Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gillian Brock — Lost, found. and lost again…

Gillian, in centre, explaining something to her Aunt Phyllis

Gillian talking to her cousin Linda. Both photos taken
when Gillian was here in England four years ago.

Gillian Brock —
Lost to us when a child, found and now lost again… my dear niece, Gillian.
Among the Christmas cards arriving through the letterbox last week we had a letter from a lady saying that my niece Gillian had died on August 17th. The neighbour is opening Gillian’s mail so as to find friends and relatives who are unlikely to have heard about the death. We had put a Christmas letter in with Gillian’s card. I rang the lady who had given us the news. She told me that Gillian had not been seen out the day of her death, unusual because she took her dog out regularly. The police were called because only the dog could be heard inside the house. Not wanting to break in and destroy the door and locks, the fire brigade was called and they got in through the roof. Gillian, fully dressed, was found on the floor — dead.
Gillian had been planning her 60th birthday. Not old by today’s standards.
I have been informing Gillian’s relatives on my side of the family.
I googled ‘Gillian Brock Died August 17th Australia’ and straight away I was in a position to find more information about those in the UK who knew about her death. A web site called Heaven Address had messages, ‘flowers’ and such, displaying the names of those who sent them. I added my tribute and uploaded a photograph of Gillian talking to a cousin and her aunts — Phyllis and Gladys. It had been taken when Gillian visited here in 2007.
I wrote above here, ‘lost to us when a child’ and this needs explaining.
I am the youngest of six children. My brother Jack (Gillian's father) was the eldest. He was in the Air Force and met his wife Peggy when she was in the ATS. The first we (at home) heard of her, and of the marriage, was when he brought Peggy home (I think it was around 1948). I was still at the art school, two of my sisters were married and had homes of their own, the other sister, aged seventeen, worked in a factory and we shared a room at home. My other brother was at the local university and lived at home. My dad, struggling to keep on his feet due to a crippling disease, was not a well man. My mum had cleaning jobs to bring in a few pennies.
The housing shortage was much worse than it is today, after all, we had just been through WW2 and everything was still rationed — houses were no exception. The newly-weds took over the front room. They had both left the forces. I seem to remember Peggy was soon pregnant.
I liked Peggy but my mum thought she made the most of her pregnancy and led an idle life. My mum had never had the luxury of taking things easy at any time of her life and, I think, rather resented having an extra workload, especially after the baby was born. Looking at things from Peggy’s angle, it could be that she did not want to interfere with my mum’s running of the house. Washday was particularly stressful  — no electric ‘helpers’ in those days, at least not in homes like ours. I do remember Peggy making us all some lovely tomato sandwiches. Mum had her fast-moving routines from getting up after five in the morning, lighting the fire for hot water and starting the day’s chores. Everybody had a cooked breakfast in spite of rationing.
Crunch time came when Jack came home from work one day to find the baby had no clean nappies. I think Peggy was drying a wet one in front of the fire. Peggy evidently complained that Mum said she couldn’t wash them because there was no hot water, or some such. Jack complained to my mum in the presence of my dad. Dad was not pleased with my mum (he could be pretty horrid to my mum when the mood took him) but Mum was annoyed with Peggy. Mum had not told Peggy she could not use the water, only not to wash the nappies in the bathroom at that time because it took the water from downstairs. Likely she wanted Peggy to wait until mum had finished washing and mangling the family wash. Anyway, the result was that mum raced to Jack and Peggy’s room, collected all the nappies and washed them in the kitchen sink. Not so long after this, a van arrived and Jack, Peggy and baby went off with all their baggage without any sort of warning. Jack had been quite close to Dad, joking together and both of them smoking and enjoying a drink. My mum did none of those things. I rather think he always blamed my mum for Jack's swift departure without a goodbye.
They were now living in a cottage that went with Jack’s new job (running a garage) in another county some miles away. I, along with the others, must have kept in touch because I recall visiting their home so they could meet my husband-to-be. We went on our motorbike and took sandwiches for our tea. I feel sure that they were pleased to see us. Jack took us into the parlour and called to Peggy, ‘Come and see who’s picnicking in our front room.’ We met their lovely family — Jacky, Dennis and Gillian.
They all went off to Australia on an assisted passage. We wrote to their new address but I did not have a reply. When my dad died, my mum sent a telegram but still no reply. They moved and, with no address, we could no longer be in touch.
I used to pray there would be a reconciliation before my mother died, but it did not happen. I tried googling Jack’s full name adding ‘Australia’. To my surprise something came up — an announcement of his death. His wife’s maiden name was mentioned so there could be no doubt I had the correct person. He died about the time that my mother did.
So was that it? Not at all, unknown to me Gillian was doing a family tree search at the same time as my eldest son took up the hobby. I was able to write to Gillian and we kept contact through emails. Then she came over here four years ago and I was able to give her a signet ring that had been passed on to me by my Aunt Gladys. I too used to be a GB before my marriage. I last wrote to her in July and wondered why I had not had a reply. Her death never entered my mind.
I do not know where her brothers are. When I saw Gillian she did not seem to know either. In actual fact she did not care where they were as she had broken with them. So sad. I don’t expect I will ever see jack’s sons again but no doubt that is the way they prefer things to be.
Goodbye Gillian. I did not know you for very long but we had a good, if short, relationship.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks?

video
A while ago I thought I would have a go at trying to make a video for each of my books. I started with Awakening Love. I could not slow it down anymore and so it is rather hurried. Perhaps I should have cut down the text? I went back to it but couldn't make any changes. I tried making another but seemed to have forgotten how I made the first one. I guess I had not grasped the steps and order necessary. Anyway, I have put it on here, poor though it may be. I'm not sure it will even work! I have clicked the start but a message comes up:ERROR PLEASE TRY AGAIN LATER.
Trial and error is okay but I guess you really need a little help until methods are grasped. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks and it can be very tiring. Now I have discovered that there is something definitely missing. Looking at the Html version there is nothing there but the title. So all that I have got on this site is a single page. The only way it will work is if I click the video on my desktop.

I can just hear the clever clogs laughing their heads off! Clearly, there is something I failed to do when I made the video. The 'works' are in this computer somewhere otherwise it would not work on the desktop.I wonder if I can get hold of a five-year old to show me what to do?

Wait a minute — there is a message below saying: Uploading Video and it says I can't close this window until it is finished. I'll come back later...
A couple of hours later and still nothing! I give up!

DONE! No, not by me! Son came home and used his skills. Yes, poor quality video, no music and it goes too fast but...

For details of this novel and my other books — go to my author blog

Friday, September 9, 2011

The trials and glories of Class 3Z

The trials and glories of Class 3Z

Looking back thirty years

Seaview Comprehensive School. It is Friday, and the final lesson of the day. In fact it is also the last day of the summer term. Only a few classes are taking place in the annex at this particular time and the building is quiet and almost eerie. I sit in the sanctuary of the staff room thinking about my final art lesson for the dreaded 3Z — that is a class of third year boys, aged thirteen to fourteen, most of whom have a reputation for bad behaviour.

It is rather unfortunate that the school has been divided in the way it has: the first letters of the alphabet for ex-grammar school children, and the lower letters of the alphabet for ex-secondary school children. The present first year intake has fully Comprehensive schooling, at least so we are told, but we all know that class setting divides the brighter from the less so, at least for all academic subjects. Some parents are not pleased. They may have been promised that children already attending grammar school will continue in their groups until leaving but their siblings have to follow the Comprehensive path to achieve any glittering prizes of success. But the ex-secondary children are not happy with the move either. Having listened to them I know many fear rejection. Unfortunately, in some cases, they have been proved right.

My thinking is that the ex-secondary schoolchildren have a raw deal. Having heard what some ex-grammar-school teachers think of them, I tend to side with the kids. I taught at the secondary school in question and am aware of the problem children, but many are from difficult homes. It so happens, I was a junior-school teacher a few years ago and know about the backgrounds of quite a few of the youngsters. But I did not know any of the boys of 3Z when I started teaching them, so we had to get to know one another. That has not been easy.

To attend their art lesson, they have to walk across the playing fields from the main buildings. The annex is single story, part of which is built on a hill, a long corridor with a number of short flights of stairs take you around bends and up to the top two classrooms, one of which is my art room, the only one occupied on most days of the week. With no one to restrain them, quite often the boys fight on their way over. They have also been known to pick and eat the ‘magic mushrooms’ growing in the outer field. The first task is to get the boys settled and motivated, not easy for their last lesson of the day and week. And now it will be their last lesson of the year and also with me. I admit, part of me hopes they will all clear off home! Well, one thing for sure, I must be well prepared for their arrival.

Over the year, I discovered that, once they had been taught the basics, it was better to allow them complete freedom of choice with me assisting where necessary, even if it was copying a picture of a semi-nude girl astride a motor bike! The boy had been surprised I had allowed him to do it, but I am delighted with the fantastic job he’d done. There will be no choice today. I have the room set out with single desks, papers and pencils. Easy to prepare, easy to clear up.

I hear the boys running up the steps, at least they are not fighting. I stand up as they enter the room, ready to count them and check them off in my register. I am also ready for any last day funny business. But something odd is happening. They all enter the room and sit down in silence, cross their arms and look at me. What’s more, every boy is present — present and silent. No shuffling, muttering, or even day-dreaming. I have their complete attention. They are all looking straight at me with sealed lips. What is going on? I ask them that very question.

No answer.

I repeat the question.

The largest boy in the class, a usually quiet pupil who appears to have quite a lot of respect from the rest of the class, decides to answer my question.

“Well, this is our last lesson with you, Miss. So we all decided to be well-behaved.’ He looks around the desks at the rest of the boys and adds with a clenched fist, “Or else!”

I am deeply moved.

They prove to be as good as their word.

During this quiet lesson, I see a note being passed around with a whisper to each person. I hope it is not going to be something to spoil their impeccable behaviour. Then a lad comes forward and says, “I expect you will throw it away but we all want you to have this.”

I open the folded note. Each person has written his name. I am deeply touched. What a way to end the last day of term.

I say, “You have given me the best present ever. I will always keep this gift. Thank you.”

Their beaming smiles tell me that maybe my teaching skills are not too bad. Surely something has been achieved with them?

Every so often I come across that list of names and, with a warm glow, wonder what has become of each boy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We met on the Bus Part Five… Dress Design and Family Matters.



We met on the Bus Part Five… Dress Design and Family Matters.

Things went remarkably smoothly in my new job. My sample-hand Hilda, who had stitched for me at the previous firm, settled in well too. So did all the girls who followed us and were taken on. I think the rest were employed by the lingerie business (housed on the top floor) that took over the space — including the offices and showroom — previously occupied by the firm we had worked for. I did not know it at the time but my skills were later to become a considerable influence in their wheel of fortune. Nor would I have guessed that it would lead to a broader field of design capability.

I was sent to London to view the up and coming trends. I met the buyers when they visited the showroom and became more familiar with the various firms who bought from us. During this time we moved to Loughborough where my husband worked. It was rather isolating for me. It was not the house I wanted either. I would have preferred a new-build bungalow just a short distance away. My husband thought the older houses were better built and this one had a good piece of land with it — 100 yards long with a lane at the bottom end. But it was a very narrow plot. My husband built a brick garage at the bottom of the garden, complete with inspection pit. He had to take electricity down to it too. Seven years later when we sold up to move to a detached house. Considering what we had done to the property — large brick garage, new fireplaces, tiling and such — we had gained nothing on the price we got for it. Meanwhile the new bungalows up the road had gained in price with little, if anything, having been done to them. This was a hard lesson to learn. But much had happened before we made that move and circumstances were such that the position of our first house turned out to be ideal.

Our first son was born a year after our move into our own home. I started working a few weeks after the birth with an agreement that I would work from home for two or three days of the week. Indeed it would not have paid me to have child care for a full week. The lady next door, with an eleven year-old girl of her own, adored children and was more than willing to look after our baby. With just part-time care it took a third of my salary, stoppages took another chunk and travelling yet another. Then I became pregnant again. I decided the only thing to do was go freelance.

Remarkably, it worked out that the firm I was already working for continued to pay me the same money for a set number of designs — I went in to see the designs through to completion. Through Freddie (already travelling for the Lingerie firm, which had taken over where I had worked before) I received orders for new designs and some pattern cutting, all of which required me to go in occasionally to see the designs through. This was hard work, non-stop effort on my part so as to keep my travelling to minimum. The boss was also known to come bustling in with a new task: “Leave that, I want this doing first.” I would be there so late that the boss often whipped me off to the station in his Jag so I did not miss the train — once jumping on while the train was moving! (I would have left it as my tight skirt was hindering me, but the porter opened a carriage door and pushed me inside, bags and all!)

My husband built me a wooden workshop, nicely fitted with a cutting bench, lockstitch and overlock machines, and a huge roll of Swedish craft paper, heater, fan and all things necessary for my new business. Windows along both long sides gave ample light as needed. My neighbour continued to look after my infant as needed. She also took it upon herself to do my cleaning! Nicely set up, I was able to find more work, a few odd jobs and a whole new assignment when a firm in Dudley asked me to do all their designing for housecoats and sleepwear. Anyone reading my book, Awakening Love, might think it impossible for a designer to work as hard and creatively as my main character June does. But it is based on my own experiences. I have even designed and made children’s clothes and wedding dresses, most of my mother’s clothes too. Our three sons wore clothes I had made for them until they reached Junior School level, where only school uniform was allowed. (Boys in short trousers until they were eleven!) My middle son suffered with chapped thighs in winter but he was in trouble when I made him wear trousers.

So things worked well. I was able to save a huge chunk of my earnings and we decided to buy a larger detached house, which was under construction on a new estate overlooking open countryside. When the time came for our move, I was pregnant with our third son.

We had a nasty experience less than two weeks before moving into our new home. My husband was taken ill. Our doctor brought him home from the surgery to pack a bag for an unspecified time in hospital and then drove him there. (Doctors did that sort of thing in those days — totally committed day or night!) We were in the middle of a very bad winter with frost deep into the ground. There was a blizzard when I walked down to the hospital that evening. When I arrived in the ward, I found his bed empty and remade — no sign of my hubby or any of his belongings. Panic! Had he died and his body taken away? No, he had been moved to another ward following an operation. Apparently his large blood loss had been due to a benign cause, so he was allowed home after a few days. Just as well as I could not have managed the move myself. Bad enough to have all the floors to scrub, but the pipes had frozen up and the boiler had to be started. The toilet in the back porch had frozen up to the rim, complete with paper and excrement left by the workmen!

I was not sorry to leave our first house. Just after our first son was born we had received a brick through our front room window where I often left my baby asleep in his pram. The police thought the brick attack had been boys fooling about, but we had no boys hanging about our area, which housed mostly older people. Later, I received an abusive phone call from a woman I did not know. We hardly knew anyone in that road, just our near kindly neighbours. It wasn’t until our eldest started school at five that we found out that we had other children in the street the same age as ours. With enclosed large back gardens I suppose we all lived mostly private lives. What a change when we were in our new home. Most of the residents were similar to us, and the boys were never short of others to play with. The parents soon got to know each other too and we had occasional coffee mornings, which helped us all settle in.

It wasn’t long before some of my work dried up. The country had opened its doors to foreign imports and competition had become fierce. One firm closed its outwear department. Later the housecoat firm, which supplied a well-known chain store, either suffered the same fate or reduced its costs by creating their own designs, as had happened before I came on the scene. Actually, they had always taken three months to pay for each design collection, which is not a good indication of solvency. But the Lingerie firm I designed for, continued to require my services with no reduction. In fact they knew I ‘could deliver the goods’ and were keen to keep up our business relationship. I was always ready to oblige and I recall many an occasion when the director would drive to Loughborough with urgent work right up until the birth of my third son. I would get up as early as five in the morning to get a good start while everyone was in bed. The director would sit in a chair taking in the sun while I was in my shed finishing off his patterns!

I now had three young children to care for and I was in no rush to get more business. Our two eldest boys were at school when I saw an advert asking mothers to consider taking up teaching as a career. With one of my sons having problems with reading, I already had an interest in education and this seemed to be an ideal job for a mum with a family. Within a year I had taken an entrance test and soon started on a three-year course at the local College of Education. Little did we realise the problems that lay ahead — but that is another story!

The photographs are of designs I did in the early 1960’s. Housecoats and baby -doll pyjamas were popular. Nylon nightdresses were frilly and lacy. (So too slips, cami-knickers and petticoats.)


The suit (from a 1960 advert) is a design I did for a Nottingham firm in 1960.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

We Met On the Bus… Part Four Recognition and onwards…



We Met On the Bus… Part Four
Recognition and onwards…

Things were going swimmingly, at least as regards work, home life was something different. Living in a bedsit lacks privacy. Sharing the bathroom with the rest of the family could be frustrating. Moreover my husband was at night classes most evenings and studying much of the time too. We still went to the cinema on Fridays and often visited his parents in Derbyshire on Sundays. With my mother washing for us, I did all of the household’s weekly ironing, which I did over three evenings. Cleaning didn’t take long and so I stitched and read books. No television in those days but we had a radio to listen to — but not when my hubby was studying.

It was great being the only designer for the firm. I enjoyed going places with the traveller and meeting our buyers. Also meeting the various reps, who brought me samples of buttons and trimmings to look at, and order as appropriate. I was a vital cog in a well-oiled wheel. The orders came steadily in and no one was ever laid off. Most of the smooth working was down to the traveller — Freddie — even though the boss, who lived in Manchester, visited the factory several times a week. I have no idea what he did in the office on the ground floor but he had no influence upstairs in the huge workroom. There was also a sleeping partner — a smart-suited dapper man with neat facial hair — who dropped in a few times while I was there. I was once given the job of producing a certain garment worn at his ‘lodge’. I cut the pattern from one he brought with him. But the boss also had garments made, including pyjamas!

Then the blow came. Our Manchester boss, a heavy drinker, became seriously ill. The business was sold out to the busy lingerie firm who had the top floor just above us. With a glowing testimonial from Freddie, I wrote to my first firm to see if they were in need of a designer. I was taken on with a rise in salary. Not only that, but my sample hand and half the workforce were taken on with me.

So I was back to the firm where my career began, but no longer as a junior member of the team. At twenty-one I was regarded as a fully-fledged designer and, with the departure of one of the other designers, I had a decent office to work in. I had responsibility for designing for the younger end of the market. Freddie was travelling for the lingerie firm, and it was through him that I eventually became involved with them too.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

We Met On the Bus… Part Three... My new job — Designer at last!

We Met On the Bus… Part Three
My new job — Designer at last!

It just so happened that the traveller for my new firm knew the bosses at my first one, they traded with some of the same firms in the wholesale trade. I did wonder if this guy had anything to do with my new appointment. I soon got on very well indeed with the traveller as he was the main stay of their business, both in wholesale and retail. He knew the right people. When sunray pleated skirts were all the rage, he knew where to get the pleating done as well as lovely embroidery by a firm close by. Leather belts too. I would get samples sent of embroidery suitable for dress bodices, which I could use with the sunray skirts. So it was more a matter of good pattern cutting and overall style than cleverness of design. Those dresses went straight to the retail within weeks of samples being done. I met the top man at the local C&A and a few days later he was shown the new design samples. His reaction was “Has that little girl done these?” He was quite impressed and a good order made.
New samples were done for the traveller to take around the country. Sales were good. Occasionally rolls of fabric would be bought at a knock-down price and I would have the job of designing something simple, cheap but attractive, to make a good profit. I recall a simple striped blouse made in black and white striped silky material. It had a black narrow velvet ribbon to finish off a fly-away-collared neckline. The rolls of material were used up and every blouse was sold. My quick response to the traveller’s requests meant I got on very well there.
I met reps who came selling buttons and accessories and, most of all, the buyers who bought our designs. This sometimes entailed me going to London with the traveller to meet these important people, so that I could answer their queries concerning required changes and generally use my knowledge and design ability. One firm that had its own label to put on the styles bought from us, had a really snooty buyer (a lady heavily made up to hide — unsuccessfully — wrinkling skin) who treated me with complete disdain. Our traveller hung our dresses along a rail for them to look at. The woman went along the rail, dropping to the floor most of the samples. Then she examined the rest. She picked out a two-piece that had velvet set into the collar and pocket flaps. I knew that the model was cut too tightly on the lay to allow for ‘give-away’ changes, so much so that even the shoulder pads had to be joined. But she asked how much cheaper the garment would be if we used self-fabric instead of velvet for the trimming.
Being honest, I said I thought it would make little or no difference, as more of the self-fabric would be required.
She sniffed deeply, looked down her nose and said, “It must make SOME difference, Ducky!”
The traveller intervened and said that something could be arranged if that is what they wanted to do.
Anyway, we got an order there and elsewhere — a very good multi-store clothing business, which treated me as the young person I was, but with the respect due to me as the seller’s designer. I was still only twenty but learning fast.
Since our marriage, my husband and I had been living at my parents’ house, using an upstairs bedroom as a bed-sit. We were to be there for three years. Not a very happy arrangement but places to rent were few in number and very expensive when any became available. Council property was reserved for those with children and on a points system. Since we did not want children until we had a house of our own, we were doomed to always be on the bottom of the very long housing list.
My hubby was still attending Evening Classes several times a week and studying at other times. I spent three nights per week ironing for the whole household, as my mother did our washing for us. No TV, of course, but we went to the cinema once a week and I read books or sewed. On Sundays we had a ride on the motor-bike (no springing in those days!) perhaps to his old home or maybe visit a relative. But we lived economically on my wages and saved as much as possible until we had enough cash for a deposit on a house. During this time, I travelled on the bus and my husband on the train.
As far as work was concerned, things were going very well indeed by the time Christmas came along. To top it all I found I had two weeks extra pay for a Christmas bonus, something that had never happened to me before then. Not only money but also a huge box of chocolates to go with the bonus! Such appreciation! Alas, I did not know what lay on the horizon!


The picture is just a rough idea of what the early sunray dresses with embroidered bodices looked like. (About 1953-4 onwards) These were made in black finely-knitted woollen fabric. The machine embroidery was of a thread that looked like beaded work when completed.

More to come…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

KILROY and ALICE

Why do we do it?
Do what?
Push ourselves beyond our inclinations…



At the age of fifty I took early retirement from teaching (my teaching career followed after freelance designing) and trained for non-stipendiary Church Lay ministry. Overcoming my natural shyness (not easy I can tell you), I became the first woman in this area to preach in a number of churches, conduct funerals and church services, visit nursing homes as chaplain, as well as visit the housebound, the sick and bereaved, and generally assist the clergy. Yes, some hostility but not from the general public. Having become addicted to study, I gained the rare A DipR. Then decided to do an Open University BA (hons) degree (mainly religion in Victorian times).
Then aged 69 and unable to drive because of failing sight, I gave up ministry and turned to writing fiction. You might think writing to be just the right occupation for someone like me, but…

One of my novels was Blazing Embers (now rewritten as SMOULDERING EMBERS by G B Hobson, and published by Dare Empire). Since I had been inspired by something witnessed on the UK TV Kilroy Programme, I wrote to Robert Kilroy Silk to see if he would comment on my manuscript. I received not only a yes, but also an invite to appear on his TV show. WOW! (Er… did I really want to make a fool of myself?)

When I reached the London studio I was told the title for the show that day: ‘I’m still sexy though I’m older’! (Definitely NOT ME. So what on earth was I — a retiring CofE Reader — doing there?) A few women were already being given prompts to cause animated and aggressive discussions concerning their sexuality.

Robert, while moving along the rows, drew out conflicting opinions about dating, dress and the sexy behaviour of some seniors. Sometimes the discussion became quite heated. Would you believe, one young woman said it wasn’t fair that older women were taking it from them. (Presumably when competing for men — not enough of ‘IT’ to go round? What a laugh!) Then came my turn to be involved.

(The following is only as I remember it. I cannot bear to look at the video of the occasion.)
I felt Kilroy’s hand on my shoulder. He addressed those gathered there.
Robert: ‘Gladys sent me a manuscript to read. It was about a granny who wanted more sex.’ (Howls of laughter.)
Me: ‘Well, actually, Alice wanted an orgasm…something so far denied her…’ (Oooooo and more laughter)
Robert: ‘And that isn’t sex?’ (Howls of laughter.)
Me: ‘Of course, but watching late night TV made her aware…’
Robert: ‘Didn’t I suggest you cool down the sex?’ (Oooooo! And more laughter.)
Me: ‘Yes. But this is serious, Robert. People my age did not get sex education. Many people were totally ignorant about love-making, even on their marriage night.’
Robert: ‘I expect they found out by morning.’ (Howls of laughter.)
Me: ‘This is serious, Robert… ’ I was getting cross. ‘In those days…’

And so it went on with Robert Kilroy Silk causing belly laughs. That is, until a woman in front of me joined in. I was still trying to get over the difference between fulfillment and ‘just sex’ and how a woman could go through life unfulfilled, but she diverted the chat to other matters. Okay, so the book is truly funny as well as poignant. I guess I kind of asked for the teasing.

Eventually Robert asked the guy next to me if older people can still be sexy. He assured everyone this was so, in fact better because older couples were more experienced and likely to take more time with preliminaries.

At the end of the show I was surrounded by most of the women present, wanting to know where they could buy my book! So too when I got back home. Alas, all I had was a manuscript and although literary agents were interested, they didn’t think they had the contacts for that particular genre to take it on. (The main publishing houses want stories that fit neatly into pigeonholes and likely to sell in the hundreds of thousands — I guess my story is a bit kinky!) But my son set up my own publishing house and now all my books are in print. Better still, DARE EMPIRE has contracted all my novels (where I am known as G B Hobson), and Justin James has given them all attractive covers, especially Smouldering Embers and The Dark Mirror. They are all available in PRINT and as eBooks.

I still have to push myself as far as publicity is concerned. Sometimes I just want to curl up inside my shell and have a quiet life. It is good though when readers tell me how much they enjoy reading my books. One said she had passed round this particular book so many times that it has become tatty. (Encouraging even if not good for sales!)

You can also get unusual handcrafted copies of my novels from
AGPress
— who knows, maybe one day they will be collectors items!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heaviness but the sun comes through



I often draw from nature to solve my problems or discomfort. Heavy clouds with sun breaking through has always been an uplifting sight for me. I don't care much for bright sunshine as it is bad for my sight. In just about everything to do with life, I find Contrasts easier to cope with. You can have too much of a good thing? Well that is the way we were brought up to think. (And 'too much' for us in those days would seem to be what most folk take for granted these days!)

I can't walk like I used to but I enjoy getting out to view nature close to, but also look at vistas that go on for miles.

You don’t have to go far out of Ulverston to find staggering views towards Coniston. Of course, you can get excellent views of distant fells and mountains from the local Hoad, and other places too, but this one here, where Coniston Water lies below a sweep of mountains underneath smouldering skies, is always close to my heart. For those keen on walking (fairly steep hill to climb) follow the Cumbrian Way until reaching the road that goes upwards towards the moors (or go straight up Old Hall Road, turning left at the crossroads, passing Windy Ash Barn and upwards towards the Anglers Tarn. Continue walking upwards until distant Coniston comes into view. Actually we often drive this way home into Ulverston and stop the car to take in the view. But we have walked in that direction a number of times. At a rough guess I would say it is about two miles from the town centre. Maybe less — walking uphill always makes the journey seem much longer!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We Met on the Bus...part two. (The ups and downs of a design career)




We Met On the Bus… Part Two
My new job is a turn for the worse!

While things were going smoothly, well smoothly in relative terms, with my new boyfriend (I’ll give him the name of John) whom I met on the bus, it was a different story with my new job. I recall a college lecturer saying, “They’ll exploit you, if they can,” and how true this turned out to be.
I had been taken on as an assistant designer but in actual fact they were short of cutters. That is where I was needed and that is where I stayed — cutting samples, plus garments for production. Eventually I was given a chance to do a couple of designs but I knew it was just a sop to keep me there. Their main production was in sloppy sweaters made in a type of brushed nylon popular at that time, and that is not enough work even for one designer. But the designer turned out her seasonal samples and I had the job of cutting a number of each them. Some were totally impractical for mass production — lines and checks having to match at every meeting point. The costing was way out and if I had been on piece rates I would have been looking sick by the end of the week! So said the manager who was not pleased with my output. I started looking for other jobs.
Just seeing John once a week to visit a local cinema did not exactly fill my evenings. My best friend, whom I had known since we were at junior school together, agreed for us to go to the Nottingham Palais for square dancing once a week. We had always been fond of music and dancing, visiting the Nottingham theatre when we could afford a seat in the gods. We also enjoyed plays at the Nottingham Playhouse. In our younger days we put on concerts in the attic of her big house. Keen on designing, I made the costumes when necessary. We both found square dancing fun.
It wasn’t long before a boy named David had me as his constant dancing partner, which was just as well because I really needed someone to prompt me during the sequences. After some weeks he asked me if I would help him out. He was a church youth-group leader and wanted to introduce dance into their programme. For this, he needed a partner for a course on leading country dancing. Most of my evenings being free, I accepted although it meant meeting him in town straight from work.
I met David the following Monday. He insisted on paying for my coffee and bun at a café before going on to a hall a bus ride away. Fair enough, after all I was there for his benefit and I would not get home until quite late
Unknown to me, it reached David’s ears, through a lad in his youth group, that I was seeing a boyfriend every Friday. My dancer was not happy and arranged a meeting with John that lunchtime to see what was going on. Not pleased, that evening David told me all about the meeting. I said that John had no serious intentions, we only went to the cinema together once a week. Since I was only David’s dance partner what was the problem?
Evidently David saw things differently. There may have been no cuddling, no kissing, no sweet talk but this guy had intentions of marriage! But I had never seen him in that light. What’s more John had told David that he intended to marry me! I can’t say that I was pleased that I had been the object of such a discussion. I had already been told by someone who knew John that he was not the marrying kind, and had already upset a hopeful lass back home.
From then on, David stopped paying for my tea. I guess it was a sign of a break-up of something that never was. The night he told me, John was waiting for me at the bus stop where I caught the bus home. He was not pleased. It came out that he was truly serious about our relationship. Before long he stopped going home every weekend so we could have more time together. After all, his evenings were taken up with night classes and study. So we sorted drifted into marriage — one year to the day that we first went out together.
I found a designing job but they only took me on for a two weeks trial. I first got their block patterns corrected and then turned out ten designs in the first week. I was told at the end of the week that they really wanted an overlooker, rather than a designer but they would give me an excellent reference for my abilities. I chose not to stay for the second week. The girl who sewed the samples told me they all knew I would not get the job. ‘Miss Smith will not allow someone much better than her to take over her job.’
Out of work. I took on a job as a cutter for a few months. Then a letter arrived quite unexpectedly. Four or five months earlier I had applied for a job as a designer but had not received a reply. Now I was being offered an interview. I got the job, worked hard and before long had a rise to a magnificent sum of £8 a week. This was in the days of poor pay for women and I was getting not much less than my husband received in his new job in Research and Development. Of course by this time I had given up dancing. My hubby has no sense of rhythm, apart from being born with two left feet! Ah, such is love!

The photographs: The electric iron I bought just before our marriage in 1953 and, with some new parts, still doing excellent service. Plus a photograph of a table cloth I bought and embroidered before and after our marriage. The cloth was bought with a £1 note, a reward for handing in a gold watch I had found by the factory I was working in at the time of the above events. In the party photograph I am with a workmate and her boyfriend. It was when I was working there that I met John on the bus. At the next party I was wearing my own designed dress and my hubby was my partner.














More to come…

Thursday, July 7, 2011

We Met on the Bus at a time of my working at a career in dress design...





We Met on the Bus
at a time of my working at a career in dress design...

(Late 1940's Designs done when I was in my teens)

It was late February of 1952 and I was starting a new job in the city of Nottingham. Along with my sister Phyl, I was waiting in the queue at the 5A bus stop, just around the corner from my home. I was dressed in grey — coat, stockings and shoes. A grey outfit for a grey day! But there was nothing gloomy in my mood: I had a new beginning, a chance to prove my ability to design clothes that would sell in shops all over Britain. At least, that is what I thought at the time.

The bus arrived and we slowly boarded. There were no seats left for me to be able to sit with my sister, so I sat on the long seat by the stepping on-and-off platform. My thoughts wandered to my previous jobs: trainee designer at a knitted-clothing firm catering for the wholesale trade, followed by two years as a designer pattern cutter at a manufacturer of dresses for the retail trade. I had done well with my first employers, William Gibson and Sons. I joined them when I was just sixteen and had worked my way up from the cutting bench to designing outfits for the younger end of the fashion trade. I smiled to myself as I recalled my first day of working in that huge factory.

The factory was a red brick, early nineteenth-century building. One of the many mill buildings in that city which was once a centre for Britain’s finest industry — clothing, lace, bicycles, pharmaceuticals, and many small engineering enterprises. Nottingham also has a fine university building, standing on a hill within the magnificent Highfields Park. I looked up to view the majestic white building silhouetted against a grey sky.

I suddenly realised I was being watched. Two soft brown eyes under thick eyelashes and heavy dark brows were smiling at me. I coyly dropped my eyes, knowing my cheeks were turning pink.

Oh, why did I have to blush when a man looked at me? It had been the same in my first year at Gibson’s. Every time I went down to the canteen with the other workers, the men sitting near the yard door, would whistle, knowing what would happen. It took the motherly overlooker to get it stopped. But it was the same at the cutting bench. The male supervisor would stand the other side of the table looking at me until I lifted up my head. Then everyone would laugh as my cheeks revealed my embarrassment. At least, a later supervisor did not get away with his sexist chauvinism. He had a habit of running his thumb knuckle down my spine as he passed behind me. I asked him nicely not to do it several times. The laughter was wiped off his face when I swung the tip of my boot at his shin. He called me a foul name but he didn’t touch me again.

I lifted my eyes a little. My dark-haired fellow traveller was still watching me, but now the corners of his lips were curling into a curious little smile. I dropped my eyes again. This time I had a picture of him in my mind: mid-twenties, medium build, short wavy hair, rather a swarthy face out of which shone those penetrating, but warm, eyes. Somehow he had connected with my inner being and that was disturbing. I turned my mind to other matters.

I had done well at Gibson’s. It had been tough to start with. My soft hands were not used to handling the heavy tailoring shears used to cut patterns and cloth, and my skin had to be hardened before I was comfortable using them. I had to get used to a lot of things: machinery noise within that huge room, and coming from the floors above and below; long hours of toil and the uncertainty of knowing my place — officially one of the staff, but unofficially one of the girls. Socially, I was totally out of my depth.

I soon found out that certain class distinctions operated in that place. Management, designers and office staff, tucked away in the offices were monthly paid. Cutters (close to the stock room and offices) and sample hands were hourly paid. Lockstitchers, embroidery machine operators, overlockers, finishers (at the opposite end of the factory floor) were on piece rates. The steam press workers and ironers, who were separated by a glass partition, would have been hourly paid. All piece rate workers received bonuses on top of the rate for the job. The bonuses brought them up to a living wage comparable with the other workers, with the speedier and more experienced girls doing very well. It was hot and sweaty working on those machines but the girls seemed cheerful enough, singing as they did to songs coming over the Tannoy system.

Until I actually began designing I found it difficult to fit in with any group, but then it became even more of a problem for me once the season rush was over. I would be back with the cutters. It especially became problematic when the chief designer thought, once the design rush was over, it would be a good idea for me to join the machinists and get really skilled. This way I could fill in where needed. This seemed unfair to me: the designers had time to relax and prepare for the following season, since my designs were selling well, why shouldn’t I have the same privilege?

I found myself another job. It seemed I had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire! I wasn’t really needed as a designer, even the designer-manageress copied just about every design produced each season. The boss would pick dresses up in London or elsewhere and have exact copies made. Even he himself was known to rip open a dress and use the pieces as a pattern for a new model. I hasten to add here that either the manageress or myself would have the job of translating it to our own pattern blocks, which were incredibly accurate. There was a strict system of grading different sizes too. Strict was indeed a word to describe many things there. Someone was told off for talking to me, I was practically timed if I went off to the toilet, and told off for leaving the light on while I did so. A new machinist was dismissed after the first week because she wasn’t earning enough — the boss said he could fill her place with a quicker worker. I was told that someone had applied for a job as a cutter and that the boss considered, since he could cut patterns too, he might be better off with him than me. I decided to get another job before I was put under even more pressure. When I gave in my notice, within less than half an hour I was handed my ‘cards’ and told to leave the building within two minutes. The manageress stood over me to make sure I did not take anything not mine, and that I did not speak to anyone. I resented being treated like a criminal!

So here I was on my way to a new job, which required two bus journeys. This earlier travelling time had brought me into contact with this young man. His eyes were fixed on me and nobody else. After a few days he started sitting next to me whenever he could. It wasn’t long before other passengers left us a seat so we could always sit together. After a few weeks he asked me to go to the cinema with him the following Friday, the one night he did not attend evening classes. It was Spring Day. Exactly one year later we were married in our local church.

A regards my designing career, there began a whole new turn of events …

(More to come)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Granny in Search of an Orgasm? otherwise known as Smouldering Embers!


My latest novel is a complete rewrite of Blazing Embers written seven years ago. I have taken note of the advice given by a top publisher and also by a top literary agent's reader. They suggested I reduce the ages of the top characters so as to appeal to a wider range of readers. In actual fact I have found the novel already has an appeal to a wide range of book lovers, especially of the Baby Boomer age but maybe this change will indeed increase the book's popularity. Justin James of Dare Empire has done a splendid job of the cover design and I look forward to holding the paperback version in my hand. (At the time of writing, it can be bought as a very cheap eBook at the Empire Bookstore and in different formats. Great news for booklovers, my other four novels are being offered at silly prices for a week or so to celebrate my new book!
So if you fancy reading about a young-at-heart granny in search of that orgasm so far denied her, now is the time to be enlightened about her circumstances and eventual progress.
It has been known for the reader to be educated too (one said that the book had changed his life!)
Andy O'Hara said: Wow. I don't say that often. Ms. Hobson's writing is quite good indeed. There's such a wistful, genuine quality to her style that it's hard not to be drawn in right away. Unpretentious — so nice to see that in writing once in a great while. Very unique, and very charming.
Bob Taylor said: I've read all four of Hobson's books, and I find that she has a delicate touch when writing about human sexuality. I don't normally read 'love stories', but those that Hobson writes are really interesting from a man's point of view — especially when she explores the male psyche. It's just a little bit... scary... that a female should have that kind of knowledge. She's a very gifted and articulate lady.
From the book:
"You see Alice, everyone's at it these days. Young folk do it openly but if we oldies did that in public they'd take us off and put us in care!"

Late night TV helps Alice realise what has been missing from her love life. Her hubby has benefited from forty years of satisfaction, time for her to experience an orgasmic encounter?

On TV chat shows, Silver-haired sex appears to cause great hilarity. WHY?
Mature lovemaking has much to offer: a lifetime of practice, plenty of time for preliminaries and, most of all, the freedom to have a good laugh when things go haywaire!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Of Chalk and Cheese, Childhood and Sex!











Being a mother, grandmother and great step-great grandmother, plus having spent some years as a teacher (including Reception) it is hardly surprising to have a deep interest in communication and the welfare of children.
We can learn a lot from little ones. The small child who volunteers his favourite soft toy to a hurting friend, the toddler who tries to give his comforter to the baby crying on the TV. Of course children, as they grow older, can also be jolly spiteful too and bite the hand of a playmate, or hit a pal with a toy. Were these children different when they were younger or did they lose their innocence? Exactly how much are children influenced by their environment?
My sister and I (two siblings left out of a family of six children) are totally different and always have been. We don’t look alike, we don’t speak alike, we rarely like the same things but we love each other dearly. Yes, as children we used to fight and argue. But being a little older than me she would look after me out there in the big bad world.
One Sunday, dressed in our best clothes, we were going for a walk. My sister stopped to see a friend while I watched older boys digging in a hole. Being nosy I wanted to see what they were getting out of the dirt. I soon found out. They called me over saying they wanted to show me something. Daft as ever, I did as asked. The boys stuffed worms up my sleeves, into my pockets and down my neck. I stood screaming like Violet Elizabeth from Crompton’s Just William. Come to think of it, those boys were rather like William! My sister came running to my rescue and her verbal attack put them to flight.
My sister often helped my dad with his repair work on engines and such, while I would be given sewing tasks, to do, trim my dad’s hair and be my mum’s hairdresser. From leaving school at fourteen, my sister picked up the swearing of her workmates. Not so me. I guess I took after my mum, apart from which I had witnessed the fury of my dad when he heard women (girls) swear! (He was pretty good at swearing himself but men were expected to swear.)
In a Reception Class you can see characters forming and that is a wonderful thing. So too, seeing their minds grow as they respond to teaching through word and their environment, exploration and discovery. What a shame much of what they learn as they grow older is far from life enhancing.
WE are born with certain drives to keep us healthy and ensure the continuance of the species. Are these drives traded on? Food is an obvious case. But has the whole of society, never mind children’s clothing, been sexed up and innocence lost? We see things on television that boggle the mind — not forgetting the other parts meant to be titillated. What is right and what is wrong? How can children judge these things when so much is thrown at them? How is that sex with children under sixteen is a criminal offense and yet we have so many young teenage pregnancies? Is it okay then for children to have sex with each other at a very early age but if one reaches seventeen then he or she is a criminal? The Pill was to solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies but it seems to have started a revolution of sexual freedom with young people pressed into sexual experience as many are into drink and drugs. Surely, ‘responsibility’ has been devalued, as has the joy of sex that goes hand in hand with lifetime loving partnerships. At least THIS is something we sisters are in agreement. Can’t think of anything else we totally agree about though!

Photograph — photo of us discussing the state of the country during our visit to Attenborough Nature Reserve (My sister lives many miles away and meetings are few.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Of Gender and Choice



Every so often there is a debate about hereditary and nurture, and the parent's influence on a child's own sexual identity. It is said that girl babies are dressed in pink and boys are put in blue garments. Girls have dolls and boys get more mechanical objects to play with. I made most of my children's clothes and my mum-in-law knitted their jumpers and various outfits. In those days we did not know what the child's sex would be until the baby was born. I had a pile of clothes waiting for my babies, all of them blue, yellow or white. The hood of the pram was lined in a pretty blue simply because I thought it went nicely with the grey carriage. I am not keen on pink but I would loved to have had a girl child. I have three wonderful handsome sons. I made them dresses as it was best for nappy changing. I am amazed that tiny little ones are put in jeans as if they were mini dads (or mums for that matter). I enjoyed smocking and sewing their little garments. Stretch material was not available in those days and I wanted them to be comfortable. Once they were running around I made them little easy-iron shirts and shorts.
As far as toys are concerned, soft toys followed by constructive toys which they loved. Cars are loved by little children because they can manipulate them and make them move — brum-brum! Houses can be built and knocked down, cranes can be built and manipulated, blocks built up and knocked down, Leggo taken apart and constructed. Drawing, painting etc etc - boys and girls have the same. Teddy can have his arm bandaged whether the owner is boy or girl. If a son follows his dad that is natural. My sons can use a sewing machine but they don't normally sew — by choice. When my sewing machine stopped working my four-year old fetched me the correct fuse and changed it in the plug. He had watched his dad — his choice.
If parents turn their daughters into pretty-pretty girls in pink only, and, or, turn them into mini-sexy girls at too early an age it is rather silly and confusing. Children should be allowed to be children and play and get messy. To do the opposite and try to keep a neutral sexual identity is rather silly too. Let boys be boys and girls do their own thing too. My lads may have worn convenient little dresses when babies but they all grew up to be strapping lads AND engineers just like their dad!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Go Elsewhere For Poetry





Go elsewhere for poetry. I cannot perform to rules and styles. Usually my poems rhyme. When I was at school that is how we were taught, and that is how we were able to learn the work of the poets. Of course, I read pieces of prose that touch my heart and mind and I will think 'yes this is beautiful, truly poetic.'
Last Thursday, we drove up to the Lakes, coming home via Coniston Water. It had been raining most of the day but the showers cleared and the sun came intermittently through the clouds, turning sky and lake to a luminescent blue. So here is my attempt to avoid rhyme!
Poets sigh their blossoming thoughts
With words flowing from the heart
Yet straining to achieve the impossible
To outdo Wordsworth’s golden daffodils.
Blue heaven with white wispy hair
Sheds light in diamond clarity
On ripples whipped by a breeze
While whispering through green leaves
I hear Creation’s own poetry —
Nature’s ode to Coniston Water

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Dark Mirror now in paperback!


The Dark Mirror is now available in both Paperback and eBook formats. Go to The Dare Empire bookstore to view the book and order directly.

Beauty that is pure joy!


Sometimes pictures really do speak louder than words. But this is softly hushed lest the beauty fade

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Giant Nettle Rash — urticaria


THE Royal wedding approaches and it has reminded me of my own wedding day. Of course there were incidents, which caused a little inconvenience but others of a more distressing nature.
I had a really bad cold sore appear on the Friday, which had to be disguised with make-up. No special cream to whisk it away in those days. But, the day before our special day my hubby-to-be was ill in bed. I don’t recall how the message came through, likely his landlady’s daughter called at our house to let me know. In those days only posh or professional people had telephones installed. Of course there were no mobile phones, it was many years before they appeared on the scene.
When I got home from work I rushed to the house where he was living and the landlady showed me up to the attic bedroom. No central heating of course but no doubt he had a hot water bottle. It was a dim room with dark furniture. My poor eve-of-wedding Galahad looked a sorry sight but doing his best to keep cheerful.
Giant Nettle Rash or Urticaria may be merely troublesome or most distressing. I have had a little of the former but my hubby has had large doses of the latter. This was one of those occasions. One eye was almost closed with a raised swelling and other weals were distorting his film star looks. He had a rather knobby appearance. He informed me that they were all over his body. The doc had given him antihistamine tablets and he said that, in spite of the high fever he was presently suffering from, he would be okay for the wedding.
Actually, he was not only well enough to be at our midday wedding, but he had been on the bus to the tailors in Nottingham to get his new suit and also to a store to get the present his parents were buying us. Yes, he was there waiting at the top of the aisle for his bride to be. Urticaria was still present but no one knew about it.
What had I been doing that morning? I was up at the reception room on the High Street, putting place names on the table and other little jobs. My sister turned up and asked what I thought I was doing, “Your hair’s still in curlers, the flowers have come and you’re getting married in an hour’s time! Get off home and get ready!”
My brother led me up the aisle, followed by my bridesmaids (my sister and a friend) and my dad was waiting at the front to give me away, My poor hassled mum was doing her best to relax and smile but the bride and groom were fine. Everyone sang well and the churchwarden declared our wedding to be the best they had that morning.
On this photograph who would have thought we had our little problems? Joy wipes away anxieties!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Buxton Pavilion Gardens 1953 and Today.









We married at St John's, Beeston and spent a short honeymoon at the Alyson Hotel, Buxton, Derbyshire. That was in 1953. In those days there were many weddings just before the end of the tax year as it gave the husband a good rebate due to his new married status. It was a dull day followed by a sunny Sunday. The hotel was close to the Pavilion Gardens and we spent a little time there walking the footpaths. We did not have a car in those days. We often go to Buxton as we visit relatives and take holidays in Derbyshire. The gardens have now been restored to their former Victorian glory. Not only that but a great deal goes on there — antique and book fairs, Veteran car, and motor bike displays and many other things. The Opera House still continues with a variety of shows and plays, the swimming baths still operate as do the cafes and restaurant. But it is the gardens that fascinate us — how I wish they had such equipment for children when our kids were young! Incredible! And of course, the little train continues to delight its passengers as it winds its way around the park. I'm pretty sure the little waterfall is still the same one as on our honeymoon photographs. The little hotel we stayed at has changed hands a few times. It was rather amusing to find we were the only young people staying there. It seemed more like a retirement home for genteel ladies. In fact, when we were out walking, we passed close to an elderly pair of ladies and we heard one say heard one say to the other (elderly people do tend to speak with raised voices) “Look there's our young couple from the hotel.” I really liked the 'our' reference. Some years later it became a retirement home, but now I think it is a hotel again. Buxton may have super-markets and an indoor shopping mall, but it is still essentially the same as when we were on our honey-moon. The gardens, with the expensive Victorian uplift, are far better though. Sad about the bowling green loss, but with so much fun for the children, plus the renovated lake, the building and new bandstand far outweighs the loss. I assume it must have lost favour or surely it would have been kept. We always find it a great place to visit and often combine it with a walk along the Goyt Valley, which is just above Buxton. The poor quality of the black and white photographs is because they are enlarged and photographed copies of small snaps taken with a box camera 58 years ago.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Attenborough Nature Reserve — recollections of childhood 1940's







When we were children life was much simpler as were our pleasures. One place we frequented was the Atten-borough Nature Reserve, only when we were young it was just a gravel pit where nature was busy creating beauty from the torn up ground. With the River Trent close by, water soon filled the growing holes, and banks seeded naturally from the vegetation that must have existed from long, long ago. Birds filled the air with their song and swans glided peacefully on the water. Wild flowers delighted the eye and scented our walks. At Easter our mother would ask us to get her pussy-willows (I can still feel their softness) and bulrushes that grew aplenty between the river and gravel pits. We would also find sweet wild violets growing in the woods. Such delight! I never lost my joy of visiting that place. When we were in our teens, my friend Brenda and I would go there, both to the gravel pits and the river bank. We once carried a wind-up gramophone the entire distance to play the Swan Lake ballet music, while we watched the swans and had a picnic. On one occasion we had a picnic in the pouring rain, just sheltered by one of our macs. Sometimes we were treated to pure delight when a group of swans took off — noisily splashing their feet along the water before lifting into the air in sheer beauty of movement. And, of course, the day would arrive when a whole family of swans glided on the water, fluffy signets carefully protected by mum and dad. Swans mate for life and are a wonderful example of parenthood.
Returning to those gravel pits after so many years, we found it had become the Attenborough Nature Reserve. So many wonderful things going on there and all free to the public. What joy to walk again in an area that brings back so many happy memories of childhood. Wartime years they may have been but those gravel pits are reminders of how nature can bring back beauty to what man can so easily make ugly. Now my sister and I can sit in the Nature Reserve cafe, look outside at the wild life, and recall our childhood memories of Mother and our Easter offerings gathered by the waterside.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Dark Mirror published by Dare Empire

Published by Dare Empire, The Dark Mirror is now available in pdf and Kindle. Cheap too! Paperback late April.

“Smoothly, expertly written, the author captures the essence and conflict of human love and religion as they struggle to coexist in a judgmental world.”

Powerful forces are at work in a group of country parishes undergoing renewal and charismatic revival, confusing reflections of reality. Emotions run riot. A supposed miracle birth during a previous revival haunts the present like a spectre at the feast. Weird happenings at midnight, desecration of the altar, accusations of rape, are just some of the challenges threatening the dedicated ministries of the handsome young incumbent and his secret rural dean lover. Can love continue to believe all things, overcome all things, in a judgemental world?

“A beautifully woven story of love, a story that will keep you turning page after page. Witness the accusations and heartache of this controversial work of art. This is a story that will touch your heart and keep you thinking long after you turn the final page. When a man believes he has to choose between the love of a man, and the love of God.”

Magpies Nest Publishing for ordering my print books, viewing chapters and reviews

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Teenage Years of Long Ago



Teenage Years of Long Ago

It was a glorious time
as new friends came along
turning life into a song
ah, how we loved and played
dancing at the Palais
going to the ballet
playing tennis on the lawn
boating on the lake
drinking tea, eating cake
at Highfields Park pavilion

though we went our separate ways
I still recall those halcyon days


Monday, February 7, 2011

NHS ... babies and all that




People today have no idea how well off they are with today’s NHS compared with years ago. I recall quite clearly my first visit to our local hospital In Lough-borough. (I had been in Nottingham hospitals when a child: six weeks in an isolation hospital in a ward of adult women — no toys, no books, no visitors inside, only a chat through a window twice a week with my mum who had to make two bus journeys to get there; and a horrid ‘conveyor belt’ experience when I had my tonsils out a few years later.)
It had been established that I was pregnant and I guess the blood test, I was about to have, would determine whether I would qualify for a hospital bed when ‘delivery’ time arrived. It should be noted that unless you had a good case — problems expected or poor housing with no hot water or other essentials — your baby would be delivered at home in the care of a midwife and your own doctor. No matter that we were new to the area and had no one to help. Husbands did not get time off unless they took part of their two weeks annual holiday. Giving birth was no ‘big deal’ in those days. No classes to attend, no fuss, no social contacts — you saw your doctor only occasionally and given tablets for morning sickness. Being terribly ignorant and worried sick, I read a book. Looking at a diagram I was even more concerned. I told my doctor at my next visit that I did not think I had space between my pelvic bones for a head to pass through. He dismissed my fears and said I would be examined at the eighth month and that my build was all right. So I went on worrying.
The above hospital appointment was to take place in the Pathology labs. I found the guy in charge. He sat me in a room, stuck a hollow needle in my arm and left me to it, while drop-by-drop my blood dripped into a small phial he had given me to hold. I should mention here that I have a phobia (largely under control now) concerning blood and hypodermic needles.
I sat on that chair trying to take my mind off what was happening. When the guy returned I was trying not to fall off the chair. He pushed my head between my legs and removed the instrument of torture. I was taken to an examination room to lie down. Horrors! The bed had a sheet with a huge bloodstain that had not been washed out by the laundry. A consultant came to make sure my baby was okay. When feeling better I walked home. Shortly after I saw someone who told me that I had not been awarded a hospital bed, as my circumstances did not warrant it. ‘Even though you did apply before you could be certain you were pregnant,’ she added. No use telling her that my doctor told me to apply at twelve weeks.
In those days you spent at least a week in bed. I booked into the local nursing home, even though we could hardly afford it. They messed things up and I was sent to hospital as an emergency. Baby was born, with the help of a large episiotomy about 40 hours later — blue. I was sent back and baby kept for another day. How’s this for hygiene? When my next baby was born, also as an emergency, when I arrived at the hospital I was given an ordinary test tube and told to go to the toilet and pee straight into the tube! My bulge made things incredibly difficult — my hands, arms and legs were well wetted. BUT I was chased back to bed and not allowed to wash my hands. ‘You can do that when the bowls come round after lunch,’ I was told.
Because I had a huge bleed with the second baby my third infant was allowed to be born in hospital. Bond Street hospital in Leicester had been an old factory. Incredible. Caesareans were seldom done in those days; my huge baby (as was my second) was born (eventually) with forceps. My damaged uterus caused me problems for years until I had it removed.
How different today! Mothers take note — be grateful for all the good things on offer today (pre-natal and aftercare). My babies were born 15 miles away in three different hospitals. Dad was nowhere near. I was alone and frightened, especially when I had my first. On occasions I was left alone in a delivery room, distressed and lonely. At least a health visitor called a few times after my babies were born and I saw others at the weekly clinic. My story is not unusual.
Having had a number of operations, I think our NHS is fantastic. If you had been around in the early stages — corridors as waiting areas, crowded wards, cancer a death sentence, occasional scruffy toilets, smoke-filled ward-sitting rooms, you would feel the same way.