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.

44 thoughts on “Time, You Old Gypsy Man,

  1. So interesting that you are attending Toastmasters’, Hilary. I have always only heard really good things about them. Before you know it, standing up and speaking before a crowd will be a piece of cake!

  2. The hedgehog looks rather cute. Perhaps he too could do with a Toastmasters’ course. With having three of them already in your garden, I am sure they would all benefit.
    Your garden looks great. Love that Rose with the Lobelia gracing it at ground level. Congratulations and all the best with your publication of Surviving The Death Railway.

  3. Silly, it is … I can talk to hundreds without a moment’s anxiety – but have no cause to do so. But you, my clever, industrious and caring small friend, so admired (as is Cynthia there), must work to be able to while having marvellous things to say …

  4. My copy of your book arrived from Amazon last week for my Grandad, can’t wait to see him to give it to him.
    Its good to feel so alive though isn’t it, with that level of excitement 🙂

    • Glad the book has arrived and I hope your Grandad finds it satisfying. You are so right, I must major on the excitement and let the adrenaline flow instead of the cortisol (anxiety hormone) – very helpful.

  5. Good to hear from you virtually, Hilary. Toastmasters sounds like a great thing, and I’m also so happy to hear about your marketing successes so far. I didn’t know there is a national archives in Kew. Seems like an excellent place to hold a book talk. As for us, we now have a visiting skunk. I caught sight of him/her the other night when our ducks were oddly reluctant to go into their coop; I almost walked right up on him/her, actually! Fortunately, I did not get sprayed. It’s either a small skunk or a juvenile, I think. More like small cat sized. Anyway, your “hedgehog” is adorable! Wishing you many continued successes; take care!

    • Wow – a skunk! Nothing as exciting as that in an English country garden. Though I heard some strange noises last and there are almost certainly foxes, but it’s mostly grey squirrels and a lot of slugs.

  6. It seems never ending, Hilary but I’m glad the hedgehogs and the garden are giving you some respite. Totally admire you for participating in Toastmasters and it sounds like it has its own kind of respite from the Brexit nightmare.

    • You are so right. Of course many of the people at Toastmasters are anxious about what Brexit may mean for them, but they have all managed so many complex things in their lives, that they major on positive attitude. It’s very uplifting.

      • I have finished the book Hilary and confess that tears welled up in my eyes as I finished it. It must have been a difficult book to write but it is an extraordinary document in so many ways. It is intense and intimate. It is sad and uplifting. I am sure your parents would have approved of it. I hope we shall never see such times again. It struck me strongly how driven your parents were never to waste a second of life. The only question that remains is to ask: what next from your pen?

      • Andrew, I am so impressed that you have read it already. I was afraid the many voices in the text would make for slow reading, so I am cheered you were able to read so swiftly. I think you are right about my parents being driven. It all seemed so normal to us growing up – because of course we knew no other – but later in life I became very aware of how my father filled every minute of the day.
        What next? Well I started a novel three years ago and would love to get back to it, but the railway book comes with responsibilities that look likely to occupy me for sometime to come.

        May I use some of the phrases from your comment on my website (hilarycustancegreen.com)? I have no idea if anyone visits this and I am not good at refreshing it, but it has all my static information on it. I would just attribute them to Andrew, if that’s OK.

  7. I don’t know how you do it – though maybe this time you have avoided the baking which featured in your previous launch. I think you may need a break.

  8. I think tomorrow’s your big day? Everyone gets tense public speaking _ I hate it and try to avoid it but everyone says ” But you’re so good at it.” Really? I guess that’s the goal to “look like that” and I’m sure you do. Use that adrenaline to be excited and exciting. If all else fails there’s inderol (propranolol). I use it occasionally as I play recorders in a group and they are all better than me – it makes me not worry about it. Best of luck!

    • Thanks so much. The talk was actually last Thursday and it went fine… so I’m told. The advice will still come in handy as there are another four full-length ones to do, all a bit different from the one I’ve done. I also did a seven-minute précis of it last night at the Toastmasters. I survived, but had bad palpitations. If I do it often enough I’ll get there. I daren’t try beta blockers, I was given some a few years ago for an irregular heartbeat and over-reacted. I really appreciate the support from you and other internet friends, it makes a difference.

  9. Just checking in, Hilary. Hope things are going swimmingly (and that you are having fun!) I pre-ordered your book today….they (Amazon) tell me it will be released here on September 14. I’m looking forward to it. Am pulling back just a bit, from reading blogs during August.

    • Thank you so much Cynthia, I hope when it arrives you find it satisfying. I think you are very wise to pull back a bit on the blogging. I hope this is just good sense and that you are well. I feel a bit a failure on the blog front this summer. I am having fun along the way, but my desk is a scene of chaos (which I hate) as there are so many half-done things and the garden is shouting for attention from every corner. Opera last night, more next week, so I am playing too. Have a peaceful summer.

  10. Of course you may use any of my comment Hilary. Sorry I am late responding. Hectic week. Just taken the dog to the kennels. Must pack before we fly tomorrow! In haste.

  11. I just met a man who is a successful narrator hired by publishing companies for their books (Audibles). Guess where he started learning how to be a good narrator? Yup, Toastmasters. So wise of you to attend and learn.

  12. I’d love to read if there’s a transcript (or listen to video or audio file) of your talk, Hillary. I try to glean knowledge wherever I can, plus it’s a fascinating story you’re (sure to have been and continue to be) telling. My father was never a [Vietnam, in his case] POW, thank goodness, but, then, he won’t talk much about his wartime experiences either, just bits and pieces if you listen really closely (which I tried to). I can’t help but feel in my bones–not in any empirical or scientific way, of course–that he would have been a much different man, had I known him prior to his service (which was a few years before I was born).

    • I’m sure you are right, taking part in organised violence – war – affects people permanently. In spite of current world events, my generation and yours are very lucky compared the previous two. Thanks for your interest, there will be a podcast of The National Archives talk I gave, but it is not publicly available yet.

      • Nice. I will be eager to hear or read it, Hillary.
        Also, I was thinking the exact thing the other day as I ruminated in the garden (a good place for such things); in particular, everyone after baby boomers, even with the (first) Iraq War/Persian Gulf conflict and the later war in Afghanistan and Iraq . . . that is to say, my generation and later ones have been pretty lucky: unlike with Vietnam, we don’t have the bloody imagery on telly every night and hundreds or thousands of casualties everyday and, unlike the World War II (and I) generations, I’ve never had this sense of my home/homeland being threatened, like people over here did with Pearl Harbor (so I’ve talked to the ones remaining on this) and, obviously, with all the bloodshed across Britain (and in her waters) by the Nazis in WWII. Nonetheless, I’m glad you’re able to impart your mom and dad’s story, lest anyone forget their humanity and how it can get chipped away by war.

      • Thank you. There is a lot of violence in many countries today, but it is not on the scale of the two world wars and the fallout in the Far East in the ’50s and ’60s. In writing about it there is difficult balance to be achieved between remembering the courage of our forebears and remembering the damage and pointlessness of war.

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