Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Pot Luck – #AfghanistanAdventures #54 Winter travel by Mary Smith


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1000 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine. The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

In this series I will be sharing posts from the last six months of 2020

It is an opportunity to showcase your writing skill to my readers and also to share on my social media. Which combined is around the 46,000 mark. If you are an author your books will be mentioned too, along with their buy links and your other social media contacts. Head over to find out how to participate: Posts from Your Archives 2021

This is the second post from author Mary Smith and I have enjoyed all her adventures in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last couple of years but there were a couple I missed and I am going to share those in this series. I highly recommend that you head over to Mary’s to read the others in this wonderful series.

Winter Travel Afghanistan, December 1989, Day Mirdad

The delay meant we were a long way from our destination, when darkness fell. At the next check post the mujahid guarding the chain, tried to persuade us not to continue our journey. Jon thanked him, but said we must ensure our patients reached the clinic in Day Mirdad. The mujahid played the beam of his torch into the back of the vehicle. When he spotlighted Zahir, without his turban, he jumped back hastily and waved us on. Poor Zahir, for once, we were grateful for the terrified reaction he provoked.

At the next check post Jon tried the same story. The mujahid peered into the back, saw Zahir and said calmly, ‘Oh, a leprosy patient. Never mind, we can give you a separate room for him.’ Jon requested permission to speak to the Commander who opened the window of his office a grudging few inches. We watched as Jon talked, gesticulating occasionally towards the vehicle. We saw the Commander shake his head and give a brief reply. Jon tried again – the Commander slammed the window shut. We were not going to reach Day Mirdad that night.

We were directed through a gateway into a large, bleak compound. Crunching over the frozen snow, we reached our room, unwilling guests of the Nasre Party for the night. The room was frigid, my head was hurting and we were all cold and cross. A man came in to light the bukhari around which we huddled, morosely sipping tea. We had to ask twice for food before we were eventually served a quantity of greasy, grey liquid with a few pieces of very stringy, dried up meat. Not even Zahir could find anything to laugh about.

When I awoke in the morning I discovered I’d lain on, and broken, my glasses, my head was throbbing worse than ever and, when I learned, despite the fact we’d not exactly been willing guests, we were expected to pay for our board and lodgings I was furious. Determined to tell the Commander exactly what I thought of his shabby treatment of us I headed across the compound towards his office. Rahimy talked me down – otherwise we might still be there. With bad grace I climbed into our vehicle.

At least the day was crisp and sunny, which helped lighten the mood, as we headed towards Day Mirdad. We left the snow behind us, but it would soon catch up with us again, and we would have to complete the work in Arif’s clinic as quickly as possible. For Jon, it meant examining the accounts and handing over the money required for the running of the project through the winter months. For me, it meant interviews with Arif to collect information, statistics and stories about his work, to be included in reports.

Day Mirdad is situated between Pashto and Hazara lands. Arif was Pashto. Before the Soviet invasion had forced him to abandon his studies, he’d completed two years in medical college in Kabul. Arriving in Pakistan as a refugee, he somehow heard about the leprosy centre in Karachi, and was accepted as a candidate in the training programme. Arif and Jon had been class fellows in Karachi but were not close friends. As a Pashto, Arif could never accept coming second to anyone in anything, while Jon, south-of-England-born, had a similar arrogance. Somehow or other at the end of the training, each was able to feel he had done better than the other, and honours were even.

As we approached the clinic the landscape became more desolate and barren. Grey, naked mountains rose on every side until it seemed there was no level ground anywhere. Everything was on a slope; the buildings, the fields – tiny handkerchief sized patches of brown – the few trees growing sparsely here and there. Houses were hidden behind very high mud walls in which heavy gates were set. Occasionally we had a glimpse, through an open gateway, of the mud built homes, constructed like fortresses. Pashto women are even more jealously guarded than Hazara women who, by comparison, are allowed tremendous freedom.

We drove through an imposing entrance into a large compound, on three sides of which was a two storey building. Arif came bounding down the steps to meet us, arms outstretched to embrace Jon in a welcoming hug.

Many are the tales of encounters between the soldiers of the British Raj and the fiery tribes from the Frontier Province, depicting the Pashto as tall, swarthy tribal chiefs, tangled black curls escaping from beneath their turbans, dark eyes flashing in challenge. Arif is nothing like those romantic heroes. Standing at barely five foot four he is stocky, has brown eyes which don’t flash particularly challengingly (well, maybe when angered) and a fair complexion. He is restless, excitable, unable to sit still for more than five minutes, and given to generous arm gestures when talking – which he does at great length and speed.

After embracing Jon he clasped my hand warmly, grinning, ‘Welcome, sister. I have many stories to tell you, but first we will drink tea.’ We followed him upstairs to the guest room which was large and sparsely furnished – a gilim which barely covered the floor and a pile of bedding. A Kalashnikov stood in one corner of the room, and when Arif saw me eyeing it, he rushed to give an explanation, ‘For protection, sister, for protection. When I go on tour Ashraf, you know Ashraf? My field assistant. He carries the Kalash – just in case. There are many thieves about, and maybe they think Arif has a lot of money because he works for a foreign organisation.’

We had stipulated weapons should not be kept on clinic premises by staff, a rule we suspected was frequently broken, although usually they had the sense to hide the thing before we appeared. I knew Hassan kept a Kalashnikov in Sheikh Ali, despite having made a big drama once about returning it to the local Commander. Now, he ensured we didn’t see it, but occasionally forgot, as when telling a story of being attacked by a wolf, which ran away when he fired his gun. He’d suddenly stopped talking as he realised he’d given himself away – then made matters worse by trying to say that he was just taking the gun home for a friend.

If Arif felt he needed the protection of a Kalashnikov while on tour, often on foot, I felt there was little we could say against it but I could never really see the justification in having one in the clinic itself. If thieves broke in to steal the medicines, they would surely be well armed. There would be a bloody shoot out which would most likely result in our staff being seriously injured, or killed – and the medicines would still be stolen. In this part of the world, however, men, from when they were still young boys, carried guns. It was expected. Only it used to be an old Lee Enfield which somehow seemed less of a killing machine than an AK-47 assault rifle.

©Mary Smith 2020

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Mary loves interacting with her readers on her website.

Books by Mary Smith

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A recent review No More Mulberries (I can highly recommend the book too)

Jan 25, 2021 M.J. Mallon rated it 4.5 stars really liked it

I really enjoyed No more Mulberries. The story’s strength lies in its cultural detail, and in its great variety of characters. The tale transports you away to Afghanistan to a country we all have heard a lot about, but few have ever been there. It doesn’t shy away from mentioning the truth of living in Afghanistan where losing face and a woman’s place and freedoms are far different than in the west. It also touches upon the stigma of leprosy. And yet, with all the trials and tribulations there is a sense of how much Miriam loves this adoptive country, so much so, that she decides to convert her faith and become a muslim.

It is a slow burn of a story, with much detail in the beginning explaining the path that took Miriam from Scotland to living in Afghanistan. It is also a love story, and in some ways a love triangle between the ghost of her dearly departed first love, who was killed, and her new husband Iqbal with tensions apparent especially towards the end of the story.

The ending was emotionally powerful and brought all the threads of the story to a satisfying conclusion. I began to understand Miriam’s motivations.

A well-written, engaging story which I would highly recommend especially to those who appreciate cultural stories about family, marriage, love and honour. 

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and:Amazon UK –  Blog: Mary Smith’s PlaceGoodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @marysmithwriter

 

Thanks for visiting today and I know that Mary would love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Pot Luck – Back in the saddle! Afghanistan Adventures #45 by Mary Smith


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1000 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine. The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

In this series I will be sharing posts from the last six months of 2020

It is an opportunity to showcase your writing skill to my readers and also to share on my social media. Which combined is around the 46,000 mark. If you are an author your books will be mentioned too, along with their buy links and your other social media contacts. Head over to find out how to participate: Posts from Your Archives 2021

This is the first post from author Mary Smith and I have enjoyed all her adventures in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last couple of years but there were a couple I missed and I am going to share those in this series. I highly recommend that you head over to Mary’s to read the others in this wonderful series.

Back in the saddle! Afghanistan Adventures #45

I discovered some more slides, handed them over at the print shop – they say at least three weeks! Photos included this week, while relevant to the post are taken on different times.

three horses

Lal-sar-Jangal – early winter 1989

It was time for the trip to Waras which I was anticipating with trepidation. Not only would my equestrian skills be sorely challenged by two days on horseback – each way – but, so too would my conversational abilities. Although my Dari had improved, my vocabulary was very much women orientated. I wondered how far lines such as “Does the back pain come just before your monthly bleeding?”, “Does your bleeding come regularly?” or, “Is there any smell or itching?” would take me.

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Ibrahim’s brother, Hassan, arrived to accompany us on the journey and early one morning we assembled outside the clinic. All the staff, several patients plus curious onlookers gathered to watch our departure. My horse was a pretty little thing, brown with a white star on her forehead. Outwardly displaying a degree of confidence, inwardly belied by the nervous churning of my stomach, I mounted, waited for Ibrahim to adjust the stirrups, mount his own horse and give the signal, “Y’Allah”, to be off.

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He and Hassan trotted off. I stayed put. It was acutely embarrassing, in front of so many people, all much too polite to laugh, but who must have found the situation hilarious. On previous occasions, the horse had at least started out. After much kicking of my heels and frantic tugging on the reins, I had to suffer the ignominy of being led by Haboly for the first fifty yards, until the horse finally accepted that she was part of the expedition.

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Probably 1994 with son, David and ‘his’ horse

Despite having reluctantly agreed to carry me, there was no way that she was going to put herself out any more than was strictly necessary, and I could not coax even a gentle trot out of her. Resorting to the method used on our way to Haboly’s village, Ibrahim rode in front with Hassan close behind me, occasionally giving my horse a flick with his whip. After about an hour of this Hassan decided enough was enough, and that if he did not teach me something about riding, it was going to take us a week to reach Waras.

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He connected with horses like a horse whisperer!

His method was simple and direct. Riding up alongside me he handed me his whip with the command, ‘Bezi – Beat!’ Reluctantly I took the whip and, feeling acutely self-conscious, attempted to do as ordered but only succeeded in striking the saddle bag behind me. My second attempt connected with the horse’s rump. This so astonished her, she was galvanized into charging forward in a fast trot for all of a hundred yards. As she began to recover from this surprise action on the part of her soft-touch rider and slow down again, Hassan was right beside me yelling in my ear, ‘Bezi!’ There were a few more fits and starts but, at last, she understood, and accepted, that her novice rider actually meant business. She settled down into a steady trot. Flushed with success, I grinned my thanks to Hassan and patted the horse’s neck at which her ears pricked quizzically. I began to feel quite fond of her.

Ibrahim and Hassan sat loosely in their saddles, completely relaxed. I felt like a sack of potatoes lumping around in the saddle, and with every step my spine connected with the wall of my stomach. Progress may have become speedier, but it was excruciatingly uncomfortable. When, after two hours of trotting, Ibrahim suggested a stop for tea I was extremely grateful. Dismounting gingerly, I winced as my cramped muscles protested, but the tea and boiled eggs revived me and when Ibrahim said, ‘We must go.’ I remounted, eager to continue. It was nerve-racking when everyone else in the chaikhana came out to watch how the foreigner rode a horse. To my relief she responded instantly to the dog calling sound, which means “gee up”, and trotted off beautifully. I loved her. I decided to call her Zeba, meaning beautiful.

We were to break our journey at Ibrahim’s uncle’s home in Kirman and Hassan rode ahead to alert the family to expect guests for the night. I watched enviously as his horse galloped over the flat grassland on which we were riding, wondering if I would ever attain such confidence and proficiency on a horse. Ibrahim rode alongside and showed me how to gather the reins in my left hand, Afghan style, my right arm, holding the whip, hanging straight down by my side. I felt that at least I was beginning to look the part.

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Never thought I’d be so comfortable on horseback!

The family had gathered outside to meet us. As soon as we were led inside Ibrahim’s aunt pounced on me and proceeded to massage my aching legs until the muscles relaxed and the pain melted away. Bliss. Later we played cards until dinner was served. Ibrahim never travelled anywhere without a pack of cards in his pocket. On this occasion he offered to teach me a new game but every time I thought I had grasped the rules, he seemed to change them. By the time dinner arrived, I owed him forty five chickens.

I slept little that night, devoured alive by an army of fleas sharing my blanket. In the morning Ibrahim caught me scratching furiously at my ankles and asked, ‘Fleas?’

Not wishing to offend anyone by saying their bedding was flea infested I muttered, ‘Perhaps I got them from the horse.’

Ibrahim was shocked by such a suggestion, ‘Oh, no, the horses don’t have fleas. They must have been in the blanket.’ When his uncle appeared and was told about the fleas he apologised for my disturbed night, but otherwise seemed to take the philosophical attitude that flea infested bedding was just one of those things in life with which we must cope. I escaped outside to find some privacy in which to enjoy a good scratch at the bites in less accessible parts of by body.

©Mary Smith 2020

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Mary loves interacting with her readers on her website.

Books by Mary Smith

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A recent review No More Mulberries (I can highly recommend the book too)

John W. Howell VINE VOICE  5.0 out of 5 stars A Sophisticated Story of Human  Relationships Reviewed in the United States on September 21, 2020

I was drawn to this book by reading Mary Smith’s internet posts about her time in Afghanistan. From the first page, I was mesmerized by the descriptions of the county and its people. Yes, there is a story here, and the narrative is crisp and clear. But there is another significant feature of the book. This book gives a first-hand account of the struggles of living in a country ravaged by war, disease, and poverty. The people and the country’s conditions provide a backdrop to a very complicated relationship between a Woman born and raised in Scotland and her second husband, a native Afghan. The woman had given up her religion and homeland to follow her Doctor husband back to his home country. We find out early that this is the second time the woman has done this.

The main story deals with the relationship between the woman and her husband. Since returning to Afghanistan, she finds that his need to save face and follow the local community’s rules and mores supplants his love and respect for her. She contemplates what lie would be like without him and does defy his wishes and go off to the town where her first husband is buried.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and:Amazon UK –  Blog: Mary Smith’s PlaceGoodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @marysmithwriter

 

Thanks for visiting today and I know that Mary would love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Summer 2020- Pot Luck – Darlene Foster Interviews Author Mary Smith


Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives… and I will be picking two posts from the blogs of those participating from the first six months of 2020. If you don’t mind me rifling through your archives… just let me know in the comments or you can find out the full scope: Posts from Your Archives – Pot Luck – 2020

This is the first post from Darlene Foster and an opportunity to showcase two lovely authors in the same feature..Darlene interviews Mary Smith in March of 2020.

Darlene Foster interviews writer and blogger, Mary Smith

I’ve been blogging for almost ten years and I love it. It’s a great way to communicate with like-minded people, and I’ve made wonderful friends all over the world through my blog. The blogging community is so supportive, sharing ideas and providing encouragement.

One friend I’ve made is Mary Smith from Dumfries, Scotland. She has written some wonderful books including a guide to her hometown. When I finally get to Scotland, I will be taking this book with me.

She has also written a couple of books based on life in Afghanistan, where she lived and worked for a number of years.

This is my review of No More Mulberries.

I bought this book because I love reading stories that take place in the middle east. I was not disappointed. Mary Smith has written a wonderful story about cross-cultures, family, relationships and Afghanistan. The detailed descriptions of the land, people and culture are fascinating. The story is told through the point of view of Miriam, the main character, who is a wife, mother and medical practitioner. It is easy to identify with her as she struggles to maintain a home for her family in a culture so different from her life in Scotland. Miriam also has to deal with ghosts from the past and feelings she has suppressed for too long which are having a negative effect on her marriage. This well-written book takes place in a troubled time just before the Taliban take control. Since the reader knows what will eventually happen, but the characters don’t, it keeps you on your toes and turning the pages. I highly recommend this book.

During a book signing in British Columbia last fall, I had a most pleasant surprise. Mary’s cousin Grace hand-delivered a card from Mary to me! Grace had been in Scotland to visit Mary who knew I would be at a bookstore not too far from where Grace lived, so she sent a card along. How special is that?

What a lovely card, all the way from Scotland

And the perfect poem on the back.

I have asked Mary to be a guest on my blog and answer a few questions.

If you could choose a fictional character to be your best friend, who would you choose and why?

This one stopped me in my tracks, Darlene, and I found it difficult to pick one – so I’m afraid I cheated and chose two. I would have loved to be best friends with Jo March of Little Women. She is such a great character. She, like me, was a tomboy – I climbed trees, went fishing with boys because I didn’t know any girls who wanted to fish. I even played on building sites, climbing over the rafters of half-built houses (which makes me shudder to think about now). I think we’d have egged each other on to do ever more daring things and I think we’d have laughed a lot together. She was strong-willed, determined not to be bound by the conventions of the day. Best of all, she wanted to write. I’d never met a character – a girl at that – in a book who wanted to be a writer and was totally bowled over by this. If Jo could do it – which she did very successfully – then maybe I could, too. I was slightly less impressed with her in Jo’s Boys when she began to only write for family and stopped writing for money, saying “most of us (she was talking about literary women) write too much.” I don’t think my teenage friend Jo would have adopted such an attitude so I’ll go on believing the teenage Jo March and I are best friends.

The cheat of my second one is a bit quirky. I would love to be best friends with Flora. Flora is the main character in a wonderful novel called The Bees by Laline Paul – and Flora is a bee. She is born into the lowest class of the hive but she’s a brave wee thing and survives and thrives, breaking the rules of the hierarchy in what is a compelling thriller about the secret life of the hive. I think we could be great friends, Flora and me.

If you could personally see one natural phenomenon that you have never seen, what would it be and why that one?

I would love to see the Aurora Borealis. Growing up in Scotland I always loved the song, The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, sung so often in school, at ceilidhs, on the radio, in which the lights are described as the “heavenly dancers”. I’ve seen amazing images of the phenomenon on the internet and would love to see it for real.

If you were to be paid to write a book about any subject you wished, what would it be about?

I want to write a biography of a remarkable woman who was a mechanical engineer in the early 1920s. She had an amazing life: supervising thousands of women (who could build anything from a bicycle to a battleship) at Barrow-in-Furness during the First World War, running a car factory, which employed mainly women, taking part in car racing trials and then establishing a hugely successful steam laundry – they laundered the uniforms of the soldiers who took part in the D-Day Landings. I have done some research but it would be lovely to be paid to do further research and writing the book.

Tell us about your next writing project.

Well, until I’m offered a nice advance to write about my woman engineer, my current project is turning the material on my blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish, into a memoir. My father had dementia, bad enough in itself, but his wife of forty years decided she wanted a peaceful life and left him, just at the time he most needed stability and continuity in his life. I moved in with him and started the blog as a way of recording events – and to keep my writing muscle working – and from feedback it seems all sorts of people would be interested in reading it as a book. It’s not in any way a ‘misery memoir’ – it has a lot of humour – but it does tell it like it is, from finding way to engage my father’s interest in life to dealing with him cheating at dominoes, from dealing with what it’s like to have to wipe your father’s bum to sharing his joy in the countryside.

©Darlene Foster March 2020

About Darlene Foster

Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not travelling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.

A selection of books by Darlene Foster

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One of the recent reviews for Amanda in Spain

Balroop Singh 5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, adventure and values for children  Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2020

Amanda in Spain by Darlene Foster recounts the charming adventures of a twelve-year old girl who goes to Spain to meet her friend, Leah. I enjoyed this book with my seven-year-old grand daughter who could read most of the story herself, as it is written in simple language to engage young children. Besides focusing on fun, this book highlights the spirit of curiosity, kindness and determination to succeed and fosters love for travel. The mystery girl Dona meets Amanda again and again and why does she get pulled toward her – a tale well told to keep children hooked till the truth tumbles out!

All the characters are realistic – a wonderful friend who stands by you, parents of Leah who encourage independence and a kind stranger who offers to help. While the wickedness of the world is revealed, it is kept within bounds so that it may not trouble tender minds. There is enough within the story to know Spain and its traditions. I’ve recommended the series to my grandchildren and they would be reading more of Amanda’s adventures.

Darlene Foster, Buy: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Website/Blog: Darlene Foster WordPress – Goodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @supermegawoman

About Mary Smith.

Born on the island of Islay but grew up in Dumfries & Galloway from the age of seven. After school had a miserable year working in a bank, went hitchhiking round France and Italy, came back and worked for Oxfam for ten years. Went for a holiday to Pakistan and found a job so the next ten years were spent first in Pakistan then in Afghanistan working for an aid organisation. A freelance journalist, I also write poetry, fiction and non-fiction including local history.

Books by Mary Smith

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Mary Smith, Buy:Amazon US – and:Amazon UK –  Blog: Mary Smith’s PlaceGoodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @marysmithwriter

Thank you for dropping by today and Darlene would love to read your feedback and if you would like to participate in this series here is the link again: Posts from Your Archives – Pot Luck – 2020

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives -#NewSeries 2020- Pot Luck – National Bunion Day by Mary Smith


Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives… and I will be picking two posts from the blogs of those participating from the first six months of 2020. If you don’t mind me rifling through your archives… just let me know in the comments or you can find out the full scope: Posts from Your Archives – Pot Luck – 2020

This is the second post from freelance journalist and author Mary Smith...and this week a problem that is faced by many of us when we have that ‘Cinderella’ or should that be ‘Ugly Sister’ moment of trying on favourite shoes that no longer fit.

National Bunion Day by Mary Smith

Shoes

It’s April 25 – it’s National Bunion Day.

National Bunion Day has been established to remove the stigma surrounding bunions, encourage sufferers to contact healthcare professionals and provide practical advice and information to help with the problem.

What is a bunion? It’s a misaligned toe joint which manifests itself as a bony lump at the base of the big toe. It’s an extremely painful condition. Ask Meghan Markle, Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lopez or Amal Clooney and they’ll tell you how painful it is. Or, ask my sister. She may not be an A-List celebrity but she can tell you how painful it is to have a bunion. She’s had it for a long time and she’s still dithering about whether or not to have it operated on.

Over ten million women in the UK have bunions. Seventy five per cent of women with bunions are embarrassed by their feet. Ninety-seven per cent of women with bunions have bought shoes for a special occasion – and never worn them again.

Media personality Dr Dawn Harper (a bunion sufferer herself) has joined forces with Sole Bliss, makers of stylish shoes for women with bunions, to raise awareness for National Bunion Day 2019. Given her wealth of medical expertise and personal experience of the condition, Dr Harper, who hosts Channel 4’s hit series ‘Embarrassing Bodies’, is the perfect ambassador for the campaign and the brand.

She said: “I’m honoured to be involved with Sole Bliss for a second year. As a sufferer of bunions, I am so pleased to work with a brand whose shoes are not only gorgeous but also provide women the guarantee of comfort. As a GP, I often have people in my clinic who are embarrassed and unsure about how they can manage the condition. This is exactly why I believe National Bunion Day is crucial – so we can inform the public that millions of people have them, they are not something to be ashamed of, and there are solutions.”

Surgery is the only solution to get rid of bunions. It can take a while to recover from surgery.

You’ll usually need to:

  • stay off your feet as much as possible for at least 2 weeks
  • avoid driving for 6 to 8 weeks
  • stay off work for 6 to 12 weeks
  • avoid sports for up to 6 months
  • Bunions sometimes come back after surgery.

You can understand why my sister is still dithering about surgery!

Some of the other solutions to ease bunion pain:

Do:

  • hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) to the bunion for up to 5 minutes at a time
  • try bunion pads (soft pads you put in shoes to stop them rubbing on a bunion) – you can buy these from pharmacies
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • try to lose weight if you’re overweight
  • wear wide shoes with a low heel and soft sole

Don’t: wear high heels or tight, pointy shoes

Where’s the fun in not having pointy shoes?

Sole Bliss, who introduced National Bunion Day, was launched in 2017 by designer Lisa Kay following five years of research and development. Elegant, yet deep and spacious at the front, they provide stylish shoes for women with bunions. Lisa said: “I hope we can continue to remove previous stigma and let women who currently suffer in silence know that there is a brand new range of on-trend, stylish shoes designed especially for them.”

I never use this blog for promotions (other than my books, and I’m so useless at that – did you even know I wrote books?) but for some reason – maybe my sister’s bunion – this National Bunion Day appeals to me!

Shoes

© Mary Smith 2020

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan

Books by Mary Smith

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A recent review No More Mulberries

Carol McKay 5.0 out of 5 stars Immersive  Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 June 2020

A really enjoyable story that had my imagination fully immersed in its portrayal of the sensory world of 1990s rural Afghanistan. A tender love story set against a backdrop of cultural conflicts and encroaching war.

Mary Smith, Buy:Amazon US – and:Amazon UK –  Blog: Mary Smith’s PlaceGoodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @marysmithwriter

 

Thank you for dropping in today and Mary would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives -#NewSeries 2020- Pot Luck – Fighting photo phobia by Mary Smith


Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives… and I will be picking two posts from the blogs of those participating from the first six months of 2020. If you don’t mind me rifling through your archives… just let me know in the comments or you can find out the full scope: Posts from Your Archives – Pot Luck – 2020

This is the first post from freelance journalist and author Mary Smith...and this week Mary shares the challenges of getting a new profile photograph taken. One of the major selling points of a book is its author and the connection a potential reader makes when they see the profile photograph. It is well worth taking the time and in some cases getting a professional to take the photo and this post is useful for us all.

Fighting photo phobia by Mary Smith

I hate having my photo taken. I can hear an instant chorus of ‘so do I’ but I’m sure no one hates it as much as I do. It’s almost a phobia.

A camera is pointed in my direction and in an instant every muscle in my face freezes, my shoulders lift up to my ears, my chin sticks out and all the wrinkles in my neck are accentuated a hundred-fold.

The profile pics I’ve been using on Facebook, Twitter and blogs were taken by a photographer friend. I was grateful for the time and effort she took and I picked (out of many) the ones that seemed to me to be ‘not too bad’. These were taken some years ago and I knew I really ought to update them.

This was taken several years ago – time for an update

I was thinking it was time to bite the bullet and have a professional photo taken which I could use on as my social media profile and for book covers and press releases and all the rest of the things authors and bloggers need to do which seem to require a mug shot. At a party I bumped into portrait photographer Kim Ayres. Fate!?

We had a long chat. I had several glasses of wine and agreed we should meet – just to discuss the idea. Kim emailed me next day, we met and he spent time explaining why so many of us don’t like seeing photos of ourselves. It’s because we only see ourselves in the mirror so we always see a reverse image of ourselves. Other people don’t shriek in horror at our pic because they are used to seeing us that way.

I understood what he was telling me but it didn’t totally convince me. If I think I look ghastly in my photos, does that mean everyone thinks I look ghastly in real life? And does that mean that only my hairdresser knows how I see myself? Anyway, I somehow found myself agreeing to have him take my photo.

Kim suggested I pretend I have a twin sister about to have her photo taken and think what advice I’d give her. ‘Eyebrows,’ I told my mythical twin. ‘You need to get your eyebrows done.’ Off I went – no manicure, no plumping up of lips, no facial – just the eyebrows. Funny, isn’t it what can make us feel better about ourselves?

He emailed to suggest I might have a drink to help me relax as long as I promised him I didn’t become either an aggressive or a maudlin drunk. I hadn’t actually contemplated getting drunk but when he arrived with all his photographic paraphernalia it suddenly seemed like a good idea. While he had a cup of tea I mixed a gin and martini cocktail – well, I didn’t bother with the lemon peel or olive or ice or shaking it – just a good slug of each in a glass. I don’t think it helped.

What did help was chatting, listening to Kim explain all sorts of things about photography (most of which went right over my head) and telling me we would have fun and, no matter how long it took, we would get a good photo – a photo I was happy with. Thinking back, it was like he was making soothing noises to a frightened horse!

He’d asked what I wanted people to see when they looked at the photo. I said I wanted to come across as warm and friendly, someone people would want to get to know. As he took each shot it appeared on a tablet so we could see it. To start with, all I could see was ‘meah’ but something happened during the process and I began to react differently to the photos. I began to see how things changed with a tilt of the shoulder here, a movement forward there, laughing at something just before the shutter clicked, a ‘think of something naughty’, stick out your tongue.

Best of all, Kim never gave that terrifying command I’ve heard from photographers – friends, professionals, family – ‘Smile!’ As someone who was a smoker, who drinks black coffee and red wine and has some unflattering NHS dental work, I’m very self-conscious about my teeth – as well as all the other major defects I immediately notice in my photos.

Kim was so relaxed, not rushing things, actually making me feel if took ten hours it would be fine with him and it did actually become fun. It took a couple of hours though, but eventually I looked at a photo and didn’t cringe. I was drawn to my eyes, which looked quite twinkly, rather than my wrinkly neck. I saw my neck, but it didn’t matter, because I realised people would look at the eyes first. Another one made me say: ‘Oh, my shoulder has moved up spoiling the line.’ Then, I realised I was looking at the whole image with a different eye. Kim was grinning.

The new profile pic

When the shoot was over I was both exhilarated and exhausted. I wanted to tell Kim to come back and we could do it again, maybe in the blue dress this time. I wanted to continue having fun because I suspected the euphoria would wear off and next time someone points a camera at me I’d freeze like before. When I need a new profile photo, I’ll definitely be calling Kim again.

Check out Kim’s website here. I’ve been looking at the amazing, exciting images on his website and thinking of all kinds of photographic possibilities then I remember I’m 63, a writer and blogger, an introvert rather than an extrovert, warm and friendly, hoping people would want to know me as I am.

I can even be in black and white or colour

©Mary Smith 2020

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan

Books by Mary Smith

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A recent review No More Mulberries

Carol McKay 5.0 out of 5 stars Immersive  Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 June 2020

A really enjoyable story that had my imagination fully immersed in its portrayal of the sensory world of 1990s rural Afghanistan. A tender love story set against a backdrop of cultural conflicts and encroaching war.

Mary Smith, Buy:Amazon US – and:Amazon UK –  Blog: Mary Smith’s PlaceGoodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @marysmithwriter

 

Thank you for dropping in today and Mary would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Book Reviews – #Afghanistan Mary Smith, #Historical Andrew Joyce


Welcome to a new series where I will be sharing book reviews I have posted in the last few years. I would like to take the opportunity to showcase books that I have enjoyed and their authors and if you have not read the books, I hope it will encourage you to check them out.

My reviews for current books has now moved to Thursdays.

The first book that I would like to showcase is No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

About No More Mulberries

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?

My Five Star review for the book 2017

First let me say that this book should be made into a film as it has all the ingredients of a action packed love story.

It is visually stunning and I found myself completely involved in the people and locations such as the village of Sang-i- Sia that Mary Smith uses as the backdrop to the unfolding story. Combined with the increasing conflict between the various factions in the region it has an element of danger that brings even more tension to the central theme.

All the characters had wonderful depth and some of the minor personalities stood out for me as well. Including Ismail an old and trusted friend from her previous life in Zardgul and his gentle and wise wife Usma.

There is a love triangle between midwife Miriam, Iqbal her second husband and Jawad her charismatic first husband who died tragically, and whose death she has not fully come to terms with. Through flashbacks, Mary Smith masterfully takes us through each of their lives, revealing the secrets and events that have brought them to a crisis point in Miriam and Iqbal’s marriage.

I came to admire Miriam who felt out of place in her native Scotland and embraced the cultural differences of living in a small Afghan village with enthusiasm and humour. She does everything she can to be accepted by learning the language and adopting the role of a traditional wife and mother.  Relationships can be daunting at the best of time, but add in the inability to communicate,no running water, basic cooking facilities and harsh extremes of weather in an isolated environment, and fortitude is required.

I did sympathise with Iqbal who clearly loves Miriam but finds it very difficult to deal with the ghosts of his past, and the ghost of Jawad who he feels is the third person in their marriage. He wants to be a good father to Farid who was just a toddler when his father died, but Miriam has also been trying to keep the memory of Jawad alive for her son, who is now confused. The light in their marriage however is provided by the delightful little girl, Ruckshana who is unaware of the tension and shines her love on all of them.

This is a complex relationship but the story is written in such a way that you come to understand and empathise with all the players in the drama. Mary Smith brings her extensive experience of living and working in Afghanistan and Pakistan into this story, creating a wonderful tapestry of life, love, danger and redemption.

I highly recommend you read the book.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan

Other books by Mary Smith

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Mary Smith, Buy:Amazon US – and:Amazon UK –  Blog: Mary Smith’s PlaceGoodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @marysmithwriter

The second review is for Andrew Joyce and  Yellow Hair.

51zhg2sqivl-_uy250_About Yellow Hair

Through no fault of his own, a young man is thrust into a new culture just at the time that culture is undergoing massive changes. It is losing its identity, its lands, and its dignity. He not only adapts, he perseveres and, over time, becomes a leader—and on occasion, the hand of vengeance against those who would destroy his adopted people.

Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and the author uses their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.
This is American history.

My Five Star review for Yellow Hair 2017

As a child of the 1960s, and with a father who was a huge Western fan, it was easy to get carried away with the dramatic and sweeping misinformation that was paraded before us. John Wayne led the charge across the plains and the common theme running through these Hollywood epics was ‘the only good injun, is a dead injun!’

Then in my late teens I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and my love affair with many of the western films was at an end.

I had read the reviews of Yellow Hair and I was interested to read this fictionalised version of actual events. I was not disappointed and as I was introduced to the back stories of the white settlers, and their often very pragmatic and desperate reasons for heading into the West, I began to see how it was not usually a malicious intrusion and greedy land grab but two cultures being misled and manipulated by the US Government and those with commercial interests.

You reach a point early on in the book; having been introduced to the settlers in this wagon train, when you are shocked into the recognition of how very dangerous their undertaking was and how unprepared the majority of them were.

Then begins the saga that becomes the story of a white man living as part of this besieged indigenous people, struggling to maintain their traditions and to survive the destruction of their way of life and the land that sustains them.

The list of injustices is very long, and the brutality of the clashes between the cultures, graphic and very disturbing. Peace was brokered time after time and promises were made that were only as good for as long as it took the ink to dry. You will be shocked at your sense of outrage as the behaviour of those in power and also saddened that these once proud and flourishing tribes should be so decimated in just 85 years.

Andrew Joyce does not pull any punches, but he presents the facts well and fairly. The thread that binds the story together, and humanises it, is the story of a young man with a foot in both cultures. Seeing the events and catastrophic impact on both settler and Indian through his eyes, will make you question much of the history written by the victors and then dramatised for our entertainment.

I recommend that you read the book for yourselves and you can find it here:

Read all the reviews and BUY the bookAmazon US

and: Amazon UK

61uytgjxb0l-_ux250_Andrew Joyce left home at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written seven books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.

Joyce now lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

A selection of other books by Andrew Joyce

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Andrew Joyce, Buy: Amazon US – And : Amazon UK – follow Andrew : Goodreads – blog: Andrew Joyce on WordPress Twitter: @Huckfinn76

I hope you have enjoyed these reviews for Mary and Andrew and thanks for dropping by. Sally.

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Share an Extract – #Afghanistan – On #offer until 18th May – No More Mulberries by Mary Smith


Today the extract is from No More Mulberries by Mary Smith a novel of drama and adventure set in Afghanistan – I can highly recommend the book and it is on offer at 99p/99c until 18th May.

About the book

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?

And extract from No More Mulberries – Chapter One

Iqbal was being ridiculous but if she was going to persuade him to change his mind, she must stay calm. She really didn’t want it to turn into a major row. She took a deep breath, which ended on a yawn. Too tired for one thing.

Maybe she should agree to Iqbal’s suggestion and employ a girl from the village to help with the housework? She’d always refused, telling him she’d feel uncomfortable having someone working in the house. She didn’t admit to him she hated the idea of people thinking the foreign wife needed help to run her home, couldn’t cope with hard work. Bad enough they knew she couldn’t spin wool – or milk a goat.

That bloody-minded animal, feeling her first tentative touch, had looked knowingly over its shoulder at her with its nasty, wrong-way-round eyes and walked away. Tightening her grip only made the goat go faster, forcing her into an idiotic crouching run, while her friend
Usma, in between shouts of laughter yelled at her to let go. When she did, falling over in a heap on the stony ground, the pain of her scraped knees had been nothing compared to the hurt to her dignity and pride. For weeks after everyone asked her if she’d milked any more goats. The day she could join in the laughter at the episode had not yet arrived.

She sighed and looked upwards. Familiarity with Afghanistan’s night skies never lessened her sense of awe. On moonless nights the Milky Way was a magical white path through stars that didn’t twinkle – they blazed. Constellations her father had taught her to recognise when she was a child – Orion, the Plough, the Seven Sisters – demonstrated proudly that here, they possessed far more jewel-bright stars than she had ever seen in Scotland. Tonight, though, the moon, almost full, had risen, dimming the stars’ brightness, silvering the jagged peaks of the mountains that kept the valley safe.

‘Our moon,’ she whispered. ‘Oh, Jawad, what have I done?’

‘Miriam?’ She jumped at the sound of Iqbal’s voice close behind her. Had he heard her whisper?

She turned to face him relieved to see he was smiling. ‘Children ready for bed?’ she asked. ‘I’ll go say goodnight to them.’

He shook his head, coming to stand next to her, saying softly, ‘Ruckshana’s already asleep. Farid is learning his spelling words for tomorrow.’ He reached for her hand. ‘Miriam, look, I suppose I should have mentioned it to you – cancelling the boys’ lessons.’

‘Mentioned it?’ She snatched her hand away, the need for calm forgotten. Tilting her head to look up at him, she asked, ‘What about discussing it with me?’

One of the over 200 reviews for the book

L. Carmichael 5.0 out of 5 stars International Love and Pain  Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2019

No More Mulberries is an international contemporary drama written by Mary Smith and published in 2009. The story focuses on Miriam, a Scottish midwife, who has married two men from Afghanistan during her lifetime. The tale unfolds by jumping time frames across different chapters to share the reasons why Miriam’s life has become what it is today. At times, her days have been heartbreaking, and at others, they have been an admirable source of strength. I chose this book because I’d seen many positive reviews and it fit the parameters for my month of international and/or autobiographical reads. Let’s chat more about this complex and wonderful story…

Miriam had a wonderful husband and life, but he passed away. She had a young son to raise in Afghanistan during a difficult period in the country’s history, especially for a red-haired Scottish woman with strong beliefs about how things should be. Knowledgeable in medicine, she won over some of the village, yet she always knew she was viewed differently. Then, she remarried and had another child with the second husband. At first, they had a strong love. Although she’d converted to Muslim, her husband, Iqbal was careful to find a balance between his beliefs and her beliefs. While he could be strict, he was by no means radical or excessively controlling of his wife. As tension rises between them, Miriam revisits her past to understand why her first husband died. Through the process, her eyes are opened about her own blame in the new marriage as well as as what truly happened to her first beloved.

The story is rich with a supporting cast who provide laughter, love, fear, and pain. Smith eloquently shares a culture and a lifestyle with her audience, some who may know little about the Muslim faith or Afghani culture. While I’ve read a few other books focusing on this part of the world, they tended to stick to the religious aspects of the Middle East rather than the social aspects. I was glad to experience a different side of the life through this story and the author’s wonderful ability to showcase both the good and the bad.

Questions of parenting, forgiveness, pain, tolerance, and curiosity quickly enter a reader’s mind. What will become of someone who defies her husband? Who will stand by you when you have no one else to trust? How do you ensure the village listens to your advice on bearing a child when the culture dictates the complete opposite solution? This novel helped me understand a different mindset, and while it wasn’t necessarily one I agree with or support, I found a balance of alternative ideas and options to push me to think more critically. It’s a great experience, and one we should all have when reading a book about something different than our own knowledge.

A great find, and something that would be a benefit for all readers with an open mind, a curiosity about life outside their own culture, and a small glimpse into the world that many know from the outside but little know from the inside.

Read the reviews and buy the book for only 99c: Amazon US

And for 99p: Amazon UK

Selection of other books by Mary Smith

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Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK

And: Amazon US

Read more reviews and follow Mary: Goodreads

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan

Connect to Mary

Blog: Mary Smith’s Place
Website: Mary Smith
Facebook: Mary Smith
Twitter: @marysmithwriter

Thanks for dropping in and if you are an author in the Cafe and Bookstore and would like to promote one of your early books then please check out the post: New Series 2020 – Share an Extract 

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Monday December 16th 2019 – #Afghanistan Mary Smith, #Advent Sue Vincent, #Funnies The Story Reading Ape


Time to catch up with Mary Smith’s Afghan adventures and this week an experience that must have been both a bit scary and heartwarming….

Afghan Adventures #13 #Babies

Although Hussain didn’t encourage house visits he could never bring himself to refuse, even though experience was teaching him the messenger’s ‘emergency’ was probably nothing worse than an indigestion attack. But there was always the fear that perhaps, this time, it really was a crisis.

Slide13 (Custom)

Shortly before dinner, one evening, a man arrived at the clinic to say that his wife was in labour and the ‘baby did not want to come out’. This threw us both into a panic. When visiting Rosanna, I had examined quite a number of women in various stages of pregnancy, but never had anything to do with actually delivering a baby. Before hurrying after the expectant father, we thumbed through the obstetrics books, trying to memorise relevant chapters.

Head over to read the rest of the story and if you have missed the previous episodes check them out:  Mary Smith’s Place Afghan Adventures #13 Babies

Mary Smith, Buy: Amazon US
Website: Mary SmithGoodreads: Goodreads

Please visit Amazon or Mary’s website to view all her books.

No More Mulberries - web ready51ArFSI2FFL._UY250_

Ani, The Small Black Dog has not only celebrated two book releases this month but has also been let loose by Sue Vincent to post her daily Advent Calendar. With some prestigious guests, including Garfield who owns the hooman author Noelle A. Granger.. expect some shenanigans…

Ani’s Advent 2019! Exploring, Cats and Christmas Trees…with Noelle Granger’s Garfield

Hey Santa!

It’s stopped raining for a bit, so things feel a lot better around here this morning. I don’t mind it being cold after all, even if she does complain when we go out for or early morning romp.

We both need that, to blow the cobwebs away and get our bodies moving on a morning… We don’t run as much as we used to and we’re not as supple as we used to be, but that doesn’t stop us playing like puppies sometimes.

It is too dark just now for her to take the camera thingy when we go out in the mornings, but she says it is good to just enjoy the day breaking and not think about anything else for a while. The sheep are still sleeping when we go out too and the cows are in their shed for the winter, so, unless there is the odd deer or pheasant out early, she doesn’t need to be too careful of me while we are out.

Head over to meet Garfield and enjoy his memories and meet more friends: Ani’s Advent Calendar – With Garfield and Christmas Trees

Sue Vincent  Buy: Amazon UKBlog: S.C. Vincent Goodreads: Sue Vincent

Please visit Amazon or Sue’s blog to view all her books and those written with Stuart France.

And for those of you who don’t like Mondays.. I have the perfect antidote…Funnies courtesy of Chris Graham, The Story Reading Ape…

Head over to enjoy all the funnies and cheer up it will soon be Christmas…lol: https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2019/12/16/reserved-for-monday-funnies-10/

The Story Reading Ape buy: Amazon US – Blog: The Story Reading Ape Twitter: @StoryReadingApe

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will head over to enjoy these posts in full…thanks Sally.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update #Reviews – Mary Smith and Bette A. Stevens


Welcome to the first of the cafe and bookstore updates this week with reviews for some of the authors on the shelves.

And the first author today is Mary Smith and a recent review for a wonderful novel No More Mulberries that I can also highly recommend..

About the book

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?

A recent review for the book on Goodreads.

Jul 09, 2019 James rated it it was amazing Five Stars

No More Mulberries is an international contemporary drama written by Mary Smith and published in 2009. The story focuses on Miriam, a Scottish midwife, who has married two men from Afghanistan during her lifetime. The tale unfolds by jumping time frames across different chapters to share the reasons why Miriam’s life has become what it is today. At times, her days have been heartbreaking, and at others, they have been an admirable source of strength. I chose this book because I’d seen many positive reviews and it fit the parameters for my month of international and/or autobiographical reads. Let’s chat more about this complex and wonderful story…

Miriam had a wonderful husband and life, but he passed away. She had a young son to raise in Afghanistan during a difficult period in the country’s history, especially for a red-haired Scottish woman with strong beliefs about how things should be. Knowledgeable in medicine, she won over some of the village, yet she always knew she was viewed differently. Then, she remarried and had another child with the second husband. At first, they had a strong love. Although she’d converted to Muslim, her husband, Iqbal was careful to find a balance between his beliefs and her beliefs. While he could be strict, he was by no means radical or excessively controlling of his wife. As tension rises between them, Miriam revisits her past to understand why her first husband died. Through the process, her eyes are opened about her own blame in the new marriage as well as as what truly happened to her first beloved.

The story is rich with a supporting cast who provide laughter, love, fear, and pain. Smith eloquently shares a culture and a lifestyle with her audience, some who may know little about the Muslim faith or Afghani culture. While I’ve read a few other books focusing on this part of the world, they tended to stick to the religious aspects of the Middle East rather than the social aspects. I was glad to experience a different side of the life through this story and the author’s wonderful ability to showcase both the good and the bad.

Questions of parenting, forgiveness, pain, tolerance, and curiosity quickly enter a reader’s mind. What will become of someone who defies her husband? Who will stand by you when you have no one else to trust? How do you ensure the village listens to your advice on bearing a child when the culture dictates the complete opposite solution? This novel helped me understand a different mindset, and while it wasn’t necessarily one I agree with or support, I found a balance of alternative ideas and options to push me to think more critically. It’s a great experience, and one we should all have when reading a book about something different than our own knowledge.

A great find, and something that would be a benefit for all readers with an open mind, a curiosity about life outside their own culture, and a small glimpse into the world that many know from the outside but little know from the inside.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-More-Mulberries-Mary-Smith-ebook/dp/B005RRDZ12

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/No-More-Mulberries-Mary-Smith/dp/1849234205

A selection of other books by Mary Smith

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Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Read more reviews and follow Mary on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith

Connect to Mary via her blog: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com/

And finally an early review for the latest release by Bette A. Stevens…A poetry and photographic collection… My Maine.

About My Maine

Inspired by The Pine Tree State—Maine’s diverse landscape, natural beauty, rural communities, and independent people—the author’s 150 haiku poems, along with her photographs, reflect the Maine she knows and loves. Bette A. Stevens’s imagery draws the reader into her world of wonder and delight. My Maine takes readers on a poetic journey through Maine’s four seasons. Whether you’re a native Mainer or from away, Stevens’s short story poems and photographs will resonate.

The collection opens with a haiku tribute, “Maine Pines and People.” The journey continues with the rejuvenating spirit of “Spring Awakenings” and “Summer Songs”; then on to more of the magic and majesty of the places and people of Maine in “Autumn Leaves” and “Winter Tales.” This is a poetry collection to be slowly savored, made even more delectable with the author’s original drawings and photographs. In addition to its poems and photographs, My Maine includes state symbols and interesting facts about The Pine Tree State.

One of the early reviews for the collection

Reading My Maine: Haiku through the Seasons makes you feel as if you are taking a delightful stroll through the state of Maine in the USA. The poet takes the reader on a picturesque tour of this region using the medium of interconnected haiku’s to vividly describe the landscape and seasonal changes.

The book is divided into sections with the first section, The Pine Tree State, setting the environmental scene. My favourite verse in this small section described the majestic pine trees as:
“Pragmatic figures
Independence their calling
Rugged yet limber”

Spring Awakenings, the second section, describes the beauty of the countryside during spring and the poet’s amazement at the natural delights that she discovers daily. This series of haiku’s ends on a spectacular note as follows:
“Standing ovation
Awaiting next performance
Tulip petals bow”

Summer songs builds on the joy of spring and also introduces the reader to the power of American patriotism, a feature of American life that always pleases me greatly and is described by the poet in these words:
“American flags
Wave – God Bless America
Homage to the land.”

Autumn Leaves depicts the bright colours and splendor of the autumn season with this particular haiku presenting it perfectly for my mind’s eye:
“Splashed across woodlands
Blazing brush transforms the world
Into a canvas”

Winter Tales rounds the reader’s journey off with its appealing depictions of winter life in Maine, with its copious snow and the pleasures of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, indulged in by the community as a whole. The following haiku perfectly captured the spirit of community present in this region:
“Neighbors, helping hands
Compassion – love in action
As storm clouds gather”

This book is embellished with some lovely photographs and some interesting facts about the state of Maine.

A truly delightful book and one I highly recommend to lovers of poetry and, in particular, well written haiku.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SSNDL5L

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Maine-Haiku-through-Seasons-ebook/dp/B07SSNDL5L

Books by Bette A. Stevens

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Bette-A.-Stevens/e/B009GOYT1M

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bette-A.-Stevens/e/B009GOYT1M

Read more reviews and follow Bette on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6037707.Bette_A_Stevens

Connect to Bette via her website: https://4writersandreaders.com

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books under your arm… Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – MarySmithsPlace – Canada (part 3)


Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Time for the third post from the archives of author Mary Smith who manages two blogs for me to browse and select posts from.  This is the third post of three that Mary shared about her trip to Canada to celebrate a very special birthday and you can find the two previous posts about that trip Part one and Part Two

MarySmithsPlace – Canada (part 3)

Quite a while before I went to Canada I read a book,  Travelling to the Edge of the World by Kathleen Jones who travelled to the islands of Haida Gwaii, off the northernmost coastline of British Columbia. She went (and now I’m quoting the back of the book blurb) to talk to a nation who have lived in harmony with their environment for more than ten thousand years. They have a saying ‘everything is connected’ and their philosophy ‘Yah’Guudang’, is about “respect and responsibility, about knowing our place in the web of life and how the fate of our culture runs parallel with the fate of the ocean, sky and forest”.

But there is a darker side to Haida history. Kathleen Jones uncovers the story of how the British Colonial administration reduced the population from more than twenty thousand to just over five hundred by a policy that has been identified as ‘cultural genocide’. Haida artist Bill Reid, whose sculpture ‘Raven and the First Men’ appears on the cover, wrote that, “It is one of the world’s finest tributes to the strength of the human spirit that most of those who lived, and their children after them, remained sane and adapted”.

When I finished reading Travelling to the Edge of the World, the first thing I wanted to do was re-read it immediately. I also wanted to visit Haida Gwaii (previously known as Queen Charlotte Islands). I knew when I made my trip to Canada it wouldn’t be possible in the time I had to include a trip there – and I still want to go – but I was able to visit the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. There I was able to see some of the Haida carvings and totems as well as work by acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid.

My cousin Grace and I went to the museum. Several galleries showcase thousands of objects from all around the world. As well as exhibits on display other objects are in drawers beneath the s cases which you can open to explore even more artefacts.

Outside are examples of Haida houses and Musqueam house posts which are fascinating. DSC00152 (Custom)

Inside, the Great Hall, with its displays of totem poles and carvings, is truly spectacular. Spellbinding. Light pours in from the floor to ceiling glass walls highlighting the totems, which are so much more than I expected. Taller, so much taller, and so intricately carved.
DSC00143 (Custom)We all had to crane our necks to see the tops of the totems.

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DSC00144 (Custom)

Bear by Bill Reid. It was hard to obey the ‘do not touch’ order as this – and other sculptures – are so tactile.

One of the highlights was seeing Bill Reid’s sculpture of Raven and the First Men, which depicts the story of human creation. Carved from a giant block of laminated yellow cedar, it took two years to complete. Bill Reid, goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer and one of Canada’s greatest artists was born in 1920. His mother, Sophie, was Haida but was sent away to school on the mainland where she was not allowed to speak her native language. She became an English teacher before she married Bill’s father who was of German Scottish descent. Bill was raised as ‘white’ by a mother who had assimilated western ways. On a visit to Haida Gwaii in 1954 Bill came across some carved bracelets by his great-great-uncle, carver Charles Edenshaw and the world changed for him.

In Haida culture, the Raven is the most powerful of mythical creatures. His appetites include lust, curiosity, and an irrepressible desire to interfere and change things, and to play tricks on the world and its creatures. According to Haida legend, the Raven was alone on Rose Spit beach in Haida Gwaii when he saw a clamshell inside which were small humans. The Raven coaxed them to leave the shell to join him in his world. Although hesitant at first, the humans did come out of the clamshell and became the first Haida.

DSC00149 (Custom)Raven and the First Men

Several First Nations carvers also worked on the project, including Reggie Davidson, Jim Hart, and Gary Edenshaw. Sculptor George Rammell worked on the emerging little humans, and Bill Reid did most of the finishing carving.

One day I might actually get to Haida Gwaii but at least, in the meantime, I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the fabulous work and learn a little more about the culture of a people I first read about in Kathleen Jones’ book.

Another piece of Bill Reid’s fabulous art is in the International Terminal at Vancouver Airport: The Spirit of Haida Gwaii. The Jade Canoe, a traditional six metre long Haida cedar dugout canoe in green-coloured bronze represents the Aboriginal heritage of Haida Gwaii.

DSC00183 (Custom)

The canoe carries the following passengers: Raven, the trickster, holding the steering oar; Mouse Woman, crouched under Raven’s tail; Grizzly Bear, sitting at the bow and staring toward Raven; Bear Mother, Grizzly’s human wife; their cubs, Good Bear (ears pointed forward) and Bad Bear (ears pointed back); Beaver, Raven’s uncle; Dogfish Woman; Eagle; Frog; Wolf, claws imbedded in Beaver’s back and teeth in Eagle’s wing; a small human paddler in Haida garb known as the Ancient Reluctant Conscript; and, at the sculpture’s focal point, the human Shaman (Kilstlaai in Haida), who wears the Haida cloak and woven spruce root hat and holds a tall staff carved with images of Seabear, Raven, and Killer Whale.

The variety and interdependence of the canoe’s occupants represents the natural environment on which the ancient Haida relied for their survival: the passengers are diverse, and don’t always get along, but they must depend on one another to live.

I like that. I like the acknowledgement that we may not always live in harmony but we are dependent on each other. The sooner we accept this truth, the better for our world!

©Mary Smith 2018

What a fascinating place and my thanks to Mary for permitting me to delve into her archives to share..

A selection of books by Mary Smith

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A recent review Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni

Jan 24, 2019 Janice Spina rated it five stars

Drunk Chicken and Burnt Macaroni is a remarkable story of the lives of Afghan women as told by the author. She shares her adventures when she visits Afghanistan with her husband and son to start a clinic for women.

This book is a moving tribute to the courage, stamina and resilience of these women before the Taliban came to power there. The work that these women do to make broad changes to their lives is incredible in such adversity

The author’s work there helped these women realize how important it is to take care of their children’s health and their own. A school was set up to give these women the medical knowledge that they needed to.make a difference in their lives. It also enabled them to become stronger and more knowledgeable to help others and spread the word about the importance of being healthy and clean.

This book is a testament to women and their strength when they are needed to come forward. The Afghan men feared the women and their strength because it was not the way of Islam for women to be stronger than men. With some encouragement the men learned to be proud of their wives and what they were capable of doing to keep their family healthy and strong.

An engrossing read that makes this reader happy to be an American and live in the land of freedom and plenty. A must read for anyone who wants to learn about the difficulties women face in other countries.

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Read more reviews and follow Mary on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Connect to Mary Smith

Website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/
Facebook addresshttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
New Blog: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com/
Blog:   https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/

Thank you for joining us today and Mary would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.