My Sister Far Away

This week I’m launching my new book The Magic of Stories. There are fifty different stories all divided into sections depending on the genre. So there should be one you will like.

It wasn’t until I was putting the book together I realised all the poetry I’d included were simply stories in rhyme.

In 1988, one of my sisters enlisted on an experimental cultural exchange programme sponsored by the American Institute for Foreign Study. She left her hometown in Bury, Lancashire, on a the two-year programme to Massachusetts.

She eventually settled with a family of eight, and having been brought up with foster children, Joanne was well qualified. Our parents fostered for almost fifty years, so being around children was second nature to her. Joanne found she loved it so much that when the two years were over, she stayed on.

It was difficult for us, her family, because we didn’t see her again for six years. This was the end of the eighties, beginning of the nineties, so there was no Facebook, and very little internet. The only way to be in contact was by letter or telephone calls. The latter was expensive because it was all land lines back then, too.

I was the mother of two little children and she had her hands full nannying so letters were infrequent but we did write over a course of time. It was scary because I felt I’d lost touch with her, usually a phone call helped but I missed her like mad.

The family she was with helped her get a green card which meant that although she could always leave the country, she couldn’t return until she had it. When the card was issued, it meant she was an American citizen. It took some time to adjust to the thought that she was not going to be part of our lives any more.

During those years, I began to suspect she may be gay and wrote to ask the question. It seemed a long wait for a response. I was worried in case I’d got it wrong. Eventually, she rang and was pleased it was out in the open. It was a shock and one better done face to face but that was out of the question. It was never an issue but the miles between us made it one because there was always questions I couldn’t get answers too. These all resolved themselves over time. Now we don’t even think about it.

These days, communication is instantaneous and younger people take it for granted. I suspect some don’t realise it was not always like that. These days, Joanne and I share photos, text messages, and video calls. The distance between us is no more, I can ‘speak’ to her any time I wish. I don’t feel the distance and for all families apart, it has to be a good thing.

Her visits to the UK are frequent, and we’ve been over there, too. I’m glad people don’t have that strain of being apart any more. Important issues are easily discussed, and many of them are not an issue anyway simply because of instantaneous communication.

In The Magic of Stories book, I’ve written a poem especially dedicated to Joanne to show how I missed her, and still do. I don’t know when I’ll see her again but know I can video call her at any time.

I found the original article that appeared in the local paper and have included it in the book along with the poem.

I’d love to hear your stories of being parted from love ones, especially in a time when communication was an issue.

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Joanne and I in 2018 and us in 1982

 

 

I don’t like creepy things, do you?

Horror and paranormal is not something I read or watch. I get spooked easily and have a very active imagination. As I teenager I would be plagued by nightmares for weeks. As I grew up I knew to stay away from anything like that.

These two subjects are very big in the book world and there are plenty of people who love a good horror film. Personally I can’t understand why a perfectly sensible and normal person enjoys being scared or frightened. If that’s you, perhaps you could explain what drives you, I’d really like to know.

I wrote a story called Embers of Webster Street and it was about a girl dealing with her mum who suffered from dementia. It’s a difficult subject seeing someone you love forgetting things, and ultimate not always recognising you.

My Nana showed signed of it for years before it was recognised. We thought she was just a bit batty. She was a joker, liked to have a laugh, and I remember what day she was trying to get out of the car, stumbling or struggling a little and we laughed. She asked her if we were laughing at her, we stopped when we realised it was a serious question. Normally, she would have laughed too, and it was at that point I knew something had changed.

My auntie, her daughter, took her in when she could no longer care for herself. Eventually she was admitted to hospital and my sister and I went to visit. By this time she was no longer our Nana, just a shell of a person who couldn’t even speak. It was the strangest thing because she looked like Nana, she had the same eyes, nose and mouth that we knew so well. She was a funny lady, always talking, always joking and yet the woman in front of us stared with blank eyes. It was heart-breaking.

So when I wrote Embers of Webster Street, this was my main topic, only my pen took on a life of its own. It was supposed to tell the story of Jen, who feels tremendous guilt over having to put her mum in a home.  But my pen introduced the ghosts of all the people who had lived in the family home. How her twin sister didn’t see them and  and how her mum couldn’t accept it.

It turned out to be my first paranormal story.

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Memories of my dog, Ricky

Everybody remembers their first dog. Mine was Ricky, he was a terrier of some sorts and he was very intelligent.

This is Ricky, I don’t have many photos but here he is with my dad and my baby sister. He was about two when this was taken.

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As I said, Ricky was such an intelligent dog. I remember him coming to tell us once that our other dog, Sally, had just been run over. Luckily she was fine, but he barked and barked until we followed him and he led us to a group of people.

I’ve shared a story in The Magic of Stories book telling of the day he came to school with me. He just decided to do it. It would have been in the late sixties and no way would a dog been allowed in schools today. He played in the playground with all the children and in the afternoon, the teacher let him come into the classroom.  I hope you enjoy the story, and I promise you it is all true.

Please tell me about your dogs.

Do you keep a diary?

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 10.25.41I’ve always kept a diary and in my early teenage years I just wrote a few lines on days I did something.

When I had my first boyfriend the diaries became more detailed on the days we did something exciting. I also managed to graffiti all over it with hearts and our names, basically declaring my undying love!

One of my most interesting diaries became a journal in my late teens and here I chronicled my activities with my friends. This was most interesting as I can read back to the day of night clubs, and dates. I also wrote about my insecurities and longing to find a proper boyfriend. I even listed all my friends who were in relationships and wondered why I couldn’t sustain one. All the dates I had been on they was always something lacking. I wondered what was wrong with me.

These days everything is out on Social Media but back then we kept everything to ourselves, and little did I know that my feelings were normal. Other people were went through the same type of things and it would have helped me knowing that.

These three years of journelling finished in 1977, just as I met someone I really liked. It would have been fascinating to read what what I thought of him, except I was too busy having a good time to write anymore. It turned out he was the one, and we married in 1980.

We were together for four years before the first of my two children were born. They kept me too busy to write. What I did do was write about certain moments, like a weekend away, or a visit to my family. These make wonderful reading for me as most of them were sprinkled with humour. It also took me back to those early years and my parents.

As the children got older, I continued to write like this and stories about their early childhood that would have been long forgotten if I hadn’t written them down.

These days I keep a five year diary. I write in it every day – well that’s not strictly true, I write something for every day, usually a week later then have to remember what I did. This is my fourth five-year-diary.

A few years ago I picked up one from when my children were teenagers. They weren’t bad in comparison to some stories I’d heard but it talked of the rows, the staying out late, and all the other teenage stuff. It took me back to the rows I had with my mum when I was that age.

From that I wrote a short piece of fiction called Blowing Hot and Cold. I wrote it from the mother’s point of view. It highlights that she has own problems and coping mechanisms, then throw into the mix a volitate teenage daughter, and life becomes difficult.

It’s only a very short story and this is the opening paragraph.

An upstairs door slammed. I hunched my shoulders. It was another row with my teenage daughter. The argument was over nothing; it wasn’t even a proper disagreement. She just blew up and snapped.

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 10.25.41Do you remember your days as a teenager when you thought the world was against you?

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Do you believe in love at first sight?

I was reading a book not long ago set in sixties America. A young girl, aged about sixteen travelled on a bus across several states with her mother and younger sister. On the bus she meets a young military man and has to sit next to him. They strike up a friendship and over the following 48 hours they fall deeply in love.

I stopped reading then, no way does that happen. People don’t fall in love on a bus. They don’t declare undying love to each other. It was just so unrealistic. Although I had read this author before, and she is a great story teller I just couldn’t buy into this one. I wrote up a part review voicing my concerns and was surprised at the reaction I received. Love at first sight does happen I was told, and I should open my mind, it honestly it surprised me. I didn’t expect that reaction.

When I came to put this book together, I found a very short story that suggested I must once have believed in the concept. The story was called First Sight and the fact that it can happen at any time to any one. No one knows what makes that sudden click when two eyes meet, what is it that draws them together, that makes each of them stand out from the crowd. So I explored that concept by creating an unlikely situation between two people who started the day as normal and not realising what was about to happen to.

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Joe got there in time to preserve the crime scene. “Get these people outta here!” He barked. This was bad, and he was thankful they couldn’t see what he’d seen. It didn’t help when it rained.’

To read the full story follow thelink to your local store.

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Finding Humour

I think humour is very important in stories, at least they are in mine, because life is full of humour. We, as humans can find humour in all sorts of things, even the macbre. I recall the days before Social Media when something bad happened, you suddenly found bad jokes being sent to your mobile phone.

It was an underworld of communication, and you always knew something would do the rounds when something bad happened. The jokes would be in poor taste and forwarded many times. If you didn’t like it, you deleted it and said nothing. Not like today, when we have to be careful what we put on Social Media or else people would come down on you like a ton of bricks, rightly so, in many cases. You couldn’t get away with anything now, where as in a text message it was just for you regardless of where it originated from and easily deleted.

Life is humerous, and I was unfortunate enough to come from a family that had clumsy in it’s genes. Because we were all that way inclinded, you needed a good sense of humour to survive it. Being a writer, I collected many of these instances as they happened and they still make me chuckle as I add them to my stories.

Some years ago I wrote a story with the long weird title of Walking in the Moonlight with Brad Pitt. It was the story of Amy who goes to a party and sees the handsome Liam. She remembers him from a disasterous date she had several years earlier.

I had a friend many years ago who dated a girl who was taller than he was. He told me how on dates, he would get her to walk in the gutter so they could be at least on the same level. That really amused me, so I used it for Liam and Amy’s date. Then there was my sister who once worked in an office that had a spiral stair case leading down to the reception. She was on her way to meet a client wanting to make a good impression. As she got midway, she slipped and fell on her bum hitting every step and landing at the clients feet. Her skirt was above her suspenders exposing her thighs, it was the eighties, I might add! So I wrote this in to the story as well. It’s how Amy makes an impression on Liam – minus the suspenders!


 

‘Amy groaned and left the bathroom. The date had ended because she choked on  a nut and couldn’t stop coughing.

 As she tried to come down the stairs elegantly, she saw Liam watching her and knew he had finally placed her. Her eyes caught the blond head of Jack, who was now giving the kiss of life to the party prostitute. 

 Turning back, Liam’s eyes were still on her as she missed her footing and squealed like a cat with its tail stuck in a door. Her slippery hand grabbed the handrail as her bottom hit each step in turn. Liam was there in an instant as she rose to her feet looking as red as the wine.

 “Are you all right?” he asked with concern.

 Standing, she gave him a dazzling smile through clenched teeth, “Is that my drink, lovely!”’


Please share with me your embarrassing moments, because we have all had them!

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Playground Games

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 10.19.55When I was in primary school, which would have been in the sixties, we used to play proper games in playground. Playtime was in the morning, lunch time, and one in the afternoon.

I still remember many of the games. One of my favouties was called French Skipping, I never knew what was French about it! We’d spend hours threading rubber bands together until is was big enough to have one girl each end, and one to skip. (Occasionally a boy would play but it was mainly us girls.)

Another game was What Time is it Mister Wolf. One person would face the wall and start calling out the time, one o’clock, two o’clock etc., and at any given moment the wolf could spin round to face the advancing children. They would have to creep up towards the wolf while he wasn’t looking. If he turned and saw you moving then you were out. Whoever got to the wolf first without being caught, became the next Mr Wolf.

Everybody skipped, there was nothing more fun than a big long rope and lots of girls, and sometimes boys skipping in the middle, too.

We never seemed to be short of games to play, and they were such great fun. In my new book, The Magic of Stories, I talk about them in detail and the accomping songs.

Who remembers I had a little bubble car number ninety eight? Or A sailor went to sea, sea, sea, to see what he could see, see see, and even the clapping song – Under the bambush, under the tree, whoah, whoah, whoah? What is a bambush? I never thought about that before, they were all just words that we knew off by heart.

What games did you play and what was your favourite, see if you can answer using a gif.

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