Remembrance Day, The Menin Gate and Great, Great Uncle William

remembrance-1057685_960_720

When I was a very small child and people asked me when my birthday was, I’d tell them—11th November. “Ah Remembrance Day”, they’d reply, nodding their heads gravely. Understandably, their sobriety confused me. Remembrance Day or not, it was my birthday… and birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions aren’t they? As I got older though, understood better, I realised what an important day it is. Marked on the date of the World War I Armistice (1918), Remembrance Day is a day when—regardless of politics, religion, and race—everyone in the UK and Commonwealth remembers those who have lost their lives in war and military conflict while serving in the armed forces.

remembrance-day-2910439_960_720

2018 is particularly poignant because it marks the 100-year anniversary of Armistice. It is also the year that my lovely cousin Dean, who lives in Kent, got in touch with some very interesting information. He’d been doing family research (on my mother’s side) and discovered we had a Great, Great Uncle, Corporal William Alfred Tuckley, who is commemorated on the Menin Gate. The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium dedicated to soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown. The memorial is at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. Since the inauguration ceremony, which took place in July 1928, a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate every night at 8.00pm regardless of turnout or weather. The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ieper (Ypres) and local people are said to be very proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of their town.

William Tuckley 2

Built in the form of a Roman triumphal arch, the vast, white, Portland-stone walls of the Menin Gate are engraved with the names of some 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lost on the battlefield with no known graves, my Great, Great Uncle William among them. His recorded date of death was 17th October 1915—he was just 21 years old. A very sobering thought when I think of my son who recently had his 20th birthday, and my daughter who is 22. So, this year during the two-minute silence, while my thoughts, as usual, will go out to all those who have served and lost their lives, I will also take a moment to spare a special thought for my Great, Great Uncle William.  

sunset-815270_960_720 

Advertisements

The Legend of Black Shuck

halloween-3751095__340

Modern day celebrations of Halloween generally involve groups of children dressed in scary costumes roaming from house to house, demanding a “trick-or-treat”. However, traditionally, Halloween is also a time for telling ghost stories. Therefore, with a mind to keep things local (to me) I thought we’d take a look at “Black Shuck”, the name given to a ghostly black dog – supposedly the inspiration behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles novel – said to roam the coastline and countryside of East Anglia.

51MaVywE7gL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_

Research suggests the name Shuck may come from the old Anglo-Saxon word “scaucca” or “scucca” which means a “demon”, or it may be based on the local dialect word “shucky” meaning “shaggy” or “hairy”. A creature of legend, alleged sightings of Black Shuck vary in both shape and size but usually include a large dog with large red or yellow eyes, or sometimes one huge eye in the middle of the ghostly black dog’s forehead. All sightings describe thick, shaggy black fur, a snarling mouth, and, most importantly, Shuck is supposedly the harbinger of death, an omen of doom, and to see him is to befall a terrible fate before the week is out.

In his “Highways & Byways in East Anglia”, published in 1901, W. A. Dutt says…

“He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer’s blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound. You may know him at once, should you see him, by his fiery eye; he has but one, and that, like the Cyclops, is in the middle of his head. But such an encounter might bring you the worst of luck: it is even said that to meet him is to be warned that your death will occur before the end of the year. So you will do well to shut your eyes if you hear him howling; shut them even if you are uncertain whether it is the dog fiend or the voice of the wind you hear. Should you never set eyes on our Norfolk Snarleyow you may perhaps doubt his existence, and, like other learned folks, tell us that his story is nothing but the old Scandinavian myth of the black hound of Odin, brought to us by the Vikings who long ago settled down on the Norfolk coast.”

werewolf-3546899__340

An article posted in the Peterborough Advertiser in 1936 states that local people used to shun the A605 road between Whittlesey and Coates during the hours of darkness because of the ‘Shuck Dog’ said to haunt the highway at night. The creature is large, black, has “great yellow eyes”, and “brings sure death to anyone he meets.” However, other stories describe the Shuck as assisting lone women, wandering or lost in the night, to safety.

Perhaps, late at night, if you listen hard enough, you’ll hear Black Shuck howling …?

wolf-963081_960_720

 

 

The Go-Between and The George!

The Past is a foreign country;they do things differently there_ – L P Hartley

I live in a small Fenland town called Whittlesey which is six miles to the west of Peterborough, eleven miles to the east of March, bordered to the north by the River Nene and to the south by Whittlesey Dyke. For such a small town it is rich in history and was once connected to Peterborough and March by the Roman road, Fen Causeway, constructed in the first century AD, which is the approximate route of the modern A605 road used today. Whittlesey also appears in the Cartularium Saxonicum (973 A.D.) as Witlesig, in the Domesday Book as Witesie, and in the Inquisitio Eliensis (1086 A.D.) as Wittleseia.

whittlesey-marketsquare

Whittlesey in the 1940s.

Recently, while waiting to meet a couple of friends at one of the local pubs in Whittlesey, The George (which you can see to the left in the above photo), a grade II listed building (also rich in history) which dates from the late 18th century and whose landlords can be identified as far back as 1830, I happened to look up, and there on the wall opposite was a framed black and white photo (one of many adorning the walls) of a rather serious, rather dapper looking gentleman. Curious, I moved in for a closer look. Bespectacled and sporting a very bushy moustache, not unlike that worn by Tom Selleck during his Magnum PI days (showing my age now!), his chin resting on his hand in a somewhat contrived pose, the name above his head read, L.P. Hartley. Not to be confused with J.R. Hartley – a fictional character and said author in a popular TV advertisement promoting the Yellow Pages back in the early 1980’s that sees an elderly gentleman trawling second hand bookshops for a book called Fly Fishing – L.P. Hartley was, I discovered, actually a bona fide author of several famous works of fiction (one of which contains one of my favourite quotes – above) with a local connection.

L P Hartley

Leslie Poles Hartley (named after Leslie Stephen, who was, among other things, an author, critic, and historian, not to mention the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell) was a British novelist and short story writer, born 20th December 1895 – in Whittlesey. The son of Bessie and Harry Bark Hartley, a solicitor, Leslie also had two sisters, Enid and Annie Norah. While he was young, the family moved to Fletton Tower, a small country estate near Peterborough. However, most of his schooling took place in Cliftonville, Thanet, and Clifton College, Bristol. He completed his education at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read modern history and also met and befriended fellow writer, Aldous Huxley (Brave New World). Some of his early works of fiction were published in the early 1920’s, however, his writing career, much to his disappointment, was slow to take off. It was only during later life that he began to experience serious success. His best-known novels are the Eustace and Hilda trilogy (1944-7) and The Go-Between (1953 – where the above quote comes from), which was made into a film in 1971 starring Julie Christie (a photo of which also sits alongside Hartley in the same frame) and Alan Bates. Offering a critical review of society at the end of the Victorian era, the New York Times described the novel as “a triumph of literary architecture.” The Go-Between was joint winner of the Heinemann Award and Hartley was awarded the CBE in 1956. Hartley died in London on 13 December 1972 at the age of 76, however, I think I can safely say L.P. Hartley was a local boy done good!

Book Bloggers – The Unsung Heroes Of The Book World

10011593_1786471088245862_5398185122946055833_o

Once a month I write a column for a local lifestyle magazine called The Fens. As well as offering writing advice I’ve also had the pleasure of doing some great interviews with some amazing authors. However, this month I thought I’d chat with one of the many brilliant unsung heroes of the book world, namely Linda Hill – book blogger extraordinaire. Among other things, Linda – a prolific reader – writes book reviews, takes part in blog tours and regularly hosts author guest posts on her award-winning Book Blog, Linda’s Book Bag. And like many book bloggers, this is all done in her spare time for nothing more than the sheer love of books.

  1. Hi Linda, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Hi Eva. I’m a passionate and eclectic reader (and a bit of a closet writer) who used to be an English teacher, inspector and educational consultant. I’m self-retired and love books and travel.

  1. Have you always enjoyed reading books and when did you first become a book blogger?

I was a late reader as my sight is so poor that I didn’t realise those squiggles on a page had meaning! Once I got glasses at 7 there was no stopping me and I still have my childhood Paddington books.

I began blogging three years ago when I decided life was too short to keep working and I wanted to share my love of books. Since then my blog has grown and I might even say has got out of hand!

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a book blogger?

Learn to say ‘No’. There are only 24 hours in a day. It’s so tempting to accept every book you are offered for review and once you get known, the books keep arriving even if you’re not expecting them – I currently have over 900 physical books that have just turned up and I can’t get into my study.

Bloggers need to be very active on social media like Twitter and Facebook so that lots of readers see their blog posts.

I’d also say that authors never set out to write a bad book so be constructive and kind in reviews. A book that may not appeal to one person might be perfect for another reader.

I’d urge ALL readers to review on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, as well as a blog, as this is the only way many authors can get their books noticed.

And blog often!

It’s Just My Point Of View – POV!

 

It'sJust My Point Of View2

A couple of months ago I wrote about the different types of writer there are (see here), namely Plotters, Pansters or, as in my case, Plansters! This month I thought we’d take a look at one of the more important literary devices of a novel, often referred to as Point of View – or POV.

For now, I’ll keep it simple and look at the three most popular POV’s. 

First Person Narrator – is from a single perspective, a personal one – where the narrator uses words like “I” and “me” and “my” – and where the world the writer creates is seen through the eyes of a single character. 

Pros – first person allows you and the reader direct access to what your character is thinking and feeling. This means your readers are instantly connected with your narrator, creating more empathy and emotional investment in your overall piece.

Cons – there are limits as to what your narrator can and cannot relay to your reader. Everything is from a particular person’s line of sight so there will be details that they and therefore your reader, won’t know.

Second Person Narrator – uses the pronoun “you” and puts the reader into the story, and if done right can plunge the reader into the narrative completely. 

Pros – you can tell the reader what to feel and how to react, and, as they are part of the story, by default there is already a strong sense of empathy.

Cons – writing in the second person has to be done carefully to avoid poor writing. Also, by telling the reader what they are thinking and feeling, you run the risk of alienating them.

Third Person Narrator – a popular POV, is a narrator who tells the story from outside the narrative itself and uses phrases such as “he said” and “she said” and gives the author the option of an omniscient narrator (an all-knowing narrator) – who knows every character, every event and every detail.

Pros – generally, writers have more freedom and fewer limitations when it comes to third person narration.

Cons – what a writer gains in narrative freedom they lose in intimacy. This POV doesn’t give characters a direct voice to the reader. The narrator is not speaking subjectively to the reader so it can make it harder for them to empathise and connect with characters.

 

#PressforProgress – Still A Long Way To Go

 

“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

–Mary Wollstonecraft

woman-2128020_960_720

Image: Pixabay

Today, Thursday 8th March 2018, is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, political, cultural, and economic achievements of women. It is also a day that marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The call to action this year is #PressforProgress and with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp momentum is particularly strong this year. 2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK. So, a century on, how are we doing?

womens-march-2004278_960_720

Image: Pixabay

Sadly, the findings of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report (International Women’s Day website) suggest gender parity is still over 200 years away. Disheartening to say the least. Further research suggests that globally, one in three women suffer from gender-based violence, sixty-two million girls, annually, are denied access to education, and women in the workplace still suffer in terms of pay and representation. Much has also been written about the inequality female writers still face in the writing and publishing world. As a female writer myself, I wanted to explore this a bit further.

emancipate-1779119_960_720

Image: Pixabay

In terms of reviews, literary prizes, and senior positions within publishing houses, many are still being awarded to men above women. Even World Book Night (The Guardian) shows that the picks of the last 5 years have been made up of 64 male versus 36 female authors. And author Nicola Griffith shows gender bias in her study, published in May 2015, of prizewinning books both here and across the pond, broken down by the gender of their protagonists. Her findings suggest that in the last 15 years, 12 of the Booker-winning novels have had male protagonists, two have had female protagonists, and one has had both male and female protagonists. The Booker fared better than the Pulitzer, which has had no female protagonist among its 15 winning books. I was also disappointed to find in a study carried out by The Guardian in August 2016, articles written by women, irrespective of their content or subject matter, attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men.

men-1979261__340

Image: Pixabay

Aleesah Darlison (Writers Edit) attributes continued gender discrimination to “tradition and possibly even culture… It’s incredibly difficult to change centuries-old thinking, but women are continually striving to move forward.” 

Whereas some writers like Christine Piper (Writers Edit), author and winner of The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for After Darkness suggests that the confines of professional limitations based on gender are sometimes self-imposed and said “Like many women, I’ve been guilty of self-sabotage: doubting my ability, playing down my talents, taking rejections personally, and being shy about pursuing opportunities. Men are socialised to be confident and champion their abilities (but of course not all male writers are like this), while women are not – if a woman does do those things she’s often seen as arrogant or a ‘tall poppy’.”

However, it’s not all bad news, women are making advances. I only have to look at my daughter to see the opportunities available to her compared to my mother who, born in 1950, was paid half the wage of a man when she first started working. Nonetheless, let’s not get complacent, continue to unite, support one another and #PressforProgress for women.

emancipation-156066__340

Image: Pixabay

 

Plotter or Panster – What Type Of Writer Are You?

paper-3033204__340

Image Pixabay

Last month you may remember I interviewed writer, Heidi Swain, who sets most of her novels in fictional fenland towns. One of the questions I asked Heidi was, what one piece of advice would you offer any would be writers out there? Heidi’s response was simple but honest: “If you want to be a writer, write. If you put it off until you ‘have more time’ you’ll never put pen to paper. Stop procrastinating and make a start.” Wise words indeed. So, if your New Year’s resolution was to do just that, and assuming you’ve got that far, you probably know by now whether you are a plotter or a panster. However, if you haven’t heard these terms before and have no idea what plotting or pansting is, read on.

A plotter is someone who plans their novel before they write it. Famous writers generally regarded as plotters include, J.K. Rowling, R.L. Stein (of the famous Gossebumps books), Sylvia Plath and John Grisham.

Grisham states, “I don’t start a novel until I have lived with the story for a while to the point of actually writing an outline and after a number of books I’ve learned that the more time I spend on the outline the easier the book is to write. And if I cheat on the outline I get in trouble with the book.” (Source: Goodreads)

Pros: Having planned their novel beforehand, plotters know what’s going to happen before they write it. This makes it easier to bust writer’s block.

Cons: Plotters can become confined to their plans, and if they do get stuck or want to change something, it often means having to redo their whole outline.

A panster, like its name suggests, is usually someone who flies by the seat of his or her pants. They have some vague idea about a story, or a main character, or even just an opening line, but nothing comes to life for a panster until they actually sit down to write. Famous writers who regard themselves as pansters include Stephen King, Pierce Brown, Elizabeth Haynes and Margaret Atwood, to name but a few.

Atwood starts with “an image, scene, or voice…I couldn’t write the other way round with structure first. It would be too much like paint-by-numbers.” (Source: Goodreads)

 Pros: Pantsers have the freedom to take their novel in any direction they want. They have flexibility.

Cons: Having very little, or no plan, makes it easier to get stuck.

I generally regard myself as a “planster”, as I suspect most writers do, which basically means I’m a little of both. However, some writers tend to lean heavily towards one or the other, I definitely lean more towards panster than plotter.

Which one are you?