Archive for August, 2008
I took these photos this morning. We have had rain for quite a while but today the sun is shining. The eucryphia is a shrubby tree with simple white flowers, a perfect contrast to the showy blooms of late summer. I love the contrasts within the garden: the heavy rich beech and delicate silver birch; the huge oak hosting playful squirrels, and textured colourful shrubbery drawing bees and butterflies to their blooms. White contrasting the brilliant gold, red, yellow and pink roses. Fresh green grass and greys of crazy paving. And all the other colours and textures pressing on my eyes to be consumed within my brain and heart. And overhead, birds large and small draw near to feast on seeds and nuts and a multitude of insects living in harmony with nature. Birdsong is the sweetest music on earth and is only heard when and where the clamour of the world is stilled.
So it is with mankind. We see the beauty in our differences when we have eyes to see and the clamour is stilled.
I loved my dad but I was also scared of him. He ruled the home. My mother, bless her, was a doormat just like her mother had been, and we girls had a doormat upbringing. We would not dare to argue with my dad. Voicing an opinion? Good heavens, no!
My dad provided me with pocket money: sixpence a week until I reached my teens then it was half a crown. You could do a lot with two shillings and sixpence if you spent wisely. To give you some idea, sixpence would buy a bottle of pop with tuppence back when you returned the bottle. I had to earn my sixpence by cleaning my dad’s boots each week. I worked hard at getting them shiny, and I went the extra mile by scraping the sweaty gunge from the inside by using a fingernail. As much as getting the sixpence, I enjoyed the praise of a good job done. My doormat training was really good. I recall a rainy Sunday night, walking miles to various pubs to find him and give him the raincoat he’d left behind. Of course, my mum had sent me and my sister. Males always came first in our house.
My dad suffered an accident at work when a lorry backed into him and he was gassed on another occasion but there was no compensation that I know of. I’m sure he tried. He suffered from bronchitis and later became disabled with a kind of creeping paralysis. He struggled to work on his sticks for quite a while but eventually couldn’t make it.
Then the fun began! Trying to earn a living making leather bags and purses, doing up old prams and making them look new, repairing motors and cleaners, you name it, he tried it. Mother running all over to get everything he needed, my sister assisting with motors, me sewing aprons for the prams. Dad shouting and swearing when things went wrong, and they often did! Him screaming with pain at night, and we girls queuing up for hours to get him fish and chips to help him feel better. We hated to see our dad brought so low.
Eventually dad did up an old mechanical invalid carriage and that got him about a bit. He started an association of others with similar vehicles when the government began to provide them. Dad repaired the local ones. He set up his business in an old garage and took on a partner. He worked damn hard but made little money. At least it kept him occupied and gave my mother a bit of a rest, although she still had to clean the cinema across the road, and clean for a well off family a mile away. Money was always short, but my dad had restored his self-respect.
I had my dad’s in-growing toenail to look after. It was first soaked then I had the job of clearing all the stuff away from under the nail. His leg nerve would cause his leg to jerk and it sure did make me sweat! I cut his hair too. I rather liked doing that. It brought me close to him.
But I don’t ever remember laughing and playing with my dad.
I sometimes had a laugh with my mother. I did her hair for her and gently massaged her head and face. Later I made her clothes. We were quite close, although there always remained a certain parent-child distance.
(Of course a large chunk of my childhood took place in the wartime years of 1939-45 and everything was in short supply. So going without was quite common. I never knew anyone who went off on holidays, had a telephone or electrical goods we take fore granted. People travelled by bike, bus or train. Few people had cars and petrol, like everything else, was rationed. All this is written about in my illustrated book of childhood memories “When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes”. You can read the first two chapters by going to Magpies Nest Publishing.)
My printed books are available on Amazon and by ordering directly at my publishing website. Samples of all the books can be read there. (Please note: second hand copies of ‘When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes’ are presently available on Amazon. This is not a POD book. The print run has been a sell out and I will only re-order if the demand is big enough)
Ulverston… birthplace of Stan Laurel
Want to take a step back in time? Then visit Ulverston’s hardware store on King Street — Smith and Harrison. Not only does that place bring back memories of my youth, but I have found it the friendliest place in town. The TV Two Ronnies sketch involving ‘fork’andles.’ It could have been filmed here!
Take a walk by the Chippy Bank and you come to the Laurel and Hardy Museum — much visited by our American cousins. So far I have not ventured inside. I did not find them funny when I was young but my sister did — she kept digging me in the ribs and telling me to laugh!
Go by the cross on Thursday’s market day and you may see and hear a band play, at least in spring to autumn. Follow the cobbled street, passing by the market stalls and you will come across The Tinners’ Rabbit Bookshop: a quaint old shop full of nooks and crannies, plus a little fireplace with a real fire in winter. (There’s even an armchair to sit in!)
There are plenty of places to visit including a delightful canal that goes nowhere and a lighthouse monument on Hoad Hill — fantastic views across the town, Morecambe Bay, fells and mountains.
Warning! Watch how you walk. Old water-worn paving slabs and cobbles are not meant for stiletto heels!
The Band Played On.
In the sunny Market Square, the silver band of twenty-eight red-faced elderly gentlemen gave a lively rendition of the Floral Dance, oblivious to the movement of shoppers at nearby stalls and tourists snapping photographs in front of them.
Children, bored with standing at stalls while their mothers looked for bargains, drew closer to the band intrigued by the hand movements that produced the jolly sound. One boy did a good impression of the trombonist, another lad puffed his cheeks and laboured at producing a sound from his invisible euphonium. Little girls laughed and tapped their feet. Before long, more children joined in, with watching adults smiling, tapping and clapping to the merry beat.
A weathered elderly gentleman, with long white beard wagging in tune with the music, began singing:
‘We danced to the band with the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone…’
The Floral Dance, now in full swing, more girls were dancing and swinging each other round and around while others jigged about doing their own thing.
The music came to an end, but the crowd hooped and yelled for more.
The conductor bowed, turned to the band and raised his baton.
The white-headed, bearded gent took off his coat, threw it over the nearest stall and started singing again, his elbows keeping time with the music.
Shoppers left the stalls and gathered round; smiling, laughing and clapping while their children merrily danced or imitated the musicians and singer:
‘Dancing here, prancing there,
Jigging, jogging ev’rywhere…’
Market smells of fruit and vegetables, the scent of flowers, young women’s perfume, old ladies’ talc’, sweat, soap and aftershave, mingling with fresh air breezes; rainbow colours of summer clothing, moving sights and sounds — all swelling up to entrance and befuddle minds and bodies. Not one person immune to the hypnotic beat:
‘Bassoon, flute and euphonium≤…’
Maggie pulled away from the hand holding hers, and ran forward to join the dancing children in the cobbled square. Round and round, arms waving in time with the beat, laughing and singing the words she could easily remember:
‘Dancing here, dancing there…’
The crowd clapped and sang with her. Maggie’s movements became more intricate while retaining the essential simplicity of country dancing. Girls began imitating her and before long the market place became a throbbing beat of music, clapping and dancing feet. Heated musicians played on, mesmerised by what they had created.
‘Each one making the most of his chance
Altogether in the Floral Dance.’
Round and round and roun…
The crowd hushed, the music petered out, children stopped dancing.
The bearded, elderly man ran forward and fell to his knees by the side of the fallen fragile lady. ‘Are you hurt, Maggie?’
She opened her eyes. ‘Lovely, wasn’t it, daddy?’
‘Yes, my darling, you danced beautifully.’
Maggie’s eyes closed. The elderly man put an arm under her shoulders and held the old lady to his chest, wiping away long strands of grey hair from her wrinkled face. Tears ran down his cheeks.
A large muscular man from the vegetable stall came forward. ‘I’ll carry her into the chemist’s for you, mate.’
The crowd, no longer hushed, parted and made way for the carried woman.
‘I’ve called an ambulance,’ someone told the old man as they entered the chemist’s shop.
The old man nodded his gratitude but his eyes told those present that nothing would bring his wife back to life again. Even through his tears, he smiled. ‘She loved to dance and sing, you know. The dementia didn’t rob her of everything.’
Outside the band began to play, We’ll Gather Lilacs.
‘That’s our tune. We sang it at our wedding reception.’ He drew in a deep breath and said in a determined manner, ‘Could I have a drink of water please?’
He sat on the chair placed beside his wife, now stretched out on a couch at the back of the shop, and hummed to the music of the band. He took the glass of water being passed to him, shook tablets from a small bottle he’d taken from his jacket pocket, and threw them into the back of his mouth, swallowing them down with the liquid. Then he took his wife’s hand and began to sing in a croaking voice:
‘We’ll gather lilacs in the spring again…’
His quivering voice petered out as his body slumped to the floor.
For books by Gladys Hobson (some in pen names) go to:
http://www.magpiesnestpublishing.co.uk where you can read samples of her work.
Also visit http://writingforjoy.blogspot.com for her other blog and
http://www.myspace.com/gladyswrites to both read and hear stories.
Her latest book, ‘Awakening Love’ can be ordered from Amazon and all good bookshops.
It is a well known fact that there are far more writers — good, bad and indifferent — than traditional publishers can even contemplate selecting from by glancing at their submissions. So most publishers work through agents and rely on them to produce the writers suitable for their particular list of titles. So agents filter through the thousands of submissions they get inundated with, that is IF they are accepting submissions from unknown authors. If they are, then it is likely only one or two new writers will be taken on in a year. Thousands of manuscripts but which one or two will be chosen? It stands to reason that many excellent authors are turned down year on year. A few writers make it through the self-publishing route. It takes money, hard work, dedication, good promotional and marketing skills and maybe friends in the right places to get anywhere. If books are sold in the right numbers a known publisher may well take over the title. It seems to me that the chances of ‘making it’ are getting more and more remote.
Frankly, most bookshops don’t ‘want to know.’ If the book has a lot of appeal and is already being ‘asked for’ then the book might do well, at least locally. (As did my ‘When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes’ — out of a 750 run, 600 were sold locally.) But national booksellers go through the national office. Our local W.H.Smith’s manager was interested in stocking two of my books but the head office did not even reply to the letter I was asked to send in!
Okay, our book will appear on Amazon and a dozen other bookstores may also advertise it on their website — yes, along with thousands of others! They don’t have to stock or buy the book to advertise it.
I know of authors who travel all over the country trying to flog books one way or another, some with a modicum of success. Is it worth it? Well, you have to believe in your book, and yourself, to pay in time and money for what is involved. With cheap books for sale everywhere, it is hard to compete. How many unknown author books do YOU buy, and how much would YOU pay for them?
When we take the self-publishing route it is as well to have all this in mind. If services are being paid for, you may not get a penny back and that could run into thousands. If you are doing your own publishing (complete with ISBN and bar code) you can get books printed in smallish numbers and, if your book does not sell, all you will end up with is a box of books to give to friends or offer to libraries. At least your ‘baby’ has been born and smiling for all to see!
If I recall correctly, Michael Allen of Grumpy Old Bookman fame, once wrote that the average sales for a self published POD book were 80 copies. He also has a great deal of advice to give about the whole subject and of DIY publishing through LULU in particular.
Before starting on your publishing project it might help if you first visited: