Make ’em Laugh

“Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone…”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Falstaff smlI wouldn’t mind betting, way, way back, before the fifteen hundreds, somewhere or other, a farm labourer’s worn trousers fell down and his wife laughed uproariously. Such are the simple things which tickle our funny bones. Our most famous bard, Shakespeare, was no fool and soon cottoned on how to get ’bums on seats’ – apart from tragedy, that is! Apparently, satire was regarded as a higher genre than other brands of comedy, and was thought to be morally improving. There is some evidence, though, that rules and conventions in comedy were loose in Shakes’ days. One of his most popular comic characters Sir John Falstaff, was celebrated for his verbal dexterity. As he said: “I am not only witty in myself, but the cause of wit in other men.” (The Merry Wives of Windsor was called “An excellent, conceited comedie of Sir John Falstaff.”). A few more examples of Shakes’ wit: “I do desire we may be better strangers.” (As You Like it, Act 3 scene 2) and “Mine eyes smell onions.” (All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 5, scene 3.) A few, more bawdy quotes, are best left unquoted…

charlie-chaplin-as-the-little-tramp smlFast forwarding to the Silent Movies…who couldn’t take to the diminutive, pathetic figure of Charlie Chaplin known as ‘The Little Tramp’ as he tugged at heart-strings from the silver screen? Charles Chaplin was Jewish and his real name was thought to be Israel Thornstein, but it was never corroborated. Born in London in 1889, he moved to the USA aged 21. He was suspected to be a Communist and was investigated by the FBI, but there was no reason to believe he was a spy. Nevertheless, Hoover blocked his return to the US after a trip abroad. He made such gems as The Little Tramp, The Gold Rush and The Great Dictator, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he returned to the US and received an Honorary Oscar for his outstanding work. He also received a Knighthood in the UK two years before his death at 88. He may have been small in stature, but he left a lot of smiles on a lot of faces over the years as he slipped on banana skins, had vivid, messy food fights with film adversaries and got up to all sorts of amusing mischief.

Buster Keaton was a contemporary of Chaplin’s and his dead-pan acting delivery appealed to many. He was also clever and daring, as he carried out most of his own audacious screen tricks. Then there were Laurel and Hardy, who entertained millions with their humorous nonsense; and the fast-talking wise guy, Phil Silvers.

gettyimages-71494838Leaping forward, what a wealth of fabulous talent we have seen since those early days, on stage, film and TV…It does, of course depend on what lifts your lip corners. Taste is so variable. One of my favourite acting comedians was Gene Wilder. Born in 1933, he is well known for being in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and with the great Richard Prior in Stir Crazy. Wilder’s debut was via TV. He directed and wrote some of his own films, including The Woman in Red. He was married four times; and often worked with another Bright Guy, Mel Brooks.

Shifting away from individuals for a while, we have also been gifted with some highly entertaining TV comedy series. One of my favourite US shows, was Mash – and in particular Alan Alda (who was Christened Alphonso Joseph D’Bruzzo…). Alda won the Emmy Award six times and the Golden Globe Award as Hawkeye Pierce in his TV role.

mash-tv-mash-cast

More recently he has been in The West Wing (with which I am not familiar). Another favourite was Frasier – I was fond of all five of the main actors and the writing was excellent. With Kelsey Grammer as Frasier, David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane, Peri Gilpin as Roz, Jane Leever as Daphne and the late John Mahoney as Martin, they gelled beautifully. Taxi was also great fun and ‘home-grown’ Brits, the loveable couple, Morecambe and Wise. It would also be criminal to leave out Only Fools and Horses with its great, quirky Cockney humour. And, back to individual talent, what about the attractive Dave Allen and his original humour and the often hilarious Dick Emery and Les Dawson. Also, how can I leave out cuddly, funny Dudley Moore!

joan-rivers- smlFeminists will be champing at the bit at the late inclusion, but there have also been some wonderful female entertainers over the years. Who could not like ‘dippy’ Lucille Ball or her ‘side-kick’ Vivian Vance, crazy Phyllis Diller, or the outrageous Joan Rivers… And the late, lamented Victoria Wood was a force to be reckoned with.

The Goon show was a crazy part of our family for years, as was Monty Python: “It is a deceased parrot!” I am lucky to have a husband and three sons who are all devoted fans of humour. It all helps the medicine go down!!

parrotMany more talented people, British and American have made me laugh like a drain over the years, and last but not clichéd least, is the brilliant Woody Allen. I have guffawed and spluttered over his writing, his films and mad jokes for years. Bring it all on!

 

A final word from Groucho Marx:

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read!”


© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021

CarolCooks2…In my kitchen…Boulangere Potatoes…

Over here, please Carol! Don’t eat many, but love potatoes, especially New Jerseys with mint and butter. Yum!

Retired? No one told me!

The Potato…a versatile root vegetable that is cheap and easy to grow they are packed with a variety of nutrients and a staple in many households…

Often vilified and banned from many a diet however as with many vegetables it is how you cook them and what you load them up with…

Yes, deep-fried and loaded with bacon and cheese…should be a rare treat and not eaten every day…Me I eat more rice than potatoes or pasta although I like both…

Jersey Royal potatoes are a beautiful thing steamed and eaten with mint and butter…Delicious…Cooked and cooled potatoes are one of the foods which contain resistance starch this means it keeps your gut healthy…when cooked and cooled the resistant starches increase.

Boulangere potatoes are one of my favourite ways to eat potatoes…easy to assemble it’s a one-pot dish just chuck it in the oven to do its thing…

I…

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The Brontes’ World

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The sun slunk behind a threatening cloud as we trudged, slightly out of breath, up the winding, steep hill, past a tea shop which registered and whispered as we passed…My hitherto excited mood, dampened slightly, but I was determined to enjoy the experience. After all, I was about to visit Haworth Parsonage, where a tragic, literary family doggedly wrote their way through too many illnesses and deaths, and a slender-built young woman literally penned one of my favourite books, JANE EYRE.

table smlThe queue was a long one, which pleased me, especially to see so many Chinese or Japanese people there… I wished the Brontes could have known just how far their talents reached! Once inside the building, my spirits rose, especially on seeing Charlotte’s tiny gloves and shoes and imagining her scribbling away the darkening, oil-lit hours, her quill pen the only sound competing with the grandfather clock.

Charlotte was the third child of the Reverend Patrick Bronte and his Cornish wife, Maria, who went on to have a son, Branwell and two more daughters Emily and Anne, but tragically lost her mother and two, older sisters when they were just ten and eleven years old, while still a young child herself. Their aunt Elizabeth Branwell cared for the family thereafter.

How their young minds must have laboured through their tragedies as they bravely fought constant adversity and wrote in such an expressive way, and what a release it must have been at times. Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell often inhabited a make-believe world – the fictional land of Angria – which kept sanity happy, although it was said that the only male of the brood’s behaviour could have been bettered, and he failed to fulfil earlier promise as an artist and writer.

Dress etc smlThe girls were educated with a view to earning their own living, and Charlotte, like Emily, attended the Clergy Daughters’ School in Kirby Lonsdale, Yorkshire, and later continued to educate her two sisters Emily and Anne. Before becoming a governess and school teacher. to improve their languages, Charlotte and Emily also enrolled at the Pensionatt in Brussels where Charlotte formed a deep but unrequited fascination for her tutor Constantin Heger.

Poems by “Currer, Elllis and Acton Bell” (the brother and sisters) were published but Charlotte’s first novel The Professor met stony ground and wasn’t published until after her death. Fortunately, one year after its completion, her novel Jane Eyre was published to immediate success, although it was, at first, presented as the work of Curer Bell.

Emily was recognised as a poet of power and genius, Charlotte a lesser poet, whose talents lay in prose, while Anne’s poetry had a truth and simplicity which elevated her work. Their father Patrick was educated at Cambridge and also wrote didactic poetry, and son Branwell wrote poetry, and his translations were well regarded.

jane-eyreOf course, Emily’s Wuthering Heights is as well known as Jane Eyre but I `preferred the latter. It is known that Charlotte wrote to the Poet Laureate Southey and he replied: “Literature cannot be the business of women, of a woman’s life. And it ought not to be.” What an ignorant man! It was as well she paid him no heed!

I first read Jane Eyre, aged thirteen – when my hormones were racing around as if on Speed… At college, I had recently met my ‘very best friend’ Sheila (Slim) Devo, the same age as me and the most charismatic person I had ever clapped eyes on. She seemed full of confidence, while I was a little shy, she was bold and humorous with it… and great fun to be with. Well… in the book, Jane’s best friend died, and I was devastated and imaged how tragic if my new friend Sheila died too. The fact that she was as fit as a fiddle seemed neither here nor there. Emotions and brains are complicated things, aren’t they, especially for teenagers?! She went on to live a very full and fascinating life, and should have been a movie star… but sadly died just recently, aged 89. May she rest in peace.

Back to Jane Eyre, I again read it as an adult and portions of it recently. It still brought forth tears and had all the elements of a good read within it, but of course the language and mores of the times laboured it a little. Nevertheless, I found the description of the desolate countryside and moors highly expressive, and the emotion in the denouement very moving. To reflect on the fact that Mr Bronte lost his wife so young and all six children before they reached middle age and just after Charlotte found personal love and was expecting her first child, was as tragic as any of their stories and poems.

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021

Reflections…What did I do? Where did I go?

boathouseWhile appreciating that being on this beautiful, while beleaguered planet, growing older comes with minor aggravations, I of course realize they could be major ones, so the gratefulness multiplies. Many others of my age, have huge hurdles to navigate. One thing, though, which seems in little supply, is energy. Despite eating fairly sensibly, exercising a little, and resting, long walks and energetic house-cleaning dwell in the past. But, as I have said before, at least, I’m doing better than a banana!

Laugharne_Castle smlSo, what is the purpose of this post, you may ask? Today I am tooting on behalf of day-dreaming and recalling the many joys of the past. Travel really does broaden the mind and garners intriguing memories for future use. Take visiting the delightful small town of Laugharne, set on the Taf Estuary in Carmarthen Bay, Wales. Home of a Norman Castle, an annual Arts Festival and twice home to Welsh poet/writer Dylan Thomas – famous for the radio play Under Milk Wood. We – husband and I – ‘came upon it’ while exploring parts of South Wales, in bright Spring sunshine, golden daffodils nodding their heads in greeting on the shore-line of the estuary, while a green tunnel of multifarious trees and bushes rose up to one side: a cool labyrinth leading to a pleasing café, set in a once grand house. En route, we passed the shed where Thomas spent many days and nights labouring over his many poems, and walked the same boards as he did in the Boat House – his former home overlooking the calm waters of the bay.

Thomas called his base, ‘A timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town,’ inspiration for fiction town Llareggub (spell it backwards) in his play.

Dylan_thomas_houseAlthough I was familiar with Dylan’s fame as a writer, I hadn’t read much of his work. A lot of it is for a required taste, but once I dug deeper, the alluring musicality and humour of it, intrigued me. Strangers to Anglo-Welsh (Thomas didn’t speak Welsh) may find it a tad puzzling, but as I am half-Welsh and lived in Wales for a few years as an evacuee in World War 2, it didn’t take long to understand his appeal, more especially his play. It must be said, though, that it does not invite an academic approach with all its many ‘voices’ and the sort of singing and ballads, suggesting a night of maudlin drunkenness and ribaldry. But the intended fun and echoes of laughter are so ’Welsh’ and alluring. .

writing_shed_in_Laugharne smlBorn in Swansea, Wales in 1914, Dylan Marlais Thomas became a Junior Reporter for the South Wales Evening Post, before embarking on a literary career in London. He established himself with a series of poetry collections, short stories, film scripts, and talks, and also lectured in the U.S, as well as writing Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. The forming and writing of his ’voice play’ Under Milk Wood, constantly reworked over a period of ten years, was finally finished just before he left this mortal coil in New York, in 1953 just days after his thirty-ninth birthday. It is a sad fact that his special work wasn’t broadcast by the BBC until 1954, a year after his death, with a cast led by no less a man than the memorable, sexy. Richard Burton. Who better?! It portrayed lust, simple love, and a dream-world of gossip, including the ever open Sailor’s Arms.

Here are some snippets from Under Milk Wood to give you an idea of its gentle, down to earth, humour.

“To begin at the beginning. It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat- bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows’ weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.”

“The husbands of Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard are already at their tasks: ‘Dust the china. Feed the canary, sweep the drawing-room floor, and before you let the sun in, mind he wipes his shoes.”

“Time passes. Listen. Time passes.
Come closer now. Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night.”

IMG_8006-1-768x576There was something magical about Laugharne I couldn’t put out my finger on, and we visited on two more occasions when the sun performed on cue, and before returning home, I had written the first page of a proposed story starting: “Long-legged herons, picked their delicate way across the silvered waters of the bay like corned-feet ballerinas…” (I never did finish it…). More relevant, we visited the graves of Dylan and his wife Caitlin Macnamara, on a hill in the graveyard in Laugharne. They had three children and, apparently, spent a very ‘colourful,’ while brief, life, together.

I am sure most writers enjoy ‘dipping’ into other lives from time to time. What better way to learn about the many quirks of human nature? And, apart from authors of ’other worlds’ and purely imaginative genres, would you be a writer if you didn’t?!

A few Welsh expressions:

Ach y fi – an expression of disgust (muttered by Grandma and Mum when some folk didn’t whiten their front steps…)

“Your dinner’s rose.” When dinner was served.

And, in praise: “There’s lovely!”

 

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021

The Book of Hours

Rummaging around in old files, I came across a letter I received from The Mayor of Havering, Councillor Harry Webb (Borough office 1999, Essex, UK) regarding the designing of A BOOK OF HOURS to commemorate the imminent arrival of a new century. (Interested and chosen writers had already been instructed to keep a diary of a week in their life to feature – 52 in all). Illustrators and Calligraphers, plus a professional book binder had already been selected too.

The following is the first entry – which I was honoured to write – the premise of which had to include mention of members of your family/friends, a brief history of something relevant and present//future plans, or anything noteworthy. As a later contributor dropped out, I also wrote for another week in April, which was a gift as it included St. George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday. The photograph is of an enlarged copy of the final entry, beautifully illustrated by an artist.

Book of hours - sml1st January, 1999

Being a keen diarist, I felt a strange sense of awe as the realisation dawned that it was the first day of the LAST YEAR OF THE CENTURY!

Memories linger of our first Christmas abroad with close family near Lake Garda, and of fascinating Verona, and a foggy, mysterious Venice.

Cherished recollections of less indulged childhood Christmases surface: of Dad’s Air Force blue socks bulging at the foot of our beds with fewer goodies, and a pillow case containing modest toys. But oh the excitement! There’s our beloved mother hiding sixpenny pieces in the pudding and icing the cake… Love was never in short supply.

The sun shone and several Happy New Year phone calls punctuated the housework. Husband Eric cooked a delicious meal of chicken in a piquant sauce before a televised football match claimed him.

Midnight witnessed the birth of the Euro (worth approximately 70p) introduced and accepted by eleven European countries, excluding Great Britain.

Sorting out bills etc., while listening to Classic FM , came across some scribblings about evacuation to Wales during the last war. It is hard to imagine that flour only cost 3 pence per lb. and cheese 11 pence in 1940, whereas today flour is 20-40 pence and cheese around £3 per lb!

Eldest son, Jason, an artist, rang re the Aubrey Beardsley Exhibition at The Victoria & Albert (coming over Saturday to look at my computer – it may have caught a virus!)

Worked on the third Odes for Joy Poetry Club Newsletter. Must type a piece on Louise Finer – who has M.E and writes poetry fit for a philosopher’s eyes!

Son Robert’s desired ’holiday in space” could become a reality in his life-time (an unmanned space-ship yesterday left for MARS.) An amazing concept!

Wednesday: shopping. Pondered on how much Romford’s 752 year-old market has changed… Can still conjure up the sights and smells… of pigs and cattle in pens as I shopped there as a child in the 1930s.

Will 1999 see son Damon again the proud owner of the Snooker or Pool Post Office trophy?

And will Eric and I ever hear the patter of miniature Dr, Martens?!

Thursday- Yoga – my salvation!

***

You can imagine the amount of work involved as illustrators and calligraphers got cracking and produced some brilliant work. And, as the pages were large, the result was most impressive. When complete, the book was put on display for the public to see and enjoy. Sadly, because of some complicated reason, I never did get to see the finished product as husband and I moved to Spain in the year 2000.

THE BOOK OF HOURS was a religious book, originally written and illustrated by Monks in Monasteries in the Middle Ages, but over the years was sometimes diluted as more of a general diary of people’s daily lives, where religion was pertinent, or not, so the emphasis on religion was optional. Ours was a mix of the two.

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021

OUT OF THE ARCHIVES…(2)

How well do you know the history of where you live?

Laguna-Salada-de-Torrevieja sml

A willing victim of the writing bug – there really is no cure – and having retired to Spain, I viewed the alphabet with positive eyes I’ll have you working your butts off shortly, I threatened, as any self-respecting writer would.

Recently roped in with other members of The Torrevieja Writing Group, I soon felt at home and enjoyed the company of like-minded people. Open to what was happening locally, I was aware of a writing competition announced by Torrevieja’s Ayuntamiento – great word – Town Hall. It was to be the First International Short Story Competition ever held, so I read the history of the town and wrote a story about its past and the precious commodity for which it is widely known: namely that white substance we can’t do without, Salt.


Excerpts from my entry Worth its Salt:

“…As for me, being older than the infamous Methuselah, and a time traveller to boot (invisible though we may be, there are – surprisingly – still a few of us around.), I daily count my lucky stars. The drawbacks are unimportant here and don’t affect my present quest, which is to take you on a journey backwards and forwards in time…So, gird your loins, or fasten your seat-belts, and come back with me to the year 218 B.C.

Roman soldier“…A column of foot-weary and dusty soldiers and their pack horses approach. At their head is Centurion Marcus (I’d clean forgotten how handsome he is…) See how his body armour reflects the fiery sun-rays as he rides his Barbary horse towards the Salinas: scarlet and gold cloak a vivid gash against the cobalt blue of the sky, billowing behind him. He is off to claim his salary of salt: Sal, a common if precious payment for work well done, and conquerors… Before they leave, one of the Romans will fall in love with a Spanish girl and, until now, only she knew that the child she bore had Roman blood in his veins.”

I noted: ”… Men seemed to have a penchant for war. And, although the colour red dominates time, I choose to look at the sky. More centuries than I care to remember, pass. I even hibernated through one! And then Spain attains her most triumphant success – that of expelling the Moors at the end of the 15th century.” Though… “the Moors left behind them an admirable legacy of some wonderful architecture, intricate wood carvings, colourful textile designs, outstanding tiles and other objet d’art.” Time moves ever on.

“At the end of the 18th century, King Carlos IV decrees that the Salinas salt works offices move from La Mata to Torrevieja, and plans are later drawn up for the building of a new town next to the existing one.” The town’s population swells to 1,500, industry is buzzing and the first commercial wharf is constructed. Pungent aromas of exotic spices drift up from the holds of numerous vessels, and many of the town’s citizens find work building over 250 ships. You may find it interesting to know that two of the ships are to be used in forthcoming films: ‘The Onedin Line’ and ‘Treasure Island.’ There is much optimism in the air.” Sadly, Mother Nature has something else in mind.

“…now it is March 21, 1829 – the beginning of the Spring Equinox. Earlier, the sky was calm, the atmosphere clear. However, around lunch-time there is a slight tremor and I again feel a great sense of foreboding, for there have beenFerdinand sml 70 worrying days and nights of seismic activity in the area of late. Suddenly, the wind drops, the sky becomes overcast and there is an uneasy calm over all. My palms are damp, my throat dry. I do not want to re-experience the inevitable…I am fearful as the earth begins to tremble and inside Carlos`’villa, plates fall and smash on the tiled floor. Then, a huge tremor wreaks havoc where it strikes in Torrevieja and all the towns and villages in the Vega Baja. In a little over five seconds, 32 people perish. Along with 36 animals, and 67 people are injured. As in many other households. tragedy descends on the Rodriguez family, for Carlos’ wife Maria,is making paella in her kitchen when the roof collapses on her. Fortunately, Carlos in out in the open with his two sons. All three survive. Uncle Jose – by now a bent old gentleman – is still asleep when the earthquake strikes, a sleep from which he will never awake. I am again overcome with sadness, especially for Maria, who was so full of life. As most of the survivors are now homeless, the reconstruction of the decimated town is ordered by King Ferdinand VII.

King JuanHold tight…forward we go, to the year 1975. So many flags and bunting? And the sound of trumpets? Is my memory failing me? Oh, of course… General Franco has died and Juan Carlos is proclaimed King. I again feel cautious optimism- with countless others. I am sure a Democratic State will succeed.”

“And now, back in 2004. after hovering over ’pineapple palms,’ admiring the colourful Lantana and Oleander: the ubiquitous Bougainvillea… we are in La Plaza de la Constitucion, a delightful, verdant oasis of calm (well, at present). Think I’ll linger awhile. There’s a Welsh choir due to sing at The Palacio de la Musica (excellent acoustics) not to mention an ‘Habaneras’ – a melodious song competition to look forward to. I must haves some ancient Welsh blood mingling with the Spanish and Portuguese in my veins, for I adore Welsh choirs!”

“Unfortunately, I am unable to enlighten you as to the mysteries of being a time traveller, for they are strictly secret. Sufficient to say that, one moment, oh so long ago, I was bathing my feet in the warm Mediterranean sea, while my husband Fernando Rodriguez and young son were picnicking nearby, and the next I was spirited away. They mourned me as drowned. They shed many tears, as did I. However, I was blessed to see my husband and son prosper”plaza

“And now? I am putting in a fervent request – in triplicate – for retirement, for I feel the strong heart-beat of Torrevieja here in the Plaza. It augurs well for the future. A future filled with imaginative plans, hope and optimism. Yes, I think Torrevieja is well worth its Sal.”

The complete story Worth its Salt was published in Torrevieja Another Look, on the festive day of Saint Valentin, 14th February, 2005. My story won First Prize!

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021

Lest we forget: “Your uncle Bernard is missing…”

Bernard 1 smlOne morning, a few weeks ago, I decided to sort out some of my ‘paper piles’ – ALL writers must, surely, have them – and every now and again, they grow out of proportion Anyway, several old letters had strayed into the mini mountain and one was from my Uncle Bernard, written to one of his four brothers, way back in 1941. He was in The Royal Air Force, and wrote how peaceful things were and said they had just been on “Plane diving practice – I wondered what it would be like to go right down to the sea bed.” Prophetic words as it came to pass, as the Blenheim plane he was later in, accompanied by three other airmen, was – not much later – lost at sea.

Coincidentally, later that same, recent day, my brother Bryan, in the UK, telephoned me about a letter he had received from a gentleman in Holland, politely enquiring about “Bernard Mansfield, whose body was washed onto Dutch soil in 1941.” With tears running down my cheeks, I was gobsmacked. That was eight decades ago!

It is not difficult to mentally travel back to meaningful moments in our lives, and – on talking to my brother – I was immediately transported back to the living-room of the house built into the side of Mountain Hare in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, to which I was evacuated in WW11. The fire was crackling in the black-leaded hearth and my mother was weeping. I asked her what was wrong and she said “Your Uncle Bernard is missing…” and wept more tears. I soon joined her, and wet my pillow too that night.At 22, Bernard was the youngest son of my Grandma Rose and Grandad Charles, and much quieter than his four, more gregarious brothers, of whom my Dad, was eldest. A tall, shy, blonde, Nordic-looking man, Bernard spent many leisure hours making model aeroplanes and hooking rugs, and it was said that he had his eyes on a neighbour’s pretty daughter named Biddy.

Despite him being reported missing, Grandma had a cake made for Bernard’s birthday due in the August, and kept it in a tin, but its candles were never lit, or the cake eaten, as he was later reported “Missing, presumed killed.” Gran never wore black in mourning for her son, as she firmly believed he had somehow survived.

Mum & Bernard smlFast forwarding to the year after the war ended, 1946, saw me, accompanied by my Godmother, Aunt Doris, Dad’s youngest sister, on my first trip abroad, namely Merville in France. We were on a visit to Clemence, a friend Dad made, having been billeted near her café/farm-house during the war. She kindly sent us food parcels when the war ended. We received the warmest welcome and I had my first glass of wine, hic – nothing unusual for a 14 year old in France apparently…

The next day saw us painfully pedalling over heavily cobbled roads on borrowed bikes to the local cemetery, where my aunt made enquiries as to the resting places of unknown servicemen. All, it seemed had been identified, and I recall shedding tears at the thought of my poor uncle’s body floating in the channel.

Whoever could have imagined receiving notification, all these years later, that my dear uncle’s body had been washed onto a Dutch shore, and his memory was being honoured. It was almost unbelievable after so long, and very emotional.

My brother, Bryan and I, along with our cousin, Tony Mansfield, naturally wrote to Mr Alexander Tuinhout, who had written on behalf of the Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, and thanked him profusely for all the investigative work involved in tracing Bernard’s family members.

May all the poor souls who gave their lives so that we can live in peace, be ever remembered.

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021

 

An interview with Seumas Gallacher

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

portraitI pondered long and hard on the best way to introduce renowned author Seumas Gallacher, and the first word which came to mind was Charismatic (full of charisma and charm) and – as he calls me ‘m’Lady’ – thought it entirely apt and fitting.

Like most inhabitants of the planet, we can only fervently hope that 2021 is hugely improved on last year. Surely, from many viewpoints, there has never been a more tumultuous twelve months since World War II!

So, we can do no better than respect the obvious and kick-start the year with someone as interesting, capable, talented and entertaining as Seumas, who is known to many users of the internet and a myriad other souls scattered all over the planet, more especially those who read! Naturally, some folk know more about our author than others, so I’ll now switch to first person and ask Seumas some direct questions.

Me. Hi m’Lord. First off, the warmest welcome to my home in sunny Spain. Please make yourself comfortable. May I offer you a tipple, or would you prefer tea or coffee?

S. Diet Coke is my poison of choice, thanks, with ice – lemon not necessary…

Me. What is the most enduring memory you have of childhood, and where was it spent?

S. So many, good, and some not so terrific… my infant school days, as a totality, I think, where I was completely comfortable…

Me. Is there anyone or anything special that lingers in your mind from those days?

S. The teaching staff, all of whom were ladies, Miss Knox who taught us all how to knit and do crochet, even the boys … Miss MacLeod, who gave every child as much time as she felt necessary to help them, and Mrs Burnside, who ruled her class with a siren voice, but a gentle giantess in her own way, and an absolute hero of a headmaster, Carl Caplan (you will read about him in my memoir).

Me. Were you born brainy, or did you have to work hard to reach your goal/s?

S. It seems I was supposedly a bright child, and have always had a fascination for learning things… I have SO MUCH trivia in my head from through the years… I have a capacity for remembering detail from years ago…

Me. Does writing fulfil you? And have you hankered after any other role in life?

S. Writing certainly has fulfilled much of my desire of being able to express myself… to unload a lot of things from my inner being, especially in my poetry… I believe that real poetry is a highly selfish, personal thing, a matter of taking emotions and wrapping words around them… and I have no qualms about that… as for other career ambitions, I would dearly love to have been allowed to sing on stage for a living.

Me. If you could grant just one wish for the betterment of the world, what would it be?

S. Let all Mankind take note of the second part of their description…’kind’… and ease all manner of anxieties and sufferings anywhere it exists around the planet.

Me. If you were invisible, what mischief would you get up to?

S. If somehow it were possible to get invisibly into political lawmakers’ offices and rewrite all the laws to equalise pay and conditions for all of the front line and support services people who sustain our hospitals and other areas of public service.

Me. Describe your favourite way of relaxing.

S. Watching professional English Premier League football on television… in Bahrain, we get every match televised live… I also get therapeutic pleasure from being active on the few social network channels that I indulge.

Me. Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what’s on it?

S. Not a bucket list as such, as that almost accepts an ‘end’ to everything… I would like to be financially well off enough to spend a lot of my life travelling the world meeting fellow writers.

Me. What do you feel the most passionate about?

S. Depends what day you ask me that question, as there are so many things… but I am big on ‘giving back’ in many small ways on a daily basis if I can, and not letting people know about it…

Me. Pet hate?

S. Bullies in any form or station in life, in business or in private life… I generally meet them head on, for better or worse.

Me. Which two people would you like to have dinner with? (Dead or alive.)

S. Peter Ustinov and Billy Connolly… but again, ask me on other days and there will be plenty of different pairings…

Me. Name two favourite pieces of music.

S. Anything haunting from the Celtic genre, and the past concerts of The Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and the magnificent Kris Kristofferson).

Me. Name two favourite authors.

S. So many again to choose, but Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck are always high on my list of favourite literary giants.

Me. Name a Favourite holiday destination.

S. The small township of Tobermory on the beautiful Isle of Mull in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, where I lived and worked as a young man in my late teens.

Me. What is your favourite genre, Seumas?

S. Anything by the old authors from a century and more ago, as they had a command of the English language which I adore and rejoice in reading.

Me. Why do you enjoy writing so much? And which one of your books means the most to you?

S. Exercising my mind has always been something I have been conscious of… use it or lose it! My favourite among all my writing is the autobiography… I like reading about the guy I became.

Me. How would you like to be remembered?

S. As someone who would rather do right by people than otherwise…

Me. That wasn’t too painful, was it, Seumas! It’s been great having you here and learning so much more about you. Live long and be happy. Cheers!

S. Thanks for allowing me space on your pages, m’Lady!

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021

Seumas’ website is here and you can purchase his books here on Amazon.

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A tale of many cities

A tale

The following excerpt from Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” could apply all over our precious planet at present, for while too many innocent bodies are being ravaged by this horrendous pandemic, people are still falling in love; new life is coming into being, and new, vital, medical and other advances are, fortunately, being made.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the Spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The biggest positive in that paragraph is “the Spring of Hope” for where would we be without it?!

Whatever age we are, many of us have doubts. Some more than others. Despite being enthusiastic and keen to write, for years I never felt good enough and always too aware of successful, top authors. Something we should never do…Then, one day, I read a description which led me to view my efforts in a different light. It stated: “Writers can be weavers of magic and purveyors of exotic tales. They can transport readers to new heights and give them hope and guidance; they can educate, illuminate, as well as shock and open our eyes to the unique, mysterious and exotic.” That gave me heart, and hope, and as long as we write to the very best of our ability and strive to write even better, readers should be mollified and entertained. After all, if we can make someone, somewhere happy reading our words, even for a little while, it is surely worth any effort on our part.

With Christmas very near, whatever our circumstances, we can only hope that we and our loved ones will be able to indulge in a little festive fare, and can at least make sure that our neighbours are not hungry. With food in mind, the following quotations may be apt!

wc fields“A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.” Barbara Johnson (Courtesy Sarah Weinberg)

“Ice cream is exquisite. What a shame it isn‘t illegal!” Voltaire

“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food!” Paul Brudhomme

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” Julia Child

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently, is an art.” Francois de la Roche Foucauld

And, an excellent one:

“I cook with wine. Sometimes, I even add it to food!” W.C.Fields

Christmas memory… Lake Garda & Riva

Riva del garda

I’m sure we all have festive memories that stay special to us, and – if you’ve never experienced the delights of Italy, do sample them if you can! I’ve written about the alluring sights of Florence, Rome and Venice elsewhere, but the magic of our Christmas Lake Garda holiday remains almost as enjoyable in retrospect as it did physically. Imagine a marginally ‘iced’ town festooned with coloured lights, with welcoming cafes and shops casting pools of light on the winter gloom, guarded by snow-topped mountains as a lure. Then a cosy hotel offering all the traditional delights and day trips to a dazzling, freezing …Venice and the gay market of Verona, where Romeo was supposed (of course he did) to have wooed his Juliet, and the actual balcony: ‘Wherefor art thou Romeo?’ on which she stood! Magic was in the air…It hovers still.

Back to today and reality… whether you are dining alone and spoiling yourself –and why not? – or having (a few) family members or friends over for chow, enjoy every mouthful and raise your glass to HOPE for a much, much better year in 2021. Cheers!

Jingle bells, jingle bells…

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2020

Imagination vs Realism

Cobbled Courtyards and alleyways…

What immediately comes to mind when you read the above? I think of the 1800s, swirling fogs; the plaintive cry of a lone tug hooting on the River Thames, and – goose-pimples and horror – Jack the Ripper waiting around a corner with a knife and evil intent. But then, I was born in England, my father worked on the river – we lived near enough to hear those mournful cries – and I walked down many of the alleyways the Ripper haunted when I later lived and worked in the East End of London for a few years. So, it was hardly difficult… Plus, I read a lot of Charles Dickens works. Like much writing, it’s when realism and imagination merge, which is my favourite style. For reasons unknown to me, I most enjoy writing stories based on the truth, although I veer off course now and then.

Travel and life experience are invaluable to factual writers, whereby fantasy writing, as the name implies, relies on a vivid imagination, and authors don’t come more imaginative than Franz Kafka who wrote The Metamorphosis. Let’s face it, waking up in the form of a giant cockroach needs serious thought…

Switching to fact and fiction, how easily old, historical cities and towns lend themselves as backdrops for mystery, murder and intrigue. Take Prague with its cobbled squares and enigmatic alley ways. I explored it, fascinated by its architecture when celebrating our Golden wedding anniversary with my husband.

Charles Bridge, surrounding countryside and castle were a joy to behold; the atmosphere so tantalizing and almost as “sliceable” as an elaborate iced cake…

It didn’t seem in the least bit bizarre that we came upon a man sitting by a gutter with a fishing rod down a drain, or to come across a lady with a tortoise on a lead in the local park.

Us writers are such lucky souls… even if some haven’t travelled widely. I believe it was Einstein who said that “Imagination is more important than intelligence.” Bless him. Imagination married to talented writing can produce some amazing works of fantasy. One such author, who creates believable ‘other worlds’ peopled by believable creatures because her writing ability ensnares you with her craft, is Diana Wallace Peach (See below.)*

It is said that most of us have between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day… and we have to make around 35,000 decisions (crikey!). That many of the thoughts and decisions are usually quite mundane is inevitable, but pouncing on the INSPIRED ones, which sometimes creep in like welcome visitors, can be a gift from the muses.

Much like many frequent travellers, I have always kept a daily diary and have more notebooks than money… (being ‘mature’ and not technical I like to SEE my words written in ink, although I do, of course, save them online). Leafing through them is fun – little illegible – and handy if I want a quick quote or reference.

Lately, as I’m still…writing THAT book (you know the one which will make one famous…) I’m more aware than ever of ATMOSPHERE and CHARACTERIZATION, so it’s edit, edit, edit. To write “The wind – wailing like a banshee through the forest,” (Steinbeck?) is obviously more descriptive than just plain “It was windy in the forest,” (Hemingway?) so I’ve got ‘my eagle eyes open.’

Fortunately, whether your reading taste runs to fact or fantasy, the choice is huge. I am an eclectic reader and writer, but there was one book I just couldn’t get into, and that was James Joyce’s Ulysses. He may have been highly intelligent and spoke 17 languages, but he certainly didn’t speak mine.

Of course, whatever style you write in, catchy, character descriptions are valuable to any reader desirous of ‘seeing’ the person on the page. Someone with “Close-set, olive-black eyes, an elongated face and parrot-like nose” is hardly likely to be forgotten…”. “Tall, dark and handsome,” belongs in an old Barbara Cartland novel.

So, all you factual/fantasy writers ‘out there,’ what’s stopping you?!

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2020

 

*Diana Wallace Peach author of:

Liars & Thieves

Sunwielder

Soul Swallower

Catling’s Bane

And several more excellent, books