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.

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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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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.

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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.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – My Dad’s a Goldfish – Downhill slide by Mary Smith


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 week a post from My Dad’s a Goldfish which I am sure will strike a chord with those of you who have cared for elderly relatives suffering from dementia. I know it did with me.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – Downhill slide by Mary Smith

I had a holiday. The DH bought me a ticket to Vietnam for my 60th and off I went to stay with friends who were out there.

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One of many thousands of jaw-dropping beautiful shrines in Vietnam

I had a wonderful time although I suspected things were not going well at home when there was so little contact. In a way, I appreciated it because knowing there were problems would have made me anxious, especially as there was nothing I could have done about anything. On the other hand, we want to know, don’t we?

When I came home, the DH collected me from the station. The Goldfish was in the car. He didn’t speak to me, just stared out of the window. We arrived home and the DH said I should go in and he’d help the Goldfish out of the car. Only when we were inside did I realise what changes there had been in two weeks.

The Goldfish after a serious downhill slide

He had been admitted to hospital with urinary tract infection. The infection had cleared up but the person who had come home was little more than a human shell. I was totally dazed for the first few days back trying to make sense of the changes.

The Goldfish was no longer able to walk. He couldn’t move from his chair. He barely spoke. He needed to be helped to eat and helped to drink. The house is full of machinery – like the hoist and stand-aid.

Of course, I blamed myself for going away but fortunately did not say so as this could only be taken as a criticism of the care – or lack of it – DH and Wee-sis had taken of the Goldfish in my absence. I knew it would have happened even if I had been here.

We could never have managed without this piece of equipment – but how I hated it.

I kept quiet. I learned how to use the ‘stand-aid’ to transfer the Goldfish from his chair to his wheelchair, from his wheelchair to his bed, from his bed to the shower chair… I bought dishes whose bases could be filled with hot water so the food stayed warm during the long, long time it took the Goldfish to eat his meals. He did still enjoy his food. Sometimes helping him to eat made me think of a mother bird feeding a chick – his wide open mouth waiting for the next spoonful.

I didn’t cry, not then. I suppose in the moment there was no time for such self-indulgence, too much to do – but now the tears come. And they don’t help.

©Mary Smith 2016

I know how I used to feel when I left my mother for a week a month in the earlier days and you do need a break otherwise you are unable to sustain the constant need for vigilance. Even though they are in good hands, you worry. My thanks to Mary for sharing this with us.

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.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – Mary Smith’s Place – Karachi crocodiles


Welcome to the series of 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 second post from the archives of author Mary Smith who manages two blogs for me to browse and select posts from. This week a post from Mary Smith’s Place which shares her visits to Manghopir in Pakistan where she worked for several years. The shrine to the ancient crocodile has had its ups and downs, but is now back on track as far as numbers are concerned…

Mary Smith’s Place – Karachi crocodiles

I apologise for the lack of decent photos to accompany this post. I visited Manghopir several times, taking many photos of the crocodiles and of the shrine, the busy shops around it and of the hot springs but I can’t find them. I suspect they were in the albums thrown out after our previous cat sprayed on them. He had a tendency, after a stray kitten tried to take up residence, to mark everything in the house as his.

The legendary crocodiles that guard the shrine of Saint Mangho (ManghoPir) were piled in a heap, under a tree. They looked very muddy, and suspiciously lifeless. The shrine, or mazar, lies to the north of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. There are two springs beside it, one hot, and one cold. Bathing tanks have been provided, for the water is reputed to cure all manner of ailments – from rheumatism through frigidity to skin diseases.

When Mangho arrived, in the middle of the thirteenth century from Iraq, in true hermit fashion, he chose a patch of arid desert in which to pray for grace. Making the cold water trickle from a rock was his doing. Producing his drinking water, however, seems to have exhausted Mangho’s miraculous powers, for no more are mentioned. Fortunately, he had some friends who turned up to lend a hand. The most famous of these, Qalander Lal Shah Baz of Sehwan, provided the hot spring.

Mangho’s other three friends – there is no general consensus as to who they were, everyone cites the names of their personal favourites – joined in the miracle making. One produced, from the twig with which Mangho cleaned his teeth, a date palm oasis. Another provided honey and melted butter which rained from the trees. According to some versions of the story, the fourth friend caused a wilting flower to change into a giant crocodile to guard Mangho and the shrine.

There are various legends to explain the existence of the crocodiles. My favourite is the one in which Mangho was terribly troubled by lice. These – as they do – made his head itch dreadfully. One day, driven mad by the itching, Mangho, in an unsaintly display of temper, stamped his feet. This dislodged a great number of lice – which turned into sacred crocodiles.

They are mugger crocodiles, looking rather like alligators but definitely a true crocodile. One more scientific explanation is that these crocodiles were carried through some heavy floods, during ancient times and gathered here. Archaeologists believe there was a Bronze Age community near Manghopir, which worshipped crocodiles.

Joining the other observers, I peered over the wall of the enclosure. As far as living legends go, they were a bit of a disappointment.

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Staring at a bunch of crocodiles who only wanted to cuddle up to each other, wasn’t what I expected. Eventually, one, small and sluggish disengaged himself and waddled towards the pool, slipped smoothly into the murky water and promptly disguised himself as a partially sunken log.

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Perhaps the crocodiles expected something more from the pilgrims? It used to be customary for supplicants to provide a sacrificial goat. Indeed, in the old days it must have been much more exciting. Then, the devotees of the saint, both reptile and human, shared the same bathing facilities. The humans, however, took exception to the crocodiles’ occasional tendency to eat them, and a separate enclosure was erected. Perhaps that was when the crocodiles began to tire of their role. Or perhaps that came later, in the days of the Raj – as suggested by none other than Sir Richard Burton, diplomat, explorer and translator of erotic literature.

According to his account in Sindh Revisited, the alligators, as he insists on calling them, were “once jolly as monks.” Their lives took a dramatic downturn when young subalterns from Karachi’s camps found it entertaining to pit their bull terriers against them. Should a crocodile, in defending itself, kill a dog, the men “would salute the murderer’s eyes and mouth with two ounces of shot” causing the creature to plunge into the water, “grunting as if it had a grievance.” I should think it did have a grievance and the subalterns’ behaviour didn’t do much for our reputation. All in all, it is not surprising the crocodiles show a marked inclination to ignore visitors and cuddle up to each other.

Worse was to come. The crocodiles began to die off. However much the British subalterns may have demoralised them, they were still breeding successfully in those days. In the 1950s, someone estimated there were over a hundred – although terror, at being in the actual enclosure with the reptiles may have led him to exaggerate. In fact, the cause of the alarming decline was down to nothing more sinister than Pakistani Government bureaucracy.

Traditionally, the custodianship of the crocodiles was handed down, father to son, through the centuries. A Government body – the Auqaf Department – responsible for Muslim shrines, decided to dispense with the services of the family. At that time there were twenty seven crocodiles. Within a couple of years, there were only two left. In 1972, Khan Mohammed was hastily re-appointed in an effort to save the sacred reptiles. Happily, it was a successful move. Crocodile numbers began to increase. The biggest one is called – and was even in Burton’s day – Mor Sahib, or Mr. Peacock.

There are two annual festivals, one of which marks the death anniversary of Mangho Pir. The other, the Sheedi Mela is to celebrate the crocodiles. The Sheedi are a minority group in Pakistan, said to have been African slaves belonging to Arab traders. Settling first along the Makran coast of Baluchistan, they later spread throughout the province and into neighbouring Sind. The Sheedi Mela was put on hold for seven years because of the political tensions around Manghopir and other parts of the city but it took place again in 2017.

During the Mela, Mor Sahib is covered in vermilion and given a goat by the devotees. When the disciples dance, day and night to the sound of drums, it is to an African rhythm. Quite what the crocodiles make of it is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it cheers them up a little. They look like they need a bit of revelry.

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©Mary Smith 2018

My thanks to Mary for letting me have the freedom to browse her archives and select posts for you… I hope you have enjoyed getting up close and personal with these prehistoric monsters.

A selection of books by Mary Smith

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A recent review for No More Mulberries

I always enjoy a love story set in another culture because reading feels like a voyage of discovery. The kindness of the Afghan people warmed my heart as I followed the central character. The setting is completely alien to me, and I loved this backdrop.

People get on with their daily routines in spite of the war in Afghanistan. Scottish born Miriam has to adjust to the rhythms of Afghan life but experiences conflict. Smith manages to identify those elements of a new culture that alienate Miriam. The simple things we value are not familiar in Afghan culture. I found the conversation between Miriam and Fatima poignant.

‘Don’t you ever feel like walking – just getting out?

‘Why?’Fatima looked startled.

In Afghan culture women do not have thinking time. All the small differences contribute to Miriam’s sense of unease. The pivotal value of Afghan culture is ‘this thing about face – respect – reputation – honour.’ But to understand how this translates into the culture one has to read the book.

Charting Miriam’s marriages, this is a love story with a difference. Miriam goes on a journey of discovery to find out ‘what happened to the woman who married Jawad’.
No More Mulberries is a sensitive examination of love and cultural barriers. A fascinating read!

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.