Time, You Old Gypsy Man,

Will you not stay,

Put up your caravan

Just for one day?

etc Ralph Hodgson

It is more than a month since I posted here. My three email inboxes are bulging and I still haven’t posted flyers for Surviving the Death Railway to friends and relatives on my mailing list… A week today on Thursday 28 July, I will be giving a lecture at The National Archives in Kew titled Writing to a Ghost: Far East POWs (by this time a week today it will be over!). But this is the first of five going into November.

At the two launches for my book many people sweetly offered the same theme, with variations: ‘You must be so proud, now you can relax.’ I am proud of the people in the book and very happy that others have been able to recognise their achievements now and  yes, I’m pleased that I played a part in that. Relax? In my dreams.

In between these events I continue to attend the local Toastmasters Club, where I am learning to overcome my fear of public speaking. This is the warmest safest environment imaginable. Many bright young things, often giving speeches in their second language, as well as several of my own age – a very buzzy, happy, honest, international crowd – and that in spite of the nightmare of Brexit and many other world horrors. This provides a good reminder that the newspapers only tell us the bad stuff, there’s plenty of the other. Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 22.06.36

And, the hedgehog still attends nightly (looking a little anxious about being photographed). I even saw three of them one night. DSCN9629 Of course the garden, a little neglected, will still be there when this caravan limps into a parking space. (These so-green photos were taken before the current heat wave!) DSCN9631 DSCN9606

See you all again soon.

One staff officer jumped right over another staff officer’s head…

On 21 May we had a launch party for Surviving the Death Railway; A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home in the beautiful home where I spent the second half of my childhood. Here it is in the early morning of our wedding day in 1977. Dipford 1977 The party went splendidly and I was moved by the wonderful mixture of people – from relatives of the families in the book, to local people who remembered Barry and Phyllis (the book is about Barry, a Far East POW and Phyllis his wife, who waited out the war with no direct communication for three and a half years) and many of Barry and Phyllis’s (and my) relatives. There were men swapping stories about their father and their uncle and holding back their tears.

We returned across the country to our home. I began to relax, thinking I now had nearly a month to finish the private version of the book (done, and the proof copy arrived this morning to be checked),DSCN9555 and to rescue the garden from the chaos of neglect DSCN9552(ongoing) and rediscover my studyDSCN9515

under the piles books and papers (also done),DSCN9526before the second launch for local friends and other relatives on 18 June. This would then give me time to sort out marketing and publicity stuff before the release of the book on 30 June… I had even started looking in on your lovely, neglected blogs again. However, three days ago a cheerful email arrived telling me that the book had now been released (Pen and Sword publish by month and Amazon always release on the last day of that month – but I didn’t know that). This morning a lovely person from P & S’s digital marketing arm rang for more  information and this evening I managed to update my website. Next Saturday I have 60 plus people coming for sandwiches, sangria and a book. I am juggling garden rescue, food planning and creating, proof-reading (again!!) and I feel as though I am being leapfrogged at every turn.

In between all this I have joined the local branch of Toastmasters to try and overcome my fear of public speaking (I did my ice-breaker last Tuesday to the friendliest bunch of people you could dream up). And I have been arranging talks in museums on Far East POWs.

This is all in the way of saying sorry that I am not visiting your blogs. I will return when the staff officers stop playing leapfrog.

Running out of time, my birthday present to my husband was the promise of a few days in Venice in September – sort of cheating as I get to go too… I can’t wait.

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Pleasaunces, unpleasaunces and a book break

Christopher Lloyd said that all gardens have an unpleasaunce as well as a pleasance – ours has several. In the last couple of months my husband has created order out of chaos and we are unpleasaunce down and several compost bins, new fence and a log shelter up.

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The rest of the garden is half way through June as far as I can tell.

… I am being forced to use the new editor as I cannot upload media in the old one… and it is sending me crackers!! I have no idea why these images are different sizes. Here, I hope, is my art-house image of the garden.DSCN9375

This post is really to say a brief goodbye as I tackle the pre-publication launch parties for the new book. Copies were due last week… they will now arrive three days before the first party. I shall be away from my desk for several days. My sanity is hanging by a thread. I am trailing behind  with all your posts, so will be doing some leapfrogging. Sorry about the ones I will miss.Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 21.26.02

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Walls, balls, squirrels et al.

A while ago I mentioned that I planned to replace my desk seat (an ancient block of polystyrene) with a Swedish ball. I duly bought one… but I go the size wrong. DSCN9306I’d need to have shorter legs, or a very long body to make this workable. So I thought I would use it for its proper purpose – exercise. I checked out some websites and there were some good moves to be done with a flat piece of wall*. So I walked round our house looking for an appropriate piece of wall. We have a plenty of rooms, but – one of our daughters and several of our friends are artists, my husband is an archivist and historian, I have been collecting books from childhood onwards… I could not find a single large enough area of wall for me and the Swedish ball in the whole house. I am still puzzling over this.

A couple of days ago we met the smallest squirrel in the area on his first day out. DSCN9271 - Version 2 DSCN9276 - Version 2 DSCN9278He wasn’t entirely sure who to be friends with, what to eat or where to go.

One of my prettiest acer seedlings, the only purple dissectum, got caught by the frost three weeks ago, DSCN9190 - Version 2and has now definitely bitten the dust. I cannot complain as all the others that I transplanted have survived appalling wind and frost (I have been turning the garden into a ghosttown at night with white fleeces every where). The mature maples are now in lovely spring leaf.

Acer palmatum Sengo Kaku

Acer palmatum Sengo Kaku

Acer palmatum Trompenburg

Acer palmatum Trompenburg

Some spring flowers are already going over, but I still love tulips when they grow blowsy,DSCN9308and the Kraken is awaking (see Monster Hosta post).

Hosta Sum and Substance

Hosta Sum and Substance

We have a friend staying and yesterday went to visit Audley End in Essex. I am suffering from greenhouse envy. DSCN9296

*Memo to self try to avoid text with the words ball, wall, movement etc, it is very difficult to keep it clean.

Crazy packaging, sheds and log stores

The other day a substantial box came through the post. It even had two plastic ties (not shown) to hold the contents safe. DSCN9217I opened it and the inside of the thick cardboard was attractively coloured and patterned.DSCN9218The contents were wrapped in white tissue held together with a pretty sticker. When I opened this there were two small packets and some air-filled polythene cushions. When I had discarded all the packing, this is what had arrived: DSCN9222Two pairs of pants and a bra. These are modest purchases of very basic underwear and would have fitted in a small jiffy bag. What was all that about? These people sell only lingerie, are they trying to woo me into buying their top of the range camisole? Do they think because I am small I am a teenager, and they need to make me a friend for life? Frankly baffled.

I seem to remember promising photos of the shed – it looks awfully like the old one. DSCN9122 We robbed parts of the old shed to make a log store. It took our combined ingenuity (and vast education) several hours (plus a trip to the hardware store) to construct this simple affair.DSCN9204

Rainbow at mid-afternoon.DSCN9144

Full moon at dusk.DSCN9236

Proofs to the left of me, proofs to the right of me…

Free advice to writers – don’t try and work on two versions of the same book at the same time.

A couple of days ago I laid out the proofs of the private family version of Surviving the Death Railway on the dining room table in order to proof read it (again) and create the index. An hour later the final proofs for the published version arrived in my inbox. I cannot resist work, so I will check these again too.DSCN9154 I have to occupy the dining room as there is no space left in my writing room and the state of it is making me feel ill.DSCN9152And yes, my chair is an old block of polystyrene. It is a hangover from my sculpture days. It’s good for posture and it keeps the nether regions warm… but it has seen better days. I’m thinking of converting to a Swedish exercise ball.

The day before the proofs arrived, the marketing team for Pen & Sword got in touch and I have a five-page form to fill in. This is great because I will not be doing the promotion and marketing solo, a job I dread (and am very bad at). However, it is also a headache as I don’t know the answer to many of the questions (local radio? clubs and societies?), or they are tricky for a jack of all trades (short summary of career and education).

In between showers I rush into the garden, collect slugs, dig for half an hour and catch the spring. DSCN9161 DSCN9165 I barely get to emails at the moment and many of your lovely posts are unvisited, I will post this and go on a whistle-stop tour, but then I must get back to the indexing and the marketing forms. I am extremely lucky to have a publisher, but I am a little sad that there are so few hours in the day and that I am neglecting friends.

I have become multi-tasking superwoman – while writing this post I have printed off (one by one) another ten invitation cards to the second of the two launch parties for the book. Anyone near Cambridge let me know, I’ll send one, and you could come and enjoy sandwiches and sangria on the 18th of June (or near Taunton on 21st May for tea and cakes).

I have read the finals proofs… thank god I did, I found some errors I had missed and some gremlins that had crept in via the text editors.

Re tulips… the deep red flowers are Anemone de Caen masquerading as tulips!

New fence, old shed, new maples and ivy everywhere

That’s just the play time.

New fence,DSCN8949 DSCN9020

Old shed. It has done 27 years and the roof and floor are slowly being chewed up. DSCN9015 DSCN9064The new one has arrived and will be assembled on Friday. Meanwhile, I have become very thin in order to dig out a sludge of earth, stones and roots from the narrow passage at the back of the shed.DSCN9070Some of my beloved maples are coming into leaf and all my transplanted seedlings seem to be thriving. This is Sango Kaku.DSCN9079 - Version 2 DSCN9086 DSCN9082 - Version 2 DSCN9077 The one below may not look much yet, but I’ll post another photo in a couple of weeks time. DSCN9078 - Version 2

And then there’s the ivy. We have taken three loads to the dump and filled four of the big green bins, and there’s still plenty left. DSCN8976In between these activities, I’ve been trying to finish setting the text of the private family version of Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home, and organising the launch party for the published version.

Oh, and feeding the hedgehog. DSCN9088That’s spring for you. DSCN9056