rowena-of-beyond-the-flow/

Five Day Music Challenge – Music that means something.

My thanks to Sue Vincent for nominating me for this challenge.. I certainly had a lot of fun and the tracks brought back some great memories..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/music-that-means-something-challenge-day-1-younger-than-springtime-south-pacific/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/music-that-means-something-challenge-day-2-brown-sugar-the-rolling-stones/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/music-that-means-something-challenge-day-3-a-woman-in-love-barbra-streisand/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/music-that-means-something-challenge-day-5-walking-on-sunshine-katrina-and-the-waves/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/music-that-means-something-challenge-day-5-happy-pharrell-williams/

Health

Smorgasbord Health 2017

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-digestive-system-candida-albicans-feeding-the-body-starving-the-fungus-our-daily-bread/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-digestive-system-candida-albicans-mushrooms-and-cheese/

Humour

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/the-afternoon-video-you-gotta-love-a-golden-retriever/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/time-for-some-laffs-driving-grandmothers-mechanical-cows-and-inflight-service/

Weekly Image and Thoughts

Harbingers of Spring

Blossoms cluster for safety

From angry March winds.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/weekly-image-and-thoughts-blossoms/

Hope you are having an amazing Easter.. Thanks for taking the time to pop in… Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Easter Eggs by Sally Cronin


The Easter Eggs by Sally Cronin

Lily dusted off her hands. They had been covered in soil from planting the three little primulas that she and her mother had picked up at the nursery today. Her mother always let Lily pick the colours and this year the purple petals with their golden centres danced in the soft evening breeze. She picked up her small watering can and gently moistened around the base of the plants like her mum had shown her.

“There you go Daddy, I promise to look after them all summer, watering them every day and picking off the dead flowers to let others grow like mum showed me.”

It was Easter and tomorrow, Lily and her little brother Michael would race around the house looking for the small cream eggs that her mother had bought at the supermarket yesterday. Both of them were very excited and it was really the first year that her brother understood what the egg hunt was all about. Mum said that three each was more than enough especially as they were going to the dentist soon for a check-up.

However, the real prize was the two large chocolate eggs that were hidden in very special places. In her father’s wardrobe perhaps, or his study where he would read them a story before they went up to bed, or even the garden shed that her mum laughingly called his man cave.

The next day Lily and Michael got up early and began searching the house. It took them an hour to find the six small creamy eggs and by the time they had rushed into the kitchen to show off their finds, two of them had already been eaten. Their mother looked at the smeared evidence of their successful hunt around their mouths and took the remainder off them for later.

“You need to eat your breakfast and then you can find the other eggs, I am going to hide them now so no peeking”.

The children hurriedly ate their bowls of cereal and drank their juice eager to get on with the hunt. After about ten minutes their mother returned to the kitchen and clapped her hands.

“Okay, let’s see how quickly you can find the big prizes”.

Lily took their dishes to the sink and the two children ran off hand in hand heading for their father’s study to continue the search.

They found one egg after about five minutes. It was beneath the big oak desk in a waste basket hidden by some crumpled paper. There was a card attached to the egg with ‘Michael’ written in big letters and he clasped the colourful box in his small hands as they raced from one room to the other. Finally they gave up on the house and headed out to the garden shed. There hidden under a cloth in a large plant pot sat a beautiful egg nestled in its packaging with a note perched beside it.

“The flowers are beautiful Lily and your daddy’s favourite colours”

From the kitchen window their mother saw her nine year old daughter lead her brother up the path to the house. Michael was clasping his egg to his chest and beaming from ear to ear. Lily looked up as they entered the kitchen and smiled gently at her mother as a look of understanding passed between them.

That night Lily placed the egg on her bedside cabinet next to the photograph of her daddy in his army uniform surrounded by other men in his team. He was smiling and looked happy. It was the last picture taken of him two years ago and Lily stared at it for a long time before switching off her light.

Tomorrow the Easter egg would join the other one on the shelf in her wardrobe and would never be eaten.

©Sallycronin 2015

Thanks for dropping by and hope you have enjoyed my recycled short story – have a wonderful Easter. Sally

The Black Bitch and Other Stories – The Lost Sheep – Geoff Cronin


Easter is a religious festival and in Geoffrey Cronin’s second book The Black Bitch And Other Stories he has one or two tales that fit the bill. For those who do not celebrate Easter, this story also reminds us that we have to sometimes reach out a hand to accept kindness from a stranger.

The Lost Sheep, apart from anything reminds us that however dreadful we feel our life is, we can still move forward. And, as I have always believed, there are Guardian Angels. First posted Easter 2015.

The Lost Sheep by Geoff Cronin

The clock in the railway station said five minutes to nine. The express would be thundering through at nine o’clock and would be followed by the intercity at ten past.

The ticket she now fingered in her pocket would take her to her home town on the intercity, but that was not her intention.

The little voice in her head was saying, “there’s still time, five minutes – no, four minutes now – in which to change your mind.”

But the two large gins which she had earlier in the railway bar helped to silence that damnable little voice.

Her steps were a little unsteady now and she was not really surprised when she bumped into a man who was one of the few people on the platform and she forced a smile as she apologised to him.

He smiled at her and said it was OK and as she faced him she noticed his eyes – they were the deepest blue she’d ever seen. He was a soldier and, though she meant to walk on, she found herself in conversation with him.

“Are you waiting for the Intercity?” he asked.

“Yes,” she lied.

“So am I,” he said as he walked away down the platform.

The little voice was back again saying, “you still have two minutes left, think about it.”

She silenced it and stepped to the edge of the platform ready to fall in front of the express as it came by at sixty. She could hear it now as it entered the station and she whispered, “God forgive me,” as she leaned forward.

At the last moment a strong hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her backwards and she found herself in the arms of the soldier who said, “you’re safe now miss, you had a narrow escape there.”

Before she knew it, the Intercity pulled in to the station and she found herself being helped into a carriage by the soldier who sat her down and lit a cigarette for her, which she gratefully accepted.

The little voice in her head was gone now and she sat there, silent, with the soldier looking at her with those eyes – deep blue they were and they seemed to be reaching into her mind.

Well, maybe it was the gin and tonic, again, maybe it was something else but she began to feel a kind of warmth and peace creeping over her and a need to explain, to talk and to unburden her very soul became compelling. And, after all, the soldier was a total stranger – she would never see him again and it would be like talking to the barman or the taxi driver she told herself.

As she started to talk the soldier just looked at her and said absolutely nothing.

“I suppose I have to thank you for saving my life,” she ventured. “But I don’t rightly know whether I’m glad or sorry ’cos I’d made up my mind to fall in front of the express and end it all.”

And then it was as if the floodgates of her very soul had opened as her whole sorry story tumbled out and she spoke non-stop.

At an early age she was said to be ‘difficult’ and at fourteen she was a rebel, kicking against any form of authority – school, police, family etc. etc. At fifteen she was said to be ‘wild’ and knocking around with a bad crowd and by the time she was sixteen she had been twice in trouble for shop lifting and drinking.

Her parents and her brother were known to be ‘respectable’ and deeply religious people and this, coupled with the fact that her father was a shopkeeper noted for his integrity, had saved her from the rigours of the law. Then came the evening when she had packed a small bag, emptied the till in her father’s shop and taken the train to the big city and glorious anonymity.

That was ten years ago and in the interim she had sampled the joys of sleeping rough, of squats, of being mugged, of washing dishes for a living, hanging out with drunks, druggies and prostitutes. She ended up being landed in a Salvation Army hostel after being found unconscious in the street, stoned out of her mind on drugs and near starvation. She had ‘hit the bottom’.

The road back to sanity and sobriety was tough beyond belief, involving a stay in hospital and a rehabilitation programme with psychiatric assessment etc. etc. and finally the offer of a menial job and a cheap bed sitter organised by a social worker.

After a while the little voice in her head began to say things like “well where did it all get you?” And, “do you realise that you’re twenty-six years old? and isn’t it time you copped yourself on?”

In time she found herself agreeing with the little voice and a firm decision to better herself was made. So, three jobs later, last Christmas, she phoned her mother just to say ‘hello’ and that she was alright. It was only then she learned of her father’s death and that her brother, John, now married and running the enlarged shop, could do with her help. She was overcome with guilt and remorse and hung up without giving her number. She never rang again.

She had been talking for nearly an hour now, non stop, and as she paused the soldier spoke.

“You know, the thing you have to do now is to forgive yourself and then to go home to your family. It’s Easter week, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I can tell you that your mother will welcome you and forgive you and the past will be washed away as if it never happened.”

He sounded so sure of everything and as the train slid slowly into her home station he put his hand on her shoulder and something strange happened – she knew she was going home.

The train stopped and she stepped out, saying goodbye to the soldier and thanking him for being a good listener. She felt that warmth and peace again and as the train pulled away he waved to her and then she saw, the marks of the nails in his hands.

©The Black Bitch and other Stories by Geoffrey Cronin

You can find the previous posts by Geoff Cronin in The Colour of Life directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Thank you for dropping in.. Happy Easter.. Sally

Smorgasbord Round Up – Irish History 1930s, Marmalade, The Boss and Brilliant Writers


Welcome to the round up and hope that you are enjoying your weekend. As always around here it has been a busy week thank goodness.  Neither of us are good about sitting around doing nothing and that business about idle hands usually means they are reaching for chocolate.

The terrific window guys came around yesterday morning and did a great job in the inside finish you would hardly know they had been here except that we can now see out of the windows without a layer of fog in the middle. Brilliant job and if you live along the East Coast between Waterford and Dublin and need double glazing or a ram proof front door we can highly recommend SK Windows ( http://www.skwindows.ie )  In fact I will be posting a couple of articles on the subject of doors and windows in the next couple of weeks written by the boss Shane Kavanagh. I had no idea about all the different types of windows and doors and which are the best in relation to energy or security.  So wherever you live you might find useful if you are planning on getting some replacements.

We have started back in the garden now we are having a spell of dry weather.. I use the the Royal We… as David does the back-breaking work and I stand around mostly offering my expert opinion!  I do however help at times with the mind-numbing job of chopping up the smaller twigs to go in the garden recycling bin that we have… thank goodness for Status Quo!  This week we are going off to the garden centre to find the fillings for some large planters and that I am looking forward to. I love buying all the ingredients and putting them together in a riot of colour.

During the winter months I was getting very frustrated with the fact that I was unable to do my daily walk four or five days a week. So one of our downstairs room now has a new treadmill. Now there is no excuse. Come rain or shine I can get my walking in and David has fixed up a monitor so I can watch my old movies we have downloaded over the years and I am one happy bunny.  In fact after I have posted this I am off for a little South Pacific which will keep me entertained for the next couple of days. Since I sing along the doors and windows are firmly shut!

As always I must start the week’s round up of posts with a huge thank you to my regular contributors William Price King and Paul Andruss. They are amazing and I know from the comments that you think so too.  I delighted too that so many of you are enjoying my father-in-law’s memoirs each weekend. He would be very chuffed.

On with the posts you might have missed.

First a reminder of the author and blog promotions here on Smorgasbord. Always FREE and they just require some participation from you before, during and after.  I like to build an ongoing relationship with those I promote which is why I established the Cafe and Bookstore last year. Once you are on the shelves you can enjoy regular updates every few weeks. I do check the authors every three to four weeks but it does help me if you let me know if you have an offer, a new release or a great review.

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

William Price King meets Bruce Springsteen

The last in the current series on the life and music of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen and it brings us right up to the present day.  Beginning next week another legend – Shirley Bassey.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/william-price-king-meets-some-legends-bruce-springsteen-up-to-the-present-day/

Writer in Residence Extra – Paul Andruss

Paul  explores the origins of Marmalade and also the myths surrounding that apple that was so tempting!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/writer-in-residence-extra-sea-sick-mary-and-what-men-want-by-paul-andruss/

The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin

More stories from Waterford and Irish history from my father-in-law’s memoir. This week a frugal widow and devastating strikes and embargoes that ruin a thriving business.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/the-colour-of-life-the-price-of-a-habit-1937-by-geoff-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/the-colour-of-life-the-shop-part-one-1938-by-geoff-cronin/

Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Reading and Interview

Adele Marie Park talks about her childhood and the magic of Selkies along with her debut novel Wisp.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-reading-and-interview-with-adele-marie-park/

D. Wallace Peach on her inspirations and her latest series of books all released within a few weeks of each other The Rose Shield

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-reading-and-interview-fantasy-author-d-wallace-peach/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-poetry-the-hearts-journey-home-by-natalie-ducey/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-update-shehanne-moore-john-nicholl-and-annette-rochelle-aben/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-d-wallace-peach-alyssa-drake-and-stevie-turner/

Smorgasbord Book Promotion – Air your Reviews

This promotion is open to all authors even if not in the bookstore and also to bloggers who review books and would like some additional exposure.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/smorgasbord-book-promotion-air-your-reviews-richard-ankers-linda-bethea-and-sarah-brentyn/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/smorgasbord-book-promotion-air-your-reviews-colleen-chesebro-m-c-v-egan-and-d-g-kaye/

Smorgasbord Daily Blogger

These are blog posts that I have read and enjoyed this week. Just a small selection as there is neither the time nor the space to feature every talented writer I visit. Please help me out by letting me have the link to your latest post.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-april-3rd-2017-john-w-howell-teagan-geneviene-suzie-speaks-jay-dee-and-marcia-meara/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-april-4th-2017-marlena-smith-sue-vincent-granny-moon-and-charlotte-kane/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-5th-april-2017-robbie-cheadle-alk3r-madelyn-griffith-haynie-ned-hickson/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-6th-april-2017-sue-coletta-bloggersbash-alexis-rose-and-anne-stormont/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-7th-april-2017-the-tiny-potager-olga-nunez-miret-lucinda-clarke-and-jessica-norrie/

Smorgasbord Health 2017

Smorgasbord Health 2017

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-digestive-system-liver-disease/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/smorgasbord-health-top-to-toe-the-digestive-system-candida-albicans-an-opportunistic-pathogen/

Personal Stuff

Short story – The Flying Officer

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/smorgasbord-short-stories-the-flying-officer-by-sally-cronin/

#Gratitude

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/thank-you-roland-phillips-dds-for-teaching-me-about-work-ethics/

Weekly Image and thoughts

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/smorgasbord-invitation-weekly-image-and-thoughts/

Time for some Laffs

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/the-afternoon-video-if-at-first-you-dont-succeed-jump-and-keep-jumping/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/time-for-some-laffs-benefits-of-getting-older-courtesy-of-mrs-t-tina-frisco/

Thank you very much for your contribution to the week every time you have popped in, liked, commented and shared. It is most gratefully received. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Flying Officer by Sally Cronin

Status


The first time Patrick Walsh saw her, was as he wended his way slowly down the hill between the slow moving trucks on his motorbike. The road was lined with women and old men who were handing out hastily cut sandwiches and mugs of tea to the men in the trucks, whose outstretched hands gratefully received these simple acts of kindness. It was clear from the their faces that they found the peaceful summer skies overhead, and clamour of women’s voices, a much needed reminder of home and safety.

He knew where they had come from, as for the last six days he had been flying over them as they had scrambled into small boats to be ferried out to the larger naval vessels waiting to take them to safety. He and his squadron were a part of the massive air defence operaton. Thousands of soldiers were pouring off the beaches having gathered over the last few days from the surrounding countryside; exposed and being attacked by superior German forces. On the last run today his spitfire had received a direct hit to the cockpit from a persistent Messerschmitt Me 109; luckily missing his head by inches apart from a cut over his eye, earning him a few hours respite. His plane would be ready to fly first thing in the morning. The ground crews at all fighter squadrons were working around the clock to get pilots back in the air until the evacuation from the French coast was complete.

As he carefully maneuvered between the trucks he responded to the shouts from the men above him with a small wave. He knew that their good natured jibes were aimed at his uniform and the wings that it displayed, and that their friendly ribbing was their way of showing gratitude. He decided that it would be easier to wait until the convoy had passed to continue into the village square. He dismounted, standing by the hedge to watch the villagers as they persisted in their need to comfort these dispirited men with tea and offerings of food.

She stood out from the crowd of women. Tall with long red hair tied back with an emerald green ribbon, she was dressed in overalls and wore heavy boots. She had a natural elegance as she darted between an older woman, holding a tea tray piled with jam sandwiches, and the trucks. Despite the men’s exhaustion, eager hands grasped the food, winking and flirting with the prettiest thing they had seen for a long while.

Patrick leaned back against the saddle of his bike and let himself enjoy this brief moment of humanity that was so rare today. He had been flying since the first weeks of the war and his squadron had suffered huge losses; particularly in the last few weeks as they had provided air cover for the retreating British forces. They had been warned that far worse was to come as the enemy amassed both fighters and bombers for an all-out offensive on the country. Having already lost many friends, Patrick knew that it was only a matter of time before he became a statistic.

Some of his fellow pilots and aircrew decided that they would live as hard as they fought. There were plenty of pretty girls around the station that were delighted to dance the night away and bring some laughter and sometimes love into the young men’s lives. He had seen the results of these whirlwind romances at the Saturday night dance in the village hall. As the airmen arrived in an ever changing group of young men, expectant faces would be watching the door and it was not unusual to see a girl being led away in tears by her friends.

Patrick loved to dance but gently refused the invitations to take to the floor and over the last few months he had become regarded as something of a misery. His friends gave up on their attempts to persuade him that he should live for the moment, and with a wry smile he listened to the chat up lines that were guaranteed to pull the heartstrings of a pretty girl.

But now as he watched the red head flying back and forth and smiling up at the men in the trucks, he felt an overwhelming urge to hold her in his arms and waltz around a dance floor. He shook his head and reminded himself that it would only lead to heartbreak for her, and he couldn’t bear the thought of those beautiful green eyes filling with tears.

An hour later the last truck in the convoy disappeared through the village square and out of sight. There would be more coming through from the coast, and Patrick watched as the crowd of villagers gathered up their cups and trays and disappeared back into their homes. They would prepare more from their meagre rations for the next wave of returning soldiers and be waiting for them by the roadside. He remained by the hedge until the red headed girl had linked arms with her mother and entered her house before riding down to the square.

‘Patrick, are you awake my friend?’ The voice of his Polish friend Jakub intruded into his daydream about dancing with his stunning red head.

‘Just about, do you want to go to the Black Swan for a beer? He sat up and rested his head in his hands and tried to bring his mind back to reality.

He looked around the Nissen hut that was their home, taking in the four empty cots that waited for the new arrivals. They would be mostly teenagers with only a few hours flying solo, and none of them in combat. He was only twenty-four, but he felt like an old man compared to the fresh faced and eager boys that would come through that door tomorrow.

It was now August and the skies were filled with formations of enemy bombers most nights. His plane was grounded again having the undercarriage repaired after a problem on his last landing. His mechanic said he had the ‘luck of the Irish’. Patrick was well aware that he was now one of only a handful of pilots remaining from the original group a year ago; he knew that his luck was bound to run out sooner or later. There was just one thing that he needed tonight, and that was the sight of Red, and she would be helping out her dad behind the bar at the Black Swan.

Two hours later he and Jakub sat quietly at a corner table with their glasses of beer. One beer was the limit as both of them would be back in the skies tomorrow; a cockpit was no place for lack of concentration. Jakub was married and expecting his first child and was happy to sit quietly in the warm and welcoming atmosphere thinking about his next leave in a week’s time. Patrick however spent his time watching Red as she served customers and laughed with the regulars. That laugh was in his head and was added to all the other pieces of her that he carried with him as he flew missions. The thought of those green eyes helped dispel the voice of the other constant companion that was by his side each time he buckled himself into the cockpit. Her presence in his heart and mind had helped him control his fear; bringing the realisation that he was in love for the first time in his life.

Over the weeks since that first day on the hill, there had been moments in the pub, when he would catch her eye and they would both smile then look away. By sitting at the bar when he popped in alone, he had gathered more information about her. She wasn’t called Red of course, but Georgina and Georgie to her friends. She didn’t seem to have a boyfriend amongst the regulars who frequented the pub, and one day he overheard that she had been engaged to a soldier who had been killed within weeks of the war starting.

He would watch as she gently refused all attempts by eager young warriors to take her on a date, realising that her heart had already been broken. This reinforced his resolve not to give in to the growing need to tell Georgie of his feelings; convinced it would only bring her further sorrow.

Through the rest of the summer months missions intensified, with both daylight and night bombing raids on the docks and major cities; almost bringing the country to its knees. In the October the tide began to turn, but not without the loss of thousands of fighter pilots and bomber air crews. It was then that Patrick’s luck ran out as he limped home with a badly damaged plane and shrapnel injuries in his chest and arm.

Patrick fought to stay conscious as the plane shuddered and bucked as he flew using his one good hand. Blood from a head wound almost blinded him, but as he saw the runway rushing up to meet him, he managed to bring the nose around and head for the grass to the side. The last thing that he thought about as the world went black was Georgie’s face and laugh.

A month later Patrick got one of the pilots to drop him off at the Black Swan and he walked into the early evening quiet of the bar. He had just received his new orders on his return from the hospital. From Monday he would be moving into an intelligence role where his experience in combat could be put to use. He was making a good recovery, but the extensive injuries to his arm meant the end of his flying career; now he would be ensuring that he kept others safe in the skies. In one way he felt that he was abandoning those that he regarded as family in their close knit squadron, but he also knew that it offered him the opportunity to fulfil a dream that was equally important.

Georgie was polishing glasses and looked up to greet the new customer with her usual smile but instead she took a deep breath. As he moved closer Patrick could see that there were tears in her glorious green eyes. Georgie stepped out from behind the bar and walked towards him, glancing at his arm in its sling and the scar that was etched into his forehead. She stood in front of him and neither spoke for a moment until he reached out his good arm to take her hand.

‘Is there any chance that you might let me take you to the dance tomorrow night?’

She smiled through her tears. ‘How are you going to be able to dance with only one free arm?’

He pulled her into him and looked down at the lips that he had imagined kissing so many times in the last few months.

‘Don’t worry Red… I’ll manage just fine.’

 

©sallycronin 2017

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you enjoyed the story. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Waterford 1930s, Rock Legends 1990s, Authors 2017


Welcome to the round up from sunny Ireland.. a bit cool but we are grateful for the dry spell as we are having 14 windows and a door replaced this weekend. The last major job on the house itself and then onwards to the jungle outside.

This week I am applying to renew my passport and it seems like only yesterday rather than ten years ago that I went to the embassy in Madrid the previous occasion. Things are very different now as this convenient face to face option to renew your British passport when living abroad has been done away with.  Now you have to download a form, complete and send to the UK with photos and your old passport to renew. Apparently too many passports were being granted and presumably dodgy visas being approved. Since this is worldwide and the passports will be sent back by post and then returned by courier (at an extra charge) I can see just as many holes in this system as the last!

Anyway I went and had my up to date passport photos done yesterday having had my hair coloured and cut and I still look like I should have a number beneath the photo and WANTED above it!  Thankfully it only gets seen two or three times a year by people I will never meet again.

Thank you as always to those who have contributed their work to the blog this week and I know you will enjoy William Price King’s part four of the Bruce Springsteen story and also the latest exclusive post from Paul Andruss on the development of language from our ancient utterings.

Thank you too for all your amazing support and if I can help in anyway to promote your books, blogs, art, photography etc then please let me know..

Here are some of the options available to you.. All free of course but might need your participation during the process.

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

William Price King meets some Legends

Bruce Springsteen’s music took a different direction after he moved to California and he received different reactions from his fans and the critics.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/william-price-king-meets-some-legends-bruce-springsteen-part-four-1990s-to-2006/

Writer in Residence

Thomas the Rhymer

Paul explores the evolvement of language and examines some of the theories of how it spread across the continents.. Nomadic hordes or farmers?

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/writer-in-residence-proto-indo-europeans-by-paul-andruss/

The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin

This week two stories from Waterford in the 1930s about the dramas involved with dealing damp matches and the burden of keeping up with the Jones when it was time to be host to The Station.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/the-colour-of-life-the-financier-and-the-farmers-wife-1936-by-geoff-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/the-colour-of-life-the-station-1936-by-geoff-cronin/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Reading and Interview

The first book reading this week was from retired history teacher and motivational author John Fioravanti.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-reading-and-author-inteview-john-fioravanti/

My second guest was children’s author Darlene Foster who is still answering questions if you would like to leave them in the comments section of the post.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-reading-and-author-interview-darlene-foster/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore New on the Shelves

The promotion for authors who would like to be on the shelves of the bookstore and enjoy regular updates.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-woodlake-images-of-america-by-marsha-ingrao/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-author-c-s-boyack/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Author Update

News from some of the authors in the Cafe and bookstore.  New releases, great reviews and offers.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-update-robbie-and-michael-cheadle-jena-c-henry-and-effrosyni-moschoudi/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-janice-spina-jacquie-biggar-and-jaye-marie/

Smorgasbord Air your Reviews

The new series for authors and book reviewers to share their latest reviews.

Thomas the Rhymer

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/smorgasbord-air-your-reviews-paul-andruss-lori-r-lopez-and-lucinda-blanchard/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/smorgasbord-book-promotion-air-your-reviews-shehanne-moore-and-jan-sikes/

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

A small selection of blog posts that I have read and enjoyed this week.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-27th-march-2017-d-g-kaye-sacha-black-and-abba-darlene-foster-and-sue-vincent-with-lisa-burton/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-28th-march-2017-dan-alatorre-all-doggie-judith-barrow-and-jennie-fitzkee/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-29th-march-2017-nicholas-rossis-the-story-reading-ape-patricia-salamone-and-c-s-boyack/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-30th-march-2017-dutch-rogue-cove-wayward-wheeler-janice-spina-and-john-w-howell/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-31st-march-2017-d-g-kaye-paul-andruss-hugh-roberts-and-jessica-norrie/

Health

Smorgasbord Health 2017

We work our way through the digestive system looking at some of the organs along the route from the mouth to the end…..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-digestive-system-listen-to-your-guts/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-digestive-system-the-liver/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/smorgasbord-health-a-z-of-common-conditions-dehydration-at-75-water-our-bodies-do-need-a-top-up-from-time-to-time/

Personal Stuff

Inspiring people who have given me the encouragement to do better. And this week my drama teacher at college who let me play a Spanish floosy!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/thank-you-betty-lavington-from-sally-aged-seventeen-a-drama-queen/

Short Story – The Surprise

Trouble in paradise when a person assumes that they can do no wrong.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/time-for-some-laffs-blondes-have-more-fun-i-know-from-experience/

Humour

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/time-for-some-laffs-blondes-have-more-fun-i-know-from-experience/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/afternoon-video-dogs-playing-blue-grass/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/the-afternoon-video-thank-goodness-its-friday-anyone-for-poker/

Thank you for dropping in and all your support this week. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Story – The Surprise by Sally Cronin


This short story began life as flash fiction for a challenge. As I was restricted to a certain number of words I decided to expand on the story and share with you.

The Surprise- by Sally Cronin

Lawrence Matthews was a good looking man. Tall, with jet black hair, he could charm the birds out of the trees… or out of a nightclub and into the back of his car which was as flash as he was. The life and soul of any party, he would splash the cash and whilst the fairer sex adored him, males clustered around him on the off chance some of his luck with the girls might rub off.

He had fallen into the estate agency business through sheer luck when he left school. His best friend’s father owned several offices in the surrounding county and he offered Lawrence the opportunity to join along with his son as a trainee. His friend soon discovered that he was unable to come out from under his friend’s shadow, leaving to join the army, but Lawrence was born for the job. He worked his way up to branch manager in an exclusive area by his mid-twenties, and as a salesman he excelled. Sometimes his unsuspecting clients would wonder why they ended up with the house they did. Good old Lawrence always popped round and reinforced all the positives about the property they might have overlooked when the back wall of the house subsided.

Lawrence rarely took any of his expanding group of acquaintances home to the modest terrace house where he was brought up. To be honest, his parents, who were quite shy and retiring, had no idea how they had produced this charismatic son of theirs. His father privately wondered if he had not been switched at birth; especially on the rare occasion he joined Lawrence down the pub for a pint. He would sit there quietly sipping his beer and watch as people gathered to bask in the radiance that emanated from his offspring.

More and more he refused his son’s infrequent invitations. Eventually he and his equally mystified wife sold their home and moved to Bognor to retire. Lawrence barely noticed their departure and would phone once in a while and threaten to come down for a weekend. His parents soon realised that these promises were empty, resigning themselves to the fact that Lawrence was far too involved in his own life to be bothered about them.

Whilst apparently an open book as far as the world was concerned, there were a couple of things that Lawrence liked to conceal from people. One was his pathological fear of snakes that did not enhance his macho and gym-toned public persona. At five years old his well-meaning parents had bought him a Jack-in-the Box type toy for his birthday. He had screamed like a girl when a two foot and very life-like banded snake had launched itself at him from the stupid thing.

The other secret was his little gambling habit. He did love those horses but unfortunately they did not love him. This had not been too bad when property was selling like hotcakes, but with the downturn, his commission was as extinct as a Dodo. This little matter was resolved by the charm offensive, seduction and marriage to Rebecca, the daughter of a multi-millionaire retailer who gave them a rather nice cash settlement on their wedding day. Just in time as recently the account with his bookie had plummeted deeply into the red. Their frequent telephone conversations had become downright hostile.

Apart from the gambling there were also some other side activities that Lawrence kept from his wife who would look at him adoringly when he walked through the door each evening. She seemed to accept that he needed to work late a couple of evenings a week, taking potential clients to dinner or showing properties in the longer summer evenings. He was careful to make sure that he didn’t bring home evidence of his dalliances, thinking himself rather clever at having his cake and eating it.

His wife was pretty enough he supposed, but he also thought she was not very bright. He did however appreciate the generous monthly allowance that her father paid into his daughter’s bank account which he offered to manage for her. She had agreed readily enough, and to his knowledge never bothered to check her bank balance. Lawrence decided to do a little mining into the account and gradually syphoned off thousands of pounds to cover his debts over the next few months. To celebrate he suggested that he and Rebecca head off to Thailand for a second honeymoon.

They stayed at the best hotel close to the sandy white beach where the calm waters invited the visitors in for swimming and water sports. For the more adventurous, deep sea snorkeling was on offer, and surprisingly the normally reserved Rebecca, took to the activity like a duck to water. She headed off with one of the undersea guides every day for several hours returning exhausted and full praise for her guide’s patient tutelage.

Lawrence was a little miffed if he was honest at not being the centre of attention. He got a bit bored lying by the pool and sipping a selection of exotic drinks off the cocktail menu. He spent some time flirting with some of the younger bikini clad sun worshippers; knowing that he would be unlikely to get away with anything more in these restricted confines.

At the start of the second week Rebecca suggested that he might come with her out to a small reef just a five minute swim off shore. Taken by surprise by her rather seductive smile and the sight of her now bronzed body in her bikini he nodded his agreement. He donned his mask and after some tips from Rebecca on how to breathe and dive with his apparatus, they headed away from the beach.

He had to admit it was pretty stunning seeing all the brightly coloured fish and coral life and he relaxed into the adventure. Suddenly, his wife appeared right in front of him with her hand behind her back. She gestured to him to rise to the surface.

They both removed their masks and as the warm water lapped around his neck he saw Rebecca’s gloved hand reach out towards him rapidly. He felt an excruciating pain in his neck and looked down to see the brightly coloured, writhing body of a snake. As his vision blurred he screamed like a girl and stared at his wife treading water calmly.

As his eyes met Rebecca’s cold and steady gaze, she mouthed just one word.

“Surprise.”

©sallycronin 2017

Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Soldier by Sally Cronin


The Soldier by Sally Cronin

Norman carried his plate carefully across to the gingham covered table under the window, setting it down next to his cup of tea that had been as carefully transported a few minutes before. He could not walk without his stick and had to adapt his routine to fit around this inconvenience. He steadied himself on the back of the wooden chair and deposited his walking aid up against the window sill. He turned himself around and sat down heavily with a sigh of relief.

He assaulted the still steaming cup of tea with four spoons of sugar and smiled wryly at the silence that accompanied this act of rebellion. If Ruby had been sitting opposite him there would have been hell to pay. He closed his eyes and willed the disobedient tear to cease its descent down his cheek. He sniffed and reached for the butter.

His flat was in an anonymous looking block on a small estate that had been built in the 1990s. He had moved here begrudgingly from their little terrace house that had been home for fifty years. The council were going to knock the late Victorian homes down and make way for a modern housing project. As a widower without any living family, he did not qualify for one of the new three-bedroomed semi-detached houses. They had moved his bits of furniture and treasured belongings to the flat, but the money that they paid him for the compulsory purchase of the house was still sitting in a bank account untouched.

He managed his simple needs on his state and army pension, only glancing briefly at the monthly statements that showed a steadily increasing balance, before throwing them in a drawer in the sideboard. There had been an effort by his previous neighbours to fight the compulsory purchase. He had watched the protests in the street dispassionately, ignoring the knocks on his door from those soliciting his support. Ruby had only just died and a part of him had as well. He had been numb at the time and also strangely voiceless but he had looked upon the resultant pay out as blood money. As he looked around the small room that had never seen a visitor, he realised how much he had relied on Ruby and the community spirit in his old neighbourhood.

Norman’s flat was on the second floor of the building and thankfully the lift was in operation most of the time. He couldn’t manage the one flight of stairs now even with the stick; resenting this as evidence of his further decline. During the day the building had always been reasonably quiet and he barely noticed the passing of the hours. That is until he would hear the sound of the children returning from school and diving straight into the playground at the front of the flats. He usually opened his windows and sat with a cup of tea, enjoying their shrieks and laughter. It reminded him of his own dead son when he was that age; long before he joined the army and went to Iraq.

Recently however there had been new sounds and they drowned out the childish laughter. Teenagers from a neighbouring estate were prowling the stairwells and communal areas of the blocks nearest to them, but away from family and possible consequences in their own neighbourhood. His own block had taken on a seedy and unwholesome appearance with  evidence of night-time drinking and drug taking on the landings and underground garage. The local residence association had contacted the police and there had been a begrudging response which included one or two more cars patrolling at night, but no arrests were made. The council representative had said that they were powerless to provide security with cutbacks to essential services already.

The residents now rarely went out at night unless absolutely essential; locking their doors and windows and turning their televisions up louder to cover the noises of anarchy on their doorstep. Children no longer played on the swings as aggressive teenagers of both genders took over the playground in the central area as a gathering point in the afternoons, jobless and bored. Graffiti began to spread across the walls of the ground floor and up the stairs; Norman shook his head at the hatred and violence it depicted. He had never felt so powerless in his life.

It was Wednesday and Norman always went down to the legion for a pint and bite of lunch. It was his only interaction with others during the week, except for the cashiers at the local supermarket. He laid out his suit on the bed and found a shirt that was crisply ironed. He would wear his regimental tie today and give his black shoes an extra polish. He needed to look his best for what lay ahead.

An hour later he made his way through the swing doors of the legion and walked past the walls covered with photographs of those who had served and passed away. One day his image would join them and younger men would mentally salute him as they walked into the bar. But he was not there yet, and grasping his stick firmly, he straightened his back and walked briskly through the tables of men talking quietly in this place that linked them to their years of service. Some looked up and said… ‘Morning Sergeant Major.’ He acknowledged them silently with a nod.

‘Atten… Shun’

At the barked command thirty pairs of eyes swivelled to the front of the room and automatically several stood to attention. As Norman’s stern gaze descended on the other men, they too stood to join their comrades.

‘You have all served your country bravely, but now you, like me sit silently by and watch as an enemy infiltrates our way of life. The people we fought for are under attack and barricaded into their homes afraid to breathe in the fresh air and walk unmolested.’

Several men nodded and Norman could read their body language as he had thousands of soldiers before. They too had lost their purpose and it was time to give them their pride back.

Later that afternoon the children arrived home from school and were ushered straight into their flats on the different levels of the apartment block. A few stray elderly residents also made their way back from shopping and packed into the lifts that would distribute them over several floors. The block was preparing for the daily invasion of the gang.

They were not disappointed, and as the warm sun hit the playground it began to fill with the dross from the neighbouring estate, laughing and throwing their rubbish on the ground. When dusk fell they would start working their way through the block with their spray paints and drug paraphernalia; turning this community into a no go area for decent people.

Suddenly one the group caught sight of movement coming from the direction of the main road. He shushed his mates and one by one they went silent. They watched as an old man walking with a stick marched up the street with determination. He was followed by at least thirty men in rows, also marching in time. They wore suits and looked proudly to the front where their leader preceded them. Some of the youths began pointing and laughing but a tall, older boy told them to be quiet.

The marching men arrived in front of the block of flats and turned sharply to face the playground. Norman took three steps closer and placed both his hands over the head of his stick. He looked to his right as two large vans marked with the name of an industrial cleaning company pulled up to the kerb.

He turned and addressed the youths now waiting expectantly and looking at each other in stunned silence.

‘These men behind me have fought in wars around the world and are all trained killers. They will now be patrolling our estate day and night in teams of three and have orders to treat any they find defacing the walls, using drugs or threatening the residents as terrorists which is what you are.’

Norman paused and behind him he heard the snap of boots on the road surface as a number of the men took three steps forward and stood with their arms folded menacingly.

Sergeant Major Norman Smith pointed at the two vans. ‘These contractors will now clean the graffiti off the walls and remove your filth from the stairs and hallways. You will now pick up all your rubbish you have dropped and put it into the bins provided. You will then leave this estate and not return again. These men behind me are just a handful of those at my disposal and any ideas you might have of bringing reinforcements to assist you will be met with severe repercussions.’

The youth who the others followed, looked at the old man and smiled slightly as he shook his head. He pointed to the others to pick up their discarded cartons and soda bottles, which they did reluctantly. He glared at some and gave others a sharp word. He knew there were other soft targets out there. Perhaps not as convenient to his estate, but this one was no longer worth the hassle. Hoods up and hands in pockets, the youths turned and began to saunter nonchalantly out of the far exit of the playground.

As they did so Norman heard doors begin to open on the sunlit walkways behind him and voices as people tried to find out what was going on. He glanced behind him as the cleaning crews began unloading equipment from the back of the vans. He had finally found something to use that blood money for in a way that he could live with.

Applause broke out on the walkways, and as the last of the youths sauntered off down the road, a mother ventured out of the safety of the building holding her two children’s hands. They broke away from her and raced into the playground shouting and laughing.

Soon others left the surrounding blocks and came to speak to Norman and their new protectors. As he watched the exchanges between the former soldiers and the liberated residents he saw how they carried themselves now with pride and purpose.

It was good to be back on the front line again.

©sallycronin 2017