Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – Going west – Wales – wild things 2016 by Sue Vincent


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/

This is the first post from the archives of a regular contributor to the series and wonderful supporter of us all, apart from challenging us each week with photo and Haiku prompts Sue Vincent wanders the land..in search of the ancient and modern to share with us. And this week I am sharing a wonderful example of her travels.

Going west – Wales – wild things 2016 by Sue Vincent

Wales 297

As we walked towards Carn Llidi, we were surprised to see a little herd of Welsh ponies grazing on the hillside. These hardy and resilient ponies still live a semi-feral life here. They are beautiful creatures and very much a part of the land and its history, having ploughed its fields, carried its warriors and worked in its mines for centuries. It is known that there have been ponies here for well over three and a half thousand years…and who knows how much longer before that. At some point in their long history they were bred with Arabian horses and that bloodline too runs in their veins. I knew of the wild ponies of Snowdonia, a genetically unique group that was decimated in recent years by severe winter weather that wiped out almost half the population, but had not expected to see them at St David’s Head.

Wales 264

I remember seeing the news story when the last pit ponies were brought up from the mines. Smaller breeds, like Shetlands and the Welsh ponies were preferred as they could go where even mechanisation could not, each hauling 30 tons of coal a day in eight-hour shifts. Ponies were used in the mines from 1750, and the last pit pony was retired only in 1999. I remember too my great-uncle’s stories of them and how they worked underground for years, though some were brought up for a short holiday annually when the mines closed. When they came out into the sunlight, they could not see… after so long in the dark it took them some time to adjust to the daylight. The ponies would be taken underground at four years old and could work, if they survived, until their twenties. In deep shaft mines, they were stabled in the mine itself and cared for by the miners as well as their owners. The management were looking after an asset… the miners for a fellow worker who shared both their labour and the danger. Even in modern times, coal mining was deadly work and there were many stories of how the ponies’ sense of danger helped save their human partners.

My great-uncle took me to meet some of the ponies one day during their annual break. He taught me, a small girl then, how to hold out the apples and the mints that they loved without risking my fingers. To see them grazing, wild in the heather, is a very different thing from seeing their coal-stained coats that no amount of grooming could clean… just like my uncle’s hands. Those, I remember well, large, shapely hands, calloused and strong, yet always tinged with black. The coal dust killed him in the end… a lifetime of breathing it unprotected, just as it must have affected so many of the ponies. It was an unnatural life, away from the fresh air and sunlight, away from the green… and a joy to see them free on the hillside as we climbed.

Wales 275

The ponies were not the only wild beauties there. The exuberance of summer wildflowers alone was quite something to see. Many of them grow low to the ground in response to the coastal wind and weather… you do not see them from afar, but honeysuckle and wild rose ramble through the gorse and bracken. Tall spires of foxglove stand proud above the greenery and with every step new flowers turned multicoloured faces to the sun.

Wales 285

The sun was really beating down and we were all glad when the path reached its crest and began to descend ahead of us. We were hot and tired…we had all driven a long way that day… and, not realising how hot it would get or the scope of the landscape, few of us had brought water. At a fork in the path, we should have ascended further, climbing Carn Llidi to the WWII gun emplacements and the twin chambered tombs on the slopes of the hill before climbing to the top. With some regret we went down instead… all but one of us, who climbed the hill alone. Much as I would have liked to see the tombs, my feet…clad, for once, in sensible walking shoes… were painfully protesting the heat and the abuse of the previous weeks. The shoes had to go…but first, we had to get down.

Wales 277

The stone walls between which we walked were covered in flowers, bees and butterflies. Birds sang everywhere, but none as loudly as a tiny virtuoso perched on a thorn bush. I didn’t recognise him.. though I thought he was a warbler of some sort. I wondered if he might be one of the few remaining marsh warblers, famed for their song… he certainly deserved to be, both in volume and virtuosity. You would not believe that such a tiny thing could sing so loudly.Wales 282It was both wonderful and shocking to realise this might have been a marsh warbler*. I am no expert on birds… but he looked rather like one when I tried to identify him later. If he was, then to see and hear him was even more of a privilege as there are thought to be only six or eight breeding pairs left in the UK and the little birds are on the red list for conservation.

Wales 293

There were other birds too though…many of them just youngsters, newly fledged and wearing their juvenile colours. Like the young robin that frequents my garden, you cannot tell what they are at first glance… their feathers do not yet identify them and you have to see how they walk and how they hold themselves to know what they are.

Wales 292

We expect a robin to have a red breast and a blackbird to be black. When they are not, we puzzle for a while to know what it is that we see. Expectations and appearances can blind us to reality, so we have to reach beyond them before we can see and know what is real.

Wales 267

We finally made it down after a superb afternoon in the loveliest of places. Soon we would all gather for dinner in St David’s itself, but for the moment, there was a cool breeze and the shimmer of sunlight on the sea. The shoes and socks were off… the trousers rolled…and we let the clear waters wash away the heat from aching feet, leaving behind only the balm and memory of beauty.

Wales 306© Sue Vincent 2016

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer, esoteric teacher and Director of The Silent Eye. She has been immersed in the Mysteries all her life. Sue maintains a popular blog and is co-author of The Mystical Hexagram with Dr G.M.Vasey. Sue lives in Buckinghamshire, having been stranded there some years ago due to an accident with a blindfold, a pin and a map. She has a lasting love-affair with the landscape of Albion, the hidden country of the heart. She is currently owned by a small dog who also writes at http://scvincent.com/

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness is a modern Mystery School that seeks to allow its students to find the inherent magic in living and being. With students around the world the School offers a fully supervised and practical correspondence course that explores the self through guided inner journeys and daily exercises. It also offers workshops that combine sacred drama, lectures and informal gatherings to bring the teachings to life in a vivid and exciting format. The Silent Eye operates on a not-for-profit basis. Full details of the School may be found on the official website, http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk.

A selection of books by Sue Vincent and Stuart Frances

One of the recent reviews for Sword of Destiny

An amputation of the soul
So dark, so final, yet I understand it.
I love the way you became a priest
Absolving Merlin of the sins written about him
None of which I believed
Arthurs birth is better told without the sting of rape
Robed in rainbows, like moonlight on water, FAB
I didn’t so much read this book as eat my way through it…

Read the reviews and buy the books from the following links: UKUSAFranceGermany

And you can find more reviews and follow Sue on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/6551588.Sue_Vincent

Connect to Sue

Blog: http://scvincent.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/scvincent
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/S-C-Vincent/17967259931?ref=hl
Silent Eye Website: http://thesilenteye.co.uk/
Website (books) : http://www.franceandvincent.com/
Silent Eye Authors FB: https://www.facebook.com/silenteyeauthors?ref=hl

My thanks to Sue for permitting me to browse her archives and share some with you…Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Joy Lennick – A Tribute to my dear Mama/Mum


In this post from Joy Lennick, she shares the life and cherished memories of her mother.. born in Wales in 1906, who clearly passed on resoluteness, adaptability, love of hard work and creativity to her daughter. A wonderful tribute.

A tribute to my dear Mama/Mum by Joy Lennick

Until I went to school aged five, I called my mother: Lila – named after a Fairy Queen seen in a play! – Elizabeth – mama. It was my God-mother, Aunt Doris,’ suggestion as she had grandiose ideas as to my up-bringing and saw me as a little lady of breeding who would doubtless learn to play the piano beautifully, knit Fair-Isle sweaters, blind-folded… embroider as if to the manor born, and POSSIBLY end up marrying someone higher up the ladder (and I don’t mean a window-cleaner.) As it transpired, while I may have mastered Chopsticks, sewed a fairly neat hem, and even made a peg-bag, I’m afraid I disappointed in all other areas. And, because a strange, deranged little man with a moustache wanted to dominate the world and promote a “Master Race,” I didn’t attend the Convent School my aunt had mapped out for me. Meanwhile, I enrolled at the local, Dagenham village school, before being whisked away to live on a Welsh mountain when war was declared in the September of 1939. Then, realising I just belonged to the hoi poloi, I thereafter called my mother mum.

The Mansfields (my paternal relatives) thought they were a cut above: there was Royal Doulton china and crystal cut-glass in the display cabinet and a framed picture of Churchill on the wall to prove it!! The ladies of the family also bought glossy periodicals which “the toffs” purchased; and shopped in the very best West End stores whenever possible. Oh, and both Dad’s sisters owned FUR COATS. And wore Perfume by COTY…But I mustn’t give the wrong impression as, with the exception of, later (one of their number), they were consistently kind, caring, charitable and generous. But quickly back to Mum…

So, what was she like, my pretty, loving mum? Imagine a blue-skied and sunshiny day, with a soft breeze blowing and birds wheeling in the sky… That was my mum. She epitomized Spring and was blessed with a sunny, happy personality. (On later reading Laurie Lee’s book “Cider with Rosie,” mum sounded like his quirky mother as their sense of fun were similar!) She was a perfect foil for Dad’s no-nonsense, a spade is a spade, sterner make-up, although he had an earthy sense of humour and was as reliable as the clichéd Rock of Gibraltar. Around five feet two inches, with a slender figure, mum belied an inner strength which repeatedly revealed itself.

Born in 1906, she lived to experience the Great Depression in South Wales and helped look after her two younger sisters. Grandad said she had ‘Dark brown hair like fine-spun sugar…’ A brick-layer and later, shop-keeper, he may have been, but he was a gentleman and charmed the ladies. Mum had left school at fourteen and worked selling ribbons and cottons in the market and in her parents’ greengrocer’s shop/and on a pony and trap serving customers living in the mountains. Too soon, everything was ‘on the slate, please, mun’ because of The Great Depression, and money was fast running out. Aged seventeen, mum begged to go to London to work but Grandma was convinced it was worse than Gomorrah:*

‘Duw duw, you could be murdered or worse.’ she cried. But, when feeding her family became critical, Grandma relented. Mum pointed her “winkle-pickers” in the East End of London’s direction and worked as a Nanny for the two children of talented Jewish tailors in Stepney.

Soon Lila was not only a Nanny, but taught how to cook Jewish dishes and do intricate beading work. Linking up with her best friend, Edna, the pair went dancing on their one day off and, as she said ‘The streets weren’t really paved with gold,’ as promised…but the lights were brighter and you could have ‘six-penny-worth of fun’ and watch American pictures. too.

She saved hard and soon had the requisite ten pounds to add to her mother’s hard saved purse. Her family: Mam, Dad and three siblings, caught the train to Dagenham Dock station with packed suitcases and little else and were given a new Council house in Becontree, which her enamoured mother announced, was ‘Like a miniature Buckingham Palace!.’ Mum said that was pushing it a bit… But it had a new roof which didn’t leak and a bathroom.downstairs, three bedrooms up, and a proper garden at the back. ‘Not like that old slum in Dowlais,.’ Grandma was heard to say.

Leaving the Soloman’s employ with regret, Mum then became a cinema usherette, also working part-time in the building’s café with her sister Peggy. She found life fun as she loved to dance and, being pretty, caught the eye of many a would-be suitor. One in particular pursued her and they became engaged, but he spent too much time on his motor-bike and Mum wasn’t cut out to play second fiddle to a bike! The move couldn’t have been luckier for another dancer and natty dresser (first in his crowd to wear plus-fours. it is said… ) called Charles (Charlie) who quickly stepped into the breach. He and Lila won a few prizes for their prowess on the dance floor – including “The Black.Bottom’”- of the Cross Keys public house in old Dagenham and were soon seriously courting.

Eager to show off his new girl-friend to his family, Charles invited her to tea, much to the delight of his father, also Charles: a well-heeled Freemason, who had a penchant for pretty faces… The females in the family, however, on being introduced to an uneducated girl “from the Welsh valleys” almost had them reaching for their smelling salts… but Lila was polite, friendly and possessed a winning smile and they gradually accepted the inevitable. Charles was smitten, but found it difficult to ‘write my own life script’ as he later discovered. The happy pair were married in a – horror of horrors – Registry office, while the Mansfields were staunch Catholics, a fact the Father of the local church found difficult to comprehend and led to harsh words being exchanged. Although to keep the Mansfields’ happy, when I arrived on the scene, I was Christened by a Canon, no less. (Dad said ‘She should have been fired from one!’ when I decapitated his row of red: soldier erect tulips, aged two.) After the birth of my second brother, the Priest visited our house and tried to persuade Mum to marry “in the church,” but went beyond the pale when he suggested all three of us children were illegitimate, and was quickly shown the door.

Like most working-class women then, mum was familiar with the Monday-wash-boiler, the scrubbing board and the outside mangle. Although we had indoor plumbing, we had no central heating until the mid/late 50’s – and only had a gas-fire for warmth on in the bedroom if we were very ill (once with measles…) The stove in our tiny kitchen was much cosseted…as was the rare fire in the lounge fireplace. And the telephone, also installed in the 50’s, was almost revered, as was the “new-fangled” TV set.

Meanwhile, mum – by then a trained hairdresser – crimped and cut hair to help expenses go further, cooked delicious meals for the five of us and was everything a good mum should be. Then – wouldn’t you know – the .lunatic little man mentioned above, started strutting his stuff and war – an incomprehensible state to us children – was declared. When rationing was introduced, Mum made all sorts of filling dishes, using more potatoes and vegetables from our garden, bread puddings and ‘apples in blankets’ (pastry) to fill our corners…she also made sure we had concentrated orange juice, cod-liver oil (ugh!) and Virol to keep us healthy, as –in due course – did dear aunt Sal.

Dad, having been an Air Force Cadet at the end of World War 1, and in love with aeroplanes, re-joined the Air Force and was one of the first wave of airmen to be called up for duty. After hastily digging a huge hole in our pristine, green lawn, he erected an outdoor air-raid shelter, as instructed, and then accompanied us three children and mum to South Wales. We were to stay in the relative safety of her cousin Sarah Jones’– Aunt Sal to us – tall, thin house, set into the side of Mountain Hare, just above Merthyr Tydfil. It didn’t have all mod.cons. like ours, but I was enchanted with gaslight and candlelight…not so with the outside “lav,” with squares of the Merthyr Express on which to wipe ones bottom!

Mum stayed on awhile, but dad had to join his unit in France. Having entrusted brother Bryan to the loving care of another aunt in Ebbw Vale as Aunt Sal couldn’t cope with three children due to a badly ulcerated leg, mum left to stay with her mother and do “war work.” As mentioned above, Mum wasn’t very tall and quite slender, and we were surprised when next we saw her, as she had developed muscles…after working on a moving assembly belt of Army lorries at Ford’s Motors. She later moved to another company, where she was taught welding and became even stronger. Fortunately, during the first part of the war, it was fairly quiet, so we were transported back and forth a few times, especially as dad was given leave from France before things hotted up.

Thereafter, Dagenham, and more specifically: our house became a dangerous place to live in as it was near the River Thames, the Ford Motor works, churning out war machines, a huge drug factory and railway – all likely targets for the German planes. A land-mine fell at the end of our street and demolished many houses and killed several people, but our house was only marginally damaged. In all, we were evacuated three times: to Merthyr, Neath and – with my secondary school, to Derbyshire. Towards the end of the war, dad was stationed near enough to visit our home and mum gave birth to my third brother, Royce (despìte being warned about the aphrodisiac quality of eels to which he was partial). As mum was unwell, the doctor advised her to stay somewhere quieter, and the most generous family, who lived in Neath, Wales – and had two children of their own – took the five of us in, as aunt Sal was ill.

You can imagine our sheer joy when peace was declared and we were all able to return to our own home: shaken and stirred but still intact, and dad was, at last, demobbed.
During our absence, we soon discovered, Mum had re-decorated several rooms herself. There was a shortage of wallpaper, so she had “stippled” the walls with a design in a contrasting colour and I spent many odd times imagining all sorts of animals and magical “objects” floating up to the ceilings…It seemed, Mum was able to tackle most things, and a great advocate of “make do and mend.” She was always darning socks, turning shirt collars and bedsheets, and aware of the hard times, often said “That will do…” if an item of clothing had a vestige of life left.

A keen dancer herself, she encouraged me when I reached my teens and joined the youth club. Mum and her father both won prizes for dancing and she played a mean piano, I recall her pounding the ivories in our Welsh centre during her visits. “Amapola,” “The Seigfried Line” and various popular tunes and songs were requested during her time with us, and she urged me to take ballet and tap lessons, which I adored.

As far as “lessons subtly learned” while under my parents roof were concerned, Mum in particular emphasized that I should ‘show willing and be helpful to others’as she did…and, while sex was never actually discussed….whenever I went out with a boy, she always told me to ‘be good now!’which I interpreted as ‘keep your legs together,’ which I dutifully did, much to their annoyance.

Every week, Mum and I went to the local cinema to see the latest British or American film and lapped up all the glamour and fantasy and she loved reading “Nell’s Books on Wheels” delivered locally every week She was particularly fond of romances and favoured medical tales. Mum had a knack of bringing sunshine into the house with some of her embroidered tales of people she worked with and even when it rained for a few days, managed to lift our spirits. Fortunately, both my parents were able to enjoy several holidays abroad as we children grew older, and still managed to impress on the dance floor!

As time wore on, and after I married, mum took advanced cooking courses and learned “Silver Service Waitressing,”securing an excellent post in the directors’ canteen of a large company nearby: May & Bakers and worked there for several years. When she retired, she hated it, so arranged wedding functions and 2lst birthday celebrations and the like, with the able assistance of one of my sisters-in-law, Doreen; and made beautiful, iced celebration cakes. She also did flower arranging and made bridal bouquets, buttonholes and the like…(and even won prizes for her arrangements at the local Town Show.)

When my parents celebrated their Golden Wedding, as my husband and I were then running a hotel, we were able to entertain them with family and friends, for a fun weekend. It was so good to be able to make a fuss of them for a change! Sadly, as dad approached eighty, his lungs started letting him down – he was a heavy smoker when young and in the war, apart from working for so many years on the river. But he made it to eighty-three. Mum was, naturally, at first desolate at his passing, as were we. But we sold her house for her and bought her another, smaller one, just around the corner to ours.

Her hands were rarely still thereafter. She made delicious petit fours and boxed them up as gifts at Christmas time, still made large and small assorted cakes, and embroidered many pictures which my husband framed for her. She also knitted toys, covered coat-hangers and sewed lavender bags. We were able to take mum and a friend on two continental holidays – which she loved, and we spent many happy hours together. She so enjoyed being in the company of our three sons and her other grandchildren, was alert and keenly interested in them and what was happening in the outside world. She only went on one “Old people’s outings” as she termed them (aged eighty) but said: ‘I shan’t go with them again…Some of them clicked their teeth and talked about their operations all the time’

It was tragically ironic that mum – apart from a worn heart – and comparatively healthy for her age, was struck by an unlicensed car a few inches from a kerb, while out visiting a relative,
suffered a broken hip and lapsed into an unconscious state for six, long weeks before dying.

It was the most cruel blow of my life and I was bereft, but I still carry her treasured memory in my heart, as I will until I fall off my own perch. Mum loved all us four children unconditionally and, despite our faults, thought us “the bee’s knees…” and, as we thought she was too, you can’t ask for more than that. Can you?

*Gomorrah: A House of ill repute in the bible.

©Joy Lennick

What a fascinating story and my thanks to Joy as always for her entertaining storytelling…

About Joy Lennick

Having worn several hats in my life: wife, mum, secretary, shop-keeper, hotelier; my favourite is the multi-coloured author’s creation. I am an eclectic writer: diary, articles, poetry, short stories and five books. Two books were factual, the third as biographer: HURRICANE HALSEY (a true sea adventure), fourth my Memoir MY GENTLE WAR and my current fiction novel is THE CATALYST. Plenty more simmering…

A selection of books by Joy Lennick

One of the reviews for The Moon is Wearing a TuTu

This book comprises of a number of unusual poems that certainly force you to think deeply by Joy Lennick and a few poems, limericks and humorous one-liner jokes by Eric Lennick. There are also two, clever 50-word short stories by Jean Wilson.While the entire book was entertaining to read, I really enjoyed some of Joy’s wickedly humorous poems. She uses her words like little knives to cut into the body of a matter and expose its beating heart in a manner that is humorous but sharply to the point. The one that I related to the most was Think Outside the Box:

“I think out of the box
and why not?
(Are you wary your copybook you’ll blot?!)
I’m fed up with sheep
who seem half asleep
individuals they certainly are not.
To say “aab” not “baa”
is OK.
For a change why not try it today!
The fox you could fox –
confusing his “box,”
just say “aab” and get clean away.”

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Joy-Lennick/e/B00J05CJLY/

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Joy-Lennick/e/B00J05CJLY

Find all the books, read other reviews and follow Joy on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3124773.Joy_Lennick

Connect to Joy

Blog: https://joylennick.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joy.lennick

Thank you for dropping in today and I am sure that Joy would love to receive your feedback. Thanks Sally

If you would like to become a regular contributor with new or posts that you have already published on your own blog then please contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com. It is an opportunity to promote your blog and books if you an author and to reach a different audience.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – The Fifth Day of Christmas with guests D.G. Kaye, Lizzie Chantree and Joy Lennick


Welcome to the fifth day of Christmas, and today my guests are D.G. Kaye (Debby Gies), Lizzie Chantree and Joy Lennick.  We will find out more about their most favourite Christmas memories later.

As I continue to reflect on Christmas Past… I came across some pictures of Saas Fee in Austria the Christmas of 1995, here is a mountain shot that I found on Pixabay which is far better than the ones I took with my old camera. It was to be a memorable festive break for more than one reason… We stayed in a lovely hotel which was family run and the guests were mainly German speaking. There was one other English couple and the management kindly put our two tables close together in the dining-room. We actually got on with them very well and over the course of the 10 days we went on some excursions as a foursome. The other thing that the management did to make our stay more enjoyable was to translate their morning newsletter and guide to the day’s menu from German into English.

These were the days before Google Translate was offering such a useful service and I know that the two pager must have taken considerable time to convert especially as there were only four of us who could not speak German. That is true customer service. However, it unfortunately did lead to some hilarity at the breakfast table despite our best efforts to maintain a stiff British upper lip. There were a number of ‘moments’ including our confusion over the ‘Cancer Butter’ to be served with the salmon at dinner (Crab butter) and the title of the Version Original film to be shown at the local cinema ‘The Hard with a Vengeance’ (Die Hard with a Vengeance).

David was hitting the ski slopes every day whilst I explored the trails around Saas Fee by foot. However, between Christmas and New Year the four of us decided to try out the very long toboggan run from the top of the tree line down into the town. Luckily there was a ski lift up to the top where we collected our individual sleds. I was not very proficient to begin with and the other three were soon on their way as I trailed tentatively behind. The route took two hours normally and by the time I got to the last down hill stretch David and our two companions were gathered enjoying a mulled wine and waiting for my arrival. That last slope was both steep and lengthy and I perched over the lip prepared for a fast ride.

At that moment the three of them turned to face the slope and began waving.. as did most of the other spectators. I was quite chuffed by the attention as they all waved both arms over their heads and shouted encouragement. Taking a deep breath I launched myself off and gathered momentum very quickly…. too quickly and barely keeping the sled under control I hurtled downwards towards the waiting crowd. The end of the run ended in a gradual slope upwards to slow the progress of over eager tobogganers.

It was obvious to those watching that I was not going to be stopping anytime soon and the crowd parted as I rushed through them and I heard what they had been shouting to me on the way down as they waved their arms in the air “Ice, Ice, walk down on the edge – don’t do it. I took off from that ramp like Santa and his sleigh and thankfully landed in a snow drift positioned as a precautionary measure…. As I rose to my feet unharmed I turned to find anxious faces peering over the edge. I was laughing with adrenaline overload and with that everybody began clapping and slapping each other on the back… It was obviously the best entertainment in town….

On a lighter note here is some music to get your feet tapping……Mariah Carey with All I Want for Christmas

Time for my first guest and it is D.G. Kaye.. Debby Gies who is not just a wonderful friend and supporter of the blog but also a much valued contributor. In particular the monthly Travel Column which has taken us to warm and exotic locations in the Caribbean and The Lesser Antilles…on cruise ships with all the know-how necessary to get the best value and enjoyment from our holiday. Recently Debby has been keeping an eye open for funnies to enhance the Laughter lines including this recent post

Debby shares her very poignant best Christmas Gift ever.. the first year that she was married.

My best Christmas gift was marrying my husband in October 1999. One week after our marriage I became almost fatally ill and spent the first few months of marriage in and out of hospital. The steroids I was put on made me gain a bunch of weight and my face wasn’t spared with the often talked about ‘moonface’ many experience on that drug. I was sick, depressed and couldn’t stand looking in a mirror. My husband caught me secretly crying in the bathroom and asked me what was the matter. I tried to explain how I felt through my fit of tears and here was his response: “I love you to the moon and back. You will always be beautiful to me and that’s all that counts.” If I hadn’t already known I married a prince, I knew in that moment.

My Christmas gift to Debby is a reminder of something I know she is very much looking forward to, especially as Toronto is cold and wet at the moment… her month’s trip to Puerto Vallarta in the New Year… Not long now Debby.

Courtesy of DD Food & Travel

Read the reviews and buy D.G. Kaye’s books: http://www.amazon.com/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO
Connect to Debby on her blog: http://www.dgkayewriter.com

A recent review for Words We Carry Very insightful read. on September 16, 2018

Once in a while you come across a book that really speaks to you. Reading ‘Words We Carry’ by D. G. Kaye was like having friends over for coffee and revealing our innermost secrets or speaking to your mentor about life and how to make it better. The author, who has natural psychology opened my eyes and made me ponder why I react the way I do to certain things or certain people. I enjoyed author, D.G. Kaye’s writing style––so friendly and warm. This book is well written and is easily one that can change someone’s life. I recommend this book to anyone who ever felt insecure, self-conscious or inadequate. An easy 5 star read.

Traditionally on Day five of the Twelve Days of Christmas (29th December), the life and death of St Thomas Becket was remembered. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century and was murdered after questioning the ethics of the then King Henry II and his interference with the Church. Unusually St. Thomas Becket is saint and martyr revered by both the Catholic and the Anglican faiths.

Five Gold rings would be welcomed by everyone but over the years there have been various theories on the interpretation of this particular gift. One theory is that all the verses refer to birds in one way or another that were eaten in the 18th century – Partridge, Turtle Doves French Hens, Colley Birds, and the five rings referring to gold ringed pheasants, Geese, swans but then we hit the maids so some work needed on this hypothesis! I would say that it was more about how the lyrics fitted the song and in all the versions that were illustrated it was clearly in the form of actual gold rings.

Time to meet my second guest today and that is award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, who started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Lizzie shares her most treasured Christmas gift ever…

On Christmas day, the scent of pine needles and mulled wine are usually enough to bring a smile to my face, but I’ll always remember my children dipping their heads under the tree and giggling in excitement, at giving me what has turned out to be my favourite gift. As I opened the wrapping paper their faces peeped up at me through tissue paper and I turned page after page of photographs of family memories that they had spent hours and hours collecting, and presenting in a photo album, for me. It’s a gift that I will always cherish.

As I would Lizzie… lovely…..

As Lizzie is an award winning inventor, my Christmas gift to her is to virtually try out some of the lastest inventions for work and leisure.. my personal favourite the Orange Screw….courtesy of Quantum Tech HD

You can buy Lizzie Chantree’s books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lizzie-Chantree/e/B00FF99DHC
And connect to her on her website: https://lizziechantree.com/

One of the recent reviews for If You Love Me I’m Yours

The author obviously has a love for, and knowledge of art in all its forms …and human nature as well. Clever the way she shows the influence of parents on their offspring, who either try to live up to expectations or deny their true selves to fit in. I felt for repressed artistic Maud, who was impelled to express her talent anonymously and leave her works of art to be picked up by anyone who wanted to give them a home. ( I also loved the brilliant descriptions of her amazing bedroom and her hidden ‘shed’. ) And then poor Dot, who only truly found her talent when she found Maud. The interweaving plot carries you along, willing and hoping for a happy ending for all these engaging characters. Another different story from Lizzie Chantree. It’s as funny and compulsive as her Ninja School Mum. More please.

Since we were in Austria for Christmas that year, it is appropriate that we look at some of their Christmas traditions. According to  Why Christmas Austria shares many Christmas traditions with its neighbor Germany, but also has many special Christmas customs of its own. This includes an Advent Wreath made from evergree twigs, with ribbons and four candles for each of the four Sundays in Advent.. when a candle is lit you might hear carols being sung.

Austria and Germany are well known for their Christmas markets with visitors from all over Europe arriving to enjoy the decorations, food and Glühwein (sweet, warm mulled wine).

There will be a large Christmas Tree in the town squares and at home most trees are decorated in gold and silver with straw stars. As in some other European countries December 6th is also celebrated in some homes for Saint Nicholas and children might be lucky to get an extra gift. Otherwise they will have to wait until 4pm on Christmas Eve for the festivities to begin.

The main Christmas Eve meal is Fried Carp for those who are Catholic and observe the day as a Fast, and for others it might be roast goose or turkey which is becoming more popular. Dessert might be the famous Austrian Sachertorte.

As Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was written in Austria in 1818.. here is a wonderful version by the Dresden Choir. Courtesy of Brent Postlethwaite

One of the accompaniments for our traditional Christmas dinner is bread sauce and here is the recipe taken from last week’s full Christmas menu by Carol Taylor

Bread Sauce

Freeze the breadcrumbs ready to use (I always) keep a bag of frozen breadcrumbs in the freezer. The sauce can be made the day before and reheated on the day… I have been surprised living here that many people have not heard of bread sauce my mum always made it at Christmas we couldn’t have turkey without bread sauce…

Ingredients:

About half loaf of good quality stale white bread either broken into smallish pieces or can blitz into breadcrumbs if you like a smoother sauce.
• I brown Onion peeled and studded with cloves.
• 2 bay leaves.
• Salt & Pepper.
• About half pint milk.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Pour milk into a saucepan and add studded onion. Slowly bring to boil and turn down and let gently simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. When cool remove Onion and bay leaves. This can be reheated to serve or made the day before and kept covered in the fridge. It is quite a thick consistency so if too thin add some more bread if too thick some more milk.

And for my final guest today, the lovely poet and author Joy Lennick who is enjoying retirement in sunny Spain, but she is not spending all day at the beach as she supports her fellow authors and continues to publish books and blog posts.

Here is Joy in her own words….

Having worn several hats in my life: wife, mum, secretary, shop-keeper, hotelier; my favourite is the multi-coloured author’s creation. I am an eclectic writer: diary, articles, poetry, short stories and five books. Two books were factual, the third as biographer: HURRICANE HALSEY (a true sea adventure), fourth my Memoir MY GENTLE WAR and my fiction novel is THE CATALYST. Plenty more simmering…including a humour filled book called The Moon is Wearing a Tutu…

And here is Joy’s most precious Christmas gift ever….

Was it the ‘Coronation coach’ filled with iced gems in 1938? Or that ‘war-Christmas’ when we toboganned down an iced hill in Wales……Or appearing in “Mother Goose” at the Theatre Royal? And, one year, I had a new brother like an animated doll. A yuletide party in 1957, singing carols in a beautiful house in Toronto, Canada was special too. But the winner was the Christmas gift of 1959. Having returned to the UK, my doctor said those two magical words:: ‘You’re pregnant!’. Having dreamed of this for six years, it was the best Christmas present EVER.

It is tough to follow that precious a Christmas gift, and it took me some time to find the perfect Christmas present for Joy..

I worked in a hotel in the Snowdonia National Park, at Bontddu on the Mawddach  Estuary and love it.  There is now a coastal path along the entire length of the Welsh coastline and I thought Joy might like a virtual tour.

Discover Joy’s books read the reviews and buy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Joy-Lennick/e/B00J05CJLY/
Connect to Joy via her blog: https://joylennick.wordpress.com/

One of the reviews for My Gentle War

I found this book totally enchanting, not just for the way it was written (which was completely original being unfettered by any rules on writing and therefore delivered with great feeling). It evoked some long lost memories from my childhood, of family forgotten or misplaced by faulty memory. I thought of my grandmother clasping a homemade loaf of bread under her arm, giving it a good buttering, then with a large bread knife, sawing it off and setting a ‘doorstep’ sized slice free for jam or honey to follow. I wasn’t born at the time of the war, which doesn’t spoil any of this account and although I know it from history books and oft heard tales, was not a good time to live through, yet I’m left thinking there was another side to these times, told here with great fondness. Sometimes I think we’ve lost a great deal for all our modern ways. This is a lovely book and worth a read. Pat McDonald British Crime Author.

A Snowball is a cocktail made with advocaat and lemonade in equal quantities with a dash of lime juice to cut some of the sweetness.

Advocaat comes from Holland and is made from eggs, sugar and brandy. It looks and tastes like a very luxurious custard and is similar to eggnog but whereas you can enjoy a non-alcoholic eggnog a snowball is not for all the family…..There are a number of variations using egg yolks, aromatic spirits, honey, brandy and sometimes cream. The best commercial brands on the market are Bols and DeKuyper.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting my guests, the music, food and of course a snowball or two.. thanks for dropping in and please let us know what your most favourite Christmas Gift of all time is. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name – Ifan and the Black Sheep by Sally Cronin


In the second of the stories from What’s in a Name this weekend we meet Ifan…who learns some valuable life lessons from his grandmother.

Ifan and the Black Sheep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2015

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

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Smorgasbord – Odd Jobs and Characters – #Wales- The Sheep Farm – Indignant Rams and Black Sheep by Sally Cronin.


This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over the years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen!  From those experiences, I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories.

If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next few weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.

Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. If that is the case of course I will include their books and links.

You can find all the previous posts to date in this directory.  https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/

This episode was originally posted by Adele Marie Park and more about her books after the post.

Odd Jobs and Characters – The Sheep Farm – Indignant Rams and Black Sheep by Sally Cronin.

When my husband and I were first married, we had to stay in Wales for another six months, whilst he completed a research project in the mountains. We needed somewhere to live and being November and out of season, he managed to find us a flat to move into on the hillside above Dolgellau. The flat was part of an old farmhouse owned by a couple who I knew as regular dinner guests to the hotel, and it was a great arrangement.

After a few weeks of idleness and enjoying being a new wife, I decided that perhaps there might be a way to pay our rent and get some exercise. The rent we saved would be put towards a deposit of our own home; very high on our priority list. I approached my friend and landlady, asking if I might help out on their hill farm, where they kept a flock of several hundred sheep. She was more accustomed to seeing me in long dresses and heels, showing guests to their tables in the hotel, than walking up Cader Idris, but after she stopped laughing, she agreed to give me a trial run.

I went out and bought suitable clothing, which bearing in mind the time of year, involved waterproof boots and fleeced wet weather gear. It was early December and snow was not unexpected, and you did not want to be caught up at altitude inadequately dressed. I will admit that the first two or three days left me breathless, resulting in me giving up cigarettes (no bad thing). It also served to remind me how unfit I was. However, by the second week, I was hitting my stride.

We could take the Land Rover almost as far as the sheep who had moved down from the top grazing to avoid the worst of the weather. By this time, and with some snow on the ground, they needed some additional feed, and we would carry the bales of hay from the vehicle up to them, spreading it out on the frozen ground. It was time nearly time to bring the flock down for a very important event.

The rams in the flock were fitted with a special device that marked the backs of the female sheep as they impregnated them, each with its own specific colour. This told you which sheep had been covered and was likely to be pregnant, and also if a ram was disinclined to breed and therefore needed replacing (mutton). But now it was time to separate the rams from the flock as their job was done. To do this the entire herd was brought down the mountain with the help of one sheepdog, to a large barn which was separated into two areas. A large one and then a smaller part that was fenced off where the rams would be penned away from the rest of the flock. They having done sterling service they would be taken to another part of the farm, to a field where they would have to amuse themselves for the next six months.

My boss said she would head back to the main farm to collect the two other sheepdogs so they could help separating the rams from the flock, which numbered a couple of hundred sheep. I was left to twiddle my thumbs, but being keen to help and save time, I spotted the rams as they jostled amongst the ewes, and decided that I might as well get started. I did have the benefit of watching some Australian sheep shearing documentaries and using a technique I had observed, I managed to manhandle the rams out of the flock using their horns and a helping hand up their backsides (I was wearing gloves). In about an hour, rather sweaty and not a little exhausted, I had the rams safely barricaded in their own bachelor quarters.

A little while later my boss arrived with two very eager sheepdogs that stood with their owner, completely bemused by the fact that they were now redundant. Apparently, this was not the traditional way to split the rams from the flock, but by the look on the faces of the watching ewes, they found the spectacle more than satisfying.

I discovered a great deal more about sheep during the winter months and their tough lives on the Welsh mountainsides. With the snow down even on the lower slopes where the sheep remained, it was difficult to find them against the white ground covering. This is where the black sheep of the flock comes in handy. Not only is she an older and wiser matriarch who knows where the best grazing is to be found, she is also a beacon to locate her flock who always stayed close to her.

In the spring came the life-affirming task of lambing, and it certainly is a miracle of nature. To protect the newborn lambs from crows and foxes, we would mark their foreheads with a smear of tar; hoping its offensive smell would deter predators. This odd job of mine created some lovely memories and I used my experience in one of my short stories in my first collection.

©Sally Cronin 2017

About Adele Marie Park

I love writing, it`s my passion. My genres include fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, and a mixture of all those. I love telling stories;period. I am married to my wonderful wife, who is my rock. Our daughter and our dog, german shepherd collie cross, are also my passions. To experience a moment of pure love is to experience the world.

Creativity is something I couldn`t live without.

I am also a Supernatural geek, and love my music. Punk, Goth, Rockabilly and visual Kei music from Japan.

The paranormal is my normal. oh, and I also totally believe in faeries.

About Wisp

Edra; a world where magic flourishes and where dark secrets are concealed by those who rule. Secrets which can get the innocent killed without a thought.

When the body of an elf is discovered in a treacherous area of the city, Wisp a young Law Enforcer is assigned the case. He soon realises the case is far from simple. As soon as he finds one thread another one leads him to unravel a tapestry woven from lies, secrets, corruption and evil. When friendship turns to love, Wisp`s life, as he knew it will completely change.

What started out as a murder case ends in a grisly battle which Wisp and his companions seem to have no chance of winning.

One of the reviews for Wisp on Goodreads

Colleen M. Chesebro rated it 5 Stars

Meet Wisp, a law enforcer in the land of Edra, where magic is encouraged to flourish and is often needed for sheer survival. A mages council rules Edra compared to the neighboring area of Finah, who prefers humans to control their resources. After a bloody civil war, many years ago, the two lands exist beside each other in a fragile peace.

Wisp is a marsh fairy (YES! Can you believe it?) with raven hair and pointy ears pierced with silver earrings. Marsh fairies are rare and possess special powers. Wisp keeps his real identity under wraps, known only to his superiors. Abandoned as a child, the “Senior” Law enforcement officer raised him ensuring his survival.

In a desolate area filled with putrefying rubbish, Wisp comes across the body of a High Elf, a member of the Thorns, who was a high-ranking council member found murdered in the circle. The elf’s throat had been brutally cut. Wisp sets out to solve the murder not realizing he is to play an integral part in solving the mystery.

Wisp meets Finn Redhaven, the lover of the murdered elf, Sammiel Thorn, and feels an immediate attraction to him. Wisp and Finn fall in love and discover a wealth of magical abilities enabled by their relationship. And, they are going to need all the help they can get to battle the evil that has descended on Edra.

As fantasy novels go, Wisp stands out to me in its originality and political intrigue. Ms. Park creates a world where love is considered to be one of the greatest powers of all. I enjoyed that the two main characters were male and embraced their love and desire for each other, which was a refreshing approach to solving a mystery in a magical land. The reader discovers along with Wisp the extent of his abilities which I anticipate will increase over time.

I’ve added Wisp to my list of favorite fantasy novels. I loved the story and the characters. The ending is a cliffhanger, and I can’t wait for the next volume to find out what happens to Wisp and Finn. Hopefully, Ms. Park won’t keep us in suspense for long

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wisp-Adele-Park-ebook/dp/B01MXYQ2E4

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Wisp-Adele-Park-ebook/dp/B01MXYQ2E4

Read reviews and follow Adele on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16214999.Adele_Marie_Park

Connect to Adele

Website: http://www.adelemariepark.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/firefly.fly.14
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Binky567

Thank you for dropping in today and look forward to your comments. thanks Sally.

You can find all the previous posts to date in this directory.  https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy Anthology – Trust by Sally Cronin


Here is another of the stories from my first story collection.. Flights of Fancy.. This time the story of a woman and a dog who come together on a harsh Welsh mountain.

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TRUST

The house was quiet. The men had left a few minutes ago and already she felt alone. The ticking of the grandfather clock in the hall intruded into the silence. Time was passing slowly and each minute felt like an hour.

Claire stared out of the kitchen window at the gathering gloom. It would soon be dark, and she would be unable to see the mountain rising above the house, harsh but fiercely beautiful. It was this mountain that had attracted them last spring, the lower slopes covered in lush grass dotted with the cotton wool white of the ewes and their lambs. The craggy rocks of the mountaintop jutted up into a cloudless, blue sky, like sentries protecting the house beneath them. The building nestled into the hillside. A run-down farm that needed a great deal of work, but it had taken their breath away. The pleasure of the surroundings and the potential of this house, made them smile at each other in shared delight.

Tom’s first novel had been a runaway best seller. At last they could afford to move from their cramped, damp London flat and come back to these Welsh mountains where Tom had been born. He knew that he could write here, creating stories inspired by this stark splendour, and he felt Claire would come to love living here too, as much as he would. Once they had put an offer in on the property, they contacted a local builder. He spent hours with them in the house, discussing the renovations, planning the schedule, so they could move in as soon as possible. They had returned to London, full of excitement and anticipation for what their wonderful future was about to reveal.

Claire turned from the kitchen window and wandered through the now-completed house. They had kept rigidly to the plans. Used the colour schemes that had caused such argument and honoured the compromises they had reached, often after a bottle of rich, red wine. They spent hours moving furniture around; until it sat in just the perfect place. Painted patches on the walls, until they found just the perfect colour.

Tom’s study and the design he chose, was his alone. He had revelled in the planning of where to place his desk for the best light, the muted colour scheme, the lighting and the placement of all the new bookshelves. He would sit for hours in their noisy, cluttered flat, staring out of the tiny window onto the street, and Claire knew that he was hundreds of miles away, looking at a mountain, through his study window.

She now stood in that study and surveyed the completed picture. The bookcases lining the walls, the solid old desk and its comfortable, leather chair. The pictures of the sea hung around the room, favourite scenes from early childhood trips to the Welsh coast with his family. The colour he had chosen for the walls was warm, clean buttermilk. Dark blue curtains at the large window and upholstery on the sofa at the far end of the room complimented the rich, stained wood flooring. It was exactly as he had planned it, down to the last detail. Tom had simple tastes and this was reflected in the room. Claire had to be content with planning the rest of the house to fit her more flamboyant tastes. How he had loved working in his study for the last two months, preparing his latest novel for publication. How she, in turn, had loved knowing that he was in that room, a touch or gentle call away. Despite their shared anticipation of the completed project, they had not thought they could be this delighted with their new home.

She picked up the blue crystal paperweight she had given him last Christmas. As she felt the cold heaviness in her hand, the tears started to fall, unchecked down her cheeks. Tom would never be in this room again. He would never read those books that lined the walls, and never walk the mountain slopes again he loved so much. All it had taken was one mistake on a wet road. He had been late and in a hurry to get home. Had known she was waiting for him to take her out for their anniversary dinner. One mistake, one hour late, one tentative knock on the front door. She had opened it full of anticipation, to find a pair of young and concerned policemen standing quietly on her doorstep. Now she sat in Tom’s chair, crying softly and alone.

The dog lay behind the broken, stone wall on the slope above the house. Nose resting on front paws, he watched the open back door, waiting. Every evening for the last week, the woman had put down a bowl of food for him and returned inside. She knew that the stray, neglected collie would come no further than the wall, and would not come at all if she stayed, waiting for him. He sniffed the air, trying to catch the scents which normally came from the house. Tonight there was no warm smell of cooking, no gentle tap of heels on the stone floor of the kitchen.

The light began to fade; he was hungry and had become used to this welcome food each evening. He had ceased to scavenge from dustbins in the local town, much more interested in the woman’s food. But now he was puzzled. He had grown accustomed to her gentle voice calling to him, a voice that stirred memories of another time, another woman. Memories of a warm fireplace with food and companionship as gentle fingers ruffled his shiny coat. As the dark closed around him, he at last stood and moved from behind the wall.

No lights shone in the house, but the open door and the food he knew to be inside, beckoned him. Nervously, he approached the building. He was used to people who lived in houses. He had been kicked and shouted at more than once in the early days of his lonely existence, before he learned fear and distrust. But, with an instinct buried deep inside his matted chest, he knew this house was different, perhaps it was the similarity to his old home, or the gentle presence of the woman inside.

There was still no sign of the woman as the dog entered the kitchen. He stood, nose in the air, seeking for his familiar bowl of food. Then he heard a soft sound coming from deeper in the dark house. Something in the sound drew him across the stone floor and out into the hallway. Ears pricked, he turned towards the noise and padded down the passage. He peered through an open doorway, alert to any danger, poised for flight. The woman sat by the window holding a stone-like object in her hands.  He tensed, remembering past pain. She stared into the night, making soft sobbing noises, noises he had remembered his mistress making when she was sad, needing him, needing to place a soft arm around his neck and hold him close. He moved towards the woman and stood for a moment as if making a decision.

His tail wagged slightly in a long forgotten attempt at communication, and slowly he inched forward until he was standing at Claire’s side. He gently pushed his long nose under her arm and rested his head on her lap. A hand moved, creeping upwards to gently fondle the soft ears. An arm slipped around his neck and he looked up into her face.

Through her tears, Claire smiled down at the shaggy head. She felt the warmth of his coat spread slowly upward from her hand to the rest of her body. Her grief was there like a sharp pain in her chest, but she was no longer alone. Soon she would feed him and groom his matted coat, but for now this was enough.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Thank you for dropping by and hope you have enjoyed the story. Sally

What’s in a Name – ‘I’ for Ifan – Life and Death


What's in a name 2

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

The big double bed was one of the few pieces of furniture in the cottage overlooking the estuary, when David Lloyd had carried his young bride, Megan, over the threshold in 1920. Over the next few years, other pieces, usually made by local craftsmen, had been carefully brought in through the wide front door at the end of the stone path that led from the main road. None of those hand crafted pieces had been replaced in the last fifty years; the sturdy old oak bed was no exception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One winter when unexpected early snow was deep on the ground, the farmer and David had trekked up the narrow path to find the flock and bring them down the mountain to safety. It was almost impossible to see through the still falling snow and they had almost given up hope of finding them when David had spotted the old matriarch of the flock. Black against the whiteness and surrounded by unmoving mounds that looked like snowdrifts. As soon as the black ewe saw the men she recognised, she bleated and headed towards them, followed by the rest of the flock; visible now as they turned their dark faces in their direction. Within an hour they were all safely down to the lower slopes and feeding on bales of hay hungrily.

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

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

‘Hello Cariad my love,’ Megan turned her head on the pillow and squeezed his hand lightly.

‘Gran are you feeling better?’ Ifan leaned forward over the patchwork quilt and stared intently into her deeply lined face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©sallygeorginacronin What’s In a Name 2015

 

The Sunday Show – A funny thing happened to me… with Hugh Roberts.


Welcome to the Sunday Morning Show and this week a writer and blogger who not only manages to make us smile with his witty posts but also provides interesting articles on a wide variety of subjects. Of course I can only be talking about Hugh Roberts.

Things that I managed to discover about this lovely Welsh blogger… He likes the pop group Bananarama…hates gardening has recently taken up photography and lives in Hove in East Sussex with his partner John. A part of the world that I know quite well.

Hugh has a great sense of humour, supports other bloggers whole heartedly on WordPress and social media and has offered to be my PR agent should I ever consider turning to stand-up comedy to make a living.

He also throws great parties and at the end of March he threw a blog party that attracted guests from all around the world to enjoy great company food and conversation.

http://hughsviewsandnews.com/2015/03/20/i-am-pleased-to-announce-that-the-walking-on-sunshine-blog-party-has-now-officially-began/

The writer.

Hugh has a wonderful selection of short stories on his blog and they range across a number of genres and here is the link to a very poignant tale of undying love and dancing. He also has a love of Flash Fiction and treats us to quick and insightful slices of life.

http://hughsviewsandnews.com/2015/04/07/shall-we-dance

The Blogger

Hugh has a wonderfully eclectic blog and even more so since he began to explore photography further in recent months. You will find reviews, poetry and also a chance to take a step back in time in his feature Digging Deep… A trip in Hugh’s time machine to explore such programming delights such as Thunderbirds… And films such as Muriel’s Wedding an Australian film that was brilliant.

The funniest and most creative post that I have seen for quite a while was The Mildred Awards. For those of you who like me watched Man About The House from 1973 onwards with Yootha Joyce as Mildred Roper you will love the witty setting for showcasing Hugh’s favourite bloggers. I recommend that you pop over and read the post for yourselves.

http://hughsviewsandnews.com/2015/02/22/forget-about-the-oscars-welcome-to-the-mildreds/

Hugh is also a guest reviewer over at Lit World Interviews which is great resource for authors and readers alike.

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As well as humour we also share a love of dogs and Hugh has a muse in the form of a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. A breed that has recently hit the headlines due to the rapidly diminishing numbers and the news that her Royal Majesty the Queen will not be bringing any new Corgis into the Royal Household. She is concerned that at 88 she will find it difficult to cope with a puppy underfoot.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/royal/555464/The-end-of-the-line-draws-near-for-the-Queen-s-corgis

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Hugh’s assistant is called Toby and as he himself revealed recently there were only 99 of his breed born in the UK last year. Toby has his own posts that are worth reading to get an insight what it is like to live with a writer and blogger.

http://hughsviewsandnews.com/category/toby/

Perhaps time to welcome Hugh and to get this interview started.

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Toby is a wonderful looking dog but perhaps Hugh you could give us some key reasons for having a corgi as a pet. Why is the breed in decline?

It was my partner John, that first spotted The Cardigan Welsh Corgi a few years ago while watching Crufts. He immediately declared to me when we got a dog, that was the breed of the dog we would have.

Unfortunately both Corgi breeds are in decline in the UK due to many people believing that the Corgi is not a family dog. They have a little bit of a reputation for being unfriendly, especially towards other dogs, but we’ve never found that with Toby. He’s a great socialiser and loves nothing better than meeting and being chased by other dogs (the bigger the better). Corgis are also known for moulting all year round, so they need a lot of grooming and owners will need to use the vacuum cleaner everyday. Dogs such as the Labradoodle, who do not moult, seem to be far more popular as pets these days.

When were you diagnosed with dyslexia and how did it affect your schooling and life since?

I was only properly diagnosed with dyslexia a few years ago. When I was at school, dyslexia was something that most people thought did not exist. I struggled at school and it was thought that I was just not very bright or clever. I often found myself in the lower groups during lessons because I struggled with reading and writing.

One of my biggest mistakes is that I never sought help with having dyslexia when I left school and entered the workplace. I struggled on as best I could and would hide it as much as possible. However, I had a real passion for writing fiction and one of my life’s ambitions has always been to write a book. The days of computers helped with spell checks and the likes, but it wasn’t until last year when I started blogging that I finally began to overcome having dyslexia. I was amazed by the support I was and am still getting from other bloggers which has helped me to overcome having dyslexia and doing what I have always wanted to do and write.

What advice do you have for parents following a diagnosis for their child?

Don’t ignore the diagnosis. Help them as much as possible with their reading and writing and, if possible, seek out groups where anybody with dyslexia can go and meet other people with the condition and where extra lessons are available to help with reading and writing. The condition is so much more accepted now than it was when I was a child.

You have some wonderful collection of stories on your blog Hugh and I understand that you are working on a book can you tell us more about the project and at what stage you are at with it.

I started writing the book a few years ago. It is about my life when I went to live in London during the late 1980’s and has elements of fact and and fiction in it. Unfortunately, the project came to an abrupt halt when I started my blog because blogging was allowing me to interact with other writers and authors. I started writing short stories for my blog and discovered that my real passion for writing was whenever I was writing a short story. Some of my short stories have had wonderful comments from authors who have published books and some have recently encouraged me to publish my short stories on ReadWave. I’ve published my last two short stories on Readwave and was delighted when both stories started trending on the site. ReadWave is all very new to me and I need to look into it further as it seems to be another great avenue for getting my short stories read.

I am sure that your short stories would be very popular in a published collection. Have you plans to do that at some point?

I have been challenged by another blogger to have a short story collection published by the end of the year, but I’m at a bit of a loss as to where to start with it. I also want to write a few more short stories to add to my collection before I begin the process of publishing them in a book. I understand it also takes a lot of time to put a book together for publishing, so I know my blog would probably have to suffer a little neglect from me, and I hate the thought of that. In answer to your question, yes I do have plans, but they are only plans at the moment and I have no idea if and when I will put them in place.

You have mentioned that you can be inspired to write by household chores such as ironing. WordPress challenges and prompts but also music which I would like to explore further. Apart from Robert Miles which other artists over the years have you enjoyed and collected?

The first ever single I purchased was Dancing Queen by Abba. It was released some years after they won the Eurovision Song Contest, but it was the song that got me interested in music and I have since been a huge fan of theirs. Other music I love to listen to is anything from the 1980’s especially by Stock, Aitken, and Waterman. The music they produced brings back so many happy memories of my early years in London and also inspired me to start writing my book. I am also a huge fan of High Energy music, which was very popular with Gay Men back in the 1980’s and 90’s. It never made it big in the UK, but artists such as Eartha Kitt, Sylvester, Patrick Cowley, Miquel Brown, Boys Town Gang, and The Weather Girls, all did very well with it.

And just for Hugh here is Stock, Aitken, and Waterman with Roadblock which will also bring back memories of traffic jams in London in the 80s.

A funny thing happened on the way to…

The central theme of this series is ‘A funny thing happened to me on my way to…….. ‘ It really does not have to be anywhere exotic but I am hoping Hugh will share his experiences of travel and perhaps the people he has met along the way which have added a smile to his face.  Over to you John.

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Last November, John and I took our niece, Anna, to New York. The flight over to New York was rather a bit of an eye opener and below is an extract from one of the posts I published about our trip

“Once onboard the flight we were treated to more drinks and another menu offering us delights such as roast beef, chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and a salted chocolate caramel pudding amongst other things. I settled into the on flight entertainment and started to watch the first of three movies.

However, I and the rest of the passengers in our part of the cabin were treated to rather more entertainment than we had bargained for when two of our fellow passengers started to hold hands, tell each other they loved each other very much, and then proceeded to get on top of one another on one of the seats which had now become a flat-bed. Fortunately, one of the cabin crew saw what was happening and asked the man to remove himself from the lady he was laying on top of.

Settling down to continue to watch ‘The Inbetweeners 2’ movie, it was not long before the couple were at it again and the same member of cabin crew was once again tapping the man on the shoulder asking him kindly to go back to his own seat. Wow, was this the kind of thing that went on in Upper Class I asked myself? By this time, Anna was fast asleep and I was concerned that the guy might come over and try to get on top of her, but fortunately it seems he only had eyes for his new wife. Before the end of the flight, the couple had to be removed from each other twice more, the latter by the Cabin Services Director.”

My thanks to Hugh for sharing that, puts a whole new slant on onboard entertainment! Usually my only excitement in a flight is to spot the one person who takes ten minutes to stow is carry on and blocks the aisle.

Here are links to connect to Hugh and please feel free to reblog and share across social media to introduce this charming blogger to others.

Links
Blog – http://hughsviewsandnews.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RobertHughes05
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/108647661887874692677/posts

Now that you have seen the first show in the new series in action perhaps you would like to participate. I have a great line up of bloggers and authors in the next few weeks including Jane Dougherty and Judith Barrow coming up in following weeks. Here is the link for the details. Look forward to hearing from you.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/new-sunday-show-coming-soon-a-funny-thing-happened-to-me-on-the-way-to/