Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Xenia – Beloved by Sally Cronin


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories that have not been published before… I hope you will enjoy.

Xenia – Beloved

Your name is Xenia, after your Greek grandmother, whose wrinkled complexion smelt of roses and almond oil. I remember the hot summers of our visits as we played on the rocks beneath her stone house; working up an appetite for the platters of goat’s cheese, olives and warm bread. The loaves were taken straight from the wood stove; handled carefully with well-worn hessian rags, and served up on the rough wooden table in her wild garden. I remember being fascinated by her hands as they sliced thick warm chunks with an ancient serrated bread knife. They were blackened from nearly 80 years in the sun, with dark-rimmed nails from digging into the soil for home grown vegetables.

She was still a beautiful woman, who loved to have her long black and grey hair gently brushed in the twilight; sipping delicately from her glass of rose pink wine. Happy sighs filled the scented air; encouraging continued effort. We dreaded her tears as we left to catch the ferry at the end of summer, with her whispered goodbyes and pleas for us to return again the next year, remaining in our minds for weeks afterwards.

But one summer only my father made the journey, to stay just a week to bury his beloved mother, with her silver backed hair brush and a small bottle of almond oil resting in her hands.

That was ten years ago and I have been saving up her name to give to you, my first child.

From the moment I knew that I was carrying you in my womb, I felt certain that you would be a girl and worthy of this much loved name. As the months passed, and I felt that first movement beneath my hand, I began to talk to you of your name and the woman who owned it with such grace. Sometimes when I listened to music playing softly in the background, I would feel a flutter, as if you were dancing in time to the tune. I would imagine Xenia, swaying and clapping her hands in delight, lost in the gentle songs that my father played on his guitar after our evening meal. I knew she would be so happy that I had named you after her.

My time with my grandmother was too short, but I had saved up the stories to tell you, as well as photographs we took during those summers. I would tell you those tales as we rocked, still joined together, in the chair in the newly painted nursery. I promised to show you the embarrassing snaps of your mother when a girl, dressed in her bathing suit with face filled with sticky baklava. I imagined taking you back to Greece to see where you came from, and to visit Xenia’s grave to lay some blossom, and to show her how beautiful you are. I was certain that your hair would be raven black and that you would love almonds.

Your father laughed at me as I waddled around the house in search of more feta cheese and pickled onions. He said that there must be two of you, or that you were really a big bouncing boy; destined to be a rugby player. He would lay his head on my stomach and listen to your heartbeat; loving it when you kicked against his hand. We had chosen not to know the gender of our baby. I already knew it was a girl to be called Xenia, and your father just wanted a baby who was healthy that we would love.

I knew the moment you had gone. All was still where you had been so active. I thought you must be sleeping, and lay in the hospital bed resting, waiting for that kick and ripple, telling me you wanted my attention. But the cold gel, and pressure of the machine in a doctor’s hand, broke the spell. Your father and I held each other as we cried at our loss.

The love I feel for you will not diminish or change throughout my life. It comforts me to imagine you holding the hand of your great-grandmother, as you twirl to the music of a guitar. I see you eating baklava with sticky fingers, and her washing your hands and face lovingly, with rose scented water. I know that you are safe now, and that one day, we will meet face to face, and I will recognise you as the child of my heart. One day the three of us will sit in that wild garden, and laugh in the sunshine.

My two beloved Xenias…..

©Sally Cronin 2015

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the reviews for the collection

Dec 29, 2020 D.L. Finn rated it Five Stars it was amazing

“Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries” is a perfect blend of poetry and short stories. The poetry is tucked between the stories that bestowed beautiful images that completed the picture that the collection of short stories offered. The characters were engaging, and I could feel empathy for their situation, good or bad. There were five categories covered, and I enjoyed each subject and story. It was like reading about people I already knew. I rooted for the woman with an abusive husband, felt the heartbreak of a woman who had lost a child, and laughed when a woman went to buy her groceries. This collection offers hope in everyday situations. A well-written and heartfelt book that I highly recommend!

Read the reviews and buy the collection for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US –  More reviews : Goodreads

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

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

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 10th – 16th January 2021 -1960s music, Breakfasts, Anti-Aging, Book Reviews and Funnies.


Welcome to the round up of post on Smorgasbord you might have missed this week.

There seems to be little let up from either virus or weather this week and apart from a trip the supermarket and a few turns around the garden I have not ventured out relying on indoor exercise options. I am grateful apart from an inquisitive robin who sat on the windowsill one day, nobody has seem me bopping around the kitchen to Status Quo and Tina Turner with a carrot peeler and wearing my apron.

In case you are wondering this is not a new trend of mine.. here I am the first Christmas in our first home 40 years ago. Only I seem to have a glass of sherry in my hand rather than a carrot peeler. For some reason I thought a goose was a good idea for Christmas dinner..more fat than meat.. and I had those pans for at least twenty-five years. And I seemed to have two aprons.. nothing like changing for dinner.

Some good news to share as  D.G. Kaye and Carol Taylor will both will be back this week with the first of their 2021 columns.

Debby Gies will be entertaining and inspiring us with her first Relationship column of the year on Monday and I am sure as interesting and inspiring as always. If you would like to catch up on the posts from 2020... Here is the link

Carol Taylor begins a brand new monthly column on Wednesday – Carol Taylor’s Green Kitchen and this week she will be looking at recycling, the plastic wrap most of us use in our food preparation and storage, and a recipe for some great sandwich bread. I hope you will join us and discover ways we can become more environmentally aware.

I have been out and about this week..

My thanks to Sue Vincent for inviting me over to her place this week to talk about the sewing connection between the generations of women in my family.. I also share my own needlework passion which is tapestry. Sue Vincent – Guest Sally Cronin – The Sewing Gene

And finally…The 2021 Posts from your Archives list is now at 20 bloggers and there is still time to add your name and participate in this series.. It is another opportunity to promote your blog or books or both… and you can never have too much of that… check the post for details and all you need to know is let me know if you wish to take part.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives -#NewSeries February 2021- ‘Pot Luck’ and Do You Trust Me??

Thanks to William Price King and Debby Gies for their wonderful contributions this week and to you for all the support..

The Breakfast Show with William Price King and Sally Cronin – Chart Hits 1960 – Part Two

What’s In A Name Clive – The Debt by Sally Cronin

What’s in a Name? – Beatrix – Behind the Mask by Sally Cronin

Lost Cats and Tomatoes

#Paranormal #Mystery – This Second Chance by D.L. Finn

#Family – The Sum of our Sorrows by Lisette Brodey

Past Book Reviews 2020 – #Psychological #Thriller – Warning Signs by Carol Balawyder

Please note that Blackthorn will be FREE between 23rd – 27th January 2021.

Past Book Reviews 2019/2020 – #PostApocalyptic – Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

Turning Back the Clock 2021- Anti-Aging without the Botox by Sally Cronin

Recipes that Pack a Punch – Breakfasts – Wholegrains – Meusli Porridge by Sally Cronin

Recipes that Pack a Punch – Breakfasts – Versatile and Nutritious Eggs

11th January 2021 – #Spaghetti John W. Howell, #2020 Don Massenzio, #Unfinished #Books Jacqui Murray

#Humour The Story Reading Ape, #Writing Charles Yallowitz, #Inspiration Robbie Cheadle.

 

#Recipes Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen, Amy M. Reade, Carol Taylor

#Romance Jacquie Biggar, #Supernatural Jessica Bakkers, #Paranormal Jan Sikes

#1960s Jane Risdon, #Mystery Amy M. Reade, #Thriller Gwen M. Plano.

#Supernatural John W. Howell, #Pilgrims Noelle Granger, #Southernculture Claire Fullerton.

#Emotions Jeff Goodman, #ComicCon Candy Keane

Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Waistbands and Walking into a Bar

January 14th 2021 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Dry January and Genies

– It’s all about the Cats and Dogs…host Sally Cronin

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Beatrix – Behind the Mask by Sally Cronin


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories that have not been published before… I hope you will enjoy.

Beatrix – Behind the Mask

Beatrix De Carlo took her final bow before the audience that filled the theatre to capacity. There had been four curtain calls, as those who had watched her last performance of this critically acclaimed production, showed their appreciation and adoration.

Beatrix remained in character, gently smiling and waving her arm regally at both cast members and audience in turn. Her silver hair shone in the stage lighting and the fake diamonds around her neck sparkled as if to deny their false nature.

Finally, the curtain came down for the last time and members of the cast rushed forward to clasp her hands and utter niceties to her. One after another they politely offered their thanks before heading off to embrace their fellow actors.

Beatrix could hear them making arrangements to meet up for drinks in the pub around the corner.

‘So privileged to have worked with you Miss De Carlo,’ whispered the leading man whose breath smelt of mints. She smiled graciously and disengaged herself from his sweaty hands.

‘You too Gerald and please give my regards to your lovely wife.’ Discouraged, the elderly actor turned and sauntered across the stage intent on joining the younger generation for last orders.

She glided away through the stage crew as they cleared the set, and made her way to her dressing room.

She closed the door behind her and looked at the cluttered space. Two costume changes lay untidily across the sofa and armchair, and instead of the usual welcoming tray of sparkling mineral water and chocolate digestive biscuits, there was a dirty coffee mug containing bitter dregs. She leaned back against the door and closed her eyes wearily. How she missed Mabel.

The theatre management had offered the services of one of their experienced dressers for this last performance, but that would have been unacceptable. Mabel was the only person who knew exactly what Beatrix needed, and had been by her side for the last fifteen years without missing a single performance. She moved towards the dressing table and sat on the worn velour stool and looked at herself in the mirror.

Removing her bouffant silver wig, she placed it carefully on the foam model head beside her. She then began the painstaking task of removing the make-up that had transformed her into a seventy year old dowager queen. Finally she was bare faced and viewed her reflection. Having removed one face she must now apply another.

As she slipped her arms into her leather coat and patted her platinum blonde hair into place there was a knock on the door.

‘Miss De Carlo, it’s Jack Smith, can I come in for a moment?’

Beatrix went across and opened the door for the theatre director and smiled at him.
‘Hello Jack,’ she laid a hand on his arm. ‘I hope you were happy with the final performance this evening?’

He stepped into the dressing room and took in its untidy appearance.

‘Sorry to hear about Mabel,’ he perched on the back of the armchair. ‘Spraining her ankle like that was a great shame, but I’m sure she will be back on her feet again very soon.’

Seeing that Beatrix was ready to leave, Jack escorted her to the stage door where she signed out for the last time. She slipped Tony the porter an envelope and he winked back at her in thanks. Leaving the two men behind she walked into the cold night air and slipped into the back seat of the waiting taxi.

For a moment Jack stood with his hands in his trouser pockets before turning to Tony. ‘She really is an amazing woman isn’t she,’ He paused for a moment and shook his head. ‘It is hard to believe that she has stayed at the top of her game for the last forty years.’ Tony nodded his head in silent agreement as he slipped the envelope into his pocket.

The taxi driver opened the back door of his cab and assisted the elegant middle aged woman onto the slick pavement. She paid the fare and tipped him generously with a gracious smile. She let herself into the luxury mews cottage where she had lived for the last seventeen years. Carefully she closed the door behind her and let out a sigh of relief.

She could see that there was a light still on in the living-room and she popped her head in and viewed the occupant.

Hi mum,’ she smiled at the woman with her foot up on a stool in front of her armchair. ‘Can I get you anything before I get out of this clobber?

‘No Brenda love, clean that muck off your face and get into your PJs,’ she smiled at her daughter mischievously. ‘I want to hear all about the last night, I was so gutted to have missed it.’

Ten minutes later her daughter sat on the sofa with her bare feet up on the coffee table… Her auburn hair in a short bob framed her youthful face and she held the cup of hot chocolate between her clasped fingers.

The two generations of the acting legend known as Beatrix De Carlo then shared the glory of their latest triumphant performance.

©Sally Cronin

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the reviews for the collection

Dec 26, 2020 Jacqui rated it Five Stars

Sally Cronin’s Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet (2020) delivers exactly what the title promises–a lovely collection of real-life stories about ordinary people. They are heart warming and satisfying, showing the kind side of people despite dreary events or circumstances. There are no dark endings or dystopian themes–both I stay away from when reading because I get all the depressing circumstances in the world around me. I don’t need to read it in my fiction!

They are organized into categories–Technology, Connections, Winning Streak, Animal Magic, and Falling in and out of love. There’s one about an abused wide who’s finally had enough, another about the wife who loses a child and has the courage to try again. In one, a lonely woman finds family after her DNA reveals secrets. There’s Random Acts of Kindness, The Charity Shop, The Night Shift, and about a dozen more. All are a handful of pages that leave you feeling better than when you started. Sally’s voice is kind, empathetic, and respectful of the varied circumstances that surround people, and without fail, brings their dreams and passions to life. In fiction, there are writers and storytellers. One writes an interesting story and the other makes you feel they’re talking to you, like you can’t leave because you’ll miss something. I’ve read a lot of Sally’s books and I can tell you, she is the latter.

If you in love stories of normal people surviving life’s challenges with a positive attitude and a will to overcome, you’ll love this book.

Read the reviews and buy the collection for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US –  More reviews : Goodreads

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

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

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Clive – The Debt by Sally Cronin


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories that have not been published before… I hope you will enjoy.

Clive – The Debt

The boy stirred in his cot and waved his chubby fist in the air. The mid-afternoon sun was barred from his room by the rattan blinds at the window. The slowly moving blades of the fan above his cot sent a welcome and cooling breeze across his hot skin. The rest of the house was quiet, except for the gentle snoring of his amah as she dozed fitfully on the pallet on the other side of the room.

The boy was called Clive and was the fourth child and first son of a naval officer and his wife who were stationed here in Trincomalee. He was three years old and his curly blonde hair now lay slick against his scalp as he recovered from the fever. It had been a worrying few days with the doctor calling in every few hours to check on his condition. The household, including his three older sisters and his parents, were exhausted having had little sleep for the last few nights.

Measles in this climate could be very dangerous for a child Clive’s age and he had been restricted to his cot in the darkened room to prevent the risk of blindness. Thankfully his fever had now broken, and the family having enjoyed their Sunday curry lunch, had retired to their bedrooms to sleep the afternoon away beneath their ceiling fans.

Clive had been woken every hour or so to sip his favourite fruit juice and water from his beaker and the doctor was now happy he was past his crisis. But, the child was now hungry and the lingering smell of the chicken curry that the family had consumed at lunchtime drifted into the room.

Relieved that her charge was out of danger but extremely tired, his devoted amah had failed to latch the side of Clive’s cot securely. Seeing that there was a means of escape; he lifted his body up into a sitting position and swung his bare legs over the side of the mattress. It was easy enough to slide down onto the stone floor with its fibre matting where he held onto the side of the cot for a few minutes; his legs wobbling beneath him. But he was a strong little boy who spent hours on his tricycle and swam most days and this was evident in his recovery from this recent illness. Of course his growing hunger was a great motivator.

Carefully he moved across the matting intent on seeing if his friend the family cook had a special plate of his favourite mild curry and banana. He moved into the hall but was disappointed that the door to the kitchen was firmly closed and the handle was out of reach of his eager fingers.

The door to the long veranda however was much easier to open and Clive pushed his way through into the stifling heat and the raucous sound of the monkeys in the trees in the garden. He loved the little macaques and often sat on the veranda in the cooler mornings and watched them play fight over the ripened fruit. He drifted across the wooden floor and down the two steps onto the dusty path. He was now in uncharted territory.

There were many dangers for humans in these luscious surroundings. Clive was accompanied everywhere by his amah or his sisters when out of sight of his protective mother. Several times he had been scooped up and rushed indoors accompanied by shrieks and calls for the houseboy to bring a stick.

Cobras were common; as were the larger less playful monkeys that could be as big as dog. The first lesson that Clive had received after he had taken his first steps, was not to touch anything with fur, as rabies ravaged both the wild creatures and domesticated dogs.

With the fearlessness of a three year old, he toddled down the dry dusty path until he reached a line of ants that were busy carrying leaves several times the size of their bodies across the dry earth. Fascinated Clive sat down on the ground and followed their progress with one little plump finger.

Eyes were watching him from various vantage points in the overgrown garden. The small macaques ceased their play fights and spotted that the door to the house had been left ajar. This was as good as an invitation and a dozen of the petty thieves scampered down their favourite tree and darted along the edge of the dry lawn and through the bushes beneath the veranda. In seconds they were through the open door looking for food and mischief.

In the branches of a tall evergreen, a large male langur watched his smaller cousins disappear and waited to see if they would emerge with anything worth stealing from them. He had more sense than to risk the wrath of a house boy armed with a broom. Then something else caught his eye in the bushes to the side of the lawn. He stared for several moments trying to find the cause of his disquiet. His attention was then drawn to the chortling of the child as he played in the dry dust with the ants.

Something was wrong and the langur’s instincts caused him to move cautiously to the end of the branch that stretched out over the lawn. There was the movement again, and this time he saw the hooded head standing tall surrounded by the red blossoms of the rose bush. Slowly the cobra slithered from its hiding place and moved gracefully across the bleached grass towards the oblivious child.

Clive became bored with watching the ants and his hunger reminded him that the cook might be in the kitchen. If so, then his favourite sweet treats that were slipped to him occasionally behind his mother’s back, might be on offer. Placing his hands firmly in front of him he pushed his bottom into the air and then stood unsteadily for a moment. A movement in the corner of his eye made him turn his head and he found himself just feet away from the swaying hood of the cobra. Without someone to sweep him up into safe arms and rush him inside the house he was minutes away from certain death.

In those precious seconds as the boy and snake stared at each other there was a sudden and violent interruption. The large langur launched himself from the branch of the tree landing a few feet from them. Without a moment’s hesitation the monkey raced across and grabbed the tail end of the cobra. With one sweep of his powerful arm he swung the snake around towards the bushes several feet away and let it go.

For one moment the child and the monkey looked into each other’s eyes and Clive raised his hand as if he understood that his saviour meant him no harm.

At that moment shrieks and angry shouts erupted from the open door to the house and the troop of macaques raced out with their trophies of chapatti and trifle filling their hands. Behind them with an agility that belied his age was the irate cook wielding a large kitchen knife. Under cover of the confusion the langur headed rapidly to his tree to resume his watch.

The cook seeing Clive still standing on the path called out for his amah to come quickly and within moments the child was safe in loving arms and being hugged and kissed.

Soon the whole family congregated on the veranda and reviewed the damages to house and the theft of the left overs with a welcome pot of tea. None the wiser about their youngest child’s close encounter with nature, they watched as Clive ate a bowl of home-made ice-cream.

Present Day.

The tall silver haired man drove up and parked at the back of the large manufacturing plant. He got out and opened the back of the van and approached the double steel doors and rang the bell to the side of them. A disjointed voice requested his name and after a moment the buzzer indicated that the door was open.

Inside in the dim cool the man walked up to a reception desk and was taken through to a holding area where six large wooden crates were waiting. Having lifted the lids of the boxes and checked contents, the man signed numerous pieces of paper. Two burly porters helped carry the crates out to the van where they were carefully placed and secured for the journey.

Four hours later the van arrived at a location deep in the countryside and having called ahead, several people stood clustered around the open security gates. Clive sighed with relief and drove through and backed the van close into a large wooden building.

The contents of the van were unloaded and the crates carefully carried inside. The markings were clear in the dim light from the outside lights at the entrance.

Contrux Pharmaceuticals.

Clive and his team gently lifted the sleeping occupants of the boxes out and placed them in individual stalls lined with straw and soft bedding. They would be carefully watched by them in turns for the next few days around the clock. They would be fed and given water as well as checked out by the resident vet. It would take weeks, if not months, to rehabilitate these primates who had been born within a laboratory environment. However, with love and care; one day they would be enjoying their new and natural habitat.

As Clive laid the final animal in its bed of straw the chimpanzee stirred and for a moment he and the man looked into each other’s eyes. A flash of understanding passed between them and slowly the monkey’s eyelids closed as he was laid gently onto a welcoming blanket.

A child and his destiny had now come full circle and his debt would continue to be repaid as long as he lived.

©Sally Cronin 2015

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the reviews for the collection

Dec 23, 2020 Janice Spina rated it Five Stars

I love all Sally Cronin’s books, especially her short stories. When I saw her new book, I snatched it up knowing that it would be an enjoyable and heartfelt read. These stories are entertaining, sweet and touch the heart. Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is an endearing collection of lovely short stories and poetry.

As I read each story I felt drawn into the tales. Though I enjoyed all of them, I have my favorites, The Weekly Shopping, which was a hilarious tale though close to believable in the near future; The Florist, where love is discovered unexpectedly; The Wedding Day shows how love goes beyond death; The Scratch Card is a tale of luck and how it touches many lives; the Gardening Assistant that is a surprisingly touching story of the power of love of a pet for his mistress and how he saved her sanity and marriage. I could go on and on about these incredible tales of love, loss, abuse, neglect and life-changing events. The poetry interspersed between the stories were elegantly written and touching.

I highly recommend this beautiful short story collection to anyone who loves stories that are real and touch the heart. Sally Cronin’s has another winner!

Read the reviews and buy the collection for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

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

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy – The Other Side of Heaven by Sally Cronin


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories that have not been published before… I hope you will enjoy.

51l5B4hcBuL._UY250_The Other Side of Heaven

When Meg saw the cottage she knew that it was the one. She had visualised her dream house so many times in her head that it almost felt that she was coming home.

As soon as she had walked down the country lane that separated the property from the main road she had heard the sound of running water. A river or lake had always been a requisite when imagining her perfect home, and the sound ticked at least one of her boxes. As she rounded the bend in the lane she saw the house for the first time, its red slate roof glistening in the sunlight.

She inhaled the scent of the vibrantly coloured flowers that dominated the small front garden and she smiled at the sight of the roses that surrounded the front door. Meg stood for a moment on the cobbled path and delighted in the fresh, sweet smell whilst she ran her eyes over every inch of the front of the cottage.

Despite its age, the windows were large and you could tell that the sunlight that shone through those panes of glass would make the interior bright and welcoming. Taking a deep breath she opened the old wooden door and stepped inside.

Within a very short space of time, Meg found herself carefully unwrapping a lifetime of treasures from the boxes that sat expectantly in the various rooms in her new home. Jack as always was eager to help, and despite the insistent interruptions from the collie, Meg made steady progress as she placed objects and pictures in just their right place.

Surprisingly, despite working all day, she felt refreshed and excited as she walked through each room, moving furniture slightly to recreate the image that she had held in her mind for so long. Eventually, she was satisfied and she and Jack turned their attention to the garden at the back of the house that lay basking in early evening sunshine.

The dog, young and excited ran out ahead of Meg and started to race around the immaculate piece of lawn. Flowers crowded the edges around its borders, and as in the front garden, the air was filled with a heady and sweet scent. She walked to the little gate set into a hedge and opened and closed it leaving a frustrated Jack on the other side.

“Good boy, Jack. Stay there; this bit is not for dogs”.

He sat down and watched his owner with head cocked to one side. He would not move until she returned. They had been parted for too long for him to allow her out of his sight now.

For Meg this was heaven. Row upon row of fresh vegetables, a small green house where she could see ripened tomatoes hanging from their vines, and an established orchard at the end of the plot, with trees laden with fruit. For a fleeting moment she wondered why so many of the vegetables and fruit seemed out of season, but she put that down to the fact that this part of the country enjoyed a micro-climate that kept it warmer than the average.

Contentedly she retraced her steps and pushed open the gate separating the two gardens and was rewarded with an ecstatic welcome from Jack as he leapt up and licked her face.
After a simple supper, Meg and Jack sat together on the bench at the front of the house and as her hand gently stroked his head, she absorbed the sounds of the evening. In the background the music of the river accompanied the buzz of insects as they collected their final nectar of the day.

Everything was now perfect. The house waited as did Meg and Jack for that final, finishing touch. Jack had been waiting the longest. Meg had missed him so much but there had been no choice under the circumstances. As she stroked his head as it rested on her knee, she knew that she had been forgiven for sending him away, but now they would be together always. However, there was someone who was still missing. Meg had no idea when Sam would arrive; all she could do when she had left was to promise that she and Jack would be there to welcome him home.

The evening moved into starlit night and as the moon rose in the sky it seemed as though time had stopped. Jack’s ears suddenly twitched and he nudged Meg’s knee. She turned her head towards the lane leading to the cottage and she stood, moving down the path to open the gate with the collie at her heels. Jack looked up at her as if asking permission.

Meg nodded and he ran ahead barking excitedly and she hurried after him just as a stooped and elderly man came into view. He was walking with a stick but when Jack reached him and jumped up and down in excitement he threw it to one side and went down on one knee to embrace the dog.

Meg slowed and took in the sight of the two beings she loved the most greeting each other. She felt young and giddy just as she had all those years ago when she had first met Sam. Then before her eyes he stood, tall and straight, the years fell away from him and she eagerly fell into his arms and held him as Jack pranced around them in delight.

Eventually, the three of them walked back to the cottage. Meg and Sam hand in hand with Jack walking carefully between them. They turned in the gate and Sam saw their home for the first time.

“I never thought, when you promised to create a place for us all in heaven, that it would be so beautiful”

Smiling, Sam picked his young wife up and carried her over the threshold followed by Jack, tail wagging and barking with encouragement.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the reviews for the collection

Dec 23, 2020 Darlene Foster rated it Five Stars

A delightful collection of short stories and poems by the indomitable Sally Cronin. Each story is a slice of life, some bitter, some sweet and others bittersweet. The author cleverly depicts ordinary loves in an extraordinary way. I particularly loved how pets are portrayed as important, a cat comforts a care home resident and a dog saves a marriage. These are stories of love, loss, joy, abuse, despair and most of all, hope. Enjoyable nuggets to savour and return to. 

Read the reviews and buy the collection for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

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

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flight’s of Fancy – The Sewing Circle – Part Two by Sally Cronin


In the last of the series of short stories over the holidays, I am sharing The Sewing Circle Yesterday and tomorrow, which I hope you will enjoy..

The Sewing Circle Part Two.

In part one of the story, we were introduced to the members of the sewing circle, a close knit group of women in their 80s living on an estate in London. Unfortunately a criminal element was taking over the stairwells of the buildings and one member of the sewing circle was a victim of their violence…

The Sewing Circle Part Two.

By the time the police and ambulance arrived on the scene, Darren Jackson was on the back of his cousin’s motorbike and halfway to his aunt’s house on the edge of Epping Forest. He was celebrating his elevation to hardened criminal by replaying the incident repeatedly as he clasped his cousin around his waist. Little did he realise that like his father before him, he had botched a job.

The Jackson family were well known by the police and it was not long before Sharon’s sister found a number of coppers on her doorstep with a warrant. They found a newly scrubbed Darren wearing his cousin’s clothes and smirking as his alibi was established by his extended family — and a few of their mates for good measure. Without forensic evidence and with their only witness lying in the mortuary at a South London hospital the investigation stalled.

Everyone knew however, who had murdered their beloved Flo and even families on the Redgrave who had never spoken to the old lady, stopped at Betty’s flat with shop-bought cakes and sympathy. The other members of the sewing circle sat in vigil with their distraught friend as she repeatedly relived finding Flo in that crumpled heap in the dark.

The police officer in charge of the investigation came from the area and knew both the Redgrave and the Jacksons well. He could only promise that he would not close the case but would watch and wait for Darren to return to his mother’s flat and get back with his little gang again. The detective was convinced that Darren would be unable to keep his mouth shut and would end up boasting about his first major excursion into his father’s violent world. When he did, the detective was sure that his informants in the area would find out and they would get Darren eventually.

The members of the sewing circle were united in their grief and spent the next week together in Betty’s flat, from early morning until late at night. The funeral was eventually arranged by Flo’s extended family and her close friends were all included at every stage. On the afternoon of the service, the sun shone in defiance and the five friends left Betty’s flat together walking proudly towards the waiting black cab that Flo’s family had laid on. They were all smartly dressed, wearing their best hats in honour of the occasion. The service was lovely and the five elderly women held hands as they watched the hearse taking Flo to the crematorium glide sedately pass them outside the church.

After the tea at a local pub, Flo’s eldest son took them home personally in his people carrier and walked them to the door of Betty’s flat.

“My mum would have wanted you to have first pick of her special things, so why don’t I come back tomorrow morning and you can come up with me and choose something to remember her by.” With a hug for them all, he left and the five filed into Betty’s kitchen to drink more tea and to reminisce into the night about their lost friend.

The next afternoon, instead of sitting around completing sewing projects, the women sat quietly as each held a memento in their laps. The objects were neither expensive nor necessarily attractive but they all reminded the women of some different aspect of Flo’s personality. Big Sal cradled a little ceramic dog that had obviously been lovingly handled over the years.

“Flo bought this when her little Yorkie died,” she wiped a tear from her cheek. “She was a feisty one that Flo and I bet if she was here she would have a thing or two to say about those bastard Jacksons.”

Sylvia examined her manicured nails and then looked up at the rest of the circle.

“I know if it had been one of us Flo would have marched up to that Sharon Jackson and given her one over the head with her brolly.”

The thought of the tiny Flo giving slovenly Sharon a good slapping made her friends laugh and within minutes they started to throw in other suggestions of what evil might befall the Jackson clan. As the proposed retribution became more and more virulent, the laughter died away and slowly the five women began to look at each other in silence.

Big Sal picked up her copious black handbag and extracted a pencil and a piece of paper. On the back of an old shopping list she jotted down some of the ideas already mentioned and sat hand poised to record any more.

Maggie Baxter, who was proudly conversant with the entire Bible, clapped her hands and grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

Maggie smiled at them all. “That book of Leviticus was sure clear about making those poor Israelites pay and I guess what was good enough for them is good enough for those Jackson’s”

Mary Jones who was the frailest of the group looked worriedly at her friends.

“But what can we do, we are only a few old ladies and those Jacksons have a big family and they are all thugs and thieves.”

Big Sal reached over and patted her hand gently.

“Don’t worry love; I think we can bank on a few recruits from the other residents and what we don’t have in brawn we will make up for in brains.”

Sylvia sat silently, wiping the odd tear from her heavily made up face. What the other members of the sewing circle did not know was that Flo and Sylvia shared a secret from the past that made this violent loss even more poignant.

In her twenties, Sylvia had been vibrantly attractive and had met and married Davy Ross, a minor name in the East End. He had worked for Mike Mitchell who ran an extensive extortion and prostitution racket in the fifties and sixties and Davy was known for his temper and his ability to collect money with menaces.

Unfortunately, for Sylvia, Davy liked to take his work home with him and she spent quite a bit of time in the casualty department of the local hospital having ‘bumped into’ fixed objects in her home. Friends tried to persuade her to leave him but Sylvia knew that he would find her and kill her if she left.

A job had been planned at a large high street bank and at the last minute, a member of the gang got nicked and a replacement had to be found. Mike Mitchell who had masterminded the job recruited Davy into the team, a little reluctantly bearing in mind his unpredictable temper. He was right to be concerned as the night watchman at the bank ended up getting more of a hiding than he might have done with the original set up. Unfortunately for Davy, the guard survived and was able to give the police an accurate description of his assailant. Davy knew the score and accepted his ten years inside without grassing up either the other members of the gang or his boss, who honoured the unspoken code of the East End by making sure Sylvia was taken care of.

Sylvia knew that with good behaviour, her violent husband might be out in five or six years but she hoped that his own basic nature would guarantee that he would not be able to keep his fists to himself for that long. She had originally trained as a hairdresser and she opened a little shop close to her home and began to live a new life.

Flo was one of her regular customers and being from the area was fully aware of Sylvia’s past troubles, although they were never mentioned. Neither were the increasingly frequent visits to the shop by Mike Mitchell, who was crossing the bounds of the accepted code of behaviour by fancying the wife of one of his own men, who was serving time for one of his jobs.

Sylvia was wary at first, as she knew the man’s reputation, but he was good looking and charming and began to show her a life that she did not know existed. Fancy restaurants and weekends in the country; away from the prying eyes of the East End, and Mike’s wife; definitely clouded her judgement and she found herself falling in love with the mobster.

Their affair lasted two years and in that time, Sylvia neither wrote nor visited Davy in prison despite his constant demands. Unfortunately, nature stepped in and Sylvia found herself telling Mike that he was going to be a father in seven months’ time. This fact did not overly please him as he already had four children and a wife who would take him to the cleaners if she found out. Despite being a hard man, Mike loved his family and had to convince Sylvia that if she kept the child it would have to remain a secret. Not only that, but Davy was not going to be happy about finding out, which would be very dangerous for both Sylvia and the child.

This proved to be the case when a woman who lived in Sylvia’s street decided to inform her husband on a prison visit of the local gossip and the possibility that Sylvia was expecting. The man got a broken jaw for his trouble when he passed the information onto Davy and within days, a message was passed to the outside.

Sylvia was locking up her hairdressers for the night when two men grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a nearby alley. Two hours later Flo was passing on her way to the Bingo hall when she heard what she thought sounded like a frightened kitten in the narrow gap between the buildings. She ventured a little way into the darkness and saw an arm protruding from behind a heap of rubbish bags. She rushed forward, completely oblivious to her own safety and found Sylvia curled up holding her stomach with one arm as she bled across the dirty cobblestones.

Flo rushed back into the street and got a man to go to the nearest phone box and call for the police and ambulance before returning to cradle Sylvia’s head in her lap while they waited for help. She went with her to the hospital and was by her bedside when she regained consciousness after her operation. Sylvia suffered a broken nose and arm, crushed pelvis, fractured skull – and had lost her baby. As she looked down into the bruised and battered face, Flo knew that this was not the end. That Davy was not going to let it rest and would no doubt finish the job when he finally got out of prison.

Mike Mitchell was also aware that this beating was just an installment and it was really no surprise to anyone that a week later Davy Ross unfortunately slipped on some soap in the shower and banged his head. He was dead when the guards found him. Sylvia was notified as she lay in her hospital bed coming to terms with not only the loss of her baby but also the fact that Mike Mitchell could now never come near her again in case he was implicated in her husband’s death.

Flo understood, being the mother of so many children herself and having lost one or two in early pregnancy, how Sylvia must be feeling and she was with her when the doctors told her that due to the beating she had received she would never be able to have any more children in the future. Over the next few years, Flo and Sylvia became close friends but the events surrounding the beating and death of Davy were never discussed again.

Even the other members of the sewing circle were unaware of the shared past of two of their closest friends and although they knew that Flo and Sylvia went back a long way they were taken by surprise at the level of grief that Sylvia experienced. She had cried for two days, refusing to leave her flat or even get dressed in one of her elegant but out-dated suits. She finally appeared at Betty’s flat and sat silently as mourners came and went with their offerings. Eventually her friends gave up trying to get her to talk but took it in turns to sit holding her hand and leaning in so that she could feel their comfort.

As a memento of her beloved friend, Sylvia had chosen a pale yellow silk scarf that Flo had worn often. She now ran the scarf through her fingers time after time before looking around at the others as they sat quietly remembering their friend.

“It would be lovely to see the Jacksons brought down and all sorts of evil things done to them but we have to be realistic about what we can do ourselves.” She sighed wearily as her friends listened intently.

“The younger kids are not to blame but they should not be with that mother of theirs, they deserve a chance to live a decent life.” She paused and looked down at the scarf wound through her fingers.

“Sharon Jackson and that son of hers deserve everything they get and we need to make sure that they never do this to anyone else again.” She gave a tight smile.

“We have to get to Archie Jackson inside and feed him a story about Sharon and he will take care of her for us.” Her friends listened in fascination as Sylvia displayed a side of her they had never even imagined before. “After that he needs taking care off so that he can have nothing more to do with his kids as they grow up.”

“As for that Darren, he is past redeeming and needs to be got rid of like any other vermin on the estate and we have to get him to do the job on himself.”

The others looked at each other and realised that if they were to undertake this revenge on the Jacksons they were reverting to the old life that they had known as teenagers and young women living in the East End. They knew that if they didn’t do something then the Jacksons would continue to terrorise this estate and any others they moved to.

The key was to cut the head off the clan in the form of Sharon Jackson. Without her around, and Archie taken care of in prison, the younger members of the family would be put into care and unlikely though it seemed, that might give them a chance of a better life than remaining with their mother and father. Darren however had to go, as they knew, without any doubt, that he had cold bloodedly killed Flo. He now had power and he would use it against people for the rest of his life.

The next morning the rumours started within the various communities around the estate. Sharon Jackson was having an affair with a police officer from the narcotic division. Nobody suspected that the whispers that infested the bingo hall, corner shop, post office and surgery waiting room were started by five old women as they went about their business. Those who dealt drugs on the estate were understandably nervous and tried to find out more information without much success. This only served to make them even more paranoid and soon the rumour mill was working overtime on the stairways until it reached the ears of Sharon Jackson.

She was furious but did not have the intelligence to work out how to combat the growing tide of speculation and false accusations about her. The one thing she did have was a healthy respect for her husband’s fists and as the days passed she became increasingly terrified that word would reach Archie. Even though he was banged up inside she knew he had a long reach and time was not on her side.

She was definitely right about that one. A week after the gossip started, Sylvia Ross left the estate and took a taxi to the Docklands. In a wine bar there, she met with an elderly man who despite his walking stick still strode confidently across the floor to the table where she sat, beautifully dressed and made-up.

An hour later Sylvia left and returned to a meeting at Betty’s flat. She said little but she nodded to Big Sal and they both knew that the toughest part of their plan was in play.

Three weeks later Sharon Jackson went missing. A concerned elderly woman rang the social services and mentioned that there were four young children living alone in a flat in Grange House. By the end of the day, with no sign of their mother, the police had been informed and the children were taken into temporary care. Darren, who was still at his aunt’s house in Epping Forest, was alerted by one of his gang members and he got his cousin to bring him home on his bike where he let himself into the now deserted flat.

He was not bothered by losing his entire family in the slightest. He now had the freedom to live and do as he pleased even though Sharon’s idea of parenting had been relaxed to say the least. He could get up when he wanted, eat what and when he liked and best of all he could drink his favourite tipple, vodka, all day without his mother sharing the contents of the bottle. His friends all came round to sample the delights of the new gang headquarters and the neighbours were subjected to noisy parties into the small hours and harassment on the walkways and stairs.

The social services came round but their hands were tied as Darren had turned sixteen while away at his aunts and could not be persuaded to give up his freedom and go into some form of care. The council promised to re-house the boy, as he could not remain in a three bed roomed flat on his own, but were not sure how quickly this would happen. On the fourth day, two large men in suits appeared and the residents on that landing assumed that they were from the council, who had been called that morning with further complaints and requests for assistance.

The two men knocked on the door to the Jackson’s flat and one of Darren’s mates, on his way out to collect more vodka, inadvertently opened it and admitted them into the confined hall. He took one look at their faces and hurriedly left, glancing nervously over his shoulder as he ran down the landing. Within minutes he was followed by the rest of the gang, one of them nursing his right ear and trying to hold back unmanly tears.

The neighbours on each side of the flat listened with ears pressed to their lounge walls but they could not hear a word. They were beginning to doubt that the two men were from the council after all and their suspicions were confirmed when sounds of a more physical nature were heard from the Jackson’s living room.

Twenty minutes later, the two men left, carefully closing the door of the flat behind them. All was silent and the neighbours on either side settled down to enjoy their after lunch television programmes and a well-deserved nap.

Several hours later, just as they were preparing their supper, the neighbours heard someone falling around inside the Jacksons’ flat. It sounded as though furniture and ornaments were being knocked over and then a crash as something heavy such as a television smashed to the floor. Not wishing to get involved in anything to do with the family, the police were not called and anyway after half an hour, the front door was opened. On both sides of the flat, curtains were twitched and eyes followed the progress of the figure that emerged onto the landing.

It was an astonishing sight. It was Darren, but barely recognisable as he stumbled in high-heeled shoes, drunkenly down the landing. He was wearing a tight satin dress, fishnet tights and he was wearing make-up and jewellery. The neighbours found themselves tittering and laughing at the spectacle as Darren staggered towards the stairs. A man returning from work stood one of the stairwells, transfixed by the vision before him. Darren stared glassily back at him and then grabbing the handrail almost slid to the bottom of the steps. He didn’t  even appear to see the man in front of him and tottering on his stilettos he swung around the corner and down the next flight.

Unfortunately for Darren, he was inexperienced in the management of high heels and as he reached the top of the last flight of stairs leading to the car park, he slipped and fell untidily to the bottom landing in a crumpled heap.

He lay motionless as a crowd of residents clustered around him. One daring soul prodded the supine body with the toe of his shoe and then leapt back as the body began to twitch and jerk before going rigid and collapsing back onto the dusty surface of the pavement.

The post mortem showed that Darren had a great deal of alcohol in his system as well as a considerable amount of recreational drugs. No one else was suspected in his death although the residents of the estate had their own ideas. Darren’s gang were not bothered by the nature of Darren’s death, but were mortified to think that their leader, and the terror of the neighbourhood, was secretly a lover of fine clothes, high heels, make up and jewellery. Those gang members that lived on other estates were never seen again and those that remained on the Redgrave kept a very low profile. Some even went as far as to go to school on a regular basis and one graduated to college where he trained as a social worker.

A month after Sharon’s disappearance and Darren’s death, Archie Jackson apparently slipped on a bar of soap in the prison shower and hit his head on the tiles. His death was ruled as accidental by the authorities.

The sewing circle continued to meet although they were not only missing the lovely Flo but Sylvia too on some occasions. In the weeks following their successful campaign, she could be seen getting into an elegant black car one or two mornings a week. One day as the friends sat around working on their latest projects, she looked up and smiled at them gently.

“I have some news.” They all turned to her expectantly.

“I am getting married.” She announced to her open-mouthed audience.

“It’s someone I have known for years, a widower living in Chingford. He has got a lovely house and he says it is too big and empty for him on his own.”

She drew a handful of envelopes out of her handbag and distributed them around the stunned women.

“I hope you will all come to the wedding, and be my bridesmaids, and when we get back from honeymoon I would like you to come out to me every week for our meetings as I don’t want to give them up.”

Big Sal who was sitting next to Sylvia grabbed her in her ample embrace and kissed her resoundingly on her powdered cheek.

“You just try and stop us you sly old floozy. Perhaps you can set us all up with mates of his at the wedding? We could all do with a bit of a fling!”

The others all laughed and Betty rushed to the kitchen for the sherry bottle and five glasses.

As they toasted the future Mrs Mitchell, they also raised their glasses to their beloved friend Flo and prayed that she could now rest in peace.

©Sally Cronin 2009

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Dec 23, 2020 Patricia Furstenberg rated it Five Stars it was amazing

There are writers who can keep you on your toes, and writers who can entertain. And there are writers who can compose soulful stories that speak to your heart. Sally Cronin is one such writer, and ‘Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet’ is a collection that will pull at your heartstrings. Even those you’ve forgotten about. 🙂

I was pressed for time when this book came out, and I could only pick it up now and then, taking in one chapter at a time. It only made the enjoyment of its reading last longer.

Cronin’s stories shine a spotlight on life’s simple humanity and on the humanity that rolls back into life. They are a reminder that life IS filled with hope. A read for all.

A perfect book during such trying times.

Available for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – December 27th 2020- January 2nd 2021 – Happy New Year, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Books and funnies


Welcome to the round up of posts on Smorgasbord that you might have missed this week.

If I have not already wished you Happy New Year, then please accept my wishes for a fantastic 2021.. in the hopes that it will be better behaved than 2020.. I posted a little tribute to the heroes of the year, and to our pets who have been there with us all the way. There were a few funnies and music of course to mark the occasion..

Happy New Year’s Eve – 2020 in the rear view mirror

My thanks as always to you for visiting and sharing the posts.. and this year has been made special by the warmth and kindness of the writing community…something to be treasured.

On with the posts from the week…and I hope you will join William Price King and myself on Tuesday for the new Breakfast Show with music and news from the 1960s.

Get your rock ‘n’ roll boots on with my top five picks by Sally Cronin

March 1986 – Pool Parties, lost puppies, New Furniture

What’s in Name? Ifan and the Black Sheep by Sally Cronin

What’s in Name? – Kenneth – A Love for Life by Sally Cronin

The Sewing Circle Part One.

#Fantasy – Lords of Chaos (Unraveling the Veil Book 3) by D.Wallace Peach

Past Book Reviews 2020 – #Family #Mystery – Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney

Past Book Reviews 2020 – #Fantasy – The Hat by C.S. Boyack

29th December 2020 – D.L.Finn, Elizabeth Merry, Jan Sikes

January 1st 2021 – #Books and more Books – Amy M. Reade, Jessica Norrie, Mary Smith

#Suspense Sandra J. Jackson, Reviews – #Supernatural Jessica Bakkers, #WWII Marina Osipova,

New Release – #Fairies Teagan Riordain Geneviene, #Family James J. Cudney, #1960s #Thriller Ted Myers

#Romance Ritu Bhathal, #Paranormal Romance Stevie Turner, #Poetry Denise O’Hagan

#NewAuthor Marketing Tips – Making the most of Twitter

The Children’s Reading Room – New Author – #Emotions – Feel Like Eggs by Jeff Goodman

New Release – #Dragons Janice Spina,- Reviews – #Turtles Cynthia S. Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange, #Bears Frank Prem

Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – December 29th 2020 – Working out and Animal comedians

 

Enjoy the weekend and look forward to seeing you next week.. stay safe and thanks … Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flight’s of Fancy – The Sewing Circle – Part One by Sally Cronin


In the last of the series of short stories over the holidays, I am sharing The Sewing Circle today and tomorrow, which I hope you will enjoy..

The Sewing Circle Part One.

The sewing circle met at Betty’s flat on the ground floor of Malcolm House, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. There were six regular members and the odd person who dropped in who appreciated that the group was the source of gossip and information about the Redgrave Estate.

Copious cups of tea were provided with members taking it in turn to produce homemade cakes that were judged critically during the course of the afternoon. Recipes were swapped and toppings envied as the ladies knitted and embroidered the hours away.

All of the members were over eighty and had lived varied and sometimes tragic lives. All had been born and brought up in this deprived area of South London and the fact that they still participated so fully in their lives was a testament to their strength of character.

The tenant of the flat, and gracious hostess, was Betty Smith. She had been lucky in as much as her husband had lived long enough to enjoy ten years of retirement with her. They had lived in the annexe of their son’s lovely house near Chelmsford but after Arthur’s death, Betty felt lonely and isolated, with her son and daughter-in-law out at work every day. She moved into the flats five years ago and was delighted to find that several of her old friends were not only still alive but resident on the estate. She was now eighty-six and a firm favourite with the younger children on the Redgrave who were the eager recipients of her cupcakes.

Mary Jones was eighty-three, had lost two husbands in the Second World War, three children as babies, and had toiled into her seventies as a cleaner at an office block in the heart of the City. Her wrinkled face identified a life-long affair with nicotine and her skin had the patina of a well-polished piece of walnut. Mary was the matinee-jacket expert, having knitted for four generations of the offspring of her two surviving daughters. Her eyesight was not all that it used to be but her loving family forgave her the odd dropped stitch. Arthritis made it difficult for her to get out on her own and the other more mobile members of the circle would walk with her to the post office to collect her pension on Thursdays and to the convenience store on the corner of the estate. She had recently started using a wheeled stroller and was very pleased with her new-found independence. With the help of her neighbour she had even made it down to the Red Lion pub for the pensioner’s special one week and was planning to make this a regular outing.

Sylvia Ross, the youngest member of the circle, was a bit of a mystery as she always changed the subject when asked about her early years. She had no family, by all accounts, and even when firmly pressed, refused to give details of where she was born or brought up.

She once let slip that she had been married but then changed the subject which, of course, elevated the curiosity of her fellow members to extraordinary levels. This resulted in a certain amount of behind the scenes digging, and once or twice snippets of an enticing nature were ferreted out, only to fizzle away from lack of information. She was just eighty and extremely elegant. She always wore a smart suit to the sewing circle although it was obvious that the classic clothes were decades old. Her blonde hair was touched up every month by the hairdresser in the high street and her nails were the envy of all the teenage girls in her block.

The circle marvelled at her ability to embroider with her extended, red talons but liked her too much to pass comment. They doubted that they would ever get to the bottom of the mystery, but Sylvia was a lively and generous member of the group who was always there if one of them was ill or needed something special brought back from the shopping precinct. She truly had a heart of gold.

Maggie Baxter was originally from Jamaica and had married a seaman from Hackney in the fifties. She had the most wonderful laugh and her generous spirit was well known throughout the estate. A trained nurse, she had acted as the community midwife for over twenty-five years and even now, at eighty-five, was called upon regularly by the young mother’s on the estate for help and guidance during and after their frequent pregnancies. Nothing shocked Maggie and she could be relied on to keep a secret. She was not above giving some of the younger, more obnoxious, residents of the estate a quick smack if they got out of hand on the stairwells, but on the whole even the toughest of adolescent boys who roamed the estate, jobless and bored, knew that Maggie Baxter would be there if they needed them. Her friends in the sewing circle warned her however that she needed to be careful. In recent months, several new families had been housed on the estate and their rowdy kids were an unknown quantity. In fact, petty crime was on the increase despite the fact that they had their own community police presence, and on two occasions recently elderly residents had been mugged and injured on their way back from the local shops.

The frailest of the group was Flo Miles, a tiny little woman who had amazingly borne twelve children, all of whom had survived wars and sickness. She had thirty-six grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren and at ninety years old was considered the queen of the Redgrave. She had lived there since it was built, twenty years earlier, and knew every little bit of gossip there was to be had about the residents. The other members even suspected she knew more that she was telling about Sylvia Ross but on this subject, she was strangely close-mouthed. She was also fearless and despite her fragile appearance walked herself to and from the local Bingo Hall despite her friends’ insistence that she go by taxi. The fact that she was a prolific winner also worried the members of the sewing circle, but she did make the compromise that on nights that she won money she would get a cab home and get the driver to walk her to her ground floor flat, conveniently close to the parking area.

Sarah Dempsey or big Sal as she was known to her friends and neighbours was a gregarious and fun loving Irish woman who had come over to London as a spinster of thirty-eight, in the late 1950’s. She had cared for her parents until their death and then found herself evicted from her family home by her brother who had inherited the lot. He had begrudgingly given her forty pounds and bought her a one-way ticket to England. Luckily, Sal found a job as a waitress in a large department store in Knightsbridge, and being the hard worker that she was, she remained in that job for over thirty years. She had a lovely little pension as well as her State benefits and she adored giving unusual and unexpected gifts to every one of her acquaintance. She was treasured by everyone, especially when she burst into song at quiz nights, and other functions, at the community centre in the middle of the estate.

So, here was the sewing circle, a group of friends who were independent and who took care of each other lovingly. All very different, but all intent on one thing, ending their lives with dignity and in the company of people they cared for.

There was just one problem and that was the Jackson family. The Jacksons had moved onto the estate after being moved from two other communities because of their unreasonable behaviour. Archie Jackson was in prison for violent offenses more than he was out and his wife Sharon was a loud-mouthed harridan who could be heard through the thin walls of the flats, shouting and swearing throughout the day and long into the night. They had five children although it was a mystery to everyone how she had so many bearing in mind that Archie was inside most of the seventeen years they had been married. The more uncharitable amongst the residents speculated on the difference in look and colour between the offspring and there were certainly enough suspicions to cast doubts on Archie’s participation in some of their conceptions.

Everyone on the estate gave the Jacksons a wide berth. Since their arrival, petty crime on the estate had risen dramatically and the residents’ committee had even requested a meeting with the Police representative to try to stem the tide of thefts and muggings that suddenly affected the area. The police did what they could and in fact, they did catch the older Jackson boy, Darren, red handed shoplifting from the corner shop. But because he was only fifteen he was let off with probation. Next, the committee tried the council who said that having moved the Jackson’s twice already they were running out of options. There were suggestions from some of the residents that a prison ship or deserted island would be a suitable place to move the family but in the end, the council promised to try to find alternative accommodation away from the Redgrave.

Hoping that a resolution was only a matter of weeks away everyone on the estate held their collective breath and trusted that not too much damage would be inflicted on property, or themselves, in the meantime.

This wish was not to be granted and for one of the members of the sewing circle, life was about to take a desperate turn.

One Wednesday evening Flo Miles won over £500 on the bingo. She was ecstatic and could not wait to share her news with her closest friends in the sewing circle. One of her bingo pals owned a mobile phone and with great delight, Flo called Betty to tell her the news. What she didn’t know was that Sharon Jackson and her sister were sitting right behind her and had made note of the substantial win.

Betty suggested that her friend come round for a sherry to celebrate and Flo decided to call it a night and get a taxi back to the estate straight away. She left the bingo hall and looked up and down the street for one of the cabs that normally parked outside. Unfortunately, there was still two hours to go of the evening bingo session and the usual line of cars was not to be seen.

Flo was so elated by her win that she decided she would not hang about any longer and would walk the short distance home, something she had done many times. She was blissfully unaware that at precisely the same time Sharon Jackson was on her own mobile phone nor did she know that the woman was setting her up for another surprise tonight.

Despite being on probation, Sharon’s eldest son Darren had made little effort to control his violent and anti-social behaviour. When his mother had rung him, he was hanging out on one of the stairwells with two of his mates from his previous address. They had been drinking vodka and smoking shoplifted cigarettes as they sat on the steps leading to the top landing and they were fired up and ready for trouble.

Darren snapped shut his mobile phone and looked at his mates. “Mum says some old bitch has just won over five big ones at the bingo and is on her way home.” He smiled evilly showing brown discoloured teeth. “She says I can have half if I get the cash without being seen! Anyone fancy a laugh?”

With his two mates in tow, Darren scurried rat-like down the darkened stairs to the parking area below. Flo was just entering the estate from the main road, trying to move as quickly as possible in and out of the shadows that stretched outside the reach of the street lamps. She was looking warily around her but she held her head up high and marched determinedly in the direction of the flats.

As she approached the entrance to Betty’s block, she had to pass some dumpsters on her left and failed to notice the movement in the darkened recesses between the bins. Suddenly a hand was clamped over her mouth and her bag, which was held tightly under her arm, was ripped away. She struggled as she fought for breath and she found herself on the ground feeling the jagged gravel through her clothing. Her eyes widened as she put her hands up to try and pry loose the hand around her mouth, and they looked pleadingly up into the hard eyes of her attacker who she recognised immediately.

Darren knew that the old bitch had made him and he had a decision to make. Should he do a runner with his mates, with the bag, and wait for the coppers to catch up with him? He was on probation now but this would certainly get him inside some juvenile detention centre. On the other hand, he could finish the job here and now. He held his hand tightly cupped over Flo’s nose and mouth and pressed down steadily as her struggles weakened and finally stopped. Satisfied that he had eliminated his victim and witness to his crime, he slid back into the shadows where his friends waited in breathless admiration.

Betty laid out the sherry glasses and some special crisps that she had bought for the next sewing circle meeting. After half an hour, she became worried that Flo had still not appeared and crossed to her lounge window overlooking the parking lot. At first, she saw little but as her eyes adjusted to the dark outside, she noticed a heap of what appeared to be clothing lying by the dumpsters. For some reason a feeling of dread passed through her and she rushed to the phone to call Big Sal who lived two floors up from her.

“Sal, can you come down, I think something has happened to Flo and I don’t want to go outside alone.”

Within minutes Sal was at the door and the two elderly women walked hand in hand towards the dark shape lying motionless on the ground. As they got closer they saw a hand, palm up stretched pleadingly in their direction. Hearts beating rapidly they drew closer and looked down at the frail face of their beloved friend. Betty immediately knelt down and touched Flo’s face.

“She’s still breathing Sal. Quickly, go and call an ambulance from my flat while I stay with her.”

She handed her keys to Sal who hesitated for a moment tears pouring down her face. “Hurry Sal, don’t worry I will be fine.”

As Sal hurried inside, Betty cradled Flo’s head in her lap and leaned as close as she could to her motionless friend. As she bent forward, she thought she heard a whisper coming from the bruised lips.

“Flo, it’s me Betty, what is it love?” She gently stroked Flo’s forehead.

“Jackson……boy…..” With that, Flo breathed softly and for the last time.

©Sally Cronin 2009

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

Available for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

Smorgasbord Christmas Archives -What’s in Name? – Kenneth – A Love for Life by Sally Cronin


I am going to be sharing some of my short stories over the next week as I take a short break from blogging. I intend to catch up on my reading and reviewing but I will be in and out to respond to comments and check on things…Happy Holidays.

Kenneth – A Love for Life

Kenneth Fitzgerald looked across the crowded ballroom at the woman that he had loved for a lifetime.

Georgina was surrounded by attentive male admirers, and was holding court as she always did, with elegance and grace. He watched as she tilted her head to one side to listen to the young man sitting next to her, cupping her hand delicately behind her ear, to better hear his comments over the sound of the band.

The handsome companion was her grandson Timothy, and even at first glance you could see the resemblance; the same blue eyes, golden hair colour and a long refined nose. Georgie was 90 years old and yet her beauty was undiminished. Kenneth knew he was biased. He remembered his stunned reaction to meeting her for the first time over 70 years ago, in this same ballroom on New Year’s Eve 1935.

Georgina Crowley was the daughter of a millionaire financier who had managed to survive the Wall Street crash in 1929, by converting his wealth in previous years, into a renowned art collection. Malcolm Crowley was an astute businessman and had never squandered his money on the trappings of wealth. He had also salted away cash and jewellery on his various international travels, providing a comfortable buffer for the family, and those that had worked for him loyally over the last thirty years.

He was as canny with his three children as he was with his wealth. His two sons had followed him into the firm after studying for business degrees, and Georgina had also been encouraged to go to college, where she was now training to be a teacher. Malcolm firmly believed that all his children should have skills that could support them, should the financial climate not improve significantly in his lifetime. That is not to say that his youngest child did not also enjoy the benefits of being part of a wealthy family. Georgina was known to have exquisite taste, and her slim figure was the perfect shape to model the latest fashions. To be fair, many of the designs were copied from the leading fashion magazines, and recreated on her treasured Singer sewing machine

Kenneth brought himself back to the present and felt his heart pounding in his chest. It was the same every year, when he remembered that first New Year’s Eve, when he had fallen madly in love at first sight with Georgina Crowley. It had not been a one-sided infatuation, and at that first touch of her delicate hand in his own, he had felt a tremor that caused him to look up into her face. Her pink lips had parted in surprise and her smile dazzled him.

They had danced all night circling the floor; perfectly matched in their love of the foxtrot and quickstep. The other party goers had moved to one side to watch this golden couple as they seamlessly moved from one dance to another, and Malcolm Crowley paused in his discussions with a group of men, to watch his daughter’s delight in this young man’s embrace.

Kenneth had wanted to kiss those pink lips at midnight but was aware of the scrutiny from those around them. He had whispered in Georgina’s ear as they waltzed to the final tune of the old year.

‘Shall we slip away at midnight and find some moon and starlight?’

She had looked into his eyes and smiled, nodding her head in agreement.

As the clock struck midnight, Georgina rushed to her parents at their table and kissed and hugged them both. In the ensuing rush as the other guests did likewise, the two of them had slipped out of the large double doors at the end of the ballroom and Kenneth had guided her to his car parked along the drive. He grabbed a blanket from the back seat of the roadster and placed it around Georgina’s shoulders before helping her into the front seat. He raced around to the other side of the car and within minutes they were roaring down the hill from the house into the dark night.

Kenneth drove carefully as the road was slick with ice and he was aware that he was responsible for a very precious cargo. Although it was a cold night he knew just the place to take Georgina on this magical occasion. A spot high above the city, where the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve would provide a backdrop for their first kiss.

He looked across at Georgina as she clasped the plaid blanket around her bare shoulders, and smiled at her obvious delight at this adventure. His eyes were only off the road for seconds, but it was still long enough for him to miss the broken down car around a curve in the road.

He regained consciousness and raised his hand to his forehead; it came away wet and sticky. He wiped blood from his eyes and tried to move his body. Finally he was able to push himself into a sitting position against the upturned roadster and he desperately looked for Georgina. The moon came out from behind a cloud and he took a sharp intake of breath as he saw her crumpled form by the rear bumper of the car. He crawled across and managed to pull her crushed and lifeless body into his arms… his heart was pounding in his chest and he tried to wake her by touching her face and calling her name. After several minutes he rested his head back against the car and he knew that she was gone.

‘Please, please do not take her … it is my fault and it should be me… take me… please take me and save her.’

On New Year’s Day, Georgie asked her youngest grandson to drive her to the cemetery. She came here often to visit her husband’s grave. Phillip had been a wonderful man and she had grown to love him during the long summer of 1942. They had twin sons born in 1944 but tragically Phillip had been killed in the last weeks of the war. He had been brought home and buried in the Crowley family plot close by her house and their sons. She still missed his loving kindness. However, she admitted to herself that it was a different kind of love to the one that has swept her off her feet that magical New Year’s Eve in 1935.

Whilst her grandson watched from the car, Georgina spent some minutes at Phillip’s monument. Then walking carefully, leaning on her stick, she moved down the icy path until she stopped before another gravestone. Tears gathered in her pale blue eyes as she read the inscription.

Kenneth Fitzgerald

Beloved son and brother.

1910 – 1935 Killed in an automobile accident.

It was 70 years ago, and yet every New Year’s Day, Georgie relived those dreadful first moments when she had woken in the hospital. She had a dreadful headache but thankfully didn’t seem to have any other major injuries. Her mother and father were sitting by her bedside and Malcolm gently took her hand in his. Her first words were asking for Kenneth, and she still remembered the look of anguish on her father’s face as he braced himself to tell her the news.

She touched the top of the headstone and smiled to herself. He had been there again last night at the family ball, watching from the shadows as he had done every year, and she had felt that same giddy feeling as that first New Year’s Eve. She suspected that this time however it was more likely that her medication was no longer effective in keeping her failing heart beating.

She felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up into the smiling face of her grandson.

‘Time to go Gran… It is getting cold and I need to get you back home.’

Georgie took his arm and they moved carefully up the path. She turned for one last look at Kenneth’s grave.

She whispered to herself. ‘Next year my love, next year we will dance again on New Year’s Eve.’

©Sally Cronin

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the early reviews for the book

Jane Sturgeon 5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully warm and loving collection of stories and poems… Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 December 2020

I loved Cronin’s latest collection of stories and poems woven around life, love, loss, kindness, companionship, furry buddies and connections to spirit. She writes tales where we can all find glimpses of ourselves and the mixture that life offers. DNA brought tears to my eyes, as did The Wedding Day and The Date is delightful. The Duchess poem is a loving tribute, as is the Garden Birds. The Weekly Shopping List is a salutary tale. To create this wonderful warm collection given all that has transpired this year is a triumph and another bright feather in Cronin’s loving and richly decorated author’s hat.

Available for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Archives -What’s in Name? Ifan and the Black Sheep by Sally Cronin


I am going to be sharing some of my short stories over the next week as I take a short break from blogging. I intend to catch up on my reading and reviewing but I will be in and out to respond to comments and check on things…Happy Holidays.

Ifan and the Black Sheep

Ifan Williams sat in the small velvet chair that usually held his gran’s dressing gown and woollen shawl. The green velveteen gown was now draped over the end of the bed; adding some extra warmth to her feet as she lay sleeping deeply on this winter’s afternoon.

The big double bed was one of the few pieces of furniture in the cottage overlooking the estuary, when David Lloyd had carried his young bride, Megan, over the threshold in 1920.

Over the next few years, other pieces, usually made by local craftsmen, had been carefully brought in through the wide front door at the end of the stone path that led from the main road. None of those hand crafted pieces had been replaced in the last fifty years; the sturdy old oak bed was no exception.

His gran lay beneath a patchwork quilt that she had made as part of her bottom drawer. She had explained that expression to Ifan during their nightly chats by the fireside where they sat together after supper. His granddad had died when Ifan was just three years old; whilst he was living far away in South Wales with his mother and father and two older brothers. He had never known him, but he knew his face well from the old photograph above the mantelpiece. A stern looking man with a big bushy moustache and eyebrows, who Ifan was just a little afraid of.

Gran had laughed at this notion and set about telling him tales of his granddad and his life on the mountain. Cadair Idris was on the other side of the estuary, where David had tended sheep for a large landowner all his working life. She told Ifan of his laughter and the way he would pick her up and swing her around the small kitchen when he came back from the pub on a Friday night with two or three pints inside him. She would smile as she sang the verses that David had romanced her with, even when they were middle-aged; tears would come to her eyes at the memory.

Ifan, his mother and twin brothers, Bryn and George, had returned to the valley to live with gran when he was five years old. His dad had been caught in a collapse in a mine and his mother Bronwyn could not stay in a place that held so many memories of him. It was not just her memories, but fear for her older boys who had worshipped their father and planned on following him down the mines when they were old enough. She dreaded the thought of losing them too and decided that a move back to her home away from that possibility was the only way forward. But it was her youngest son who had worried her the most. He would barely eat and at night he would toss and turn in the grip of dark dreams that had him waking; crying and calling for her.

After a few months it became clear that Bryn and George were unhappy despite finding jobs on a local farm. A soon as they turned eighteen they had announced that they wanted to return to work in the mines. They found this rural farming community too quiet and they missed their friends from the cobbled, narrow streets of the mining town. Despite her misgivings, Bronwyn knew that she could not stop them from following their own paths because of her fear. After some failed attempts to get them to change their minds, she arranged for them to board with a neighbour in the same street that they had grown up in.

Bronwyn had tried very hard to be brave for Ifan’s sake as they stood hand in hand on the platform, watching the train leave the station carrying the boys back to South Wales.

That was three years ago and despite initially missing his brothers very much; they made an effort to write to him often, occasionally sending photographs and also ringing to speak to him on the old black telephone in the kitchen. Ifan was now ten years old and had taken on the role of man of the house. Life had settled into a happy and stable routine and he had flourished. His mother too had gone back to work part-time in nearby Dolgellau in a store, walking Ifan to school in the morning and waiting for him when the bell rang at the end of the day. They would arrive home to supper on the table and Ifan particlarly loved his gran’s homemade berry crumble and thick custard.

In the summer holidays after his mother finished work the three of them would take a picnic part of the way up the track that led to the summit of Cadair, sitting on the mossy grass as they ate egg sandwiches and sticky homemade ginger cake. Megan would tell stories of David’s life as a shepherd and one story that Ifan loved to hear time and time again was about the black sheep.

One winter when unexpected early snow was deep on the ground, the farmer and David had trekked up the narrow path to find the flock and bring them down the mountain to safety. It was almost impossible to see through the still falling snow and they had almost given up hope of finding them when David had spotted the old matriarch of the flock. Black against the whiteness and surrounded by unmoving mounds that looked like snowdrifts.

As soon as the black ewe saw the men she recognised, she bleated and headed towards them, followed by the rest of the flock; visible now as they turned their dark faces in their direction. Within an hour they were all safely down to the lower slopes and feeding on bales of hay hungrily.

Gran said that in these dangerous mountains every flock needed a strong black ewe at the heart of the flock; wherever she was, they would be safe.

Now gran was very sick and the doctor had been in twice today. Ifan sat rigidly in the delicate chair holding a fragile, blue veined hand in his own small grasp. He looked up at her lined and much loved face and held his breath as he saw her eyes flicker and then open.

‘Hello Cariad my love,’ Megan turned her head on the pillow and squeezed his hand lightly.
‘Gran are you feeling better?’ Ifan leaned forward over the patchwork quilt and stared intently into her deeply lined face.

‘I am very tired pet, but so pleased to see you sitting there like a vision,’ she swallowed with difficulty but then smiled at the worried looking child. ‘Nothing that a good milky cup of cocoa wouldn’t fix.’

The boy stood up and removed her hand from his, placing it gently across the quilt… He rushed to the kitchen where his mother was making supper and grabbed her arm.

‘Mum, mum, gran’s awake and says she wants a cup of milky cocoa.’

His mother frowned and pulling out a chair from the scrubbed wooden kitchen table, she gently pushed Ifan into the seat. Resting her hands on his thin shoulders she kissed the top of his head before leaving the room.

A few minutes later, Ifan heard sobbing coming from the big front bedroom and he rushed down the corridor and burst into the room. His mother was sat in the velvet chair holding Megan’s hand up to her lips; tears filling her eyes. The boy went to the other side of the bed and looked down at his gran as she lay with her eyes closed and a slight smile on her lips. He looked across at Bronwyn and she met his gaze for a moment before shaking her head slowly from side to side.

A few days later the cottage was filled with mourners, most of whom had known Megan all her life and certainly since she had moved into the cottage with David Lloyd so many years ago. Ifan’s brothers had returned home for the funeral and were now on the back porch drinking beer with the men from the town. Ifan slipped away to his gran’s bedroom and sat in the velvet chair with his small fists clenched on his lap. Through his tears he looked over at the bedside table and saw Megan’s reading glasses perched on top of a white envelope. He picked it up and saw that it was addressed to him. The letter was unsealed so he pulled back the flap and removed the slip of paper inside. He read the spidery writing that covered the small piece of paper.

Cariad, please do not be sad. I am in a wonderful place now with your granddad and I want you to remember the story of the black sheep on the mountain. Your mum is now the heart of the family and if you stay close to her and follow her you will be safe and happy. Be brave and I love you my lamb. Gran.

After the visitors had all left; his two brothers’ and his mum sat around the kitchen table with a pot of tea talking about the day and exchanging memories of Megan. Ifan slipped away quietly and put himself to bed. For a few minutes he stared up at the ceiling above his head and then across at his album containing all the family photos he treasured. A white envelope protruded between the pages and there it would stay forever. He switched off the bedside light and within minutes he had drifted off to sleep, dreaming of a black sheep leading her flock across the green hillside in the sunshine.

@Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the early reviews for the book

Sally Cronin: Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries Carol Balawyder 20th December

Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries, Sally Cronin’s latest book, displays “the complexities of life, love, and loss.”

Composed of a series of well written short stories, poems and photos, the book begins on a humorous and ironical note on how a woman’s weight loss is cyber controlled – be careful what you put on the internet, folks.

In keeping with her technology theme, the author shifts course in a sweet, touching story about Jenny – a lonely divorcee who finds a family across the globe thanks to DNA testing.

Sally Cronin’s characters are ordinary people doing ordinary things but in an exquisite way. Take for example, Molly who is interested in horticulture where “not everything you plan will turn out the way you expect.” Alice, a florist who developed “a flare for elaborate floral displays.” Spunky Elsie Windsor, 93 out on a date with a teenager. Women who fight for their rights such is the case of a woman in the midst of a marriage filled with abuse, patriarchal control and violence.

Romance has many twist and turns. Romantic love can be tragic as Elaine and Tom learn the truth about how their parents kept them apart.

The characters in Sally Cronin’s stories reflect real people. Kind people. Charitable women. Women with big hearts. Courageous women. Loving husbands. Generous women who help a young homeless young man with his own story to share about hunger.

This is a very positive book where love, courage and charity are the winners.

A book to lighten us as we go through these dark days.

Available for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020