I lost them, now I’ve found them

Photographs are wonderful, marvellous, they treasure memories for us, they record, they reveal, they keep us in touch with those who have gone and those who are away, and those who are near to us and have enjoyed a shared experience.

These days, more than every before we have photographic records; nearly every one has a phone which can take pictures, and cameras are so easy to use and convenient – not to mention the impact the digital age has had on the world. However, even before then there were a lot of photographs, and i find that we’ve got literally hundreds, if not thousands of them. I have my own from before I was married, and so has my husband. We have scores of our children from when they were born right up to the present. However, we have also inherited our parents’ albums, our grandparents’ albums, other photos from other relatives, and our family photos from when we were children ourselves. We have boxes and boxes of photos… one day we must properly go through them and store them and record who the people are.

Digital photos are more ephemeral, and when computers upgrade sometimes things happen and photos may be lost. This didn’t happen to me… that is not the loss I’m referring to. I had files and files of pictures stored, and there were a lot of overlaps and couples and doubles for some reason. So… I was going through my files and putting the pictures into some sort of order, putting titles and dates on them. All was going splendidly when suddenly, pouf! Everything I hadn’t yet stored vanished! Good grief! I cried (or something similar). I searched everywhere on the computer, in all sorts of places I didn’t even know existed. I got my son who is by his own admission a bit of a nerd to have a look, and he was also unsuccessful.

I tried to accept it with equanimity, but I was a bit miffed. Today as I was working I just happened to glance round my room and noticed sitting on a book shelf, two external hard drives… for some reason I had never thought to open them…and guess what? I have found my ‘lost’ photos!

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Found!

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Found!

 

The Double Act… on course!

So excited to announce that my latest e-book The Double Act will be published today – however it will probably only be available tomorrow, August 1st.

It may seem as you start reading that this is going to be a love story, a story maybe of thwarted love, and you may think you can guess which way it will go. However there is a dark side, which gradually becomes apparent as the story progresses.

The main characters of The Double Act are a group of friends who live in the small seaside town of Easthope; they were friends at school and have remained close ever since. Genet and Lance have a small hotel and Lance is also a teacher at a local sixth form college. He has a large family of four sisters and a brother but Genet was brought up by an aunt after her mother died shortly after she was born, her father unknown. Genet and Lance have been friends forever, and have been married for over ten years. Chrissie, divorced and bringing up a young son, has a bookshop in the town, Toni is a health worker and juggles her busy professional life with her family of four while her husband works long hours as a teacher, Monique is a lecturer and researcher in the Coastal and Oceanic Hydrographic Department at the nearby university, Lyndsey who trained as a nursery nurse helps out in the hotel and bookshop, and Rina and Keith who have a young son too, are struggling along as their jobs become more and more precarious as the firms they work for downsize.

A new couple join this group of friends; Dr Herrick and his wife come from South Africa, he is on a  two-year contract at the University, also in the Coastal and Oceanic Hydrographic Department. His wife, Pamela, a wheelchair user who stays at homes, is the one who is initially drawn into the circle of friends. The novel opens on a miserable day in early February when Genet who is rushing to get ready for a hotel full of guests accidentally locks herself out. What happens next alters her life for ever, and the novel traces the events of the next six months until a horrific conclusion far away from the cosy world of little Easthope.

This is a very different novel from any other I have written, but as usual, I look forward to hearing your comments!

A new cover:

DOUBLE COVER FINAL

Let that which is to come be as it may

This is the last of a cycle of sonnets that John Masefield, later the Poet laureate, published in 1916, when he was aged thirty-eight. He had an extraordinary life up till then, orphaned when only a young child, sent to train as a sailor-boy and then sent to sea, living in America, working in a carpet factory… so many adventures, and such an imagination to weave the memories and experiences into poems, ballads, and as here, sonnets.

Reading his work almost a hundred years after it was published, it is fascinating to see the resonances which still apply; no doubt, I take things from his work that he had never dreamed would be understood from his words – but that is the case with all writing. Writers cannot govern what their readers understand from their work.

As the last of sixty sonnets, this poem is a reflection on mortality, on the inevitability of an individual’s life’s end and the indifference of the elements.

Let that which is to come be as it may,
Darkness, extinction, justice, life intense
The flies are happy in the summer day,
Flies will be happy many summers hence.
Time with his antique breeds that built the Sphynx
Time with her men to come whose wings will tower,
Poured and will pour, not as the wise man thinks,
But with blind force, to each his little hour.
And when the hour has struck, comes death or change,
Which, whether good or ill, we cannot tell,
But the blind planet will wander through her range
Bearing men like us who will serve as well.
The sun will rise, the winds that ever move
Will blow our dust that once were men in love.

So where do I start?

img046I’ve challenged myself to write about these twelve girls, classmates I think, at a state school, a private school, a boarding school? Are there any sisters, twins maybe?

This is a picture I found in a magazine years and years ago; it is a photo of Japanese school girls from some time ago, before the war. Usually when I start writing I make very few plans or notes, although I have usually been working on the story in my head for quite a while, months, sometimes years. But if I write about these  young women, I think I will have to do more planning than I usually do.

I will have to give them names… so should I give them Japanese names? If I do I’ll have a lot of research to do; which names were popular in Japan in the 1920’s, what sort of family names might they have, what might be the significance of particular names…  I wouldn’t want the research to come between my inspiration and my story so maybe I should just give these girls the English translations of their names, such as Night Rain, Hollyhock, Cold, Little Lily… Which of them is called Hollyhock, I wonder? Maybe number one, the girl top left…

Or maybe I should make them English girls, use their expressions and the characters I deduce from their faces and demeanour… forget the Japanese connection except as an inspiration. So if their story is in England…

What would be the plot? It would be no good just having descriptions, or endless conversations between them, there has to be a plot…, a plot with twelve background stories, twelve personal contexts, twelve puzzles to solve. Twelve girls of the same age… how would I enable the reader to differentiate them and remember their details. How would I make them distinctive as people… that’s the trick! To make twelve similar people different and memorable!

Toasted cheese

As children we had both cheese on toast and toasted cheese. Cheese on toast was literally that, grated cheese on toast, put under the grill to go all bubbly and brown. Toasted cheese was actually what I guess might be called Welsh rarebit; it was made in a saucepan, butter, cheese, a little mustard powder… milk? Not sure although many recipes say beer… but as children we wouldn’t have had beer so maybe it was milk. It was poured onto toast… and was it then flashed under the grill? I’m not sure, but I did really like it!

My mother-in-law made something called cheese fluff, which my husband and his friends raved about. She told me she’d had to invent it when my husband came hoe with some friends, as young lads who had been out with their band playing somewhere, all starving hungry and the cupboard was bare! She toasted the bread she had, grated the cheese, melted it in butter in a pan, stirred in some egg yolks then whisked the egg whites and folded them in. This increased the size of the ingredients, and also made them light and fluffy, like a sort of cheese meringue I guess. No doubt she seasoned it with pepper and probably mustard, but it became a legendary snack for the rock and roll star wannabes!

I make a toasted cheese sandwich now for my husband and son; I butter a slice of bread and put it butter side down in a pan over a low heat. If it has ham in it as well, I spread mustard on the uppermost side and lay ham on top. Then I put on thin slices or grated cheese. I then put another slice of bread on top with the outside side buttered. I check what is going on underneath, lifting the sandwich with a spatula to check it is browning, then I flip it over. Now I press it gently down to squidge it together, flattening it slightly with the spatula. When both sides have achieved the requisite browning – I may have to turn up the gas to achieve this, I put the sandwich onto a plate,cut it in half, fins a napkin and give it to the hungry boys!