Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – Secret #Dumfries by Mary Smith and Photographer Keith Kirk


Delighted to feature another of Mary Smith’s local history books… Secret Dumfries in collaboration with photographer Keith Kirk.

About Secret Dumfries

Dumfries, in south-west Scotland, has a long history, much of it well recorded. However, as with most places there are more than a few secrets hidden away. First referred to as the Queen of the South by local poet David Dunbar in 1857, the name stuck and was later adopted by the local football team. Not many know that this makes it the only football team in the world mentioned in the Bible. Darker aspects of the town’s history include the burning of nine witches on the Whitesands in 1659 and the last public hanging of a woman in Scotland, Mary Timney, was held in Dumfries in 1862. There are tales of plague victims being exiled to Scabbit Isle, of murderers and grave robbers. Not all its secrets are so dark: there’s Patrick Miller and his introduction of turnips courtesy of King Gustav III of Sweden, and the exiled Norwegian Army making its home in Dumfries during the Second World War. And what is the significance of the finials depicting telescopes and anchors on the railings along the Whitesands?

Local author Mary Smith and photographer Keith Kirk take the reader on a fascinating journey through the town’s past, unearthing tales of intrigue and grisly goings-on as they provide a glimpse into some of the lesser-known aspects of the town’s history.

Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Dumfries-Mary-Smith/dp/144567498X/

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Dumfries-Mary-Smith/dp/144567498X/

Other local history books by Mary Smith

One of the reviews for Dumfries: Through Time

What a wonderful book! Generously illustrated with Then/Now photographs, it takes the reader back in time to a thriving market town in Southwestern Scotland that has today become a busy city. Its once-separate villages are now its suburbs.

I was not familiar with Dumfries before reading DUMFRIES THROUGH TIME, but authors Allan Devlin and Mary Smith have gathered photographs that tell a rich story of the past, from Victorian times to the present. I found the details in the photos and the glimpses of life and people caught in time to be incredibly fascinating and moving. Each photo is a wonderful story in and of itself.

While it is sobering that some of the historical buildings and features of Dumfries have been lost, I was amazed and delighted at how much was preserved and is still in use. While this book is not meant to be a thorough or comprehensive history of the area – I’m looking forward to reading other books that are – it is a marvelous introduction to that history. In DUMFRIES THROUGH TIME, a picture really is worth a thousand words. (Note: Some terms may be unfamiliar to American readers, such as “close” for a type of narrow, covered passageway or alley, or “weir” for a low dam or flood-control structure. However, the meanings are usually made clear by the photos.) Highly recommended!

Also 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

 

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/

About Photographer Keith Kirk

Keith Kirk is primarily a Wildlife and Natural History Photographer/Writer living and working in the Stewartry area of Dumfries and Galloway. Although he does undertake many other projects and commissions.

His day job was Countryside Ranger with Dumfries and Galloway Council Ranger Service, something he did for over 37 years. In what spare time he has he pursues his passion for the countryside which he shares with you on his blog: http://www.dumfriesandgallowaywildlife.co.uk/

If you live in the area, then why not join Keith on one of his Nocturnal Wildlife Experiences.
Be prepared to be amazed by what you can see and experience with the aid of our professional range of hand held night vision and thermal imaging wildlife observation equipment: Nocturnal Wildlife Experience

Thank you for popping in today and it would be great if your could share the news of Mary’s new book far and wide… thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archive – My Dad’s a Goldfish – Our last Christmas with him by Mary Smith.


Welcome to the Christmas posts from Your archives and today the first of two posts from Mary Smith. Mary’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease which meant that events such as Christmas were all the more poignant and a time to be together.  I think this post echoes the sentiments of all of us who have cared for parents with dementia.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – Our last Christmas with him by Mary Smith.

 

I suppose the approach of Christmas will always now be tinged with sadness. Our last Christmas together was 2013. From time to time during 2014 we thought he’d make it to the next one – and he almost did, dying three weeks before.

Christmas 2013 was unforgettable for several reasons. For one thing, Wee-sis and I felt it might be the last Christmas in which the Goldfish would be able to participate and enjoy it all – how right we were. However, at one point it looked as though we wouldn’t even see the Goldfish over Christmas because the step-monster’s daughter decided her mother and the Goldfish should come to her on Christmas Day. As they always go to the step-monster’s son on Boxing Day we were not going to see him other than a quick visit.

Much discussion and gnashing of teeth followed this announcement and Wee-sis (because she is so much more diplomatic than I am) was sent to negotiate with step-monster’s daughter. It was agreed Christmas dinner would be at my house. The step-monster decided to go to her daughter’s house instead, which rather pleased us. She would only spend the time moaning about how she hates Christmas and how glad she’ll be when it’s over.

Then, two days before Christmas the step-monster dropped a bombshell by announcing she was leaving the Goldfish and going to live in her own house. She’d inherited it from her mother and had been letting out for many years. She wasn’t going to say anything to the Goldfish! Nor was she going to move out until the end of January because she needed to get it decorated.

Throughout the last minute organisation for Christmas – the wrapping of gifts (nothing for the step-monster this year), shopping for food, planning the day – the worry of what was going to happen kept intruding. However, we put our fears for the future to the back of our minds and planned a lovely Christmas Day for the Goldfish.

The much-loved Yorkshire terrier – with her head balanced very precariously!

He had a wonderful time opening his gifts. His favourite was a toy Yorkshire terrier we’d seen in the garden centre. The previous year he had admired it but in those days my ignorance of dementia was limitless and I had dismissed the idea of buying it for him. The following year on our regular pre-Christmas jaunts to the garden centre there were piles of toy dogs – but only one Yorkshire terrier. I didn’t hesitate. It went into the basket along with the Guinness chocolate he (and I) loved.

All through the day, he petted and talked to that dog as it sat on the arm of his chair. When we took him home, we put the dog beside him. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. I put it back on the arm of his chair. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. The step-monster couldn’t bear to see him stroking it as if it were a real dog, couldn’t bear to see the Goldfish behave like a child. I still have the dog. He sits on the back of the sofa. His head his hanging off now but he was hugely loved by the Goldfish for many months.

The Goldfish had a really happy day, surrounded by people who talked to him, grandchildren, nephews and nieces and partners came to visit him and he thoroughly enjoyed his Christmas dinner (with wine) – and had two puddings – and a couple of drams of malt whisky to finish the evening.
©Mary Smith 2016

My thanks to Mary for this heartwarming post and it is important to remember that for many Christmas as an event means little anymore, but the company of those that love them is precious.

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.

Mary’s latest book

Having read and reviewed this short story collection I can recommend Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith as a great Christmas present.

About the collection

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.

One of the excellent reviews for the collection

Short Story Collection Worth Reading TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 7 October 2017

How I discovered this book: It was submitted to Rosie Amber’s Review Team, of which I am a member. Two years ago I read No More Mulberries by this author, which I liked a lot.

This is an interesting and diverse collection of stories, set in several locations, from Scotland to Pakistan, where the author lived for a while. Some of them were written as monologues, which have been performed.

I liked those set in Pakistan best, my very favourite being Accidents Happen, about a girl whose mother marries a man she hates. I liked it so much I read it again, straight away. I also liked Donkey Boy itself, about a little boy who has to work for his father instead of going to school, and Trouble with Socks, about the sort of ghastly, patronising auxiliary in a care home who thinks that physically disabled means mentally deficient. The last one, a longer story called The Thing In Your Eye, was interesting. A woman believes she sees evil in people in their eyes; this left me a little unsure, as I didn’t know if we were meant to think it was all in her mind (as everyone else does), or if she really could ‘read’ people.

They’re all unusual, with a theme of private sadness. I liked a very short one called My Name is Anya, too, about an Afghani girl adopted by Scottish parents. They’re ideal for a nice bit of lying on the sofa, afternoon reading when you’re not in the mood for complicated plots.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075VC1XNX

and Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075VC1XNX/

Other books by Mary Smith

And two Local History books

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

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

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

Connect to Mary on her blogs and social media.

Facebook addresshttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
Website:www.marysmith.co.uk http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/mary-smith/
Blogs:http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk/ and   https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/

Smorgasbord Book Promotion – My book review of No More Mulberries by Mary Smith


I am a reader first and a writer second. However, these days there is not a balance between the two.. I have been intending to read No More Mulberries by Mary Smith for some time and took the opportunity to download during her free offer recently. There are an impressive number of excellent reviews for the book and I knew I was not going to be disappointed.

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?

My Five Star review for No More Mulberries.

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

A selection of other books by Mary Smith

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

and: Amazon UK

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

Connect to Mary via her website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/

If Mary’s book is on your TBR I hope you will read sooner rather than later… and if it is not as yet part of your future, please head over and buy. Thanks Sally

 

 

Smorgasbord Short Story Festival – 9th – 12th June – Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith


The first short story today as part of this celebration is by Mary Smith from her upcoming short story collection due out later this year. We all have trouble with socks, especially when one of a pair goes walkabout. In this story there is a bigger issue than just one missing sock.

Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith

I’m glad it’s nearly bedtime. It’s been one of those days – the kind that make you wish you’d not bothered getting out of bed in the first place.

Can you believe it, it was a pair of socks which caused the trouble? I was sitting in my room holding them when Margaret came in, clucking and fussing because I hadn’t put them on – telling me I’d get my ‘tootsies’ cold. Considered pointing out I’m fifty-two, not a toddler of two, but sarcasm’s wasted on Margaret. Instead, I explained I hadn’t put the socks on because they weren’t mine. They’d brought the wrong ones back from the laundry. Not, I might add, for the first time either. Today was the third time.

Trouble with Margaret is she never stops to listen. She’s an auxiliary here – a support worker. Been here for twelve years, she told me the day I arrived. She came into to my room to “help me settle” and fill in some kind of admission form. “Now, Mr. Kirkpatrick, what would you like to be called while you’re here – d’you want the full Mr Kirkpatrick bit, or George, or even sir?” She gave a giggle at the sir to show she was joking. I said I’d like to be called George. “Right you are, my darling,” she said.

“My name’s George.”

“Yes, my darling, I know. It’s written it down here on your form.” It was downhill ever since then, really.

Anyway, while I’m pointing out she’d given me someone else’s socks; she asked if I have a problem getting them on. I repeated they weren’t my socks. I did one of these assertiveness training courses once. There’s an exercise called the ‘broken record’ where you just keep repeating the same thing over and over again until the other person gets the message. Only I don’t think our assertiveness trainer had ever come up against someone like Margaret.

Before she finally realised that I was telling her they weren’t my bloody socks, she’d told me that I only had to ask if I needed help in putting them on, commented on what a nice colour they were and assured me, twice, that they were ‘nice and clean’.

It was the ‘bloody’ that got through I think. “Now, now, darling,” she said, “we don’t need language.” Thought about asking how else we were going to communicate – but decided not to confuse the issue since I felt I’d made a breakthrough. She’d got the message.
Triumph was short-lived. She said, “Well, no one else has complained about getting the wrong socks. Why don’t you just keep them, darling?”

By this time I was beginning to feel I am a two-year-old: one that’s about to have a tantrum. This is what I’d been afraid of before coming in here – not the tantrums – being treated like a child, being made dependent on others for everything. I wanted to go straight home from hospital, but they said I needed to gain some weight first, build up my strength. Said I couldn’t manage on my own.

I admit I’d lost a lot of weight when I was ill – some of it in hospital. The food wasn’t great and it was so hot and stuffy I felt I couldn’t breathe most of the time. I couldn’t wait to get out and back home. Trouble is my wee cottage is a few miles out of town and up a farm track and they said it would be difficult to find carers to come out to me. I told them I have friends who would help out but it was clear my choice was to remain in hospital (bed-blocking) or move into a care home for a few weeks.

Apparently I was lucky to get a place in this nursing home – supposed to be the best in the area. God help those in the other places is all I can say.

I managed to stop myself from stamping my feet and told Margaret I didn’t want to keep the socks because I wanted my own. “Are you really quite sure, my darling, that these aren’t your socks?” she said, “I mean, well, how can you tell, with not being able to see?”

Refrained – just – from telling her it’s my sight I’ve lost, not my marbles. Explained how my socks feel different because they are cotton, not acrylic. I’m allergic to acrylic – my legs swell up if I wear man-made fibres. I toyed with the idea of pointing out that even without my sight there are lots of things they would probably prefer I didn’t notice. I can hear perfectly well and sense movements. But I didn’t want to embarrass her. I know Margaret wouldn’t dream of hitching her skirt up to her waist so she can adjust her tights if she thought I could ‘see’ what she’s doing. And that other one, Susie – she’s forever fiddling inside her bra.

It was only because Margaret was determined to have my ‘tootsies’ covered up before she took me into the lounge – after all a member of the public might be there and talk about residents not being properly dressed – that made her go off to search for my socks.

They gave me the wrong jumper once. It only came to my waist and the sleeves stopped at my elbows – felt like the Incredible Hulk or something. Had a hell of a job getting it off. I can cope with some mistakes – everyone makes mistakes sometimes – but there’s something faintly repellent about wearing someone else’s socks. Socks are kind of personal aren’t they? Even when they’re ‘nice and clean’ as Margaret insists.

While I waited for her to come back, I puzzled over why it’s so difficult to get the right clothes back to the right owners – and why the staff can’t seem to see why it matters to us. Hanging on to the few bits of dignity left to us – dressing in our own clothes – becomes really important. I dread the day might come when I’d have to be in residential care permanently. Just put me to sleep, please.

Margaret came puffing back with a pair of socks – my socks. “There’s no elastic in them, George darling,” she says. “D ’you want me to mend them?”

I told her I’d taken the elastic out myself because they were cutting into my ankles. Then we had a tussle over who should put them on. She gave up just as I was about to throw myself on the floor in a rage. If you’re treated like a child, you start to behave like one. So, leaving me to it, very reluctantly – I know they like to think they’re being helpful – she went out. Off to drag some other poor sod along to the lounge for morning coffee, as they like to call it. More like morning dishwater, if you ask me – which they don’t. I drink it anyway, with plenty of sugar and I eat the biscuits – at least three. I’m determined to put weight on as fast as I can. At home I can make coffee the way I like it and I’ll never find anyone else’s socks in my drawer – nor have to sit in a room making polite conversation to a bunch of strangers.

I heard Margaret’s voice outside my room when she came back to collect me. I could picture her making a face in the direction of my door because the other one – might have been Susie – asked, “What’s he rabbiting on about today?”

I heard Margaret reply, “His bleedin’ socks.” Felt like calling out, “Language, Margaret, darling.” But I didn’t.

There is a point beyond which it’s best not to go. Forget the wrong socks – it would probably be old Mr Jones’s underpants tomorrow. Now, that would be really gross, wouldn’t it?

©MarySmith 2017

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.

Books by Mary Smith

And two Local History books

Read all the reviews and buy the books: 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 on her blogs and social media.

Facebook addresshttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
Website:www.marysmith.co.uk http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/mary-smith/
Blogs:http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk/ and   https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/

My thanks to Mary for letting us have a taste of her new short story collection and please do share across your own networks.  Thanks Sally

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading at the Cafe and interview with Mary Smith


Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

Very excited to have author, blogger and friend Mary Smith here today for a book reading and interview. This has been a special week for Mary with the release on Thursday of her latest local history book, Castle Douglas Through Time. The second in the series with her first Dumfries Through Time, both co-written with Allan Devlin. The book will be featured in the Cafe and Bookstore update on Monday 20th March

Mary spent over ten years living and working in Afghanistan and Pakistan and her highly acclaimed book No More Mulberries has received 90 reviews.

Please remember that this is an interactive interview and Mary is welcoming questions about her life and work in the comments section. Mary is busy promoting her new book but will be available later over the weekend to answer them.

But first a little bit 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.

About No More Mulberries

Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.

When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.

Her husband, too, has a past of his own – from being shunned as a child to the loss of his first love.

The latest review for the book

Having travelled through villages in Iran in the 1960’s and visited villages in the North of India, I have some idea of what cultural differences Miriam, the protagonist of this novel, is facing.

The book opens in a village in Afghanistan, with her sharing a lifestyle of limited freedom with her doctor husband, Iqbal. Being a qualified midwife from Scotland, she helps him in the clinic they work in. Slowly, through flashbacks, Mary Smith reveals that her first love was Jawad whom she met in Scotland where he was a student, whom she wanted to marry and was given a year’s separation by his family before they were allowed to marry. In this time she became a Muslim by choice. Later on a visit to Scotland with her son Farid, she is notified that Jawadhad been killed by locals. She is devastated, wants to return to Afghanistan and finally marries Iqbal without love.

All mayhem breaks out when Jeanine, their boss demands that Miriam comes to a month’s clinic at Charkoh. Iqbal is threatened by the loss of his wife for a month as Charkoh is where Jawad was killed and because he loses status in the local community by allowing his wife the freedom to attend.

The interplay of Western and Eastern values is sensitively handled by the author and makes for fascinating reading. The background of local politics and the Taliban cruelty is sufficiently introduced with overtaking the story of Miriam’s personal growth.The reader learns about local customs regarding rights of women and contraception.

What I enjoyed most of all was the conflicts between Eastern and Western values which unravel to reveal the essential humanity of all the characters.

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

Also by Mary Smith

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

Now it is time to turn the post over to Mary with and I am sure that you will have many more questions that you would like to ask her.  Please leave them in the comments.

Welcome Mary and congratulations on the new book…

Tell us about your chosen genre of books that you write and why?

Hah! Good question, Sally. I write contemporary women’s fiction, memoir, poetry and local history. One day, I may finally settle for one genre over another but I am enjoying doing different things and not being pinned down.

What genre do you read and who are your favourite authors?

As with my writing, I’m not pinned down to any reading only one genre. I’ve loved all Kate Atkinson’s books and wish she’d do another featuring Jackson Brodie because I’m totally in love with him. I’ve just finished A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart and When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (a neurosurgeon who died of lung cancer, aged 37 and whose wife completed the book). I’ve enjoyed everything Terry Tyler has written – she has such a distinctive style. The book I’m reading now is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

What are your plans for 2017 for your books and blog?

This month, Amberley Publishing has published my second local history book, Castle Douglas Through Time. This is a picture-led book done in collaboration with photographer Allan Devlin with old images of places in and around the town paired with ‘today’ photos and accompanying captions.

I have a very slim collection of short stories currently with an editor and I hope to have that out in the not too distant future.

My main project for 2017 is to convert my blog, My Dad is a Goldfish, into a memoir. I started writing the blog when I moved in with dad who had dementia. Many people have said they enjoy it, find it helpful, especially as I tell it like it is, and have asked about a book. It’s proving more difficult to restructure the blog material into book material than I expected but I’ll get there. I hope it will come out this year.

Oh, and I also want to start a new blog. I share a blog with four other writers and I have my Goldfish one but I can’t really re-blog other bloggers’ posts on those. I’d like a blog in which I can part in some of the things that go on in the blogging community – flash fiction or poetry prompts, interviews, what I see on walks and, as Sue Vincent put it, “somewhere we can blether.” So, watch this space!

Your life was anything but ordinary Mary. Did you find it difficult to adjust when you returned to Scotland after ten years in Pakistan and Afghanistan and what stands out in your mind as being particular daunting?

I found it incredibly difficult to adjust to life back in Scotland. I never experienced culture shock when I went to Pakistan – I suppose because I expected everything to be different. Coming home was when culture shock hit. I was so giddy in the supermarket, so seduced by all the wonderful array of ready meals that I piled my trolley. I can’t remember what I ‘cooked’ the first time but my son (who was five) and I each took a bite, screwed up our faces and declared it disgusting. I missed colour – everything seemed so dull and grey here.

Have you done travelling or is there still somewhere you feel you should visit and why?

Oh, I hope I’ve not done travelling. I was truly privileged to spend ten years in Pakistan and Afghanistan and I’m never going to be able to spend so long in a country again. I’ve been to India a couple of times and would like to explore more of it – and Vietnam. Must remember to buy a lottery ticket!

You have interviewed some interesting people as a journalist. Who did you enjoy talking to the most and why?

That’s a difficult question to answer as I’ve interviewed many people, some famous, some not at all well-known. I suppose at the top must be Barbara Dickson who was coming to perform in Dumfries. I was so nervous because people said she could be difficult but she absolutely lovely and we chatted for ages, much monger than I expected to have.

I enjoyed interviewing author Margaret Elphinstone shortly after The Gathering Night, came out. It’s set in Mesolithic Scotland and I was amazed at how much research she does – even to making a coracle so she knew how it would be to use one.

You can read some of the interviews on Mary’s website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/articles.asp

I asked Mary for an extract from one of her books for the reading today.

The extract I’ve chosen is from Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni. It’s part of what I read when I recently gave a lecture to Sexpression, a university-based charity which teaches young people about sex and relationships.

This is from the chapter on a birth spacing class with village women in Afghanistan:

Someone declared that a woman could not become pregnant unless she was sexually satisfied.

Nichbacht, the wool spinner, snorted. ‘If that was true, how come there are so many children running around.’ This smart rejoinder provoking much laughter from the women made Iqbal [translator] blush furiously.

Poor Iqbal often had cause to blush as the women teased hi unmercifully, telling him that as an unmarried man he wouldn’t know about these things yet. When condoms were handed round during class, the women promptly blew them up like balloons, laughing and making jokes that he refused to translate for me.

On one occasion he was so embarrassed he left the room, leaving me to demonstrate – with an inadequate vocabulary and the help of a broom handle – that a condom cannot be fitted correctly if it has been stretched to its full extent and snapped like a rubber band.

I suspected what really did for him, was the sight of his mother, Aquila, dangling an unrolled condom from her forefinger, asking laconically if her classmates knew anyone with anything large enough to fill it.

My thanks to Mary for an interesting and entertaining interview and here is a reminder about where you can buy Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni and her other books.

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

Connect to Mary on her blogs and social media.

Facebook addresshttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
Website:www.marysmith.co.uk http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/mary-smith/
Blogs:http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk/ and   https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/

I am now throwing open the interview to you and I am sure having read about the interesting and adventurous life that Mary has led that you have plenty of questions to ask her. Because of the launch of her new book, Mary will come back to you later today and over the rest of the weekend.

 

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Afghan Ceilidh by Mary Smith


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It is lovely to welcome Mary Smith as a Blog Sitter today, whilst I am probably recovering from a hectic schedule here in Portsmouth.. I know that the blog is in very capable hands. Today Mary is sharing a photograph from her time in Afghanistan and which holds great meaning for her.

Mary Smith - web ready

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.

Afghan Ceilidh by Mary Smith

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Of all the many photos I brought home from my years working in Afghanistan, this is one of my favourites. I call it Afghan Ceilidh.

Though nowadays a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is often a night of (sometimes wild) Scottish dancing, traditionally, it was an informal social gathering in someone’s house. Whenever and wherever a group of Scots folk came together in an evening, songs and storytelling, especially after a few drams had been taken was inevitable. An Afghan ceilidh is exactly the same, though instead of whisky, tea is drunk.

This photo was taken on one such occasion and when I look at it, memories flood back. On the left of the photo, Tajwar’s sewing machine has pride of place on top of the family’s tin storage trunks. When she sewed, she placed it on the floor and complained loudly about how much her back ached. We sit on toshak (mattress) arranged around the room on the Afghan rug. On the right of the photo I’m leaning on a bundle containing bedding. At bedtime, the mattresses are re-arranged and blankets – imported, colourful blankets emblazoned with peacocks – are distributed. The thermos, one of many, contains black tea.

The children love these occasions and have a wide range of games they play. The littler girls dance and sing songs. The bigger ones, like the one with the gleaming smile in the centre, might start to dance but then be overcome by shyness, giggle and sit down. A favourite game of the boys is cor-jangi (blind fighting). Two boys are each blindfolded and kneel facing each other. Each is provided with a rolled up patou (a man’s heavy wool shawl) with which each tries to wallop the other, but must, all the time, keep hold of a cushion in one hand.

If you think the woman sitting below the sewing machine and the other to the right of her don’t look happy you’d be right. They are terrified of the ‘devil’ wearing the mask – with a cushion stuffed up his jumper. I was always astonished at how fearful they became during this game even though the boy was a family member. He comes in, usually when the lamps are burning low, and adopting a hoarse voice ask if anyone has seen ‘Deyo’. The bigger children give cheeky replies but the smaller ones and some of the women pull back in fear. Later, they laugh – shamefaced – but still not wholly convinced there was nothing to fear out there in the dark.

I look at this photo and remember stories and songs, silly games and so much laughter – and so much black tea. We drank gallons of it so I always had to make a couple of trips out in the dark to the latrine later in the night. I look at my son – my filthy son – sitting on my lap and think of the freedom he had as a small child roaming the mountain with the boys herding the sheep and goats, coming home when hungry. I remember friendship and the joy of being accepted.

Afghan ceilidh

At an Afghan ceilidh
instead of whisky
we drink tea, black, no sugar
from small Russian glasses,
eat dry roasted ‘baqale’ –
spit their slipped-off skins
on the floor ‘til the rug’s
rich reds are covered
by a new carpet of greenish grey.

A hurricane lamp’s pool of light
projects small girls’ dancing shadows
on bare mud walls.
Songs, stories, laughter ripples
while outside is black dark silent.

(baqale – broad beans)

©MarySmith 2017

About No More Mulberries

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Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.

When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.

Her husband, too, has a past of his own – from being shunned as a child to the loss of his first love.

Just one of 132 reviews for the book

At first, what struck me most about this highly descriptive, lyrically written, “No More Mulberries,” was the author’s ability to completely transport me back to the faraway country of 1990s Afghanistan, not only geographically, but also culturally, and ideologically. It’s a country where ‘saving face’ is the order of the day, where its population is rapidly falling victim to the Taliban, and where primitive beliefs are so pervasive, that a child with leprosy is almost drowned by his father, in order to ‘kill’ the disease. In addition, Smith shows us––through the eyes of the ‘outsider’ widow Miriam from Scotland, her second Afghani husband, and their children––that there’s another side to this land; how the people are so gracious and hospitable that offering one’s home and food to strangers is a given, and not accepting a dinner invitation is tantamount to receiving a slap in the face.

But ultimately, what held me captive was the slow, unwinding mystery being played out of how Miriam’s first husband died, and what brought her to her second husband. Although the clash of cultures is often painful, confusing, and palpable, Smith confirms that in the end, no matter where we’re from, no matter the hardships in where we’ve landed, if we are truly willing to be honest with ourselves, the rest will undoubtedly fall into place. Definitely recommend!

Also by Mary Smith

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

Connect to Mary via her website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/

My thanks to Mary for sharing this very special time spent with her friends that she made when working in Afghanistan.. Please show your appreiciation by sharing far and wide. Thanks Sally