We were on a college summer camp on Rottnest Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, well only 18 kilometres from Fremantle, Western Australia, but one of the girls had to be airlifted off by helicopter as she had heatstroke. Happy days – when we emigrated to Australia in 1964 nobody worried about skin cancer or staying hydrated. Fortunately my parents were aware the sun was hot. Dad was out in Egypt after WW2 before he was demobbed and told of ’idiots’ being stretchered out with third degree burns after sun bathing. Fortunately my parents avoided the beach after being taken to Scarborough Beach by our sponsors on our first day in Australia. Huge waves and hot sand did not appeal and we went to pleasant shady spots by the River Swan.
Unfortunately school outings were gloriously free of sun hats and sun lotion and I recall an early outing when we spent the whole day on the beach and next day my nose peeled and bled! Outings with youth groups on hot days were often followed by me feeling sick the next day; setting off without any money and probably a picnic with a plastic bottle of cordial, I obviously didn’t drink enough. At school we did have plenty of water fountains, I didn’t spend my whole time dehydrated, but my sister recalls that if you were thirsty when you were out you stayed thirsty. I’m sure other people were buying bottles of coke and cool drinks of lurid colour, but we were not.
Our current heatwave has brought endless dire warnings of the dangers of going out – or staying inside homes not designed to cope with hot weather. Modern parents never let their children out without a bottle of water, but they should not panic – if Prince George could sit in the heat of Wimbledon dressed in a jacket and tie there is no need to pamper children.
The canoe took them the short distance from the anchored boat to the gleaming white shore. Close up, the island lived up to the promise of paradise glimpsed at first light. Tina wanted to race up the beach, but as Ben helped her out of the canoe she stumbled and fell to her knees, feeling sick. She plunged her hands into the hot sand; weeks and weeks at sea and they were no longer land lubbers.
Their new guardian laughed. ‘Your first steps back on British soil and you kiss the ground.’
Ben tried to stand up straight with some dignity.
‘Is this really a British island?’
‘Technically I suppose it is no longer, since your good queen gifted it to us at midnight, but this is your home now.’
‘Home,’ said Tina ‘isn’t someone coming to fetch us soon, you said…’
‘I said we would deliver you safely from your kidnappers, what your government has arranged I do not know, but why would you want to leave this beautiful island, weren’t you seeking a dream holiday when you left home?’
‘Where are we?’
‘You don’t need to know that, a real desert island, but it is our new home as well so youwill not be lonely.’
He pointed out to sea where a strange fleet of boats old and new was heading for the shore. Tina stood up shakily and turned a full circle, taking in blue skies and palm trees; a dream island but her only thought was water, she knew only too well now how precious fresh water was.
‘Have you charted the island, are there streams, springs?’
Ben was looking out to sea. The boats were laden with bundles, supplies hopefully and once they had eaten breakfast they needed to plan, take in everything that had happened, slip away and search for an airstrip and the nearest village. He believed little of what the guardian had told them, this was hardly likely to be a real desert island.
‘What do you mean, more money, we gave them a whole island, what more do they want?’
‘Money to build an infrastructure Madam, the island was abandoned fifty years ago, there’s nothing there.’
‘That’s what they wanted, a peaceful island far from civilisation.’
‘They wanted a holiday industry to replace all they lost when their own island was burnt to the sand.’
‘Must be something there, who lived there before?’
‘A few thousand people, we forcibly evacuated them.’
‘Please don’t tell me it was one of those nuclear tests.’
‘No, no actually might have been chemical warfare development or some kind of scientific experiments, records destroyed, but we managed to track down one old navy chap through his nephew on the internet, nephew’s doing his own research on the island.’
‘So what are you going to tell the families, when are you meeting them?’
‘We’re meeting them in ten minutes.’
‘And in tonight’s headlines family and friends of the couple caught in a holiday nightmare kidnapping staged a protest at Downing Street, pleading
Fly Ben and Tina Home.
A friend of the couple gave a statement saying We have been told they are safe on land, on an island and arrangements are being made, but they won’t even tell us where they are. If we can evacuate thousands from Afghanistan why can’t we send one little plane to fetch two British citizens? Even Richard Branston has offered to fly them back in a private jet as soon as we know where they are.’
A government spokesman said ‘The British government never pays ransoms, but after careful negotiations a British couple, who can’t be named for security reasons, are safely off the boat and out of the hands of the pirates. We cannot reveal their whereabouts while negotiations continue.’
How did Ben and Tina end up in the hands of pirates? Find out here in a previous tale.
I had never heard of the charity Therapups, nor had Google, but one of my late aunt’s dog loving friends sent me the postal address. Aunty had requested no flowers for her funeral, just a donation to her favourite charity. I sent a small cheque and a brief letter with my address included, requesting the next copy of their newsletter, which was apparently going to feature a tribute to my aunt.
A week later I received a hefty envelope, almost a parcel, with a gushing letter thanking me for my generosity. The newsletter was to follow shortly, but in the meantime they were pleased to send me a Therapups key ring with dog whistle attached and one hundred biodegradable poop bags in a designer carry case; all in the distinctive charity colours puce pink and sunflower yellow. I don’t own a dog, but they weren’t to know that. Also included was a colourful booklet explaining the charity’s work; it seems they provided therapy and assistance dogs not covered by other better known charities.
At 9.30a.m. John sat with his pen poised; it was his turn to attend the compulsory one day workshop entitled ‘Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace’. On the whiteboard were written words and phrases and they were required to jot down their initial thoughts about each. EXCLUDED; John had certainly never been excluded, because he had never been or done anything interesting enough to warrant exclusion. SENT TO COVENTRY; well if he had been sent there he probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway. He still hadn’t put pen to paper but he was thinking. The classroom situation brought back memories of sixth form. All through lower sixth he had secretly adored Annabel; on the first day of upper sixth he was thrilled she was in his form again, this year he would try and approach her. Whose form were you in last year? she had asked innocently. Yours he had muttered bleakly, the crushing awareness of his invisibility blighting further conversation.
Teenagers usually imagine two things; everyone else is having a better time than they are and their parents are boring; in John’s case both were true. As a teenager he had vowed never to live in a suburb, have a mortgage or endlessly discuss double glazing and patio doors; but these things had all come to pass.
Still nothing written and now everyone was gathering in their discussion groups. No one noticed John had nothing to offer; they were all eager to relate their own unfair treatment in life and work; smokers, pregnant women, drivers, people passed over for promotion… he was glad when the ten minutes was up.
The next question was How have your origins affected your life? For a moment he was stumped; then it dawned on him what was missing from his life; he had nowhere to go back to. He really envied people who could return to their roots; the Welsh had their valleys, the Scots their islands and highlands and the Irish were always getting on ferries to go back home for holidays. But one could hardly say dramatically ‘I need to get back to Middlesex or Middlesex will always be in my blood’. He had never left Middlesex, but it had left him; swallowed up by Greater London, ironic since Middlesex used to surround London.
He realised the group were talking again; proudly relating how their parents’ struggles had inspired them to succeed or how keeping in touch with their roots had given them strong values. John thought of his dreary family, John Smith, they hadn’t even the imagination to give him a middle name. Granddad had been too young for the Great War and his father just too young for the Second World War; they hadn’t needed to go anywhere so they didn’t, he could hardly blame them, where had he been?
That woman was talking again, what did she call herself? Not teacher, oh yes, just call me Jilly everyone. She was asking them to write down what languages they spoke, easy, one. John was filled with admiration for folk who could slip easily from one tongue to another. He was convinced he would have been a more interesting person if he had grown up bilingual, what another dimension to life. You could be 100% British but fly away, step off the plane and stride confidently into another way of life.
Last question before coffee;
Which aspect of your life or work makes you feel most excluded?
At last John spoke up ‘Well I feel excluded because I haven’t got any diversity.’ They all looked at him blankly, ‘I haven’t even got any issues.’
‘What do you mean by issues?’ asked Call me Jilly.
‘You know, ISSUES, when they say at the end of a programme If you have been affected by any of the issues raised by this programme, please call our helpline, well they should have a helpline for people who can’t find any issues.’ The others laughed, he was getting into his stride. ‘I can’t even find a community to belong to, not the cycling, the deaf or the travelling… and I can’t help the police.’
The discussion was turning into the liveliest of the day.
‘You look like a law abiding chap’ replied one man.
‘Precisely, the police never stop me and when they put out a plea for information from members of the such-and-such community, that is never me’ explained John.
Call me Jilly was getting exasperated now, the workshop was not going the way she intended…
‘I know just what you mean’ piped up a woman’s voice.
John looked over to see an ordinary looking woman he hadn’t noticed before.
‘You go to the art gallery to see a photographic exhibition but it never says on the wall We went to work among members of the Boring Community, giving them cameras to take pictures of their dreary lives and asking them to describe the images in their own dull words. No one ever wants my picture or my opinion.’
She looked around as the others cheered, hardly believing she had spoken up. Everyone was enjoying themselves now, the workshop was much more interesting than expected; with one accord they surged out for their coffee break.
Call me Jilly tried in vain to hold the group back. ‘Everyone, everyone another five minutes till coffee break, we haven’t summed up yet.’ but no one heard her.
This week I finished reading two short story collections and one novel. The first I reviewed was Sally Cronin’s ‘Life’s Rich Tapestry’. Once again Amazon rejected my review and as usual I have posted my 5 star review on Goodreads and also decided I should put all my book reviews on my Facebook Author Page.
from Janet Gogerty on 13 February 2020
A delightful collection of all sorts to dip into.
We start with the seasons, words carefully chosen, some poems succinct …I stopped to smell the roses… precious time well spent. Then all things human such as ‘From Cave to the Stars’ the first cave drawings onwards to beaming our messages out beyond the stars. The other verses follow mankind’s evolution. Fairies and other Folk takes us somewhere else, starting with the poignant tale of the ugly troll with the sweet nature. The Natural World peacocks, magpies and a murder of crows. Pets, Random Thoughts then 99 Words in a Flash. Telling a story in just 99 words is a skill. A Close Match is a good opener to this section. In the short story selection Brian the dog wins the day and Jack, another old dog, finds a happy ending. Then cats get their turn and love of a cat helps Millicent stand up for herself. Who can resist Speculative Fiction which starts with a family secret? The Wrong Turn is a poignant story, but we are glad Gerald gets his comeuppance in the next tale. A couple of strange stories and then we finish with a poetic tribute to the author’s mother-in-law. A great collection of all sorts to dip into.
Sally’s collection made nice light bedtime reading after some of the television programmes I have been watching. In Wednesday’s blog I wrote about television, because I know some bloggers do not watch it at all and gathering from the comments, others watch programmes or films with various screens and technology without actually tuning in to live television. But it is good to watch something your friends are also following… do you like fact or fiction on television?
This week we finished watching a real life six part ITV crime drama, White House Farm, about the murder of parents, daughter and two young twin grandsons in August 1985. Lots of us remember it being in the news because it was such a tragedy. At first the daughter with mental health issues was thought to have committed the murders and then killed herself, but the story revolves around the doubts that led to the arrest and trial of the surviving son, Jeremy Bamber. To this day he is still protesting his innocence. The leading detective was sure he could have the case neatly sewn up, convinced it was the daughter, while the sergeant, passed over for promotion more than once we gather, is convinced she could not have done it. Modern viewers brought up on CSI and Silent Witness will have been cringing as evidence was cleared away, blood soaked mattresses burnt. Most of us would agree that a young woman who had little idea of how to use a gun could not have shot everyone and beaten up her father. Added to the tensions in the CID office was the interplay in the family. The twins’ father was separated from his wife and the boys lived with him and his girlfriend, as his ex wife had recently been in a mental hospital. He had just taken her and the boys to the farm to stay with their grandparents, never imagining it was a death sentence. Jeremy Bamber had a girlfriend who after a month turned and gave evidence against him. His cousin was equally suspicious because of the way he behaved afterwards. The Bamber son and daughter were adopted, adding another thread; did he feel he didn’t belong, was he the cuckoo in the nest as his cousin suggested?
Coincidentally Chanel Four had a four part drama running parallel and with a similar theme. Deadwater Fell was set in a village in lovely Scottish countryside. After a happy village event introducing the characters, everyone is awoken that night to see the local doctor’s house on fire. His village policeman friend manages to rescue him and drag the wife out, too late. In the darkness and smoke he had discovered the three little girls ( as cute and adorable as the twin boys in the other drama ) were padlocked into their bedroom. At the post mortem it is discovered the children had already been killed with a drug injection. What on earth was going on? The village is grief stricken and then further shocked when the doctor comes out of his coma and pieces together what happened and claimed his wife killed his children, tried to kill him and committed suicide! Amongst all this going on are the complex lives of the leading characters, revealed in flashbacks. The policeman’s ex wife is with someone else, but their boys are with him and his girlfriend and they are undergoing IVF. She was the best friend of the dead woman and worked at the same school with her, but had accidentally had sex with the doctor once – an event she described as controlling sex as he had slammed her face against the patio door!
The policeman begins to suspect his doctor friend; their marriage was not all sweetness and because of ‘what happened after Harriet was born’ he was regularly tranquilizing her, against her will. And then there was the poor grandmother, the doctor’s mother, I felt sorry for her; not only had she lost her grandchildren, but began to suspect her son, perhaps had suspected all along…
It was a good story and we know from the news that whatever writers make up can never be as strange and awful as real life.
When I have mentioned or reviewed television programmes on my blog at least two bloggers have commented that they never watch television. I’m sure they are not alone, but probably in the minority. If you are reading this you obviously don’t spend your life glued to the TV screen; you would not have time for blogging and life on line. But most people watch regularly or occasionally. Is television a terrible time waster or a valid part of our culture and family memories?
Radio Times was first issued on 28 September 1923 for the price of 2d, carrying details of BBC wireless programmes. I have not been reading it for that long, but I do buy it every week so I can read proper listings and details of radio and television programmes for my discerning selection!
Those of us in other countries may think the USA was first with television, but the BBC is the world’s oldest and largest broadcaster, its first analogue terrestrial channel, the BBC Television Service, launched in 1936. Not many people had a set or were actually watching it then and World War Two put a damper on things, with wireless being far more important for hearing news, momentous speeches and morale boosting music. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second in 1953 is credited with being the spur for people to rent or buy a television set. In our family a telly did not arrive until I was four, when Mum was expecting my brother and had to rest because of pre-eclampsia; she would have had to wait till 1.45pm to turn it on for Watch With Mother.
Here is a great time waster; you can look at any past copies of Radio Times and even click to see programme details. See what my parents were watching not long before my brother was born. I am glad to say I have not misremembered Saturday evenings in our Twickenham flat.
So Bill and Ben, Rin Tin Tin , The Lone Ranger and Billy Bunter came into our lives. I thought the people on screen lived in the cabinet underneath the television and was terrified of opening the doors. There were plenty of cowboys, but good English programmes as well, from Emergency Ward Ten, an early hospital drama to Panorama…
With the first episode being broadcast on November 11, 1953, Panorama is the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme and the longest-running public affairs TV programme in the world.
Cosy evenings in with the telly, but up until the early 1980s all good things had to come to an end; after the last programme had finished a BBC announcer would wish us all a very good night, remind us to turn our television sets off and then leave the national anthem playing. The live screen was sucked into a tiny white dot which itself disappeared.
Now that you can watch any programme anytime on anything we can look back with nostalgia on the snug days of families gathered in their living rooms to watch the one television set. And it was a shared experience in the moment, that you couldn’t experience with books, apart from the golden days of father reading the latest instalment of Charles Dickens. Before the advent of video recorders everyone at school or work had probably seen the same programme the night before and be eager to discuss it. The Forsyte Saga’s 26 episodes were broadcast on Sunday evenings in1967/68 and churches had to hold evening service earlier to keep their congregation. Eighteen million people watched the final episode, a truly shared experience.
That shared experience does still exist. Plenty of households watch the latest drama serial in real time, or at least catch up in the same week before the next episode. I don’t follow dancing or cooking programmes and certainly not celebrities in jungles, but if we have visitors staying or we are at someone else’s place it is good fun to all watch together; I can annoy everyone by interrupting with ‘Who on earth is that?’ or ‘What IS she wearing’.
But even in the good old days there was a downside to television. In one of my many previous incarnations I did silver service waitressing for the money, but an older lady did it to get out of the house and away from the television her husband was glued to. While wives complained about husbands watching sport there would be husbands complaining about wives viewing endless soaps.
Then homes began to get more than one television set, TVs appeared in young children’s bedrooms, satellite dishes and cables appeared. Theoretically you could watch rubbish on television 24 hours a day, civilisation was under threat…
The advent of home computers brought more change. Husbands retreated to other corners of the house to play with the new toy, leaving their wives in peace to choose what to watch. Later on, wives discovered the internet, social media and blogging and did not even notice if their husbands were glued to the telly. The previous two sentences are of course sweeping generalisations – feel free to correct them…
Buckingham Palace announced today that Britain will be leaving The Commonwealth. The news shocked many of the 53 member states who believed Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and The Commonwealth of Nations would last forever. A spokesman for Charles, Prince of Wales, who in 2018 was appointed The Queen’s designated successor, said holding a referendum on this important change would have been too divisive for the United Kingdom; learning lessons from Brexit the exit will be swift. The spokesman denied that this monumental decision had anything to do with yesterday’s news that The Royal Family will be leaving Britain.
Although commentators initially believed The Queen was influenced by Prince Harry’s recent emigration, the shock news was later revealed that The Royal Family are not actually British. After receiving Ancestor DNA kits for Christmas, members of the family discovered they were 99% related to Europe Royal, a unique and entirely separate genetic group whose origins date back more than a millennium. One possible theory put forward by geneticists is that the kings and queens of Europe could only marry each other.
No statement has been issued about the future of the royal family, but it is believed Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja have issued a warm welcome to any royal wishing to take up residence in Norway. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have not commented on reports that their new Canadian home includes a granny flat.
The Windsors will not be the only family leaving the United Kingdom. The roll out programme that started with all residents not born in Britain has now been extended to all Britons who cannot prove the ownership of four British grandparents. Shocked Leavers vented their worries on social media.
No one told us this would happen, we wanted to leave the European Union, not Britain.
Hang on… even the Prime Minister wasn’t born in Britain…
I wouldn’t have voted for Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson if I had known his 5x great grandfather was King Frederick I of Württemberg!
I’m going to get one of those Ancestor DNA kits and prove I’m British.
I don’t even know who my father is let alone who my grandparents are.
If Leavers were also worried they put on a brave face.
Are you telling me Dianne, that we have lost our most advanced drone?
Not lost, just lost contact.
That is impossible, D1NA has the latest failsafe devices… we’ll have to contact the Ministry of Defence, what was the last location?
North Wales coast, but he… I mean it, could be forty miles away by now.
Hmm… hang back from contacting the MOD; at the altitude we set he should be well below any commercial or military flight paths. Besides, the new intelligent intervention software enables this drone to change its set course to avoid going within 500 meters of any aviation from swans to airbuses.
It could be the new software that’s the problem Prof, he… er it, can think.
Of course it doesn’t think, even the most advanced androids do not think, they merely process the data we give them.
But how does that account for the fact that, along with the ordnance survey of the coastline from Portsmouth to Anglesey, we also received a poem.
Is this your idea of a joke Diane, or are you trying to tell me someone has sabotaged the project, some environmental protester joker?
That’s what I thought at first, I was working on it, didn’t want to blame any of the team till I had evidence. There is no evidence, so I was sure today’s project was safe.
So what the hell went wrong?
D1NA made a bid for freedom; we have to understand how his mind works so we can persuade him to continue his plotting of the coastline till he arrives safely back at Portsmouth.
Dianne, you are the brightest of my interns so you of all people should know it does not have a mind, the only thinking going on is in this room and I have to take full responsibility. I have no choice but to inform the MOD; if they do manage to spot our drone they will have to bring it down before it poses any threat to aviation.
But we can’t let our amazing creation be destroyed, please let’s have one more attempt at establishing contact… oh that’s strange, are you seeing what I’m seeing on the screen Prof?
No, D1NA has started his own blog, ten minutes ago, hang on, he’s not quite that clever, he’s a guest on someone else’s blog Silly Saturday – Anon-E-Mouse…
Dianne, I’m calling the rest of the team in, I think you need a break, call it a day and go home.
There was chaos at Scottish airports today as all flights were grounded after at least half a dozen sightings of a drone deemed to be compromising aircraft safety.
The ground floors of department stores are bright, white and overpower you with a nauseous mix of perfumes. On board the yacht I have a stomach of iron, but I was not looking forward to hunting for my sister’s favourite perfume.
A young man, with more make up than the girl assistants, came skillying up.
‘Good afternoon Madam, may I help?’
For a moment I was so fascinated I could not answer. He looked like a beautiful slender doll, high cheek bones, rosebud lips, hair spiked immaculately and dressed totally in black. His charm was enough to make me, in my jeans and anorak, feel I was as entitled as any other woman to grace these hallowed halls of beauty. He laughed when I confessed my predicament. I had forgotten the name of the perfume.
‘Can’t you phone or text her?’
‘She’s just started a three hour exam and I’ve got to get back to the harbour while the tide’s high.’ I looked at the shelves full of elegant boxes, none of the names jogged my memory.
‘Treat yourself instead; what do you miss most out at sea?’
I was talked into buying an expensive tiny bottle.
In my cabin I cautiously removed the delicate stopper, sniffed and was transported to a walled garden I had visited as a child. A summer scent never recaptured until now. How was such a scent created? How did the young man choose so perfectly?