Teenage Love — or do we have in mind mere sexual gratification?

June 26, 2012

Teenage Love

Or are we talking about teenage sex?

 Sex before marriage was considered disgraceful when I was a girl. Of course it sometimes went on but it was certainly not encouraged. To have a sexual partner meant commitment. Many a couple ‘had’ to get married when the girl was found to be pregnant. The shame that clung, like an unmentionable disease, to a pregnant lass left alone to carry the disgrace caused sufficient fear to kill any desire to experiment. Submitting to an eager male was wrong, it was immoral, and it was shameful. Touching was bad enough but the act itself? Prepare for a shotgun wedding!

Lacking sex education, ignorance abounded. Only vague assumptions existed. Dogs could only get pregnant when on heat. Did the same apply to humans? Drawings on lavatory walls were the only education available to many!

Kissing with tongues and oral sex were thought disgusting and with good reason. Hygiene was poor, medicines basic, and diseases spread easily. And some maidens believed such activities could make a girl pregnant.

Of course, boys wanted action, girls were brought up to say no! In fact most thought it shameful to say and do otherwise.

Then came the pill.

Sex came out of the closet. Promiscuity not only became acceptable, but rife. Possibly encouraged by the proliferance of certain teen and adult magazines? And also by films and television. After no novels with sexual content being allowed, even erotica blossomed. Even so, till this day there is a market for books with sexual restraint and with an emphasis on romantic love that waits for the wedding night. Hoorah for that! We need a balance.

I’m an old fashioned lady who believes in lifetime partnerships as the ideal, even if seldom attained these days, But I am also a realist. Even so, I am not happy that within western society, even with youngish teens, satisfying sexual urges seems to be what matters. Alcohol and sex are a bad mix. Teenage pregnancy must surely be worse than before the pill. Sexually transmitted diseases, unstable relationships and family breakup, result from a society that puts ‘me’ first. But I also believe in true love that puts the ‘other’ first. In such unselfish relationships, the sexual act is a culmination of what each feels for the other — a mutual giving and a taking. A joining of mind, body and soul. Whatever the sexual orientation. Whatever the age. Surely, this is true love.

For a highly enjoyable read consider Michael Allen‘s new book —

Daphne Before She Died by Michael Allen

At times hilarious, at times poignant, but always entertaining, this book kept us (I have someone who reads to me) enthralled to the very end. Young illicit love is rarely explored, especially between partners of such disparate ages. Is it possible for a mature woman of 39 to fall in love with a boy of 18 and he to be desperately in love with her? Would an 18-year-old girl indulge in a love affair with a schoolboy of 14? Well, the author inspires us to believe in such possibilities, as the sexual and emotional vulnerability of young males, especially one who appears to be a ‘man of the world’, are explored in depth.

 G B Hobson

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Seventy Years of Cancer Observed…

April 18, 2012

Seventy Years of Cancer Observed.
G B Hobson

People did not die of cancer when I was young. Cancer was too naked, too embarrassing, too fearful. There was no cure. Cancer meant a death sentence. Cancer had to be dressed up and made acceptable. Cancer was hidden by a cloak of decency — fear saw to that. A growth sounded better. After all, a growth could be benign and treatable. I have had a small one cut out and many people ignore them unless they cause a problem or disfigurement. But the symptoms of some cancers cannot be easily hidden or dismissed. Yellowing skin of jaundice, might well seem like a disease rather than a symptom, and provide a ghastly charade to what no one wanted to admit — the patient is dying of cancer. I recall being asked by the husband of a dear friend if I had known anyone with a yellow skin like his. “Oh yes,” I said cheerfully, “my dad once had Yellow Jaundice just like you.” I did not tell him that my dad was dying of cancer at the time. My friend had told me that her husband would be suicidal if he knew he had cancer. A deathly silence regarding the truth had to be kept.

Of course, when I was a young child, life expectancy was far shorter than it is today. Antibiotics and life-saving operations were just on the brink of medicine. So it is likely many people did not live long enough to develop a cancer they might have died from. Apart from wars reducing the population, people had nasty infectious diseases. Pneumonia and bronchitis were often killers. When I had just turned seven, I spent six weeks in an isolation ward (a lonely and depressing experience) and another six weeks at home from school because I had Scarlet Fever. Close relatives spent months in sanatoriums because of TB. Over the years, the advance of medicine has not only made such diseases curable but also lengthened life expectancy. Immunisation and legislation have gradually made some serious diseases almost a thing of the past. So the cancers and heart problems now take centre stage. Arguably, cancer is the most feared. Cancer might now be called by name, but it is still a name to put fear into the stoutest of hearts.

My mum visited a neighbour when she became very ill. That might have been the first time I heard the word — cancer. From what I heard my mother say, it was something to be dreaded. During my early years, people died of other things: a classmate with a ruptured appendix, an elderly lady who lived with us from heart failure — the first was regarded as misfortune, the latter, natural causes. And with people dying horribly during the war, I guess death was never far away.

The first time I became intimately in touch with cancer was when a friend’s brother, whom I very much liked, became ill with leukaemia. Even then, I recall a slight feeling of relief because, in my ignorance, I thought that, at least, he did not have cancer! I heard a great deal about Geoffrey’s illness. How, while in hospital — I think he went there for blood transfusions and possibly getting his medication right — pain in his head drove him to banging it against the wall of his ward. His dad was convinced that his work had something to do with his illness but that was a non-starter. Even so, the finger had to be pointed at something or someone to help ease the anger that often comes with helplessness.

It didn’t seem long before Geoffrey was confined to bed. I made him cakes, which he apparently enjoyed. One day I was asked to take the cake upstairs to his flat. His home, which he shared with his pregnant wife, was the renovated attic at my friend’s house where we used to play when we were younger. It was a place of happy memories, but such pleasures were far from my mind as I nervously mounted those familiar stairs.

I was shown into the living room where Geoffrey had a single bed. I sat on a chair by his side while he cheerfully talked to me about the effects of his drugs, seeing shapes moving in front of his eyes. He looked incredibly pale and sickly. My heart went out to him. Did he know what was wrong with him? I don’t think he did. Did he know he was dying? My impression was that everyone in the house was hoping for a cure — to believe otherwise was unthinkable — and that Geoffrey himself thought that he was getting better. But for me there was a tangible awe of being in the presence of a dying man. It was heartbreaking.

While I was there, Geoffrey decided to have a cigarette. He put one in his mouth and looked towards me. “Will you light it for me please?” he asked, passing me the matches.
I don’t know why but I felt nervous of being that close. Did I think I might catch his illness? I was not conscious of such a thought, but most of us try to hide unworthy feelings. I tried hard to stop my hand from trembling while I held the match, but was not completely successful. Thankfully, he did not seem to notice my discomfort and went on chatting. I thought I was going to faint and tried to pull myself together. The room was closing in on me. The heat became unbearable and I found it difficult to breath. I had to get out… get out… get out….

Breaking into Geoffrey’s chatter, I made an excuse to go, trying hard to smile and not shake or stumble over my words. Once outside the bedroom, I slumped down on the attic stairs with my head between my knees. I did not want to go downstairs until I became my normal self. My friend, who left the room with me, fetched me a glass of cold water. My ashen face and unusual exit ensured that Geoffrey’s family got the message that I had been deeply upset by my encounter with a dying man. Such incidents are bad for morale. I could only hope that Geoffrey had been too high on his painkilling drugs to comprehend the depth of distress that had overcome his visitor. This experience made me fearful of visiting the dying, that is, until I received ‘the call’ to pastoral ministry — visitation of the sick and dying, and the conducting of funerals became a treasured and much appreciated ministry.

My dad died of cancer forty-five years ago. But he had suffered major diseases before then. His legs had been paralysed for some years and the creeping disease, whatever it was called at the time, was expected to spread throughout his body. He also had heart and lung problems. Then he began suffering an awful pain in his stomach which indigestion remedies refused to cure. He would thump his stomach in an effort to give a good burp in the hope of relief. But the discomfort grew worse and he would groan loudly with the pain. A visiting consultant had to tell my mum the sad news — my dad was dying with stomach cancer. Painkillers were prescribed by the boxful. Mum told the family that Dad was dying but no one told my dad. Of course, keeping the patient in the dark was quite normal then. There was no treatment on offer and the cancer was too far-gone to operate, even supposing he could have survived the anaesthetic. So we lived with this terrible secret, guiltily whispering in the kitchen or anywhere Dad wasn’t, until the very end.

How well I remember that day. My mum, a far-from-well woman, had become utterly worn out by her caring role, something which had gone on for years even before cancer had struck. Dad, a dried-out yellow-skinned shadow of himself, was now permanently in bed dosed heavily with pain-killing tablets, not that they gave him complete relief. My husband looked after our boys for the weekend while I gave some time to mum and dad. When I arrived at their ground floor flat that Saturday morning, I found out that the District Nurse had been and given dad a suppository containing a heavy dose of pain relief. He was not expected to live beyond Monday.

That evening, I kept an eye on Dad so Mum could get some rest on the living room sofa. Even so, I felt it wrong that I should gaze on my Dad’s nakedness when he needed the urine bottle, but it could not be helped. I fought off the tears when I saw the condition of his body — this once proud, heavily built man reduced to a bag of bones held together by dry jaundiced skin worn thin and breaking out into pressure sores. Applied cream had not halted their spread, never mind produce a cure. After relieving himself of the brownish-amber thick urine, he drifted back to sleep.

A few hours later, I thought Dad was breathing oddly and fetched Mum into the bedroom. Dad opened his eyes and saw us standing there.
“What are you two standing there for?” he growled. “Do you think I’m dying or something?”
We assured him we were there to see if he needed anything.
Dad’s eyes soon closed again. Mum went back to the living room sofa. There was the rest of that night and the whole of Sunday before Dad was expected to die on the Monday.

I stood by the window’s closed curtains — large pink blooms on a white background — as the night grew deeper. A single dim lamp lit the room. The only sounds were of my father’s drugged sleep. My mind drifted to a book I had just finished reading — D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers — recalling the death of Paul Morel’s mother. The sounds made by Mrs Morel during her last hours on earth were what I was experiencing with my father. I looked at Dad, fearful of getting too close. Why? The explanation is rather horrific. A friend of mine had disclosed to me something my mother had told her some time before my dad died. Evidently, my mother had woken in the night to feel my dad’s hands around her throat. He told my mum that he thought he was dying and did not want to die alone. I have not the slightest doubt that my dad was full of remorse and surely would not have carried out such an act. But suffering, and my dad had suffered considerable pain even before cancer began eating into his stomach and liver, can send people crazy. Add fear of entering into the unknown, having had a childhood under the rod of an enthusiastic Evangelical preacher in an age of religious fervour (end of the nineteenth century), plus living a lie for a good chunk of his life (a story that would fill a book), I think I had good reason to keep my distance. And yet the genuine love I had for my father wanted to reach out to him. How could we say goodbye? How could we tell him that we loved him? How could we somehow relieve his fear of death?

I turned to prayer, asking God to let my dad know he was loved and that he could let go of this life and be received in that place Christians call heaven. I recalled my dad telling the story of how he had met with a serious accident at work. Believing him to be dead, his mates had laid him out on a board and stood around him, talking to each other and saying what they knew and thought about him. My dad said that while his mates were talking he was floating above them listening to every word, which he was able to repeat when he was ‘brought back’ again. I also recalled my dad’s father, the only grandparent I have ever met, telling my dad how he had visited heaven and met again all the friends he had known that had died. Of course, neither of them knew that Big Ears had been listening at the door!

I looked at my dad, still ashamed of being afraid of drawing too close him, and spoke softly these words: “Let go, Dad. Don’t be afraid, you won’t be alone. Granddad is waiting for you. We all love you and God loves you too. He will forgive any wrongs. Granddad will look after you. Let go, Dad. Let go.”

Tears were in my eyes; tears for Dad, and also for my mother who had suffered in so many ways and needed respite before we lost her too. Throughout their lives, both of them had worked hard and knew the meaning of pain. Yet they had come through most of it all the stronger, even if physically and mentally battered.
I heard a sudden change in my dad’s breathing. Just as in Sons and Lovers, Dad was gasping and drawing in long, hoarse breaths. Then, after a long sigh, all went quiet. I went quickly to tell my mother. She woke from her sleep, and we hurried to the bedroom. Mum picked up a mirror and held it to my dad’s open mouth. The mirror remained clear.

My sister Barbara died a few years after my dad. She had suffered with bladder problems but left it rather late before visiting her doctor. Taking my mother with us, we visited my sister just after she had received Radiotherapy treatment. She seemed her usual lively self , making us a pot of tea and chatting about her experience.
I noticed her husband sitting quietly in the background, looking bewildered. My sister certainly seemed upbeat about the whole thing, but then she had always been a relaxed optimistic person.

Some months later we heard my sister was in hospital. The cancer had spread to her bones. It was not long before Barbara was dead. The family was in a state of shock. My mother kept saying that she had no idea how ill Barbara had been, that she did not know that she was dying of cancer. She was not the only one. Dying was not a word to be mentioned. It was if mentioning certain words would bring on the reality of them. Better to live in a state of denial.

My sister Betty died some years later. She had pancreatic cancer. When I visited her in hospital, I asked her if she knew what was wrong with her.
”No” she said, “And I don’t want to know.”
So we kept up the charade of not knowing, at least when we were by her side. Her physical condition spoke for itself. When I said goodbye to her I knew it was for the last time, but did she? Likely it was a question she would not even consider.

My mother came next. She had been suffering stomach problems for some time. First they said she had a stomach ulcer. Her pain grew worse and further investigation found it to be stomach cancer. It was not long before she was in hospital having a section of her stomach removed. I was told not to worry and that she would recover from the operation. She would need small meals but we can, and do, survive well by eating less and, if necessary, more frequently. She was eighty-six then and she was almost ninety when she died. By then she had a horrid version of Dementia/Paranoia/Depression that robbed her of her lively personality and love for her family. Life for her was a living hell. Death was a liberation.

My brother Bill suffered Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for a number of years. During that time he had extensive treatment, including spleen removal, but always kept active. He was still working and doing much travelling into his seventies. Finally stomach cancer forced extensive surgery with the removal of his stomach and a new one formed out of a section of intestine. He caught an invasive bug, which brought about more surgery from which he did not completely recover. But that was in the USA and under private medical care. Would he have fared better in the UK? That we will never know. All I can say is that, over recent years, I have been impressed by the dedicated care given to cancer sufferers as my husband and I have watched other family members, some of them much younger than we are, and close friends suffer from cancer. And we have also seen recovery from what, not so long ago, would likely have been a death sentence.

In my church pastoral ministry — visiting sick, bereaved, hospitalised and housebound parishioners, assisting with pastoral care at the local hospice, chaplaincy work in nursing homes — I have been involved with many cancer sufferers. I have been impressed by the change in attitudes over the years. Openness and positivity, along with considerate care, go a long way to healing — of the spirit, even if not always of the body.

Finally, I will tell of a child of thirteen whose life was tragically taken by cancer, and yet lived so vibrantly during her last years that she will always live on in the hearts of the many who knew her. Her funeral, that I had the honour to conduct, was a celebration of a child’s well-lived and happy life.

Cilla (not her actual name) was blessed with spontaneous joy and wit, qualities which made other children want to be her friend. “She was a good laugh” and “I’m going to miss her” were not only the remarks made by her young friends but also by many elderly people who appreciated her candid, friendly, kindly, and jovial manner.
Indeed, Cilla was a joy to all who knew her for she had the capacity to give of herself freely with a generosity of spirit that, even when she was so ill herself, her cheerful smile lightened the load of other sufferers who met her.

During her illness, Cilla had the privilege of meeting a number of celebrities, but I would say that the privilege was theirs. As indeed it was my privilege to conduct her funeral.
Cilla had a bubbly personality, gentle ways, and was never happier than when helping others. She had a strong, brave spirit, and when well was a little shepherd to her brothers.
She spoke her mind but was never a moaner.
“I’m knackered!” “I’m starving!” These were her only complaints. Even in her sickness, her concern was for her parents and others.
She enjoyed her bike but most of all she was a football fan — Manchester United. This gave cause to much friendly banter with her friends. It was good that she was able to lead as normal a life as possible.
Cilla met with much suffering in her young life. Treatment for her condition can bring strong adults to tears but she took it all bravely, with her loved ones by her side to hold her hand and give words of encouragement.

Cilla will not be mentioned in history books or be honoured by a monument, but she will live on in the hearts of those who loved and cherished her during her short lifetime and that is worth more than all the world’s glittering prizes. Surely, it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.

Post-War (Late 1940’s) Fashion — Dress Designs for Awakening Love

March 25, 2012

A new video for my novel, Awakening Love

These are drawings I did when I had just turned sixteen in the late 1940’s. I found them in an old folder up in the attic. The pictures are elsewhere on this web site but not put together to form a video. Nice to have music background too. (Click on ‘A new video‘‚ if this video does not work for you.

Awakening Love is the first book of my Love by Design trilogy. (PLEASE NOTE, THE WHOLE TRILOGY PLUS SMOULDERING EMBERS, WILL NOW BE PUBLISHED BY TURQUOISE MORNING PRESS. THE CHANGE WILL TAKE PLACE LATER THIS MONTH (SEPT) OR SOON AFTER. VISIT THE SITE TO SEE THE BOOKS THEY PUBLISH

The video is designed and produced by Dare Empire Media

Billy’s Triumph

March 2, 2012

BILLY’S TRIUMPH

 

Billy rides his Roadster — Rocket III and Phantom Black

Three-cylinder 2.294 — Around the metal track.

Whaay! yell all the watchers as Billy’s bike speeds past,

Each one of them is deafened by the gusty exhaust’s blast.

 

He stops at filling stations to preen himself and pose

By his mean and moody Roadster, with hand on petrol hose.

Clothed in tight black leather, hair tufted with black gel,

Carrying visored helmet, he’s a warrior from hell.

 

Billy loves the wildness of a rugged mountain track

He’s game for any danger his Triumph will attack.

He leaps o’er bridge and water, skirts boulders great and small,

At crags he does not falter — the Rocket’s got it all.

 

Alas for poor wild Billy, while yelling loud yipees

He’s scuppered by a rival tup on Wasdale’s deadly screes.

Billy and his Roadster now face a watery grave

Fans dive into deep water… which do you think they’ll save?

 

G B Hobson

February 15, Another Nursing Home Visit

February 15, 2012

February 15, Another Nursing Home Visit

The weather is warmer and the sky is sunny. I visited Geoffrey again today. It must be about four weeks since my last visit but illness and weather has caused problems.

I found him in the lounge seated by a table. He appeared to be sleeping. I touched his arm and spoke his name.

He opened his eyes as I said, “Hello, Geoffrey.”

He looked at me and asked me what I wanted him to do.

And so began my efforts to get him to talk to me. But he was constantly overtaken by tiredness, and his head would go down on his arms, which he had folded on the table.

So I asked him what he had for dinner.

“Fish, I think.”

“And did you have a pudding?”

“I think so, I usually do.”

I talked about things he has spoken about before: His childhood and ordination.

After a little while his face lit up and he smiled. He looked quite youthful for an eighty-nine year old. We had a little banter about his good looks!

It did not last long but, for me, it was manner from heaven!

His head dropped down again and I thought it best to let him sleep. His body had been giving him hell again and he said he felt dirty. (Of course, he was not dirty but he’d done a great deal of scratching all over his body.) Yes, better to let him sleep and hope he had dreams of happier days.

I Fall in Love with a Killer — O but what a handsome guy.

February 2, 2012

I Fall in Love with a Killer — O but what a handsome guy.
We have a bird of prey in this area. I truly began to hate it. We have seen what it does to the lovely white pigeons, one of which was a fantail. We have noticed a sharp decrease in our small bird population. Part of that might be due to the growth of a local crow colony — probably taking eggs even before the birds hatch. But we have seen the Sparrow Hawk in action. In a flash it swooped down and took a pigeon, flying with it to the windowsill. We quickly opened the door and waved our arms. The Sparrow Hawk dropped the bird (which was bigger than itself) and flew off. The pigeon also flew away. What a rescue!
Yesterday I was engaged in a bit of house cleaning. A loud bang on the window made me look up, fearful that a bird had again lost its life. I hurried down the stairs and opened the back door. Surely the bird I saw there, lying still and crumpled, was big enough to be a Sparrow Hawk. I hurried to see if it was still alive.
The golden eyes seemed to be looking at me. I slid my hand under its back and neck and carefully picked it up. I checked its wings and legs. They did not appear to be broken. The bright golden eyes were still watching me. Surely that was a good sign? I stroked the soft breast feathers and admired the exquisite colouring of not only the breast but the whole of the bird. Perfect in design. Perfect in every way.
I carried the bird up the slope and placed it on the grass with its back to the sun, stroking the feathers from head to tip of the long tail. Was it too stunned to show fear? There had been no struggle, no attempt to bite or claw. My heart glowed with love for this killer bird.
A little later, we went outside to see if it was still alive. As we approached, it suddenly took off. We watched it fly away, no doubt to a place of safety.
We looked in our own bird books to check that it was indeed a Sparrow Hawk. Then I searched the Internet for a really good photograph. I found one at Frederic Desmette’s blog. Perfect! It seems our bird is a second winter male. Well, maybe it will now live to see another winter?
Has my attitude changed to birds of prey? Not entirely. And I still hate crows! Having seen what they do to lambs, I always will.

A Case For Sherlock Holmes?

January 12, 2012

Geoffrey’s glasses:
The mystery of the missing lens.

Today I called at the nursing home to see Geoffrey. I was told that the day before had been his 89th birthday. I was also told that he was quite bright today. Recalling how sprightly he seemed the week before I was looking forward to meeting him again. But when I reached the lounge where he sits, I found him to be quite tired. It was difficult to communicate. He also had a problem hearing what I said. Not surprising really. A lady in the room was making loud noises as though in distress — she seemed to be taking her shoes off and then struggling to get them back on. A cleaner was at work with mop and vacuum cleaner removing the dinner debris from the tables and floor. Some residents were moving around and muttering in their own distinctive way. The radio then began making loud music. I thought it better not to stay long as Geoffrey tended to start shouting at the others out of frustration at not being able to hear my words. And when he did, he had problems comprehending what I said. However, he did agree to have his photograph taken. Unfortunately he was not spruced up this week but rather the opposite — he was wearing a loose pink jersey. Even so, I think the photograph has turned out quite well in the circumstances.
Geoffrey was sitting at a table with a lady resident. I offered her one of the jelly babies I had taken for Geoffrey. She bit its head off and passed it back. I assured her it was okay to eat it and so she put it back in her mouth. All this time she had been fiddling with her glasses. I feel sure she had removed one of the lenses and was trying to get it back. She pushed the glasses away and started sucking on something. I concentrated on Geoffrey. When I looked across the table I saw the loose lens had disappeared. I looked on the floor and around the area. An assistant was near and I told her that the lens was missing. She told me they were Geoffrey’s glasses. Had he been given a new pair? She said they would find the missing lens and then got on with her work. I looked at Geoffrey’s companion. She was still sucking something. She passed me bits that she had previously chewed. Another assistant came near and I told her about Geoffrey’s glasses. She started looking all around for the missing lens.
“Do you think she is sucking it?” I asked.
“No, surely not.”
She asked the chewing lady what she was sucking, but she just ignored the question. So the assistant stuck her little finger in the woman’s mouth to feel what was in it. A bit of wriggling with the finger produced the missing lens! Glasses and lens were taken away to be washed and mended.
I thought it better to go and leave Geoff to have a nap. Poor chap, it had been a noisy room to have a conversation and most of what he said reflected his worries that he was doing nothing when he thought he should be doing something useful. Conducting a service? Gone are those days. So sad. Before I went today, I had looked him up on the Internet again. I found his name on a number of articles published in a prestigious journal. I recalled some sketches I had done for him years ago — they were to illustrate an article he had done for one of his journals. We often worked together conducting services too.
I kissed his forehead and said goodbye. Maybe my next visit will be more like the one I had last week? I hope so. My word, the people who work in that place are angels! I doubt I could cope.

Geoffrey — now 89!

Family Visits and Christmas Shopping

December 14, 2011

Alison House Hotel. Once the home of Sir Richard Arkwright

Not much to look at from the front — note false windows. Lovely house just the same. Once the home of Sir Richard Arkwright

The spooky back door!

We were in Derbyshire for the last days of November. We visited Chatsworth on Sunday afternoon and ate a roast pork bun in the grand old stables courtyard, whilst listening to a band play old tunes. It was already dusk but the music, pretty coloured lights and festive decorations added a kind of warmth to mellow the winter chill. The many visitors were good-humoured as they sat to eat and listen, or stroll around the courtyard and indoor shops to view the varied Christmas goods on sale. The house was brightly lit but we did not go inside to see the decorated rooms but, no doubt, many others did. We have been inside the house and gardens on other occasions. And we have often walked in the extensive park. I don’t think there is another country house quite like Chatsworth and we have visited quite a few.

We stayed at Cromford in the Alison House Hotel (Cromford is the home of the original Arkwright mill). The house is where Sir Richard Arkwright once lived (when not at his London home or elsewhere?). Quite likely, it was while residing in this pleasant abode that he planned the building of Willersley Castle as befitting his growing status in society.

We took a lot of photos of the house and lovely gardens — yes, lovely even in winter with its grand views and flower borders. In summer it must be a relaxing place to sit and soak in the Arkwright history, or just meditate in peace and quiet. Did Arkwright do much dreaming in that wonderful setting? If so, I guess it would be of expansion and new methods to boost production.

I enjoyed the public rooms with their elegant windows. We had a downstairs suite at the hotel. Actually it is one of their rooms for disabled guests. The huge double bed was quite something and the furniture quite pleasant.In the bathroom was a door, which we opened to find a narrow space with an outside door that didn’t open. It must have been the old back door. But what is so funny is that it could not have been cleaned for yonks! What a lark! Huge dust-covered cobwebs that might have been there for years! The rest of the suite was spotless, no doubt like the rest of the hotel. We said nothing as it seemed a shame to have it cleaned up. I loved it so much we took a photograph. The outside door was locked and an old bolt was in still place. My imagination set to work — what a setting for a yarn! The secret door to let in a vampire lover? No, don’t like vampire stories. It will have to be the handsome muscular gardener…

We did some shopping at Masson Mills. Anyone interested in industrial history would love a visit here (as well as the Cromford Mill) as some of the original works have been preserved. My mission though was to explore the one-time mill building’s huge floors of clothing and other goods. I found ideal Christmas presents in quite a short time.

Before we left the area, we had lunch with relatives and visited the Smedley factory shop at Lee Mills. We would have enjoyed visiting inside, but this is a working factory exporting fine knitted wear all over the world. I rejoice that factories in the UK can still export high quality (expensive) goods. Quality and fine workmanship is not always easy to copy. I was pleased to be able to buy a few more presents!

No visit to the Midlands would be complete without a visit to my sister who lives near Nottingham. As usual, we all went to the nature reserve at Attenborough to see the wide range of wild life and also partake of a light meal. Afterwards we drove a few miles to Highfields Park, the exquisite setting for the white Nottingham University building. The elegant building set on a green hill, beyond the ornamental lake, with the ever-changing sky as a backdrop, has never failed to move me. I have fond memories of my brother studying there and of him taking me to a ‘going down hop’. Also of him falling in the lake, when messing about in a boat with other students at the end of term. He was brought home with his shrunken clothes still wet and clinging to his shivering body. Worse — his spectacles were somewhere at the bottom of the lake. My thoughts about university when I was a girl, and ‘people like us’ not being considered suitable for such advanced education, are written into my novel, Awakening Love.

Attenborough Nature Reserve visitor Centre

View from Attenborough Nature Reserve visitor Centre

At Highfields by the lake — Nottingham University Park

After a gentle walk in the grounds, along the university side of the lake that was once the preserve of students and staff, we took my sister home to her waiting cat. (Now why did the cat show us it’s tongue?)

Rude pussy cat or just pleased to see my sister back home?

Rude pussy cat or just pleased to see my sister back home?

Visiting Geoffrey — Make Me Happy… a plea from the heart

November 25, 2011

Visiting Geoffrey — Make Me Happy… a plea from the heart

 

Geoffrey and me 19 years ago

Geoffrey looked at me closely. “Who are you,” he asked, when I walked up to his chair and smiled down at him.

And so began my usual explanation of our friendly relationship, which of course, did little to enlighten him. He was sitting positioned between two lady residents and it was difficult talking to him. I looked around the room and found a chair I could pull over. I had some fruit jelly slices for him. I opened the box and lifted a slice.

“For me?” He put the fruity slice to his mouth and bit it. Delight spread over his face. Soon he was happily chewing the full piece.

“Mm…mm…mm… nice.”

I offered him another and another and another. Each time with him asking if it was for him, and then chewing and sucking merrily. Sheer pleasure glowed from his eyes and cheeks. But I thought it best to give the rest of the jellies to the assistant for him to eat later. This way the enjoyment would come again and again. For it does not take long for the childlike happiness to fade and the “Who are you?” questioning to begin again.

He suddenly asked if I could do something for him.

“If I can. What do you want me to do, Geoffrey?”

“What can you do?”

“Lots of things. What do you want me to do?”

“I want to be happy. Can you make me happy?”

Were it not for my Dry Eye condition, tears would have been rolling down my cheeks. I thought of getting his jellies back to give to him but his need went beyond a few moments of pleasure in his mouth.

I touched his hand. “I wish I could sing to you, but, with my voice, I would make everyone cry!” I looked around at the residents sitting in their chairs around the room. Most were looking in my direction with a hint of curiosity in their dull eyes. How ridiculous of me to try to be funny.

I reminded him of when he sang to me “I am a Nightjar” on the first day I visited him. But no bells rang for him.

“I’m an old fool, aren’t I,” he said, not for the first time that afternoon.

“No, you are not a fool, Geoffrey. You are the most intelligent person I have ever met. You have helped a lot of people. You were my tutor and helped me a great deal.”

“That’s good,” he said brightening a little. So I told him more details of the help he had given, and the work he had done.

Then I asked him about India where he and his family had once lived. The information he gave was brief so I turned to London and got him to confirm that he had worked at the British Library and been head of Oriental Studies, but it got no further. I wondered if he would recall his priesthood and work in the Church but I thought it better to let that sleeping dog lie for now, so I told him that he was a theologian and that his teaching had helped a lot of people, especially me.

His face brightened. All time I have known him, his great delight has been when he has been helping others. I realize much of his distress (though he cannot vocalise it) is that he is no longer able to give of himself. He can only ‘be done to’.

I asked him to tell me about his childhood.

“We played games and such, like all children do.”

“What sort of games?”

But he was looking puzzled. Obviously words would not come to his mind. “I’m a foolish old man,” he said.

He gave a cough-come-sneeze, putting an arm in front of his nose and turning sideways out of politeness. I hoped the lady next to him did not catch anything.

He scratched his neck, looking rather uncomfortable. Evidently he was suffering from a rash covering much of his body, which could make him irritable at times. He had also been suffering from a bad cough but the lady in charge said that he was much better. I thought how awful it must be when you are not in complete charge of yourself. And when your memory fails to offer the only explanation he could — “I’m just an old fool.”

After a while, tiredness forced his eyes closed. I stood up and took the chair back to where I found it. I went back to Geoffrey to touch his hand and say goodbye. He opened his eyes.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Gladys. I’ll come again soon. I’ll bring you some cake or sweets. Would you like that?”

Childlike, his face lit up and a smile came to his lips in a brief moment of happiness.

I found it both touching and sad.

 

Thinking back to when I was training for Church ministry, I recall Geoffrey’s incredible eagerness to help people at all levels, from tutoring students to simple tasks like handing round papers at meetings — “I’ll do it,” he would say, eagerly snatching a pile of papers to hand round, then dropping the lot! Indeed he could be quite funny, but never a fool. No, never a fool.

(See posts of previous visits to Geoffrey. The last one is ‘and then he kissed me’)

Gays, the Church and my story

November 7, 2011

I expect it is hard for most people to imagine a time when being a gay person meant just that — someone with a happy, cheerful disposition. So when did gay come to mean homosexual? Not that it matters. I daresay it might be hard to believe that anyone in their twenties could not have heard that some men prefer sex with one another. But in my younger years, my imagination did not stretch far enough to see such possibilities. These things were never discussed, at least not in my hearing. We did not have sex lessons at school, and what was whispered in the confines of the girls’ toilets regarding sex and sexual acts appeared quite laughable. As were certain drawings in public toilets.

It might have been the reporting of the 1967 Act of Parliament, decriminalising homosexual acts in private between men, both of whom have reached the age of 21, that made me think more clearly about the matter. I thought it incredible that what was done in private between consenting couples could ever have been a criminal offense. But I was 35 at the time of the relaxing of the laws and you would think I might have met one or two homosexuals socially. Maybe I had and, for good reasons, they kept their sexual orientation secret. For those not of my generation perhaps a bit of personal and social history is necessary to explain my ignorance, and also how, eventually, I came to write my novel — The Dark Mirror.

I was born in 1932. Schooling was basic in those days and working class expectations the same. The critical spur to urge me out of poverty and do something with my life was a friend’s snobbish father, whose derogatory remarks caused me blushes of shame. That and the fact that I was the only person in the whole school not to have a navy gabardine coat — I wore a second-hand, too small, pea-green woolen coat that made me stand out like a parrot in the playground. My dad had become seriously disabled and money was in short supply. Books at our house were like toys — almost non-existent.
With no recognised qualifications, I worked in a factory, training in dress design. Later I became a successful freelance designer. When our three sons arrived, I turned to Education and trained to be a teacher. The teaching of reading, creative writing and art were my most successful subjects. Never, in any situation, was homosexuality discussed, or even mentioned.
At the age of fifty I felt called to give up teaching and work in non-stipendiary church ministry. I was the first woman to preach in most of our local churches, conduct funerals and engage in other duties usually considered the reserve of male clergy, some of whom preferred to keep women in their ‘proper’ place.
In my early sixties, deeply interested in the human condition, I took various courses in Person-Centred Counselling, going on to a two-year certificate course.
Next came the Archbishops’ Diploma for Readers. Now hooked on research and writing, three years later, I gained a BA (hons) at the Open University. When I was no longer able to drive, and somewhat disillusioned with the church, I turned to writing full time. All my personal experiences and research into the heart of man came to the fore.

My son created Magpies Nest Publishing for my first book, When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in RED BOXES, memories of 1939—1953, which I wrote to raise money locally for a particular children’s charity. With its success we then published my five novels (two in pen names) and other works. I was approached by the Australian publisher, Dare Empire, to publish my five novels in E format, complete with delightful new covers and formatting. The novels were published in the name G B Hobson and made available in paperback. My Dare Empire novels have now been taken over by other publishers. The Dark Mirror by Storm Moon Press and Awakening Love, Desire and Checkmate by Turquoise Morning Press. They will all be available shortly (March 2013 for The Dark Mirror) and September 2012 onwards for the others).

The Dark Mirror (originally When Angels Lie) was inspired partly by the controversy over gay clergy, something I wished to explore, and partly by my own experiences of the church and spiritual awakening. Writing the book was also a journey of self-discovery into my own beliefs. Golly, at one time I did not think women should be in the pulpit or minister the cup at Communion. But I guess I had a St Paul-like conversion. That came when I received ‘the call’ myself. God gives His gifts to whom he will, even if that person initially resists. My hubby found it hard to understand how his quiet unassuming, mousy, wife could stand up in the pulpit and preach. Or lead the worship. Previously I had refused to read the lesson because I was so shy. Of course, there was some cold-shouldering from certain members in the church. I think some clergy also feared for their authority.

I became interested in the gay priest debate while I was on the ministerial staff of my last parish. We were discussing the issue as directed from the ‘top’. But this important topic was quickly moved on. I looked up the ongoing debates, especially what was being said by the new Archbishop and others taking part. What did I really believe? I tried to put myself into the shoes of a young priest who, against all of his Evangelical persuasion, discovers his true sexuality when he falls in love.

So I wrote the book, trying to get into the heart and mind of Paul: his problems, his heartaches over love and duty. His calling to serve God had already been proved by the fruits of his ministry. He needed to believe he was still in the will of God. Had he and Nick been truly drawn together by God? Women threw themselves at him but he felt no desire for any of them, only for Nick. I was not certain myself how the book would end. Did he really have a choice about being gay? Did his lover? Does any gay man? All avenues are explored in this heart-wrenching story. Opposition from his churchwarden, added to bizarre happenings within the parish, put his vocation, and his love for Nick, to the test. Well, by the time I finished writing the book, I was convinced.

I am a person who believes in life-long partnerships as the ideal, even if seldom attained. Flagrant promiscuity (any gender) causes many social problems as well as personal ones. Until recently, gays have been stigmatised for living together. I am glad such partnerships are now recognized here in Britain. In some countries gays are imprisoned or killed. Even in ‘civilised’ countries, they are often used as punch bags by the ignorant. Would gays really risk the treatment handed out to them if they had a choice? That is a question I had to ask myself, even as I wrote the book. Falling in love can defy all logic, as many people know.

I hope this explains why this issue is so important to me, and why I believe this book is the best novel I have written — it came from the heart. Some parts are also from experience of religious and church matters. It also explains why I refused an invitation to post on someone’s blog because this book was cut out of the piece I submitted. even so, I respect a blogger’s right to include what they will on their own blog.

I have a number of blogs. My author site is Gladys Hobson — Author (go there for book details, reviews etc).

By my bookshelves

A portion of a review by Andy O’Hara (full review on my author site):

Smoothly, expertly written, the author captures the essence and conflict of human love and religion as they struggle to coexist in a judgmental world. Hobson reveals a church hierarchy attempting to compromise with a nervous reality, and walks the reader ever so beautifully through the torment of a young man deeply devoted to his vows and wanting fervently to serve his parish–with the support of a loving partner. As the story unfolds, however, his options grow more desperate and his torment ever more intense.

Hobson is a writer of the first class, able to build a story quickly and maintain excitement throughout the book. Her characters are full and multidimensional—at times, the reader is torn by compassion and empathy for one and then the other. Such is the making of a fine novel and a book well worth reading. It is unfortunate that books such as these, so worthy of recognition, go unheralded by the literary establishment. I, for one, give it “tens” across the board.

Andrew F. O’Hara, editor, The Jimston Journal
author, The Swan, Tales of the Sacramento Valley