The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


Opening Lines: An Unexpected Affair by Jan Ellis

Here we are again. Thursday has dawned, and there are some wonderful new opening lines to read.

This week Jan Ellis, friend, fellow RNA member and contemporary fiction author, is with me to share the very beginning of her novel, An Unexpected Affair.

Over to you Jan…

The 500 words I’ve chosen for you come from An Unexpected Affair, which began life as an e-novella back in 2013. When it came out, I was intrigued by the reactions I got from friends: these ranged from jaws dropping in disbelief to barely suppressed hilarity. This is not because I can’t write – I write and edit other stuff for a living – it was more the thought of a cynical old bag like me writing romcom that set them off.

I never intended to write fiction (you can find out more here https://jennykane.co.uk//?s=jan+ell) but once I sat down and thought about the settings and the basic plot, I was amazed by how quickly ideas flowed. As soon as my bookselling heroine Eleanor Mace appeared, the personalities of her mother Connie, sister Jenna and other family and friends followed on quite naturally.

Later I wrote A Summer of Surprise because I wanted to know what had happened to Eleanor and the other characters in the seaside town of Combemouth. The e-books no longer exist, but you can read both stories in one lovely paperback. I hope you enjoy the extract and decide to read on…

First 500 words…

SHE CAREFULLY SLIPPED THE BLADE of the knife under the tape and cut. Peeling back the flaps, she lowered her face to the contents and inhaled deeply. Erika, her assistant, smiled conspiratorially.

“You’ve gone over to the dark side. You’re definitely one of us now.”

“You’re right,” said Eleanor as she lifted the pile of paperbacks from the box, sniffed them and set them on the counter. “My name is Eleanor Mace and I am addicted to books.”

It was three years since Eleanor had bought the bookshop. Three years since she’d left her boring office job and caused her friends’ collective jaws to drop by announcing that she was leaving London and moving to Devon. She might as well have said she’d got a new career as a yak herder for the consternation this had caused. They clearly thought she was deranged, though only her sister Jenna had told her so to her face.

“Just because you’re divorced from Alan doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself away from the world.”

“Jen, I’m moving to the English countryside, not entering a convent.”

“I can see it now,” said Jenna, ignoring her. “In six months’ time you’ll have stopped shaving your legs, embraced tweed and discovered jam-making.”

“Now you’re being silly,” said Eleanor, thinking that it had already been some time since her pins had seen a Gillette disposable. “It’s not the end of the earth, Jen. There’s a train station and you and Keith can come and stay any time you wish.”

“I’d rather come on my own,” said Jenna, wrinkling her nose as she tipped the last of the Chardonnay into Eleanor’s glass. “You finish it. They probably don’t run to white wine where you’re heading. And what on earth will you do down there?”

That had been easy to answer: with the money from her divorce Eleanor could afford to buy a slightly crumbly bookshop with an adjoining cottage in a small, unfashionable seaside town. It had been a huge leap and scary at times, but running the shop made her happy, and her enthusiasm for what she sold and her knowledge about the books and their authors was undoubtedly behind the small success she had managed to build for herself. She’d made sure the shop was a welcoming place with comfy sofas to sit on and coffee and homemade biscuits on offer. With help from her son Joe, she had built a kind of den at the back of the shop where children could read, and there was always an eclectic selection of new and second-hand books to browse through.

“Don’t forget you’ve got that house clearance to go to this afternoon,” said Erika, bearing coffee and biscuits.

“Nope, it’s in the diary,” said Eleanor, eyeing up a chocolate cookie. “Do you think you can control the rampaging hordes for an hour or two while I’m over there?” she asked, looking at her watch.

“Oh, I think we’ll cope, won’t we Bella?” said Erika, addressing the…

***

Those 500 words were taken from A Summer of Surprises and An Unexpected Affair, available from all good bookshops as well as online via https://goo.gl/cZUFmR

Blurb

An Unexpected Affair

After her divorce, Eleanor Mace decides to begin a new life running a quirky bookshop in a quiet corner of Devon. She adores her seaside home in Combemouth and her bookshop is a hit and yet … Eleanor is still unsettled. So when she rediscovers an old flame online, she sets off for the South of France in search a man she last saw in her twenties. But will she find happiness on the Continent or does it lie in rural England?

A Summer of Surprises

In this enjoyable and eventful sequel to An Unexpected Affair, Eleanor Mace is finding life sweet and rosy in her Devon bookshop, but unexpected clouds on the horizon in the form of an ex-wife and a town-planning monstrosity are about to bring our charismatic bookseller a summer of surprises.

Author bio:

Jan Ellis began writing fiction by accident in 2013. Until then, she had led a blameless life as a publisher, editor and historian of early modern Spain. In 2017, her four e-novellas were published in paperback by Waverley Books who also commissioned a brand-new title, The Bookshop Detective.

Jan describes her books as romcom/mystery with the emphasis firmly on family, friendship and humour. She specialises in small-town settings, with realistic characters who range in age from young teens to 80-somethings.

As well as being an author, Jan continues to work at the heart of the book trade. Jan Ellis is a nom-de-plume.

Website: www.janelliswriter.com

Follow Jan on Facebook and Twitter @JanEllis_writer

Jan’s Amazon page: http://goo.gl/yqmAey

Instagram (even if I don’t know how it works…)

https://www.instagram.com/jan_ellis_writer/ 

***

Many thanks Jan,

Great opening lines.

Don’t forget to come back next week to read what Roger Price has to offer.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Guest Blog by Jan Ellis: An Accidental Romantic Novelist

I’m delighted to welcome the multi-talented Jan Ellis to my blog today! Writer, historian, Nobel prize winner, and pole dancer – apparently…

Jan Ellis2 small

 

Hello Jenny and thanks for inviting me to share my deepest darkest secrets on your blog. Okay. Confession time: when I said I was an ex-pole dancer and a Nobel prize winner, that was actually a fib. However, when I said that I have a PhD in early modern history, that was true. Which sort of explains how I got into writing fiction:

1) I like making things up.

2) It’s easier and more fun than writing about history.

I guess you could say that I became a ‘romantic novelist’ by accident. I was approached by digital publishers Endeavour Press to write a history book, but we couldn’t agree on a topic. ‘No problem,’ they said. ‘Have a go at some chicklit instead.’ Because the first rule of being self-employed is to say ‘Yes’ to everything and figure out how to do whatever it is afterwards, I decided to give it a go. Fortunately for me (and the publishers), I was able to come up with quite a jolly story that people have actually paid money for.

We called it An Unexpected Affair. In it my heroine – Eleanor Mace – is a 40-something divorcee who leaves London, buys a lime-green camper van and escapes to Devon to run a bookshop. Life is ticking along quite nicely for Eleanor until things take an unexpected turn, sending her on a journey across France on the trail of an old flame.

An Unexpected Affair small

Here’s an extract:

“You look miles away, El,” said Jenna, pausing from examining an array of straw hats in the local market. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, fine. I was just wondering how things were back at the shop.”

Jenna peered at her from over her sunglasses. “You always were an unconvincing liar.”

“Alright – I was thinking about Christophe. And about my life . . .”

“And what might have been if you hadn’t married Alan the Android?”

It was an open secret that Jenna had never really warmed to her brother-in-law and had not shed many tears when the marriage had eventually broken up. Eleanor opened her mouth to protest, but Jenna held up her hands in submission.

“Okay, okay. I know he was a good husband, a devoted father, blah, blah, but he was bloody boring El, you have to admit. All that running around squash courts with the lads and traipsing across golf courses . . . “

“Keith plays golf!”

“Kiff may play golf,” Jenna agreed, arranging a hat on her head, “but he doesn’t actually enjoy it.”

Eleanor couldn’t help laughing.

“Alan was always so earnest,” she added, handing over a handful of Euros to the stall holder. “Anyway, you are a free woman and your ex-husband is in a much better place.”

“You make it sound as though he’s died!”

“He’s in Canada with a dental hygienist, which I would say was much the same thing.”

****

French Kisses cover small

Flushed with success, I then wrote my second e-novella, French Kisses. In this story, my heroine Rachel has a happy life in rural France until her husband hits 40, discovers his inner love-rat and runs off with another woman. Determined to ignore her friends’ advice to up-sticks and move back to England, Rachel decides to turn their home into a bijou guest house. Romance comes in the form of local admirers and ex-husband Michael, who is never far away.

Like my first novella, the focus of the story is on family, fun and friendship. I don’t do soppy! Also, I am intrigued by the coincidences that run through all our lives, and I like to get these into my stories, so Rachel finds she has an unlikely connection to one of her guests, American academic Josh Perry.

Here’s an extract:

When she awoke the next morning she was naked apart from the pink fluffy bed socks. And she was not alone. She groaned inwardly as she looked at Josh and rolled over, hoping to creep out of bed before he woke. Too late.

“Well good morning, beautiful,” he said, turning around and wrapping himself around her. She felt him nuzzle into her neck and gently kiss the tops of her shoulders, his beard tickling her in a not unpleasant manner.

She turned back to face him, pushing him away when he tried to kiss her breasts. “No, we mustn’t.”

He pulled back and smiled at her. “I think you’ll find that we already have. Or was that just a particularly vivid dream I had there?”

Rachel wriggled away from him and hopped out of bed, grabbing her robe from the armchair by her bed.

“Nice socks.” Josh lay propped up on his arm, smiling at her. “Come back to bed Rachel,” he said, throwing back the covers and patting the place beside him. “It’s still early.”

“Damn, bugger, bollocks,” muttered Rachel, running around the room, collecting clothes and rejecting them again. “I’ve got to collect the kids at 9am and it’s already twenty-to.”

Josh sat up, attentive now. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Make me tea!”

“I’m on it,” he said, running towards the door.

Rachel looked back from the bathroom. “But maybe put your clothes on first?”

“Sure thing,” he said, coming over to kiss her. “God, last night was great Rachel.”

“Milk no sugar. Go!”

****

Autichamp small

At some time in the future I would like to bring Eleanor, Rachel, their families and assorted admirers together for one big party! Keep an eye on my website or follow me on Twitter to see how I get on.

Website: http://jlravenscroft.wix.com/janelliswriter

Twitter: @JanEllis_writer

An Unexpected Affair  and French Kisses are available to download from Amazon:

French Kisses

An Unexpected Affair
****

Many thanks to Jan for taking time out from not really pole dancing, but definitely being a historian, to write a great blog, and serve up two such tasty extracts for us today.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


End of the Month: July in a Nutshell

Another month has zipped by, and so Nell Peters is here with her popular roundup of events. A belated happy birthday to Nell (who shares the same birthday as me), and thanks, as ever, for another fab post.

Over to you…

Good day! Both Jenny and I are a year older since we last met, and while the Football World Cup didn’t actually come home, sales of waistcoats rocketed. That’s July in a nutshell and I’m not even going to mention tennis or Donald Trump …

Someone celebrating their birthday this fine day is JK (Joanne Kathleen, as I’m sure you all know) Rowling, who clocks up fifty-three years. The Harry Potter series of books hit the shelves in June 1997, with publication of HP and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the last (seventh), HP and the Deathly Hallows was released in July 2007. Rowling’s imagined biography for her main character saw him born on 31st July 1980 in Godric’s Hollow, whereas the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry P (again, as you all know – I have a talent for stating the obvious), was born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London – where sons #2, 3 and 4 were born – on 23rd July 1989, about nine weeks after #3. I’m sure if Daniel’s mother had known then the significance of the last day of the month, she’d have held on. In keeping with the 31/7 theme, the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, with contributions by JKR, was published worldwide at midnight on this day two years ago. And what do you give the woman who can have anything she wants for her birthday? I like to think at least one of her friends will give her some tasteful Harry Pottery. I’m so sorry …

A name caught my eye as I was researching people born on 31st July and immediately appealed to my pathetic sense of humour – take a posthumous bow Arthur (John) Daley; not the ducker and diver, but an American sports writer and journalist born in New York City in 1904. He wrote for The New York Times (his only employer) for almost fifty years, producing over 10,000 columns with an estimated twenty million words – and in 1956 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his troubles. He reported on the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and when he was chosen to repeat that role in Berlin in 1936, he became the first Times correspondent to be sent overseas for a sports assignment. In later years, he covered the Olympics in Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City and Munich. Daley lived in Old Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife, Betty and their four children, two of whom followed in his footsteps to become journalists on the Times. He died of a heart attack on January 3rd 1974, as he was walking to work, and is buried in the ambitiously-named Gate of Heaven Cemetery, New York.

Poor old Arthur didn’t make the Montreal Olympics in 1976, but I did. I managed to miss all of the long, hot summer that cooked the UK that year, but Montreal summers are always hot, with crippling degrees of humidity because the city is a series of islands. Being around three months pregnant and very sickly, I quite regretted shelling out for a ticket for the opening ceremony, as I sat through the rather lacklustre proceedings, feeling like death.

Montreal had experienced the coldest winter on record during 1970/71 (152 inches of snow, yikes!), followed by a period of violent political unrest. The terrorist Front du Libération du Quebec (FLQ) exploded ninety-five bombs in the city – the largest of which blew up the Stock Exchange – and kidnapped the British Consul, James Cross, along with the Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau responded by imposing martial law, and armoured personnel carriers patrolled the streets, with troops detaining hundreds of people without charge. The FLQ released Cross but murdered Laporte, and the city was a pretty scary place to be for a very long time – even when I arrived in ’74 – particularly if you spoke with a British accent.

You might think, then, that the Games of the XXI Olympiad – to give them their official title – would be embraced as an opportunity to turn a corner, to go some way to ease the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics, and demonstrate that sport could transcend all. After all, the Games were the first to be hosted by Canada and, to date, the only summer Olympics held there. But no; multiple strikes, organised corruption, theft and sabotage, along with rocketing costs, left the city with a debt of (Canadian) $1.6bn which would take decades to clear, not to mention an unfinished stadium. And to add to the fiasco, as the Games were about to open, twenty-two African nations withdrew, because the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand for sending the All Blacks rugby team to tour in apartheid South Africa.

But the British did turn up, and one of the women toddling around the stadium, dodging cement mixers and wearing the rather hideous uniform – red skirt suit, white shoes, bag, scarf that looked like a hangman’s noose, topped off with what one of my grandmothers would have described as a muck-spreading hat – was Princess Anne (without her horse, in case you were wondering?)

My only claim to fame is that I’ve watched the Olympic Torch procession up close and personal twice – first in Montreal in torrential rain and then in sunny Norfolk in 2012, prior to the London Olympics. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Zara Phillips won a silver medal on her horse, High Kingdom in the Equestrian Eventing final on 31/7/12. This was on the same day that two car bombs killed twenty-one people in Baghdad and a second power grid failure in India in two days left 670 million people without power. That’s an awful lot of redundant toasters.

I doubt Zara ever met our niece, who was a volunteer chauffeur during the London Games – as a teacher she was on summer hols and didn’t have to take leave. Not speaking a word of Russian, she was the perfect choice to ferry around a Russian ambassador, who didn’t speak a word of English. What a jovial pairing that must have been (he did, however, manage to invite her to some lavish official function – an offer she tactfully and wisely refused.) Worst of all, she had to wear the awful pink and purple clobber assigned to all staff and volunteers. Who ‘designs’ these outfits, I wonder – colour blind orang-utans with no dress sense?

As I write this in advance, I hope I’m not tempting fate by mentioning that this July has brought hot temperatures and little rain to the UK. And some record heat levels were recorded elsewhere in 1994. It was 39.3°C in Pleschen, East-Germany on this day; Arcen Limburg, Holland recorded an average over the month of 22.0°C – the warmest July since 1783; and Stockholm averaged 21.5°C, their hottest July since 1855. Phew!

Loretta Young

Lots of weddings have taken place on 31st July over the years; American actress Loretta Young married advertising executive Tom Lewis (1940); singer-songwriter and musician Ray Charles married Eileen Williams (1951); singer Natalie Cole married songwriter Marvin Yancy (1976); Bee Gee Robin Gibb married author and artist Dwina Murphy (1986); actor Patrick Dempsey married make-up artist Jillian Fink (1999); Lady Davina Windsor married surfer and the first Maori to marry into the Royal Family, Gary Lewis at the chapel in Kensington Palace in London (2004); and then a double whammy in 2010 when singer-songwriter Alicia Keys married award-winning rapper Swizz Beatz in Corsica, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US President Bill and wife Hillary, married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in New York.

We had a family wedding on 31st July 2015, when our oldest niece (aforementioned Olympic chauffeur) tied the knot in Stratford-upon-Avon, from whence her OH hailed. It was a lovely old country house-type venue and no expense was spared, as the sun shone down on the bridal party and their many guests. Our immediate family had a couple of wardrobe malfunctions in the footwear department – #2 son forgot to pack his smart shoes and so had to wear trainers with his formal suit, but that paled into insignificance compared with #1’s experience. Can you imagine why anyone would order a pair of very expensive shoes off the internet and not try them on to make sure they were a good fit? The first time those shoes met his larger feet was in the hotel room as he and his wife were getting ready for the ceremony – he was giving the bride (his cousin) away because her dad had died four years previously, so no trainer substitutes for him.

The wedding was in two parts – the first conducted by a celebrant in the ruins of an old chapel in the grounds. Son managed to escort the bride from house to chapel wearing the crippling shoes, but they were removed at the first opportunity, and when he walked the bride into the official proceedings within the house, he did so in his brightly-coloured socks. That was also the case for the photographs – at least there were no visible holes. Nor did anyone seem to notice that #2 and 3 were wearing almost-identical blue suits – #2’s newly-purchased and #3’s hired. Despite an enviable honeymoon in the Maldives, the ‘happy couple’ had separated before Christmas. Slightly bizarre that the outfit I purchased far outlasted the marriage …

#2 son’s wedding was booked for 30th July 2011, but, alas, was called off a few months beforehand – there seems to be some sort of wedding curse going on here! That year for us was four funerals and no weddings … Looking on the bright side, cancellation meant the dreaded stag do would not go ahead – they’d planned a long weekend on a canal barge. The very thought of several inebriated young men, staggering around on deck in close proximity to murky waters, turned my blood cold – not helped by my friend Allison insisting on referring to it as The Boat of Death. The wedding may not have happened, but the couple are still together, as are another couple who actually did get married on that day.

Step forward once again Zara Phillips, who wed rugby player, Mike Tindall. Without any nuptials to attend, the OH and I nipped up to Edinburgh for a few days, not realising the wedding would be taking place down the road in Canongate Kirk – in fact, several people staying at our hotel were going to the bunfight. As I hadn’t packed my embarrassing hat, we decided not to gatecrash.

Speaking of which, hat’s me lot – sorry again! Thanks, Jenny!

Toodles!

NP

***

Thanks again Nell!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

 


End of the Month: Cheerio June with Nell Peters

June seems to be all but over? Anyone notice that happen? Nope? Nor me..I was probably in a dark corner somewhere writing a book…

Everyone ready? Got coffee, tea and cake? Great, let’s hand over to Nell. 

Morning all – I trust this finds you in fine fettle?

If it’s OK with Jenny, we’ll dive straight in shall we?

Two American professional wrestlers were born on this day in 1891. Frank Simmons Leavitt was born in New York City to parents, John McKenney and Henrietta (née Decker) Leavitt. He tried out various wrestling names for size: Soldier Leavitt (when he was on active duty both at the Mexican border and in France), Hell’s Kitchen Bill-Bill and Stone Mountain, before adopting Man Mountain Dean after meeting his wife, Doris Dean. I don’t know about mountainous, but at 5’11” and 310lbs, he wasn’t a small guy… As well as his wrestling career, he worked as a stunt double, appeared as himself in five films and studied journalism at the University of Georgia. He died of a heart attack, aged sixty-one.

Sharing his date of birth was Robert Herman Julius Friedrich, born in Wisconsin. Friedrich began wrestling at the age of fourteen using the ring name Ed Lewis but was subsequently known as the rather more sinister Ed Strangler Lewis after a match in France where he applied a sleeper hold, and the French, who were unfamiliar with the manoeuvre, thought he was strangling his opponent. Call me picky, but that doesn’t sound very sporting. A four-time World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, he semi-retired in 1935 but returned to the ring seven years later, despite being legally blind from trachoma. It was another five years before he fully retired from the professional circuit aged fifty-seven, and he died destitute in New York in 1966. Ah bless.

Two more American wrestlers were born on June 30th – in 1985 Cody Garrett Runnels (now known as Cody Rhodes, or The American Nightmare) checked into Marietta, Georgia. He followed in his father – Virgil Riley Runnels Junior, better known as The American Dream (I see what they did there!) or Dusty Rhodes – and his older half-brother Goldust’s footsteps, into the professional ranks of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE). Cody’s godfather, Terry Wayne Allan is a retired pro wrestler who fought under the name of Magnum TA – so, it seems an aptitude for the sport and coming up with creative ring names are family traits.

Incidentally, Cody is also an ‘occasional’ actor (whatever that means – maybe he appears annually as the Easter Bunny, the Grim Reaper on Halloween, or even Poldark’s shirt?) and this wrestling/acting combination, with a bit of modelling thrown in, has also been embraced by one Victoria Elizabeth Crawford (ring name Alicia Fox), born on this day in 1986 in Florida. She is the longest tenured WWE female performer, having been with the company since 2006.

Step into the ring – the boxing type this time – heavyweight fighter, ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, which he denounced as his slave name) who defeated Joe Bugner in Malaysia on 30th June 1975. Presumably he floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee?

Clay’s name change came about when he converted to Islam, as did Michael Gerard Tyson, who will need fifty-two candles for his cake today. He’s of course better known as Mike Tyson, alias ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’. (By coincidence, I am known en famille as ‘The Baddest Cook on the Planet.’) One of his several dubious claims to fame was when he was disqualified during a World Boxing Association championship rematch in 1997, for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear – now that’s definitely not sporting! He has a bit of a dodgy history in his personal life too, but we won’t go into that here, as it’s a family show. It was during one of his banged-up spells that he converted to Islam – that’s OK then.

Another sportsman who has spent time on the Very Naughty Step is former National Football League running back, OJ (Orenthal James) Simpson, whose pre-trial hearing for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman began this day in 1994. Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last twenty-odd years, you will know that Simpson was found Not Guilty by a criminal trial jury, but was subsequently deemed responsible for both deaths by a unanimous jury deliberating a civil lawsuit, filed by the Brown and Goldman families in 1997. They were awarded compensatory and punitive damages totalling $33.5 million (not far short of $52 million now), but have received only a tiny percentage of that.

OJ did go to jail, however; in 2007, he was convicted of multiple felonies, including use of a deadly weapon to commit kidnapping, burglary and armed robbery. Yikes! He was sentenced to a minimum nine, maximum thirty-three years (how does that work?) in Lovelock Correctional Centre, Nevada and was released on parole on 1st October 2017.

Who keeps up with the Kardashians? The late patriarch Robert K was part of his friend OJ’s defence team during the 90s murder trial. Although he had let his licence to practice law lapse before the case came to court to concentrate on business interests, he reactivated it to sit in as a volunteer assistant on the legal ‘dream team’. I’ve never seen the reality programme (I’m more of a Come Dine with Me fan tbh – love the voiceover) so had to research it (though I drew the line at actually watching!) – there’s a cast of thousands!

There appear to be six offspring – some are Ks and some are Jenners, on account of mum Kris’s two marriages, the first to Robert and the second to Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. All five daughters have names beginning with K like their mum (or mom) and the only son, Rob was obviously named after his dad – lucky escape, as he could have ended up as a Kayne … oh wait, they have one of those by marriage. The show apparently focuses on the personal and professional lives of the Kardashian–Jenner ‘blended’ family, though what any of them actually do I’ve no idea and frankly don’t care. For me, the most surprising thing is that the programme has run for nearly eleven years. Seriously?

Enough of tinsel town. In 1971 Ohio became the 38th US state to approve the lowering of the voting age to eighteen (1970 in the UK), thus ratifying the 26th amendment. (I will refrain from mentioning here that the prefrontal cortex, which amongst other things assesses and judges consequences of decisions made, is nowhere near mature at eighteen, being the last area of the brain to fully develop.)

This was on the same day that the crew of Russian space mission Soyuz 11 were found dead upon their return to Earth – the only people to die in space.  In the early hours, the Soviet Union prepared to welcome its three latest cosmonaut heroes after a record-breaking mission; Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev had spent more than twenty-three days in orbit, and also occupied the world’s first space station.

The parachute of Soyuz 11’s descent module was spotted and helicopters touched down for would-be rescuers to make their way to the spacecraft, still superheated and charred from re-entry. Nikolai Kamanin, commander of the cosmonaut team, and veteran cosmonaut Alexei Yeliseyev, waited more than an hour for news of a successful recovery, only to hear three numbers: 1-1-1, which translated as the entire crew being dead. The subsequent investigation determined that an air vent had been jerked open during the separation of the orbital and descent modules and that all three men had been dead for some time from suffocation. How dreadfully sad.

Happily, safety in space travel has much improved and UK astronaut, Tim Peake became the first Briton to join a European Space Agency mission in December 2015, when he blasted into orbit aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS) and during that time the 44-year-old former helicopter test pilot took part in more than two hundred and fifty experiments. He also ran the London Marathon on a treadmill and engaged more than a million schoolchildren with educational activities – I thought he was brilliant. One of the highlights of Peake’s time in space was a space walk with Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra. While their repair work on the outside of the station was a success, mission controllers cut the walk short after Kopra noticed water leaking into his helmet. Peake will return for another stint on the space station, probably in 2019.

At the beginning of this month, the latest successful ISS mission was completed when a Soyuz capsule carrying Russian Anton Shkaplerov, American Scott Tingle and Japanese Norishige Kanai floated down to Earth after more than five months, landing in Kazakhstan. Footage from within the ISS had shown Shkaplerov practicing with a football, which he was reportedly going to take back to Moscow for the opening game of the World Cup.

Back on terra firma, on the last day of June 1984, Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott (known as Pierre) Trudeau officially stepped down as Liberal (15th) Prime Minister of Canada after serving two separate terms for a total of fifteen years. He was a charismatic personality described as a ‘swinging young bachelor’ when first elected in 1968 – even though he was almost forty-nine – and dated Barbra Streisand. However, he married much younger TV presenter Margaret Sinclair in March 1971 and they had three sons, the oldest being Justin, current PM. He and middle son, Alexandre (aka Sacha) were both born on Christmas Day, in 1971 and 1973 respectively, poor things – as #4 son (born on Christmas Eve) says, you have to wait all year and everything comes at once. The third Trudeau son, Michel was born in October 1975, but was tragically killed aged only twenty-three in a skiing accident. His body was never found.

Nothing to do with June 30th, but Michel Trudeau’s lost-forever body reminded me of Harold Edward Holt, ditto. I came across him a few years ago when I was researching for a book, never having heard of him beforehand. Harold was Liberal (17th) Prime Minister of Australia from January 1966 until his disappearance in December 1967 when he got caught in a rip current, swimming at Cheviot Beach, Victoria.

Although he was a strong swimmer, he had injured his shoulder at the time, but that didn’t stop the conspiracy theorists coming up with such gems as he was abducted by aliens, faked his own death to run off with his mistress, was assassinated by the CIA or (my favourite!) had been whisked away by a Chinese submarine so that he could defect. Holt was big pals with the US President at the time, Democrat Lyndon B Johnson (in contrast to his frosty relationship with UK Labour PM Harold Wilson, whose widow, Mary died earlier this month aged 102!) and supported the American presence in Vietnam, pledging ‘All the way with LBJ’. It wasn’t until 2005 that an inquest ruled Holt’s death as accidental drowning.

Staying Down Under, I’ll just mention here that Olivia Newton John married  businessman, John Easterling on this day in 2008 in Florida – that’s exactly thirty-three years after Cher married singer-songwriter Gregg Allman, having divorced Sonny Bono four days earlier. And the beat goes on…

Toodles!

NP

***

Another epic end of the month blog! Thanks so much Nell.

See you next time for our mutual birthday month!!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Opening Lines: Jane Risdon’s Renza’s Diary (Only One Woman)

I am delighted to welcome the lovely Jane Risdon to my blog, with her ‘Opening Lines’ from Only One Woman.

Written in tandem with Christina Jones, Jane is sharing the first 500 words from her part of the story, Renza’s Diary.

Over to you Jane… 

It is 1968 and Renza is about to go to Germany with her family, joining her father who is working there with the MoD. She’s facing 3 years overseas and isn’t happy. Scott and his band, Narnia’s Children, move next door to her. They are over from the Channel Islands to tour and record their first single. It is love at first sight but it is short-lived. Vowing undying love and secretly becoming engaged, Renza leaves for Germany within weeks, Scott believes the band will be in Germany soon and they can meet up. Renza promises to come back to England as often as she can. Narnia’s Children tour up and down the country and one night they take the stage at St. Barnaby’s Hall where he sets eyes on Stella who has only days to live, she is convinced. Set in the UK music scene of the late 1960’s Only One Woman is sheer nostalgia: the music, fashions, the changing society of the Swinging Sixties, the Cold War, and so much more – a love triangle set in Europe, the Mediterranean, Jersey and England in the grooviest decade of the 20th century by Christina Jones and Jane Risdon.

First 500 words from Renza’s Diary (Only One Woman)

May 24th 1968 – late

What a flipping nightmare of an evening. I really thought I’d never get home in one piece. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Someone up there hates me I’m sure.

If only Selina hadn’t lost her handbag at the Top Rank, I’d have caught the last bus back from Reading and I would’ve been home on time. Instead I’d gone back with the others to look for it – thankfully it had been handed in at the cloakroom and nothing was missing. Luckily I had just enough money for the train, which I’d had to run for. Selina’s dad took the others home in his brand new car as arranged, and there wasn’t room for me as well. I reckon he could’ve taken me but Yvette refused to let me sit on her lap in the front, in case I ripped her Mary Quant stockings. Sometimes I really want to do her a mischief.

They’ve got to do something about our local station, it’s just too creepy for words. Steam from the train almost suffocated me as I crossed the bridge to the exit on the opposite platform; all very ‘Brief Encounter’ I remember thinking, in an effort to stop my mind wandering off into ‘Hitchcock-land.’ Talk about cough myself silly, and my eyes stung something rotten as I tried to find my way in the pitch black; the two over-head lamps didn’t help much, they should do something about those flipping lights, I could’ve broken my neck, or even worse, tripped over in my new pink kitten heels and broken one of them.

I slowly took the steps down to the lane beside the station, glancing around me all the while – I admit it, I was a little freaked out. It’s always deserted, and you can never be too careful. Not long ago a dangerous prisoner escaped from the nearby asylum and hid in the waiting room for days before being recaptured. Hardly anyone uses the station since the cut-backs by that old idiot, Beeching, and the trains are a bit hit and miss since they messed with the timetable, so the convict was able to wait for his twisted ankle to mend without much danger of discovery. For all I knew, another Jack the Ripper could’ve be lurking in there waiting for me to pass, that’d just be my flaming luck.

I was in so much trouble. Forty minutes later than agreed. She’d never believe me about the bag, but no other excuse came to mind as I walked down the lane. I was going to be so dead.

Oh God!

I had such a fright. Something or someone, made a noise behind me, so I stopped and listened, but I really felt like running. Some sort of night creature, silly girl, I decided as I walked on. But there it was again. Was someone behind me?

I turned and peered into the pitch dark – I’m still shaking as I write this…

***

Author Jane Risdon
 
http://wp.me/2dg55
http://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
http://www.accentpress.co.uk/jane-risdon
 

https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon

 
Only One Woman Accent Press
http://amzn.to/2x1UIdr
 
Only One Woman Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/RenzandStella/

 

***

Many thanks Jane.

Don’t forget to come back next week for 500 words from Elizabeth Ducie.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 


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