Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Sherri Matthews #Memoir – Holiday Reading, Ghosts And The Norfolk Broads


Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. In the final post this series Sherri takes us on a holiday to the Norfolk Broads, a fabulous boating holiday, and an introduction to the more ghostly side of this idyllic part of the country.

Holiday Reading, Ghosts And The Norfolk Broads

Holiday reading. What beats a book crammed full of twists and turn, thrills and spills to keep us occupied while lazing on the beach or reclining on a deck chair by the side of a pool somewhere hot and Mediterranean? What indeed!

When Lisa set her prompt for this week’s Bite Size Memoir challenge as ‘Holiday Reads’ my memories took me not to the beach or the pool but back to the annual holidays we took as a family when I was a girl to the tranquility of the Norfolk Broads

A boating holiday is certainly not relaxing in the usual sense, particularly if sailing. In fact, it is quite physical with all the leaping on and off boats, mooring up, gathering in the sails and generally messing about on the river. Not to mention all those misadventures that seem to go hand-in-hand when on the water, and I’m not just talking about losing one’s sunglasses.

Yet, nothing beats that feeling at the end of a boating day when you are moored up and hunkered down for the night, huddled in your bunk and settling in to your summer read.

Our holidays began with a several hour’s-long drive from Surrey to Norfolk, this being the 1970’s and motorways not what they are today, but oh the joy as we pulled in at last to the narrow roads of the delightfully historic Norfolk village of Horning and headed straight to the boatyard.

There we would set eyes on what would be our holiday home for the next two weeks and so the exodus began of transferring all our luggage, equipment and food from the overflowing car to our boat. Then finding a home for everything, which on a boat is often far from easy.

One year, when I was about twelve, as we took a walk down to the local shops of Horning to gather up some last-minute necessities before heading out, I treated myself to my summer book: it was called Ghosts of the Broads by Charles Sampson

What captured my attention was that there was a ghost story for most of the places we would be visiting so I could time my stories when we were at the actual location. I couldn’t wait!

Some of the stories went on a bit, but there I would be, in the dead of the night, lulled by the gentle motion of our boat to the passing current of the waters surrounding us, my little overhead lamp burning the midnight oil, scaring myself witless.

What filled my imagination like no other was the story about St. Benet’s Abbey

Approaching from the narrow and meandering River Ant as it merges into the strong currents of the River Bure, the sight of St. Benet’s Abbey looming up at the river’s edge of this convergence always struck a sense of foreboding into my heart as a child.

St Benet's Abbey, Norfolk Broads (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

St Benet’s Abbey, Norfolk Broads (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

I came to learn that it was a monastery founded in Anglo-Saxon times and the only one which went on to function well into the medieval ages. A wind pump was built into the gate of the ruins left behind. Hence the unusual structure.

Visiting the ruins today, my imagination still runs riot but I will write about this at another time, taking up a post of its own as it merits!

The ghosts of the Norfolk Broads and I go back a long way. They have fascinated and enthralled me for as long as I can remember. So it was, that fifteen years ago and after a gap of many years, I was fortunate enough to take my three children on a Norfolk Broad’s holiday, together with my mum, brother and his family. Eleven of us on two boats!

We cruised and sailed for two glorious weeks in August and it was steaming hot every day. Sometimes things work out better than planned and this was no exception.

As ever, I took my ‘Ghosts of the Broads’ book with me. To my amazement, I soon discovered that the very night we found ourselves mooring up for the night on Barton Broad (a huge expanse of water which, you might be interested to know, Admiral Horatio Nelson himself learnt to sail on as a boy) happened to be the same night that one of these ghostly apparitions was to appear.

If the conditions are perfect, the face of a woman appears in the lake, so the story goes. You can imagine, out there alone on the water with nothing but our ghost stories and hyped up children to tell them to, just what the atmosphere must have been like!

In all my years of ‘ghost hunting’ on the Norfolk Broads, I never did see a ghost, which disappointed me greatly and caused me great relief all at the same time. Quite what I would have done if I had found one of ‘my’ ghosts, I will never know.

However, on this particular night something extraordinary did happen, something that neither I nor my family can explain to this day.

South Walsham Broad at dusk – Norfolk Broads
(Not having one handy of Barton Broad, but it sets the scene!) (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Here then is my ‘bite’ for this week, in 150 words exactly:

Moored up in a cosy inlet, the winds that earlier had provided a full day’s sailing had died to a breath and Barton Broad lay as smooth as glass.

Orange skies darkened and a light mist danced across the waters. Conversation and laughter echoed beyond the riverbanks, then silence.

I don’t know who saw it first, but in seconds we were all standing on the gunwale, watching.

It was almost dark now, no wind and boating after sunset was forbidden, if not impossible without navigation lights.

A yacht, in full sail as the waters lapped at its bow, forged ahead in the darkness, the moon giving the merest hint of reflection in the water. No helmsman in sight, yet the sails billowed.

We gaped in hushed disbelief, not comprehending this eerie encounter. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the yacht vanished, swallowed up by the mist.

Just like that.

A very eerie note to end on… my thanks to Sherri for sharing another wonderful post with us… I have been on the broads and it is a great holiday… spooky apparitions aside…

©Sherri Matthews 2014 

About Sherri Matthews

While bringing her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, to publication, Sherri is published in magazines and anthologies. Blogging at her summerhouse, Sherri writes from her life as a Brit mum of three twenty years in California, her misadventures with her jailbird dad, and as Mum and carer to her adult, Aspie youngest. As in life, telling the story one word, one day at a time, Sherri believes that memoir brings alive the past, makes sense of the present and gives hope for the future. Today, Sherri lives in England with her hubby, Aspie and menagerie of pets fondly called, ‘Animal Farm’ and advocates that laughter is indeed the best medicine

Memoir Book Blurb

Stranger In A White Dress

‘We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
~E. M. Forster~

Set against the backdrop of the late 1970s, the story of a chance meeting one summer’s night between two eighteen year olds unfolds: Sherri, an English girl living in rural Suffolk, and Jonathan (Jon), an American G. I. from California newly posted to a USAF base nearby.

They fall in love fast, but Sherri, delighted to show off her homeland to this “new boy”, soon discovers that although growing up thousands of miles apart, they share dark similarities, which quickly threaten to unravel their relationship.

Their mothers divorced from alcoholic fathers, both were raised by abusive step-fathers. Jon’s increasing drug use and resulting paranoia clash with Sherri’s insecurities as hopes of “fixing” him and of the stable family life she dreams of slip away.

Los Angeles and lust; obsession and rage; passion and the power of love: theirs is a love affair defined by break-ups and make-ups, and then a shattering revelation explodes into this already volatile mix, altering the course of both their lives profoundly and forever.

A tale of darkest tragedy, yet dotted with moments of hilarity and at times the utterly absurd, this is a story of two young people who refuse to give up, believing their love will overcome all.

Not until decades after their chance meeting, and during a return trip to Los Angeles in 2013, does Sherri discover that Jon’s last wish has been granted.

It’s then that she knows the time has come to tell her story.

Sherri’s Memoir is in the final stages of editing and will be available later this year.

Here are the anthologies that Sherri has contributed to. Click the covers to buy.

Connect to Sherri.

Blog A View from my Summerhouse: sherrimatthewsblog.com
Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterSherri
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

I know that Sherri would love your feedback and thanks for dropping by… Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Sherri Matthews -#Memoir – My Dad, The Great Train Robbery and A Game of Cricket


Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. This week Sherri shares her father’s story, which was complicated. It is a frank look at his life and also acknowledgement of how much he is loved. This was first posted in 2013. Sherri’s father sadly passed away in 2016, but she had dedicated her blog to him with a lovely tribute..About Sherri Matthews

My Dad, The Great Train Robbery and A Game of Cricket

Today is my dad’s 81st birthday. Not so unusual these days (what is 80 now anyway, the new 40?) except in this case my dad is a raging alcoholic who has spent the best part of the last 35 years of his life in prison. No small miracle, then, that he gets to celebrate this day.

My dear dad, he could have done so much with his life. Once upon a time, we were a happy little family, he, my mum and my brother. Well, my mum may not have been so happy, especially when Dad started drinking more heavily and more often as the years went by . It all got too much and when I was 10 years old, she left him.

Happy Family 1961 Me on Dad's lap, Mum & Brother (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Happy Family 1961 Me on Dad’s lap, Mum & Brother (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

After that, Dad’s drinking took over, which led him down a path of whiskey-addled crime – i.e. holding up banks pretending he had a weapon (he never did) to make sure that he could return to the only home he had left – prison.

My dad has been inside more prisons that I’ve had hot dinners – and at least he gets plenty of those inside unlike when he was homeless, prowling (or staggering along more like) the streets, unkempt, talking to himself and lost in a haze of alcoholic oblivion, seen by many but ignored by all.

My brother and I once joked with him that he should write a book and call it ‘The Good Prison Guide’. He could rate it according to the food, the accommodation, how comfortable the bed is, the surroundings etc. Well, you have to keep your sense of humour don’t you?

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Dad’s birthday this year falls one day after the 50th anniversary of The Great Train Robbery. August 8, 1963. My dad is the same age as most of the men who took part in that robbery, his ‘peers’ if you like. I think he would have secretly liked to have been one of them truth be told. Dad never did conform to the ‘rules’.

Back in the 90s, Dad was doing a stint at Ford Open Prison in West Sussex and I visited him there. We sat and chatted over a cup of tea, as you do, and I always remember him suddenly lowering his voice (he is softly spoken at the best of times, so I had to really lean in to hear) as he told me to look just over his shoulder at the table behind us. He told me that one of the men sitting there was one of the Great Train Robbers. I don’t know who it was but Dad was proud to be in the same room as him, telling me what a good and decent man he was.

Something Dad told me during our telephone conversation last Sunday shed light on an aspect of his character. It’s always so interesting what you can glean from a conversation if you really listen.

He was looking forward to watching the cricket that night and he went on to tell me that he had once played for a Surrey cricket team. He had a bit of a reputation for being a good bowler, as he tells the story, but he was getting frustrated that they wouldn’t let him bowl. So one day he asked if could bowl but he was told that he would have to wait.

Well, Dad couldn’t wait so he told to them to stuff it and he walked away. I detected a tinge of regret in his voice as he told me this, mixed in with a little bit of the old ‘que sera sera’

Life never could hold my dad, or he couldn’t hold life, which ever way you look at it.

Remember those wooden cricket sets for children? When we were growing up I can remember Dad taking us outside and trying to teach us how to play. Come to think of it, he always bowled, that really was his forte. I remember him showing me the shiny, red ball and how to hold it and trying to teach me to do the same but I don’t think I was very good.

It is with a sigh that I write this post. I think of my dad, the man he was and could have been.

In the 50s he won salesman of the year while working for Austin Reed in London and won a trip on the Queen Mary to New York. Dad was a boxer once and was thrilled, while on his trip to New York, to have met (in a bar, of course!) and chatted to Sugar Ray Robinson.

Dad always looked so dapper in his Trilby hats and overcoats, the silver cigarette case placed neatly inside the breast pocket – think Don Draper in Mad Men. He also met Elizabeth Taylor once and I always remember him telling me that she ‘looked great from the waist up’! He also met – shhhh, don’t tell – Joan Collins at a party and ‘had a little smooch’ with her. Bet she will be thrilled to hear that!

Funny how my dad seemed to live on the fringe of this almost celebrity kind of lifestyle, how he was the epitome of the 60s culture. I also find it all strangely ironic, thinking back to the Great Train Robbery of 1963 that my dad is in a lot better condition now than poor old Ronnie Biggs

Most recent photo of me and my dad taken in 2006 during a day out from his halfway house. No photos allowed in prison! (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Most recent photo of me and my dad taken in 2006 during a day out when he was staying at a halfway house in-between prison terms. No photos allowed in prison! (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

So here we are, back to today, my dad’s 81st birthday. My dilemma is always the same, every Father’s Day and his birthday – what kind of card can I send him? Have you ever tried looking for a card to send your dad who just happens to be an alcoholic prisoner? It’s not easy, I can assure you.

For instance, this is what you usually find on a typical ‘Dad’ card:

  • A bottle of wine and a wine glass
  • A shiny sports car
  • A set of golf clubs
  • A drunk man holding a pint of beer, frothing over the glass
  • A garden shed
  • A football
  • A fishing rod
  • A boat or yacht
  • A fat, smiling man, wearing slippers, lounging on a recliner

Then, even if the illustration on the front is fairly innocuous, there is the message inside to contend with:

  • It’s your birthday Dad, relax and put your feet up!
  • Happy Birthday Dad! Have a pint on me
  • Enjoy the party Dad, it’s your special day!
  • Thanks for being a great Dad, for always being there for me, have a great day!

You can see my dilemma. For starters, all alcohol related cards are obviously out of the question. So far as sports cars, well, he had a few in his time. I remember a beautiful red Jaguar, with leather seats, and a British Racing Green MG Sports Car. I remember once we (his new wife, brother and me, and our massive German Shepherd called Bilbo Baggins) all crammed into it for a day trip to Chessington Zoo but he later went on to crash it, like all the rest.

He has never golfed, and although he used to love to fish, has sailed a few times, played football and may even have been spotted pottering about in a garden shed once or twice, reminders of these are just too redundant now.

Perhaps I should start my own range of ‘Jailbird Dad’ cards. It could have a picture on the front of a man in his prison gear sewing up mail bags or working in the laundry room and you could pop a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Monopoly card inside just for the laughs. Ahh, I jest, of course.

What kind of card then, dear old Dad, should I send you? Well, I hope you like the one I decided on. It is quite simple really. On the front is a cartoon of a big, cuddly and yes, smiling, bear holding out a pot of honey in its big hairy paw.

The message inside simply reads, ‘ Happy Birthday Daddy, I love you’.

Now what could be more perfect than that?

I think that you will agree with me that this is a heart-warming and loving tribute to a father, despite the complicated and difficult path he has followed.

©Sherri Matthews 2013  

About Sherri Matthews

While bringing her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, to publication, Sherri is published in magazines and anthologies. Blogging at her summerhouse, Sherri writes from her life as a Brit mum of three twenty years in California, her misadventures with her jailbird dad, and as Mum and carer to her adult, Aspie youngest. As in life, telling the story one word, one day at a time, Sherri believes that memoir brings alive the past, makes sense of the present and gives hope for the future. Today, Sherri lives in England with her hubby, Aspie and menagerie of pets fondly called, ‘Animal Farm’ and advocates that laughter is indeed the best medicine

Memoir Book Blurb

Stranger In A White Dress

‘We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
~E. M. Forster~

Set against the backdrop of the late 1970s, the story of a chance meeting one summer’s night between two eighteen year olds unfolds: Sherri, an English girl living in rural Suffolk, and Jonathan (Jon), an American G. I. from California newly posted to a USAF base nearby.

They fall in love fast, but Sherri, delighted to show off her homeland to this “new boy”, soon discovers that although growing up thousands of miles apart, they share dark similarities, which quickly threaten to unravel their relationship.

Their mothers divorced from alcoholic fathers, both were raised by abusive step-fathers. Jon’s increasing drug use and resulting paranoia clash with Sherri’s insecurities as hopes of “fixing” him and of the stable family life she dreams of slip away.

Los Angeles and lust; obsession and rage; passion and the power of love: theirs is a love affair defined by break-ups and make-ups, and then a shattering revelation explodes into this already volatile mix, altering the course of both their lives profoundly and forever.

A tale of darkest tragedy, yet dotted with moments of hilarity and at times the utterly absurd, this is a story of two young people who refuse to give up, believing their love will overcome all.

Not until decades after their chance meeting, and during a return trip to Los Angeles in 2013, does Sherri discover that Jon’s last wish has been granted.

It’s then that she knows the time has come to tell her story.

Sherri’s Memoir is in the final stages of editing and will be available later this year.

Here are the anthologies that Sherri has contributed to. Click the covers to buy.

Connect to Sherri.

Blog A View from my Summerhouse: sherrimatthewsblog.com
Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterSherri
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

I know that Sherri would love your feedback and thanks for dropping by… Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Sherri Matthews -#Memoir – The Great British Staycation and A Brew Up – California Style


Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. This week Sherri shares childhood summers and those spent at the coast in California…and tea…

The Great British Staycation and A Brew Up – California Style

A news report stated that due to the Great British Summer we recently enjoyed (all three weeks of it, now, sadly, just a distant memory…), travel agents were reporting a 20 percent drop in holiday-makers booking last-minute getaways to the sun.

To me, this just shows that an awful lot of families, particularly those with young children, would prefer a British ‘staycation’ over all the hassle and stress that a holiday abroad brings, if only there could be a guarantee of plenty of sunshine.

The type of holiday that we of a certain generation took without so much as a backward glance, sunshine or not.

Who can forget those lazy, hazy days of summer spent at the seaside (in our case Brighton Beach) with our buckets and spades, old blankets spread out on a nice, sheltered (if we were lucky) not-too-rocky spot, wicker picnic basket crammed full of sandwiches and cakes and lemonade kept fresh in Mum’s well-used Tupperware drink’s holder?

Now, I realise that by using the word ‘hazy’, I am perhaps giving the impression of it being balmy and warm, but in reality it was usually pretty damn cold with us kids shivering and turning blue, having come out of the sea after a swim paddle, but that was half the fun of it!

(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Me at the Seaside enjoying a true Great British Staycation – notice the bucket, spade and sandcastle.  1960 something….oh, and the swimming costume (sorry, swimsuit) is red. (c)  Sherri Matthews 2013

Me at the Seaside enjoying a true Great British Staycation – notice the bucket, spade and sandcastle. 1960 something….oh, and the swimming costume (sorry, swimsuit) is red.

After being wrapped up and cuddled in a towel by Mum or Dad until we were warm enough to feel our no-longer-numb limbs again, we would then be given money to rush off and buy an ice cream. Go figure! Sitting on the blanket, ice cream leaking out of the bottom of the wafer and dripping all the way down our arms in a right sticky mess, the sharp wind whipping up the sand as it smarted across our freckled faces, we would proudly admire our sandcastles before the tide closed in to wash them all away.

Then it would be home for tea, and that always meant Fish & Chips! Out of newspaper!

My own children were raised in California, and as much as I loved, and indeed embraced, what many long summers spent in America gave us, I was intent on sharing as much of my very British childhood with them as possible. Of course, living in California, the beach was never far away and many a happy day was spent loading the kids up in the car with the cool box, beach umbrella, chairs and yes, the buckets and spades (pales and shovels!) to hand.

But there was something missing.

The wicker picnic basket! I had to have one of my own. No picnic, trip to the beach was complete without one. I was on a mission and when I’m on a mission I am very, very determined. Unfortunately, the only wicker picnic baskets I could find at the time (it being the 90s and before picnic baskets were ‘in vogue’) were very, very expensive and rather exclusive. Way out of my league, in other words.

However, the merest mention of this to my mother during one of our regular transatlantic telephone calls, and she knew what she had to do. If you want to know where I get my tenacity from, you only have to know my mother.

The next thing I know, Mum is calling me to tell me that she has not only found the perfect wicker picnic basket (in a charity shop!!), but she has kitted it out with a brand new blue and white check gingham lining, matching napkins, a blue melamine plate and bowl set for six and matching cutlery. She would bring the hamper with her when she next came to visit.

The Wicker Picner Hamper (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

This is the original picnic basket from all those years ago, notice the leather straps! The inside isn’t so pretty now unfortunately, a job for Mum to re-line it perhaps? (c)  Sherri Matthews 2013

For her, this was no problem. My Mum was, and still is, like Mary Poppins. What she hasn’t packed in her suitcases in her time you don’t want to know about!

Remember those days when you were allowed two large suitcases on a long haul flight without the fear of excess charges? What a mercy for that! Mum packed the basket inside one of her suitcases, alongside all the usual goodies that we craved: Tea, Marmite, Crunchies, tubes of Smarties, Bird’s Eye Custard, serval McVities Ginger Cakes, you know, all the good stuff.

After that, for year’s to come, no picnic was complete without the basket. Of course, we also had the cool bag, it being too hot in California not to keep food in one, but the basket always came. However, I had one more thing that I insisted upon to make our British style picnics in California complete. I wanted to be able to have a ‘brew up’.

Now I’m not talking about making homemade beer or wine here. No, I’m talking about make what we British drink no matter what the weather, no matter where we are and especially when in crisis…we have a cup of tea! Except that I wanted to be able to actually make the tea, in a teapot.

Call me tea-mad, call me sentimental, call my anything you like (barking?) but, once again, I was on yet another mission. So, my dear Mum then acquired for me a delightful (and blue!) camping tea kettle. It even had a whistle! Not only that, she also produced a camping teapot! I found a single-burner calor gas stove at a camping shop and we were in business. Packing the tea bags, a container (Tupperware, of course) of milk and some sugar, our picnic was complete and I was in tea heaven!

So there we would be, sitting on the beach overlooking the wild Pacific vista, eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato chips, ice-cold watermelon and Jello, and all the while my heart would be filled with joy at the sound of the calor gas gently hissing with my little camping tea kettle happily whistling away.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, yes, we did get some very strange looks over the years. You can just imagine it, I’m sure, and what they must have thought. I can assure you that I never did see anybody else doing this in all the 17 years I lived in California!

Perhaps I might be surprised to learn that I have started a new trend, you never know. My children thought I was crazy and were, of course, embarrassed but isn’t that a parent’s job, to embarrass their children?

But it was mission accomplished!

After all, what could be more evocative of the Great British Staycation than sipping a cup of lovely tea while sitting on a beach on a hot, summer’s day, watching the wild waves of the Pacific Ocean come crashing down on the golden sands of a beach in sunny California?

View of the Pacific Ocean, California Central Coast (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

The enduring image of the Californian Coastline where I spent so many happy years with my young family.  A Perfect spot for a lovely brew-up! (c)  Sherri Matthews 2013

“How can you drink tea when it’s so hot?” Question asked of me by my ex-husband even after 22 years of marriage.

My thanks to Sherri for sharing the joys of Summer… whether at home in the UK or the California coast.. with a cuppa.

©Sherri Matthews 2013

 

About Sherri Matthews

While bringing her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, to publication, Sherri is published in magazines and anthologies. Blogging at her summerhouse, Sherri writes from her life as a Brit mum of three twenty years in California, her misadventures with her jailbird dad, and as Mum and carer to her adult, Aspie youngest. As in life, telling the story one word, one day at a time, Sherri believes that memoir brings alive the past, makes sense of the present and gives hope for the future. Today, Sherri lives in England with her hubby, Aspie and menagerie of pets fondly called, ‘Animal Farm’ and advocates that laughter is indeed the best medicine

Memoir Book Blurb

Stranger In A White Dress

‘We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
~E. M. Forster~

Set against the backdrop of the late 1970s, the story of a chance meeting one summer’s night between two eighteen year olds unfolds: Sherri, an English girl living in rural Suffolk, and Jonathan (Jon), an American G. I. from California newly posted to a USAF base nearby.

They fall in love fast, but Sherri, delighted to show off her homeland to this “new boy”, soon discovers that although growing up thousands of miles apart, they share dark similarities, which quickly threaten to unravel their relationship.

Their mothers divorced from alcoholic fathers, both were raised by abusive step-fathers. Jon’s increasing drug use and resulting paranoia clash with Sherri’s insecurities as hopes of “fixing” him and of the stable family life she dreams of slip away.

Los Angeles and lust; obsession and rage; passion and the power of love: theirs is a love affair defined by break-ups and make-ups, and then a shattering revelation explodes into this already volatile mix, altering the course of both their lives profoundly and forever.

A tale of darkest tragedy, yet dotted with moments of hilarity and at times the utterly absurd, this is a story of two young people who refuse to give up, believing their love will overcome all.

Not until decades after their chance meeting, and during a return trip to Los Angeles in 2013, does Sherri discover that Jon’s last wish has been granted.

It’s then that she knows the time has come to tell her story.

Sherri’s Memoir is in the final stages of editing and will be available later this year.

Here are the anthologies that Sherri has contributed to. Click the covers to buy.

Connect to Sherri.

Blog A View from my Summerhouse: sherrimatthewsblog.com
Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterSherri
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

I know that Sherri would love your feedback and thanks for dropping by… Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Sherri Matthews – #Memoir – Times Past Challenge: Chinese Spoons And Eating Out


Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. In her first post.. a little nostalgia and for those of us who enjoyed our first dining experiences in a Chinese restaurant of one of the steak houses such as Berni Inn.. it will bring back memories.

Times Past Challenge: Chinese Spoons And Eating Out

Dressed to impress in my purple and white midi dress my mother had made for me and patent leather, navy-blue sling back shoes with block heels, I walked into the dimly lit Chinese restaurant, mesmerised by the brightly coloured lanterns hanging from the ceiling and the soft, almost hypnotic music filling the room.

It was the mid 70’s, I was twelve and staying with my dad for the school holidays in Brighton, and he was taking me and my brother out for dinner. My first time eating out at a restaurant for an evening meal and, as it turned out, the last time with my dad.

I didn’t know what to order, so Dad ordered what he was having: a bowl of crab and sweetcorn soup. When the waiter placed the small, deep bowl in front of me, I wasn’t sure at first what to make of the strange, thick-looking soup with the white streaks floating amongst the sweetcorn.

Dad urged me to try it, warning me to be careful as it was very hot, a fact borne out by his steamed up glasses. And then I noticed the white, ladle-like Chinese style spoon placed next to my bowl. I had never seen such a spoon; its shape and also the unusual design on its base fascinated me.

As a tail-end ‘Baby Boomer’ growing up in 60s and 70s southern England, eating out at a restaurant for an evening meal just wasn’t done. The cost was out of reach for my parents and even if cost wasn’t a factor, restaurants were not family-friendly.

The only ‘fast food’ we had, and then as a rare treat, was when my mother left me and my brother in the care of my dad for the day when she took her prized Siamese cats to London for a cat show. Dad always, I say always, got us fish and chips wrapped in newspaper for lunch, which we ate at home with plenty of salt, vinegar, fat pickled onions and lashings of tomato ketchup.

We didn't eat out as kids, but we did enjoy family gatherings, such as this tea party for a cousin. Me on the right. Always the kid with chocolate on my face. Nothing's changed... (c) Sherri Matthews

We didn’t eat out as kids, but we did enjoy family gatherings, such as this tea party for a cousin’s birthday. Me on the right. Always the kid with chocolate on her face. Nothing’s changed…(c) Sherri Matthews

Pubs, if you were lucky, offered crisps, peanuts and sometimes a cold sausage roll or curled up ham sandwich on dry, white bread spread with margarine. Pub meals were not the thing and children weren’t allowed inside. By the time I was old enough to go with my friends, the only meals on offer, at least in the pubs where I hung out in Ipswich, were scampi, chicken or sausages and chips served in red, plastic-weaved baskets.

But when I was seventeen, my Radio Caroline listening boyfriend took me out for a meal for my birthday to a Berni Inn

These ‘inns’ were all the rage across the country in the 70’s because they offered all and sundry an affordable, three course meal consisting of prawn cocktail, steak with all the trimmings (in Britain this means mushrooms, peas, grilled tomatoes and chips) and Black Forest Gateau. Also included was a glass of wine and coffee to follow. Very swish, we thought.

I remember that night for two things: the black maxi dress I wore, thinking how grown up I must have looked, and the horrendous stomach ache I had later on. I blamed it on the coffee which never did agree with me. It was a great night out other than that.

But it is the memory of a Chinese meal one night in Brighton that endures: the soup was delicious, the spoons fascinating and the time with my dad priceless.

*******

This post is written in response to an intriguing monthly challenge set by memoir writer Irene  in 2016 over at Reflections and Nightmares

I’d like to invite you to join with me in a prompt challenge that will give us social insights into the way the world has changed between not only generations but also between geographical location. The prompt can be responded to in any form you enjoy – prose, poetry, flash, photographs, sketches or any other form you choose. You may like to use a combination of the two. I will also add a series of questions for those that would like to join in but don’t know where to start.’

©Sherri Matthews 2016

My thanks to Sherri for sharing her eating out experiences in the 70s and having worked in a Schooner Inn (Berni Inn rival) in the mid 70s… it brought back a lot of memories..

About Sherri Matthews

While bringing her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, to publication, Sherri is published in magazines and anthologies. Blogging at her summerhouse, Sherri writes from her life as a Brit mum of three twenty years in California, her misadventures with her jailbird dad, and as Mum and carer to her adult, Aspie youngest. As in life, telling the story one word, one day at a time, Sherri believes that memoir brings alive the past, makes sense of the present and gives hope for the future. Today, Sherri lives in England with her hubby, Aspie and menagerie of pets fondly called, ‘Animal Farm’ and advocates that laughter is indeed the best medicine

Memoir Book Blurb

Stranger In A White Dress

‘We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
~E. M. Forster~

Set against the backdrop of the late 1970s, the story of a chance meeting one summer’s night between two eighteen year olds unfolds: Sherri, an English girl living in rural Suffolk, and Jonathan (Jon), an American G. I. from California newly posted to a USAF base nearby.

They fall in love fast, but Sherri, delighted to show off her homeland to this “new boy”, soon discovers that although growing up thousands of miles apart, they share dark similarities, which quickly threaten to unravel their relationship.

Their mothers divorced from alcoholic fathers, both were raised by abusive step-fathers. Jon’s increasing drug use and resulting paranoia clash with Sherri’s insecurities as hopes of “fixing” him and of the stable family life she dreams of slip away.

Los Angeles and lust; obsession and rage; passion and the power of love: theirs is a love affair defined by break-ups and make-ups, and then a shattering revelation explodes into this already volatile mix, altering the course of both their lives profoundly and forever.

A tale of darkest tragedy, yet dotted with moments of hilarity and at times the utterly absurd, this is a story of two young people who refuse to give up, believing their love will overcome all.

Not until decades after their chance meeting, and during a return trip to Los Angeles in 2013, does Sherri discover that Jon’s last wish has been granted.

It’s then that she knows the time has come to tell her story.

Sherri’s Memoir is in the final stages of editing and will be available later this year.

Here are the anthologies that Sherri has contributed to. Click the covers to buy.

Connect to Sherri.

Blog A View from my Summerhouse: sherrimatthewsblog.com
Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterSherri
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

My thanks to Sherri for sharing this glimpse into her teens and I know she would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.