The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


Empty Nest Syndrome and Champagne

One of the main characters in my Another Cup of… series is a writer called Kit Lambert. When we first met Kit in Another Cup of Coffee, she was making a name for herself by writing erotica. As her career progressed Kit moved into contemporary fiction, and now she has a novel publishing contract, with all the pressures of having to produce work to tight deadlines upon her.

Another Glass Of Champagne

In the final novel of the series, Another Glass of Champagne, Kit, mum of twins, and wife to bookshop owner Phil, suddenly finds herself unable to write at all, but he can’t understand why. Surely writer’s block is something that can be easily shaken off- or is just a myth invented by those who can’t be bothered to write today…or is it?

Not even sitting at her usual table in the corner of Pickwicks Coffee House, (run by her friend Peggy) is helping the words become unstuck…

 

Extract

When she got back, Kit found Peggy looking thoughtful, ‘Why have you closed your work down, honey? I usually steal a read of your latest work in progress when I think you’re not looking.’ ‘I haven’t got much done today.’

Kit mumbled. ‘It’s been a mulling things over sort of a day.’ Changing the subject, she said, ‘Scott says there are some sandwiches ready for your lunch when Megan comes back through.’

‘Good, I’m starving.’

‘Are you and Megan managing alright with only two of you on the serving team? It’s already busy, but by July it’s going to be packed between eleven and two.’

‘Actually, Scott and I were talking about that over the weekend. Would your Helena fancy giving us a hand and earning some money before she heads off to university? Where is she going again?’ Flinching slightly, and hoping Peggy hadn’t noticed, Kit said, ‘She’s aiming for Bath to do Chemistry, and Thomas’s hoping to be off to Exeter. Assuming they get their grades, that is.’

‘Of course they will. What’s Thomas going to study?’

‘History.’

‘Sounds good. So, do you think Helena will want the job? It would save me a lot of bother with adverts and stuff.’

Kit nodded. She knew exactly how much time it took to go through interviews and training staff in this place, so someone who was already familiar with Pickwicks layout would be a real advantage to Peggy. ‘I’ll ask her. Helena’s bank balance could certainly do with a top-up. Goodness knows it’s time she stood on her own two feet financially.’

Megan came back into the café and Peggy got up to go and have her lunch before another influx of customers forced her to forego her only real break of the day. As an afterthought, she turned back to Kit. ‘If you’d rather your daughter wasn’t here during the day, just say. I mean, this is your office after all!’

‘I don’t mind at all. I’ll ask her this evening, assuming she comes home She seems to live at her mates’ houses these days.’

‘Making the most of seeing her friends before she heads west, I suppose.’

Peggy waved as she disappeared into the kitchen, to what Kit hoped wasn’t a tuna sandwich, before she could see the tell-tale glint of tears fighting to form at the corner of her eyes. Cross with herself for being so emotional, Kit looked at her screen. Peggy had opened a new document and typed the words You can talk to me, you know. Love Peggy xx across the top of the page.

Kit should have known that she couldn’t hide anything from Peggy. The manageress knew her habits better than anyone, having been host to them for the past decade or so. Kit didn’t even want to guess how many cups of coffee, scones, and slices of toast she’d consumed at that table in that time. Just the thought of the amount of butter she’d spread over her early morning snacks was enough to make her feel as though her hips were expanding right there on the seat.

Making her mind up to talk to Peggy soon, she picked up her mobile and sent Helena a text, telling her about the possible employment opportunity at Pickwicks. Kit wasn’t sure if she did actually want Helena around all day while she was writing. But then, she thought, I’m not exactly writing now, am I…

***

You may be thinking that Kit sounds like a real writer you’ve come across- and you’d be right. Kit and I are pretty much the same person- but with huge exaggerations into fiction of course!! For a start, I do not have twins!

The reason behind Kit’s writers block is very personal to me at the moment. During Another Glass of Champagne, Kit’s twins are getting ready to head off to university. My own daughter has just made that leap, and I, like Kit, am finding quite hard to write at the moment. Nothing feels quite right- although there is no logical reason for that to be the case- I have more time, and yet…

My motive for giving Kit empty nest syndrome inspired word block was a pre-emptive strike on my own behalf. Perhaps it was even therapy – because I knew that I was about to go through a similar experience to Kit myself. I thought that if I tackled the issue on paper via a pretend me first, it wouldn’t be so bad in reality.

Only time will tell whether my plan will work. My writing isn’t blocked at the moment- but it’s only day one of not having my daughter here. I am eating a hell of a lot of cake though…

To see what else the Pickwick’s crew are up to, then you can buy Another Glass of Champagne from all good bookshops and eBook retailers, including-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Another+Glass+of+Champagne+Jenny+Kane

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/188-7813436-7626710?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Another+Glass+of+Champagne+Jenny+Kane

***

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Guest Post from Tim Walker: Postcards from London

Today I’m delighted to be able to welcome Tim Walker to my site. A successful independent author and former journalist, Tim is sharing a short story from his new collection, Postcards from London. All I’ll say is- this is a must read for any Beatles fan!

So pop the kettle on, put your feet up for five minutes, and indulge a few moments of reading pleasure.

***

Blurb to Postcards of London

The city of London is the star of this collection of fifteen engaging stories from author Tim Walker. Drawing on the vivid history of the city where he has both lived and worked, Postcards from London celebrates the magnificently multifaceted metropolis that is home to 8.8 million people.

Imagine Iron Age fishermen, open-mouthed to see Roman galleys, rowed by slaves, dropping anchor at their village – a place the Romans would turn into the port and fortified town of Londinium. These Romans were the first of many men of vision who would come to shape the city we see today.

London’s long and complex history almost defies imagination, but the author has conjured citizens from many familiar eras, and some yet to be imagined. Turn over these picture postcards to explore his city through a collage of human dramas told in a range of genres. See the tumult of these imagined lives spotlighted at moments in London’s past, present and, who knows, perhaps its future.

 

Let it Be

A flash fiction postcard in Postcards from London by Tim Walker…

A bright, chilly January morning in 1969 saw Brian on the West End beat. Rounding the corner into Savile Row, he found a small crowd gathering outside Apple Records, the headquarters of world-famous pop group, The Beatles. First bobby on the scene, he asked a young man what was going on.

“We’ve heard a rumour that The Beatles are going to play on the rooftop,” the excited youth said.

PC Brian Smith radioed it in, and was told to enter the building and wait for further instructions. He squeezed past busy roadies carrying equipment up three steps and into the narrow front door of what was a large grey stone converted townhouse – glancing at a row of framed gold records on the walls before his eyes settled on the receptionist. Her pretty face, heavily made-up with Mary Quant mascara on long lashes framed by a lacquered brown bob, wore a pensive look. She hesitated before confirming that the band would be giving a brief performance of their new songs on the rooftop.

“Can I see the manager please?” Brian asked, showing initiative.

“Would that be the Apple General Manager or the manager of The Beatles?” she asked, holding a white phone to her neck.

“Erm, both, if I may… Emily.” He said stiffly, leaning forward to read her name on a green Apple badge.

She punched some numbers on her switchboard and spoke in a quiet voice. “A police officer would like to see you.”

Brian gazed over her head at pictures of his music heroes, the Fab Four. The smell of weed drifted into the room from what looked like the post room behind reception. Emily, seeing him sniff the air, hurriedly pushed shut the door.

“Mr Taylor, the GM, will see you in his office. You’ll have to walk up the stairs, I’m afraid, as there’s no lift. All the way to the fourth floor, left at the top of the stairs.”

Brian thanked her and followed a film crew carrying camera equipment and tripods up the narrow staircase. His radio crackled into life and he stepped into the first floor corridor to improve reception. His CO told him he had no report of permission being granted to hold a public performance on the rooftop, but was unsure if they would be breaking any laws by doing so in their own building, unless it was so loud that it caused a disturbance.

“Find out what you can and report back,” he said tersely. “I’m sending more bobbies for crowd control outside the building.”

Brian looked about him and saw the name ‘John’ on an office door. He pushed the door open and found himself looking at John Lennon, sat with his feet on a desk, leaning back in a swivel chair, smoking a joint.

“Oh, hell, is this a raid?” he asked, looking momentarily startled as he saw Brian’s uniform.

“Erm, no, Mr Lennon. I’m just here to find out about this concert on the roof. Would you mind telling me what it’s all about?”

John pointed to a chair and sat up, squeezing the lit end of his joint and throwing it in a bin.

“Sorry about that, Officer…?”

“PC Brian Smith,” he said, easing himself into a leather armchair, cradling his helmet in his arms. “Oh, don’t worry about that, I’m a big fan, you know.”

“Glad to hear it,” John said, leaning over the desk to shake his hand. “We’ve just decided to play some of our latest tunes for our next album on the roof and make a promo film, if you know what I mean?”

“Erm, yes, but if you make too much noise you’ll disturb the other businesses in the area and we’re bound to get complaints. My boss tells me you’ve not notified the police, and a crowd is already gathering in the street, so maybe…”

John got to his feet and put his arm around Brian’s shoulders. “Look, PC Brian, it’s just a few songs and won’t take long. Why don’t you come up onto the roof and watch? Honest, we won’t make that much noise. You see, the wind will carry our music away into the ether.”

John guided Brian up the stairs, collecting the other Beatles as he went.

“You see, Brian, each of us has our own floor, because we can’t stand the sight of each other after ten years together, ain’t that right Ringo?”

The mop-topped drummer grinned sheepishly as John gathered each group member as they made their way to the roof. Once up there, Brian saw the instruments and speakers set up on a wooden platform, and the camera crew buzzing around their equipment.

“We’re nearly ready, John,” said a smartly-dressed man who looked like he was in charge. He smiled at Brian and held out his hand. “Hi, I’m George Martin. Why don’t you come over here with me? We’ll be starting in a few minutes.”

Brian’s radio crackled and he heard his CO saying, “They’ve barricaded the door, we can’t get in, what’s happening, Smith?”

“I can’t hear you sir, I’ll try to move to get a better reception.” He grinned at George Martin and clipped his radio onto his belt, turning the sound dial down.

After a brief soundcheck, The Beatles started playing. Brian looked down to the street below and saw the crowd had built up considerably, as workers on their lunch break began to converge on the building. Brian knew it would only be a matter of time before his colleagues gained entry. In fact, he had listened with great enthusiasm to five songs before the first of the officers barged their way onto the roof. Turning to George Martin, Brian asked, “How much time do you need?”

Martin smiled and replied, “We’re almost through. Thanks for your support. About ten minutes should do it.”

Brian pushed his way to a burly sergeant and said, “I’ve told them to wind it up, Sarge. Just a few more minutes.” The sergeant glared at him but said nothing. The Beatles were playing a third take of ‘Get Back’ and Paul, seeing that their time was up, cheekily changed the lyrics – “You’ve been playing on the roof again, and you know your Momma doesn’t like it, she’s gonna have you arrested.”

At the end of the song, John cheekily said, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.”

Brian turned to George Martin who thanked him and shook his hand.

“What will the album be called?” Brian asked.

“Not sure yet – it’ll either be ‘Get Back’ or ‘Let it Be’,” Martin replied.

Brian filed downstairs behind the line of policemen. He would stick to his story that he had negotiated a swift end to the impromptu gig. It was a memory that he would carry forward – much more than another drinking-out story – it was a sense that he had been part of something special that somehow crowned the swinging sixties, and that he was one of the very few privileged people to witness it. That it was to be The Beatles’ last ever performance made it more of a poignant landmark in his London life. It left him with a sense of belonging; a sense of pride; a sense of location on the continuum of history.

***

Author Bio-

Tim is an independent author and former journalist based near Windsor in Berkshire, UK.

Born in Hong Kong, he grew up in Liverpool and studied in South Wales, before gravitating to London where he working in newspaper publishing for ten years. In the mid-90s he went to Zambia in Africa to do publishing-related voluntary work. Following this, he stayed on and set up his own publishing and marketing business, before returning to the UK in 2009.

The River Thames was the inspiration for his first book, an anthology of short stories Thames Valley Tales published in July 2015. This collection of fifteen contemporary stories combines modern themes with the rich history and legend associated with towns and places along the Thames Valley.

In 2016 he published his first novel, a near-future/dystopian thriller Devil Gate Dawn and is currently writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages. The first two parts, Abandoned! (a novella) and Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (a novel) are now available from Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. Part Three, Uther’s Destiny, should follow in early 2018.

In January 2017 he published a children’s book, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter Cathy, called The Adventures of Charly Holmes in e-book format. The paperback was published by Xlibris Publishers in February 2017. In September 2017 he published his second collection of short stories, Postcards from London.

Author website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Author Central: http://Author.to/timwalkerwrites

Twitter: http://twitter.com/timwalker1666

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/timwalkerwrites

 

Book Links:

Postcards from London: http://myBook.to/PostcardsFromLondon

Abandoned: http://myBook.to/Abandoned

Ambrosius: Last of the Romans: http://myBook.to/Ambrosius

Devil Gate Dawn: http://myBook.to/DevilGateDawn

Thames Valley Tales: http://myBook.to/ThamesValleyTales

The Adventures of Charly Holmes: http://myBook.to/CharlyHolmes1

***

Many thanks to Tim for such a great story. Wishing you much success with your new book.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Guest post by Jon Hartless: How not to start a novel

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Jon Hartless, hot on the heels of the publication of his latest book, Full Throttle.

Over to you Jon…

About four or five years ago, I had an idea. That idea was “Let’s write a steampunk motor racing story inspired by the era of the Bentley Boys.”

For those who don’t know, Steampunk is usually set in an alternative nineteenth century timeline in which technology had advanced to a greater degree than in reality, but the idea is flexible so please don’t feel that this definition is the only one. The Bentley Boys were very famous racing car drivers of the 1920s, beloved by the media for their wealth, social status, and derring-do racing lifestyle. This was at a time when most people still couldn’t even afford a car, never mind race one, and as such I thought the world of motor racing would be a perfect symbol for the gulf between the rich and the poor.

As ideas go, this one had quite a lot encoded within it. To begin with, this was to be a dirty, grubby Steampunk world, not a bright, shining version. Despite the presence of cutting-edge technology, my story would only feature glimpses of it, for only the wealthy elite would be able to afford it. This was to be a world very like ours, in which opportunity only exists for the rich and well-connected while everyone else is presented with the illusion of opportunity, a practice very familiar to us today.

And within this world we would focus on a young girl condemned to a life of poverty – material and intellectual – because of her working class background, her gender, and also her disability – she only has one arm, owing to a birth defect, and a weak knee from the same cause. But fortunately for her, her father has a small workshop and a secret project; a petrol engine designed specifically for motor racing. And there it was; an intelligent heroine named Poppy Orpington and a petrol-fuelled monster of a car called Thunderbus would rise up to challenge the racing elite and the social order, to smash conventions apart. Every piece slotted neatly into place.

And having thought of this, and having practically the whole thing in my mind, I then abandoned it to rewrite the core concept.  For no reason at all. Other than I was a complete prawn. For some reason I just lost faith in it and thought I’ll never get it accepted. Instead, I reimagined it as a book for young children, with large pictures on every page, where Poppy is a girl of about 8, whose eccentric father makes a car and they go off racing, towing a caravan behind them.

I then binned that idea and thought of making it a bit more “pulp”; in this version, Poppy – now a grown woman without any birth defect – is heading home from work one evening and is accosted by a sinister man who offers her 50 quid for something called Thunderbus. She has no idea what he’s talking about, and walks on. Then another man pops up and offers her 100 quid. Then two more agents appear and offer 250, and when again she refuses they attack her and try to take her prisoner. Poppy promptly goes Mrs Peel on their arses (old TV reference) and escapes. Back home she finds a letter from a solicitor saying very sorry, your father has died, and you have inherited everything; a small workshop, several debts, and something called Thunderbus.

So, Poppy visits the solicitor who gives her the keys to the workshop and says he has no idea what Thunderbus is. Poppy visits, the workshop, (and is probably attacked again by yet more sinister men), and finds that Thunderbus is a sort of small armoured tank with advanced weapons of the sort that has never been seen before and which will change the face of warfare, hence the many ominous agents want to get their hands on it and have killed her father in the attempt…

And at that point I gave up on that version, though it did briefly rise vampire-like with a new take, in that I thought; what if Poppy’s father knows it will take him about 15 years to make Thunderbus because of the complexity of doing it all alone, plus he knows that super-strength will be required to pilot the tank, and he looks at his baby daughter, asleep in her crib, and lops her arm off, thereafter telling her it is a birth defect and bringing her up to obey him in everything? The action would then jump forward to Poppy as a teen girl, worshiping her father as she has been brainwashed by him, and using her mechanical arm to use Thunderbus as her father commands, blowing up a bank here or a military installation there. The story would have then been of her ‘awakening’ as she realises the Mephistophelian nature of her father and rebels against him. But that idea died a death also. Thankfully.

And so, after all that, I finally thought, “hang on, what was wrong with the racing idea that practically wrote itself?” I went back to that, and the rest was plain sailing. Except for about thirty thousand rewrites and almost one hundred rejections. But these are a writer’s usual problems, or at least they are my usually problems, and finally the book was accepted and published, and here it is. If there is any point to this blog, I suppose it is have faith in a good idea. Or don’t be afraid to change it, if need be. Or something.

I hope you enjoy the book. A lot of torment went into creating it, never mind writing it…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Full-Throttle-Jon-Hartless/dp/1786154579/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504447643&sr=1-1&keywords=jon+hartless

https://www.facebook.com/jonhartlessauthor/

Full Throttle Extract:

PREFACE

By James Birkin, Editor.

Today, Poppy Orpington is hardly remembered at all. Some do know that she was a famous racing driver, though only a minority of these are aware that her first car was called Thunderbus, not Thunderbolt, a mistake arising from her later company of that name. Others wrongly dismiss her as the first of the modern celebrities, working the media for fame and money, while a few will gleefully recall libellous newspaper reports of harlotry in a Parisian bawdy house whenever her name is mentioned.

Most, however, are familiar only with her stained reputation from the Great War – a reputation, I maintain, that is thoroughly undeserved. However, I must not get ahead of myself. I shall explore everything in the right order and put Poppy in the context of her era. Her exoneration, should you wish to grant it, must be given at the right time and with a full understanding of Poppy’s character.

This, then, is the beginning of the testimony, taken from diaries, letters and personal contemporaneous interviews. Some may complain that my shaping of this material into a narrative rather than an academic account will diminish the authenticity of the work; I contest that Poppy’s biography is so dramatic in tone, and so rich in style, that it pulled itself naturally into this shape.

Nonetheless, a few disclaimers should be noted. Memory is fragile, and it is unsurprising to see the manner in which events can be transposed, altered and generally misunderstood. Please be assured that I have researched all areas as closely as possible and that everything in this book actually took place, though not necessarily in the order given.

Also, the spoken language at that time was rather more formal than today, especially amongst the upper classes and the well-educated, and this has driven me to lightly edit certain conversations between Poppy, Simeon, Helena and their contemporaries. Please be assured that I have endeavoured to keep the pith of each exchange, sacrificing the semi-archaic speech patterns only for the sake of lucidity.

The reader may ask just why I have devoted so much time to the Orpington archive of diaries, letters and more. Does it really matter what happened to an almost forgotten woman over a century ago? In my opinion, and simply put; yes. Poppy’s life has many parallels today, while her eventual fate in the early years of the twentieth century could – tragically – easily happen again. I will accordingly interpose a series of editor’s notes on those aspects of Poppy’s life that I feel are relevant to us. I shall endeavour to keep these interjections to a minimum, however, as they serve to illuminate rather than to distract.

Join me, then, as we travel back to when motor sport was still open to amateurs – albeit only wealthy amateurs – who could race their own cars side-by-side with the professionals of the day. Back when the sport still boasted heroic individuality rather than corporate wrangling over fuel consumption and weight limits. Back when cars were designed by hand and built by imagination, and were as much for the public road as the racetrack, unlike today’s machine-designed racing vehicles that have no function outside the sport and no individuality within it.

So, let us return to an age which is now regarded as a lost era of romance and rugged individualism, but which was also characterised by gross inequality, a rigid social order, casual violence toward women and unthinking submission toward authority. And let us never forget that the past is golden only when viewed from afar.

***

Bio

Jon Hartless was born in the seventies, which is rather long time ago. Full Throttle is his first novel with a traditional publisher.

Jon Hartless

Many thanks Jon, sounds great.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny. xx


Guest Post from Sonja Price: A Flight of Fancy

I’m delighted to welcome fellow novelist Sonja Price to my site today to talk about her amazing novel, The Giants Look Down.

Why not grab a cuppa, put your feet up for five minutes, and have a read.

Over to you Sonja…                              

I’ve never been to Kashmir, but I’ve based my novel THE GIANTS LOOK DOWN there. What a cheek you may say! But writers go where their imaginations take them and once mine had been ignited – by a report on the car radio of the Great Earthquake of 2005- I couldn’t put the spirit back in the bottle. I discovered that the Vale of Kashmir is breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the highest mountains in the world cradle a valley lush in sycamore woods and fields of saffron interspersed with a necklace of lakes. A spectacular place to set a story, it also boasts a rich history of maharajas, princes and princesses. But this paradise has been spoilt by strife since the mostly Muslim Vale of Kashmir chose to become part of its Hindu neighbour, India. Two wars have been fought over it and India and Pakistan still stand their ground on a glacier at the highest battlefield of the world, where avalanches claim more lives than armed conflict.

There must be a story in there somewhere, I thought! What would happen if a 10-year-old Hindu girl called Jaya decided to become a doctor much to chagrin of her mother and the patriarchal society of 1960s Kashmir? My aim was solely to entertain and amuse the reader.  I did not want to take sides yet at the same time I tried to depict the situation as sensitively and genuinely as possible and drawing attention to the plight of Kashmiris could surely not be a bad thing in itself, I thought.

I wanted to show Jaya growing up and negotiating the rapids of love when she falls for the son of the family she later stays with in Scotland. Does she have to choose between dashing Alastair, a student of architecture and lover of jazz music, and her dream of becoming a doctor and returning to Kashmir to build a clinic far up in the mountains? Well you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Going to Kashmir, if only in my mind, albeit with the help of online resources, picture books and interviews with Indians, has been a wonderful journey that started in my car!

Blurb: At the age of 10, Jaya Vaidya decides to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor against her mother’s wishes and all that the patriarchal community of 1906s Kashmir expects of her. When disaster strikes, Jaya is faced with obstacles as insurmountable as the Himalayas. She is transplanted to Scotland, where she has to navigate both a foreign culture and the rapids of love. Just how far will she go to achieve her dream? (Published by Robert Hale, 2016)

Find a copy of THE GIANTS LOOK DOWN here:

AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Giants-Look-Down-Sonja-Price/dp/0719819954

Author Bio: I live in Somerset but am always hopping on and off planes because I teach English at Jena University in Germany. I studied at the University of East Anglia and completed a PhD in English Literature. I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and my short stories have appeared in Stories For Homes, the Shelter Anthology of Short Stories and In these Tangles, Beauty Lies, an anthology in aid of the Beanstalk Trust for children with reading difficulties. My debut novel The Giants Look Down came out in 2016 and made me a finalist for the Joan Hessayon Award.

Links

Website:                      www.sonja-price.com

Twitter:                       @PriceSonja

Facebook:                   Sonja Price Author

You can find THE GIANTS LOOK DOWN as a paperback or e-book on:

AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Giants-Look-Down-Sonja-Price/dp/0719819954

Many thanks Sonja, for a brilliant blog.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


End of the Month Blog: Nell’s Gone Aussie!

Is it me, or are the months just rushing by? 

Believe it or not, it’s that time again…Over to Nell!!!

G’day, cobbers. Nice of you to drop by – I’ll just throw another shrimp on the barbie and grab some tinnies from the fridge … OK, I’m feeling so much better now I’ve got that bit of blatant stereotyping out of my system. To be fair, despite my late father-in-law being born and bred in Australia, I’m pretty sure I never heard him say ‘cobber’, ‘barbie’ or ‘tinnies’. Not even a random ‘g’day’ …

Staying with the antipodeans for a mo, and jumping on the bandwagon of all the WWI hundredth anniversaries being celebrated (if that’s the right word?) between 2014 and 2018, on this 243rd day of the year in 1918, the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin began. This was a successful assault by the Australian Corps during the Hundred Days Offensive, aka a rapid series of Allied victories starting with the Battle of Amiens. Defences were weakened by continual Aussie raids, the troops employing a process called ‘peaceful penetration’, which forced the German retreat from France to beyond the Hindenburg Line. Thereafter an armistice was declared. Call me picky, but a sentence that includes ‘raids’, ‘penetration’ and ‘retreat’ doesn’t immediately convey to me a particularly ‘peaceful’ option.

Former Melbourne lawyer Robert Menzies (which he pronounced Ming) and his funny eyebrows didn’t serve in WWI, even though he was of age, but he did authorise Australia’s entry into World War II in September 1939, when he was leader of the United Australian Party (UAP).

However, in 1941 he spent four months in England contributing to Churchill’s War Cabinet powwows, and upon his return found he had lost the party’s support – how very fickle of them. Ming resigned as Prime Minister and in time helped form the Australian Liberal Party, being elected as its inaugural leader on this day in 1945. He again took office as PM in December 1949 and stayed put until 26th January 1966 (Australia Day), when he resigned.

Born in 1940, multi-award winning Australian actor Jack Thompson celebrates his seventy-seventh birthday today. That wasn’t his name at birth, though – step forward baby John Hadley Pain. The poor little chap was just four when his mother died, leaving his merchant seaman father unable to care for him and his brother, David. He was sent to an orphanage by his aunt and from there was adopted by John and Pat Thompson – hence the change of surname. Film reviewer Peter Thompson (also my dad’s name) is his adoptive brother – I’ve never heard of him either.

The Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are? featured the actor in its first episode in 2008, discovering that his great-grandfather was Captain Thomas Pain, and his great-great uncle Alfred Lee, a prominent figure in Sydney society. Philanthropist Alfred donated the journal of Sir Joseph Banks, British naturalist and explorer, documenting Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia in the 1770s to the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Bonza!

Other actors sharing this birthday are; Richard Gere (loved Pretty Woman! 1949), Roy Castle (1932), James Coburn (1928), Buddy Hackett (1924) and Richard Basehart (1914). Although a pianist rather than actor, American Big Tiny Little (1930) earns his place on the list simply by virtue of his odd name. Using that criterion, let’s throw in Roman Emperors Caligula (scary chap! 12) and the outright winner, Commodus (161).

 

People born under the Virgo sign are typically analytical, kind, hardworking and practical. They tend to worry, are shy and don’t like to be the centre of attention, as they are modest, faithful, and quiet folk. With a tendency to be persuasive, they have a good memory* and sense of reasoning and are skilled at detailed work. Virgos are also known for their intellect and usually embrace art, literature, science, or mathematics.

Shall we plant our tootsies firmly back on British soil? In my August 2016 blog I mentioned that it was the OH’s birthday on the 31st – funnily enough, it is again this year. At least he’s consistent. (*Can I just mention here that he has a memory like a leaking sieve and is persuasive only because he is like a dog with a bone and doesn’t give up, so that others eventually lose the will to live and capitulate?) Again, it’s the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, twenty years ago now – a twentieth wedding anniversary is china, but I’m not entirely sure how that would translate to the anniversary of a death. Quite possibly in no way at all, although I’d hazard a wild guess some wannabe entrepreneur somewhere has mass-manufactured a tacky commemorative mug. Was it really two decades ago that the accident happened, opening the floodgates for conspiracy theorists everywhere – not to mention making lots of florists rich when the public en masse bought bouquets, only to leave them rotting outside Kensington Palace in a public display of grief?

I didn’t watch Diana’s funeral on TV, although I have seen various clips of it over the years, most poignantly her two young sons following her coffin under the gaze of a worldwide audience. In contrast to all the pomp and ceremony that accompanied Diana’s day, I have recently organised a funeral on the other end of the scale – an occasion as low key as possible, to minimise my mother’s confusion when we buried my father; the aforementioned Peter Thompson. My mother has vascular dementia (as did my father) and is basically away with the fairies. Lucky her.

Because he had no religious conviction whatsoever, we opted for a graveside ceremony only in order to shorten proceedings. Overcoming pronounced differences in height, my sons and niece were pallbearers of a coffin decorated with Spitfires – although Peter wasn’t a pilot, his father was during WWI (not flying Spitfires, obvs – Sopwith Camels, I believe) and it was most likely his influence that fired an interest in vintage aircraft in his youngest son, who had quite an impressive collection of dust-attracting models. On the coffin lid sat a single red rose (donations to charity in lieu of flowers) and a battered old trilby that my father insisted on wearing to annoy the grandchildren, having a whole shelf of much newer/smarter hats in his wardrobe.

Instead of a priest or celebrant, we used the services of the Conductor; he was part of the funeral director’s staff, in charge of the proceedings and making sure everything ran smoothly. It was him who read out a short eulogy and tributes written by the grandchildren – he didn’t look at all like Mr Conductor of Thomas the Tank Engine fame. Well, not much. When it was over, we all adjourned to a local hotel for some much-needed alcoholic refreshment and buffet food – not a stale sausage roll to be seen – and in a final act of symbolism, each grandchild launched a black star helium balloon skyward from the car park. This may have given pilots taking off from Heathrow one or two worrying moments.

I was talking over the garden fence to neighbour David recently – his mother died a few weeks before my father, and he so rightly observed that there’s nothing like a death/funeral to bring out the very worst in people. No horror story I could relate beats the behaviour of his step-father, who refused to let David and his sister into their family home, after his wife died. He also arranged an alternative, rival wake to David’s, following the funeral that David organised and paid for, and – most bizarre of all – ordered from the florist an ostentatious wreath spelling out HUSBAND, to ride along with the coffin! Huh?

That should surely be termed a grave offence – so sorry! Nowt so strange as folk, as they say. Those shenanigans are pretty hard to top, so I won’t try and I’ll say toodles, until we meet again.

NP

www.Author.to/nellpeters

Huge thanks as ever hun. Fun, thought provoking, moving and- as an added bonus- a history lesson. Love it.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 


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