We dedicated Dandelions Growing Up in Cumbria to the memory of our grandparents William and Emma Martin who brightened their own little corner and taught the eleven of their twelve children who made it to adulthood to do likewise.
How did Grandma do it on a coalminer's wage in poor circumstances in those days? We (well, the women) still marvel. My aunt said to me once: 'We wuz poor but we wuz 'appy.'
Maybe it is St Bega's legacy (see yesterday's blog) expressed lyrically in these lines the Cumbrian poet Wordsworth composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey in 1798 (three of many we had to plough through for O level Eng Lit):
'...that best portion of a good man's life,
his little, nameless, unremembered acts
of kindness and of love.'
The newspaper cutting is from The Whitehaven News of March 15 1945 on the occasion of their Golden Wedding at the Kells Miners' Welfare Centre, Whitehaven
Act of Charity
Through small stained glass windows
set in thick walls washed pure white,
on St Bega with bread for the hungry
and, through the east window,
on the crucified figure
whose message is love.
The air is heavy
with the aroma of crops
brought by burly farmers
who pack the small church
to standing room only.
Bass voices compete with the organ
played at full blast.
Lines from the poem 'Harvest'
in Dandelions Growing Up in Cumbria
The photograph by Philip Wright, my cousin two generations below me (I rally am getting old!), is of the Heaton, Butler and Bayne stained glass south window, Haile Church, near Egremont, Cumbria where we were married. In the 8th or 9th century the legendary St Bega fled from Ireland to avoid an arranged marriage to a Norwegian prince. She landed at St Bees Head near Whitehaven and dedicated her life thereafter to the practical service of Christ.
They're the inspiration for all my books because, although I was born in Lancaster, I grew up mainly in Cumbria: in Whitehaven, Dad's home town, and during the war, age 3 - 7, I spent all my school holidays with Mum's aunt in Windermere. You can read more about her in two of the poems in Dandelions Growing Up in Cumbria. Below is one of the two images of poor dandelions brightening life's darkness, which give the book its title. The other image is the oil painting for the cover (see books).
Poor dandelion: condemned by gardeners
as riff-raff running riot over precious lawns,
and wilting shortly after being picked.
An old Windermere woman
heedless of Lakeland’s Recommended Views
saw with the eyes of the child she used to be.
Wounded by the transience of life,
she would pick a bunch of dandelions
to put beauty in a vase.
Remembering Mary Johnston, 1887 – 1974
While we wait for publication of the Kindle edition which should be by the end of next week, here are details of two book signings at the launch and close of the Poppy Appeal fortnight 2018, the centenary of the Armistice ending World War I. Both events, team efforts as you will see below, generated useful funds and publicity for the Royal British Legion's work.
Macclesfield Visitor and Information Centre 27 October 2018
It was an honour to have the Mayor of Macclesfield, Councillor Adam Schofield, open the book launch on behalf of the Legion, one of his chosen charities for 2018.
I was equally grateful to Karen Connon and her colleagues at the Visitor Centre for help and support with setting it all up. Very hard work!
I used an old sheet and a tatty bin liner for the backdrop of a stark Western Front scene with a poppy rising above the blackness to emulate - although it could never match it in any way - the incomparable trench art of the soldiers who were there.
Bollington Library Writing Group leader, Nik Perring on my right, wrote the Introduction and came to my rescue with a few more words about the book - public speaking is not one of my attributes. On my left, is the then President of the Macclesfield branch of the Legion, Len Johnson, who wrote the Foreword. A World War II veteran in his nineties now but still going strong, he is the embodiment of the Legion's motto:
Service Not Self.
Next on my left is Adam Schofield, our Mayor (see above). A big thank you to him for greeting me with 'Hi!' so I knew I could abandon with a sigh of relief the complex protocol I'd mugged up of how to welcome and address a Mayor.
And finally, another big thank you to fellow writing group members for their support, especially Barbara Challenger for the photographs and going out to get me a cheese and celery sandwich.
Bollington Library 9 November 2018 two days before Remembrance Sunday
This second event attracted people who couldn't make it to the first event or hadn't heard about until later, and the library's usual customers.
Many thanks to the staff of our small branch library for their friendly, professional help with the book research, taking this photo beforehand, and help with running this website until I'd got the hang of it after my daughter had set it up before moving down south.
I'll post details of the Kindle edition as soon as it is published.
As a bit of relief from 'It's-easy-when-you-know-how' website building, I turned to one of my four-footed and feathered friends (our neighbour's cat, Arthur):
Deft paws and an oversized brain
make our ‘owners’ so easy to train
although there is no doubt
when we wish to go out
they’re too dozy to switch off the rain.
Many cat ‘owners’ who don’t have a cat flap have had the experience, provoked by Cat’s attention seeking scratching of the sofa upholstery, of hurrying to let Cat out every few minutes, only to have Cat observe that it’s still raining, glare at their ‘owner’for not switching the rain off then return to their seat by the fire.
10 March 2019 I have at last got to grips with updating my website in time to launch the Kindle version of In Our Fathers' Footsteps, my latest book (see under books for more details) which is still raising funds for the Royal British Legion. More details when it goes live.
16 March 2019 Kindle version of In Our Fathers' Footsteps on its final edit.
It's almost two years since I published In Our Fathers' Footsteps (see under BOOKS). My latest book, One Dog and His Cop, about my cousin's police dog,was published 30 November this year (see under BOOKS).