Posts Tagged ‘author’

Winnie Luv — a short, short story by G B Hobson

May 30, 2013

Winnie Luv

 Bad news comes creeping in, just when you’re thinking that life is pretty good and worth the effort of keeping alive, even if a black hole had opened up in his bank account.

John read the letter again, as though re-reading the words over and over, might somehow change their meaning:

 “Sorry but there is no other way of putting it. I don’t want to see you again. I don’t want you to communicate or ask others to intervene. We are finished. I don’t love you anymore. I know it’s cruel to tell you this way, but it’s for the best and, in the long run, kinder. I could not cope with your pleading, as happened so many times before. I enclose a cheque to the value of the ring you gave me. Well, near enough the value. I don’t see why I should pay the VAT. I have become attached to the ring, even if not to you.” Zara had signed it with a mere squiggle.

Suddenly, John realised the irony of his position. He had lost the woman he adored but gained the means to pay off the heavy debt that was dragging him into liquidation of his only asset — A ripe-for-breeding female English Bulldog — his adorable Winnie.

A broad grin spread across his face. “Come on, Winnie Luv. Let’s go walkies. Just as well she’s buggered off. One wrinkly bitch is as much as I can handle.”

2010 in review

January 4, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,600 times in 2010. That’s about 16 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 64 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 232 posts. There were 116 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 164mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was February 16th with 43 views. The most popular post that day was Dress Design sketches 1950’s (Desire/Awakening Love era).

 

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were en.wordpress.com, google.com.au, geoffdellow.blogspot.com, en.blog.wordpress.com, and search.conduit.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for dress designs, fashion sketches, fashion design sketches, 1949 fashion, and short story on sacrifice.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Dress Design sketches 1950’s (Desire/Awakening Love era) November 2009
3 comments

2

1949 fashion and sketches for Awakening Love trailer video — maybe! February 2009
4 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

3

The Sacrifice — another short story March 2008
1 Like on WordPress.com,

4

More Dress Designs From the 1950’s January 2010

5

Romance— SEX: Desire, Lust, Passion, Love — and Affection? February 2009
Not as many hits as on my Magpies Nest Publishing site but there are almost as many hits on my combined blogspot sites (Writing For Joy, Diary of a Country Lady, Gladys Hobson – Author, Lake District Saga — Checkmate, Ask Gran Hobson) So many visitors for the wordpress dress design posts but nice to know people also come back to read my writing efforts!

Geoff Nelder’s latest thriller — HOT AIR

December 17, 2010

Geoff Nelder’s HOT AIR — a thriller with a difference!
If you want a thorough professional review of Hot Air I suggest you visit Geoff’s blog or web site.
Geoff Nelder’s blog
Geoff Nelder’s imagination factory

Geoff Nelder signing books at Cheshire Oaks, Borders

Photograph of Geoff Nelder's HOT AIR — action-packed drama from beginning to end!

Here I am writing purely from a reader’s point of view. Well, not exactly a reader, more like a listener of stories. Since my eyesight is not good enough for sustained reading, my hubby reads to me several times a day. This is a totally different experience as, unless the reader performs to professional standards, it is easy for the mind to wander. That is, unless the story is really gripping and both reader and listener are alert to every nuance within the written word.
First, I will say that there is an excellent video trailer on you tube.
Needing no incentive to read the book, I preferred to experience the book first. Others readers may prefer an initial stimulus before purchasing.
The Story:
What seems like a fantastic birthday present — a trip in a hot air balloon with her wimp of a boyfriend — turns into a nightmare when bullets start ripping through their airborne chariot. What had they done to deserve this unscheduled event? Incredibly, they had witnessed nefarious deeds — murder? torture? gang rape? — taking place within a leafy garden in England’s green and pleasant land. Was that a knife glinting in the sun? Erica’s boyfriend Paul is busy with his camera.
Well, whatever is going off, someone is not pleased to have witnesses. From the death of their balloon pilot to the end of the book, murder, torture, mayhem follows Erica around like a whiff of bizarre perfume as she is chased through air, and across land and water — in ever increasing danger of meeting a horrible death. But her feisty spirit never flags. She trusts no one, and, so it appears, rightly so. Her ingenuity and courage are beyond measure. Often stirred but rarely shaken, she battles to escape both evil men and wild waves to make her way to freedom and so expose the murderous gang after her blood.
Who can she turn to? Unfortunately, those who help her tend to come to a sticky-bloody end.
But who is this gangster who saves her life and gets under her skin? What is he really after? Apart from sensuous sex, that is.
Many questions, from beginning to end, keep the reader anxious to know the answers. A good dusting of erotica along the way alleviates some of the chilling horror scenes. Mix with suspense, intrigue, humour, and full-blooded characterization, and you have HOT AIR!
Should this book be made into a film, you’d better grow your nails long — or take sweets to bite into! This really is a Thriller to unnerve even the most hardened of Crime readers!
Hot Air is available in print and as an eBook from Wuacademia. Click here to go direct to the site for info and swift purchase.

We read most of the Thrillers by top authors, Geoff Nelder’s HOT AIR ranks easily among them.

Gladys Hobson

Dress Design in the 1950’s — So you want to be a designer? Final Part

September 3, 2010

Dress Design in the 1950’s

So you want to be a designer? — Final Part (see previous three posts for rest of story).

I did indeed find another job. As a designer, yes, but also assistant to the Manageress Designer. This was to be a new thing for me — designing straight to the retail.
The premises were above one of the shops the factory supplied. The names may have been different, but both factory and shops were owned by the same person. Plans were already far advanced for their move into specially renovated premises, on the opposite side of the periphery of Nottingham’s city. Little did I know then that we would be treated to the stink of the glue factory every time a window was opened. No doubt our boss was not too pleased to find his new Daimler with piercing scratches right along the sides. (The lads who did were quite open about it. They told him, “We did it with this rock, mister.”
The room I worked in before the move was crowded but friendly. The finishers and others worked at one end and I had a long worktable at the side of the designer-manageress’s. This is the person I answered to (I’ll call her Joan). The boss, an incredibly busy person not shy of taking off his coat and doing a job to push production along, rarely spoke to anyone other than Joan. Here I will call the boss, Mr Big. He surely must have been at my interview, but I have no recollection of an interview taking place. That seems to be lost in the mist of time with events of far more significance taking place.
It was just as well we were to move. Tales of being overrun with mice, crowding, and the drabness of the place were depressing. Joan was overbearing and watched me like a hawk. Her upgrading of sizes were done to the perfection of cutting through the correct side of a fine pencil line. She would check to make sure the correct fraction had been added and that no pencil line showed. In a way it was funny because the boss seemed to have a far laxer approach, judging by what he did occasionally. He sometimes bought dresses and had them copied. One day, when Joan was not there to do it, he quickly unpicked the seams of a dress, placed the pieces on fabric and cut round them. He gave the parts to Joan’s sample hand to make up. Later, Joan cut a proper pattern made to our own specifications.
It did not take me long to hate the place. Moving to the prepared factory didn’t help either. It was still two bus journey’s to get there and it was in a deprived area within the stink of the glue factory. It had two toilets, but after a factory inspection one had to set aside for the man who came to work on the cutting bench, and the one who did the driving. Not that it mattered, no one had time to visit the toilet unless really urgent. Golly, I was timed by Joan, and what’s more, told off for not switching off my light during those few minutes.
Finally I was allowed to do a few sketches when things were slack, but I need not have bothered, Mr Big had no intention of using them. It did not take long to realize that I was only there to cut patterns. In fact, Joan came up to me one day and said, “Mr Big had been contacted by a man who can use the electric cutter, and he can grade patterns too. He wants eight pounds a week. He thinks he would be better off with him than keeping you.”
I was getting about five pounds a week then. I felt utterly humiliated. But that was the way things were. Mr Big took on a machinist. At the end of the week he looked at her work card, saw that she had not earned as much as he expected from his machinists and gave her two minutes notice to leave. They may have been on piece rates but he wanted to fill his benches with girls who could push through the work to his advantage.
So there I was, keeping my nose to the grindstone while thinking about looking elsewhere. The man did come and work for the firm. He was fast with the electric cutter and laying up machine, but he had no time for pattern cutting. Business was booming.
The only highlight for me was manning the firm’s stand each afternoon for a week during a Nottingham Trade Fair. I wore one of the firm’s designs made just to fit. That was to be my uniform for the week.
It did not take long to get another job. I informed Joan that I was leaving and where I was going. She was furious and sneered, “Huh! Another jersey-knit firm!” (As opposed to the many types of fabric used there.)
About ten minutes later I was brought my ‘cards’ and pay in lieu of a week’s notice. I was given two minutes to leave the factory.

The next place did not work out either. They really wanted help on the cutting bench (where I used an electric cutter for the first time) and an assistant for the designer. Not that she did much designing, as simple ‘sloppy Joe’ type of garments, made of brushed nylon, were brought in to be copied. I cut plenty of samples of her designs but few apparently sold. I was given a chance to design a couple of garments myself, one to specific instructions and the other freely. It was a nice black suit with perfect fit. All the samples were sold off in the factory after a few months, so I bought my suit and wore it on my honeymoon!
But I was back in that awkward position of being staff in a segregated system. Having lunch with staff in a boxed-off corner of the canteen was embarrassing. I soon joined the girls I worked with. The factory was even further away from home too. So I found myself another job.

At my new firm, I knew I was on a two week trial, not that it made any difference to the way I worked. The first thing to sort out was the blocks they had been using. Nothing fitted properly. The sample hand told me that if a bodice was too big for the dress’s skirt they would make a tuck in the bodice. Likewise if the skirt was too big for the bodice. What if the sides did not meet up? They cut off a bit themselves. Having been used to working to the thickness of a pencil line, I decided things had to change. Once I had a perfect set of blocks for the main sizes — not a big job — I could get down to designing.
What a place to work in though. At least I had a window near my cutting table, the rest of the room had to be lit up. The ceiling was low, with old wooden beams, and somewhat oppressive. The only toilet was off a landing down the stairs. It had a wash basin in there too, which was used to wash cups and mugs used for tea or coffee.
At the end of the first week, apart from cutting some specials and improving the blocks, I had designed ten dresses based on ones in a brochure I had been told to look through. The samples were all looking good and well made. Friday afternoon, I was called into the office. Of course, I expected to be given the post permanently. Instead I was told the opposite. They were really looking for an overlooker and I was not the person for the job. However, they said they could not fault my pattern cutting skills and would gladly give me a reference. They said I could stay for the second week if I wanted to. But I took my one week’s pay and left.
Before I left the building the sample hand came up to me. “You’re leaving aren’t you? We all knew you wouldn’t get the job. You see you’re too good. Mrs Smith (the previous designer who still had some influence) will never allow someone in her job who can better than her. We’re all very sorry about it, and we wanted you to know.”
I found that support comforting, especially as I had not been told about the overlooker requirement when appointed. The room had been working very smoothly that week. What did Mrs Smith do that would have made a difference? When she was cutting the patterns, likely she had to constantly sort out seams that didn’t fit!
On the Monday I called in at the Labour office (now job centres). I refused to be ‘signed on’ and found myself a job as a sample cutter at a well-established Nottingham firm turning out high quality garments. The pay was about the same but I only had one bus to catch to get there. It kept me going financially for a few months until that real break came my way.
I had applied for a job some months earlier but had not received a reply — that is, until it suddenly arrived unexpectedly . I was the only one for the interview. Their main interest in me was my connection with the firm I had done my training with. They sold garments to some of the same buyers. The man who did most of the selling for this firm knew the managers of the other one. (Likely had gulped down a few ‘glasses’ with them.)
The person who interviewed me lived in Manchester and only dropped in a few days a week. A ‘sleeping partner’ came rarely. One of the main partners had died some time before I went there. (His two sons ran a lingerie business on the floor above) The business seemed to be mainly run by the traveller, who got the orders and made sure the goods went through the factory and out. A secretary did all the office work. The overlooker made sure the garments were made and went through the system. (Unfortunately, this overlooker was a friend of the designer whom I was replacing.)
I was told why they were letting their designer go — evidently she came and went as she chose. Possibly she had someone to look after, I’m not sure. I was given £6 a week and told it would be raised to £8 if I merited it. Later on, supported by the traveller who kept the business afloat, I asked for the £8 and got it.
The overlooker was openly hostile but with Freddie (the travelling salesman) behind me, I got on okay. I also had an excellent sample hand and we worked well together. Freddie got what he needed, someone to be there, drop everything, and get on with whatever he had brought in that was hot on the market scene. This is where his connections came in. He would come along with samples of embroidery or ‘skirt permanent pleating‘ and want samples of dresses doing straight away. It was easy enough to design dresses to suit these samples and cut both pattern and fabric within a short time. Freddie would have his completed samples to take off to a customer in pretty quick time. This is where he scored at retail production. So this firm did both wholesale and retail trade. I could imagine he must have got somewhat frustrated before if the designer was missing half the time.
Freddie took me with him occasionally to meet the customers — both London and in Nottingham. He once told me what the buyer at C&A had said to him: “… and did that little girl design these?” He was quite impressed.
One day bales of a silky fabric arrived that had been bought incredibly cheap. I was asked to design a blouse that would be attractive but work out inexpensive. My design was just right. The blouse sold and the whole lot gone within a week.
To me this was all a dream come true. A good job with good money doing something that I was good at. What could be better?
Unfortunately, the boss in Manchester died and the business was sold out to the brothers who owned the lingerie firm above. They took over the two floors and the office.
With an excellent testimonial from Freddie, I applied back to the first firm that I worked for in Awkwright Steet. Not only were they pleased to take me on, they also took on a number of the workgirls, including my sample hand. I also had yet another another rise in salary. More to my personal satisfaction, I returned to that factory as a fully-fledged designer, and only just a little over two years after I had left it.
When I turned freelance, soon after my first child was born, I continued designing for that firm, plus the lingerie firm that had taken over my previous one. Shortly after, I designed and cut patterns for a firm manufacturing housecoats in Dudley, and occasional designing for others — in Nottingham, Leicester, London. These last were just fleeting as I had no wish to travel as my second son had been born. A few years later our third child arrived.
By this time manufacturing in this country was quickly dying out. The firm I first worked for sold one of their factories and turned the other over to underwear as being more profitable. Then the housecoat firm collapsed. I was still doing good business with the lingerie firm but they were greatly concerned about imports and looking for ways to reduce costs.
When my sons started school I became interested in Education. I took a three year teacher-training course, and finally qualified a year after we moved up here (Cumbria). It had been incredibly hard: my hubby in a completely different job, a mid-stream change of colleges for me (driving me towards a break-down in health), our children in different schools away from friends and family, and a different way of life for all of us. But I still did an occasional bit of work for the lingerie firm. Then the overlooker at that firm suddenly died. The remaining director (his brother having died some years earlier) sold out. Like most factories in Nottingham, that building is now turned into expensive apartments. What’s more, clothes can be bought at ridiculous prices due to cheap, if not, ‘sweated’ labour abroad. Even so, while workers labour long hours for low pay merely to put food in their children’s mouths, fortunes are being made at their expense. Does anyone care?
I look back on my life and consider these last years. After teaching I studied for the church and worked in lay ministry. These last years I have been writing stories and novels. Everything in my past is useful as a writer, but of interest to the modern reader? I very much doubt it.

The Designed For Love Trilogy — Awakening Love, Seduction By Design, Checkmate. Published by Magpies Nest Publishing in the Uk

The first book, Awakening Love, does contain settings familiar to me — the factory, home, and life in general with social distinctions as lived then. But June’s story is not mine. She does have much of my spirit though — a desire to achieve. Her love life is not mine but the morals and education do reflect those times. ‘Seduction’ moves the reader on to the late sixties and seventies, when mini skirts and hot pants became the rage, and sex was no longer a hush-hush subject. The final part takes the reader to the glorious Lake District where June regains an even stronger zest for design. Her former boss is as sexually potent as ever!
Chapters from all the books can be read at Magpies Nest Publishing.

Fashion in 1952 — Evening Dress

July 29, 2010

Forget the handsome guy (he\’s mine) One of my own original designs — two piece shot taffeta and brocade

I have now had well over 5,000 hits on posts that have designs going back to the early fifties. Not huge by some standards but good for Wrinkly Writers.
I came across this photo of me in 1952 (with my husband to be). I am wearing a dress I designed the year before (1951) But then it was long and simple — shot silk taffeta blue/black skirt and boned strapless top of gorgeous top silver and blue brocade. I later cut it short and used that material to make the sleeveless top (that you see here) to wear over the dress. It was a useful little outfit. A perfect fit too. All fastenings invisible.
Nothing wasted in those days. It wasn’t just that money was in short supply but we were brought up to make the most of what we had.
What I like about fashions of that era is the cut of clothes. They enhanced the figure. Good packaging with allure, rather than overt exposure of goods.

visit my other blogs
Writing For Joy
Diary Of An English Lady
Gladys Hobson — Author
Magpies Nest Publishing for my UK books.

Never mind the title, feel the heat!

May 28, 2010

Reviews for the three books in my Love By Design trilogy — Awakening Love, Seduction, Checkmate are hotting up. Visit Fools Paradise to see Payton L Inkletter’s last review — of my Seduction! (a previous publication was known as Seduction By Design)
You can read it here but you miss the animation — you’ll laugh your socks off!

Also posted here is a review by Andrew O’Hara (Andy is deeply involved with the Badge Of Life. Visit the BOL site, for eye opening revelations about their work.)

Go to my author site Hobsons Books for more reviews

SEDUCTION BY DESIGN

Seduced by design. Designed for seduction!

“Seduction by Design” is a triumph. Entertaining, wild, erotic (sheesh :), and full of enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed. A great piece of reading, written with Gladys Hobson’s very typical skill! (Longer one below)
Andy O’Hara

Seduction By Design

I was keen to sink my teeth into this novel, ‘Seduction by Design’, Gladys Hobson’s second in her ‘Designed For Love’ series, because she had me hooked with her first, ‘Desire’ (known in the UK as Awakening Love).

These are no ordinary romance novels. They are written by a mature age author, whose abundance of wisdom invests the chapters with a fragrance rare. A young person simply could not achieve this, and the gems of insight Ms Hobson scatters throughout her story delighted me.

As for the characters, my dislike of the arch bastard Robert Watson magnified in this instalment, while my love for the beautiful June Rogers nee Armstrong was tempered – Ms Hobson portrays just what a flawed woman she is despite her enormous and rare talent for couture design; and to make matters more arresting for me, I am tarred with many of the same brushstrokes as June, if I want to be honest.

Thus I was not only entertained by this engrossing tale, I was a tad convicted.

It is the early seventies, the setting having jumped a couple of decades from that of ‘Desire’, and my word how well Ms Hobson has integrated the plot from that instalment!

The thermostat regarding eroticism has been turned up a few notches in ‘Seduction…’, and that’s saying something, and yet, as with her first, there is nothing dirty or obscene in her explicit portrayals, and I tip my hat to her for this achievement: sexually charged encounters aplenty, without impurity – trashy romance writers take notice!

Something rare for me: I was actually mesmerised in places as I consumed this believable story involving an assortment of characters that would exist in any big town and city. And as in my previous review, let me reiterate that, as a writer, I continued to be informed and educated regarding effective technique to convey and captivate.

Well done Ms Hobson, and when is the final novel, ‘Checkmate’, going to be finished for me to learn what happens to these characters, who have become such a part of my imagination?
Payton L. Inkletter (writer, thinker, humorist)

SEE INKLETTER’S ANIMATED REVIEWS AT Fools Paradise!

Seduction by Design (about to be published by Turquoise Morning Press as ‘Seduction’ by G B Hobson)

Here’s a book that carries the reader right along in a smooth, continuous delight of romance, erotic adventure and well woven suspense. Author Gladys Hobson kicks right off with a bang, introducing us to the sensual June Rogers. A fashion designer by trade, June is grieving the death of her husband, Arthur, and begins to take readers on a tangled journey of love and hate with the attractive Charles and the ever despicable Robert–and is he ever!

Trite as that might sound, Hobson truly brings these three main characters (and a surrounding cast of delightful cast members) to vivid life in her “Seduction by Design.” This book keeps the reader on one’s toes as misfortunes lead to twisted plots and motives, and then to one misunderstanding after another that almost lead to tragedy and final heartbreak and yet, in the end — well, the writer sums it up best as, “Deja vu,” which you will have to find out by reading this delightful piece of work!

Gladys Hobson is a well practiced writer, spinning a tale smoothly and naturally. She is economical and yet she is capable of painting entire scenes and montages with dialogue, a quick glance, the sparkle of an eye or the dart of a smile so quickly that a reader doesn’t even know it’s happening. This is a rare talent and a delight.

“Seduction by Design” is good reading. It’s flat-out entertaining, suspenseful, erotic, fun, and heartwarming!

Andrew O’Hara (editor of The Jimston Journal, author of prize-winning The Swan, Tales of the Sacramento Valley) lives in the USA and now runs the Badge Of Life.

Please note: My trilogy and Smouldering Embers will now be published by Turquoise Morning Press and my The Dark Mirror (previously published as When Angels Lie) is being published by Storm Moon Press

The Man Who Told Lies

March 12, 2010

The Man Who Told Lies
By Gladys Hobson

‘Back from holiday? You won’t have heard then. That tramp who lived over there (he pointed to the cottages across the road) is dead. It was in the local paper — front page!’
Puzzled, I followed his gaze. ‘Tramp?’
‘You know, that old guy. Didn’t look after himself — drunkard. Wore shabby clothes, looked rough, needed a shave. Took his little dog for walks.’
The little dog — cute rat on long legs with a whippet tail — immediately identified the dead man. Tears rose in my eyes. ‘You mean Mark? Mark Ashley?’
‘That’s the guy. Told proper porkies. Police have been knocking on doors trying to find out if he had any relatives.’
‘He has a son — he’s a surgeon — and a grandson. They live in New York.’
‘Really? Nobody’s mentioned that. Better tell the police then. They’ve been asking all over the area. Someone said he has a cousin.’
‘He does. I think he lives nearby.’
With difficulty, I tried to hide the deep grief tugging at my heart. ‘What happened to Mark?’
‘Walked out to get his usual supper and fell down the cellar steps of one of those houses in Soutergate. Half drunk probably. A woman from the house rang for an ambulance. They took him to Furness General. He was sent on to Preston. He was in a coma for days, then he died.’
I was too upset to take in what else my neighbour said. Thankfully, he had to get to town and we parted company. No longer enjoying the beauty of trees and flowers that lined my path, or the warmth of midsummer sun, I walked the short distance to my home dazed and shivering. Mark dead? No more would I greet him and listen to his outrageous lies. No more would I see that silly grin and hear him chuckle at his own deceits. No more would I fuss that silly dog which had stolen his heart. Mark was dead. My friend Mark was dead and gone forever.
In my kitchen I made myself a pot of tea. I took a cup from the cupboard and put in a spoonful of coffee granules. I picked up the teapot and began to pour. What the hell was I doing? I hadn’t put in the milk. Wait a minute; there was coffee in the cup! I pulled myself together and decided on tea.
I drifted to the living room with its big picture windows giving views over fields and gardens. All so beautiful, life was going on as before, and yet…
Enjoying the familiar comfort of my reclining chair, I drank my tea and questioned why I felt so bereft. After all, Mark was not a relative nor had he been a close friend. True he was once a colleague sharing in the challenges imposed by the Ministry of Education when the local schools were reorganised into unwilling comprehensives, but he was a man very much on the periphery of my life.
Mark dead. I sighed deeply at the image in my mind of when I last saw him: uncombed hair topped with black woolly hat, grim face in need of a shave, head down, collar of black coat up, his limping frame bearing him up the road with his only true friend in tow — Peter the silent dog.
‘Hi, Mark,’ I said, as he was hurrying past.
He stopped, both he and Peter looking up. ‘Hello, Gladys, I didn’t see you.’
I patted the dog and it gave a nervous quiver.
‘What sort of breed is it?’
Mark proceeded to give me details of the dog’s unusual breed and pedigree, its very high cost and its naughty habits. I looked at the miserable dog, trembling at Mark’s ankles. Could that pathetic creature really take food from his plate, hide socks behind chairs, open his mail?
Mark’s face — pale skin, high cheek bones, square jaw, thin lips, fine nose slightly crooked, blue eyes under pale brows overhung with wispy greying hair — took on an aggrieved air. ‘That woman at the end of the terrace has accused me of letting Peter shit on her lawn. Huh, I told her, I take my dog out for a walk every day. It’s her own dog doing it, not mine.’
His countenance took on a conspiratorial look. ‘You know that ice-cream van that comes down the road?’
Who indeed could not recognise its monotonous chimes?
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I’m surprised they get much custom. Most folk keep ice-cream in the freezer.’
‘They sell drugs to kids.’
He was watching for my reaction. Well, I could see the possibilities. ‘Really?’
‘Oh, yes. The police know about it. There’s a copper lives opposite me. He’s keeping an eye on it. That’s not all’ He nodded across the road. ‘That house that was for sale. Criminals have moved in. Police know. They’re doing surveillance.’
I nodded; after all I was aware of dealers pushing drugs in the town. I had recently been involved in a drop-in centre for the town’s youth. One evening, a police officer called in at the centre to warn us of the drug problem, and what to look out for. From then on, my nose was on the alert for wacky baccy. But criminals living in our close-knit area?
Whenever and wherever I met Mark he had a tale to tell me. I guess, spending many hours alone in his cottage with only his little dog and a bottle for company, he was short of intelligent conversation to brighten his day. He loved to be outrageous and so it was really quite difficult to sort truth from lies.
I knew he was a keen horseman and for years had entered races with his big white horse and, at one time, was keen on trotting with a small horse and light trap. That he fractured a leg several times and had received poor settings was obvious by his limp. Maybe part of his reason for drinking was to dull the pain he constantly suffered. Several tales came from his horsy connections.
‘You know Joan Smith, the geography teacher?’
‘Not personally, but I used to see her in the staff room.’ I could have added that I heard her too: she had a loud voice and a raucous laugh. ‘Jolly lady, sat with her smoking colleagues.’
He nodded with an urgency to get on with his tale. ‘She asked me to arrange the transfer of her daughter’s new horse. I turned up at the address given and was told the girl was not there.’ He gave a sort of whinny. ‘She said she had gone to paradise. So I said, “Oh, I am sorry. I’ll call another day”.‘
‘Really, that must have been rather embarrassing for you,’ but I was wondering if he was having me on.
‘Well, Joan was in the staff room the following day, so I asked her what she wanted doing with the horse. She told me her daughter wanted it taking to the field as instructed.’ He snorted with laughter. ‘Paradise is a place just up the road from where they live!’
I guess that tale could be genuine, or did he dream it up? At least he made me smile and perhaps that was all he wanted. Another tale he told me concerned a member of the royal family and a horse-and-trap race across Morecambe Bay. Evidently he accidentally messed up the start of the race, which earned him an unmentionable comment from the royal personage taking part. Mark looked deeply aggrieved.
‘I don’t care who he is, I told him even my father never spoke to me like that. And I wasn’t going to take it from him either.’
‘Good for you, Mark.’ Knowing that his temper had once led him to punching the parent of a boy he once taught, I found it easy to believe what he was telling me, but was I gullible old fool? I have heard of the Duke of Edinburgh driving a coach and horses across the sands but I have not found any evidence of horse and trap races, never mind His Royal Highness taking part.
Relaxing in my chair my mind took me back to the year, 1979. Three schools — girls’ grammar, boys’ grammar and a down-at-heel secondary — had come together to form a comprehensive establishment of fifteen hundred souls. Few people seemed happy about it. A few teachers gained but most lost out; the youngsters from the secondary school were convinced the ‘posh lot’ hated them; and the grammar kids were not keen to mix with that ‘lot from down the road’. Only the boys gained some satisfaction — girls galore! The parents of the grammar pupils had been promised separate streaming for their children where their education would continue until leaving at sixteen. Although the form classes were mixed, the pupils kept to their own social groups and then went off to be taught as before. Unfortunately, some teachers considered those from the secondary school as being unworthy of their time. Mark was not one of them.
His aloofness stood him out from the rest of the staff. He had little to say at meetings. Mark had made it clear to me that, although he was on a scale two, he had no intention of doing more than a scale one because he had not been given a position of responsibility. Evidently the extra scale applied to when he served in a different department — teaching biology. But since he had a degree from a top College of Art and had designed furniture on a commercial basis, I was surprised he was not a departmental head within the Comprehensive system. That is, until I got to know him better.
Whatever skills Mark had, and they were many, he was a very poor communicator where adults were concerned. It was some years later that I discovered his adeptness at telling lies. Even then I tended to take him at his face value.
Of course, he often annoyed me when, on taking an art class after him, I found the room untidy, the sink full of filthy brushes, no stock in the cupboard and, quite often, no drawing paper because he has used it all for his pupils to make sketch pads in bookbinding lessons. Not only that, but he copied some of my carefully thought up ideas for art classes. Even so, for whatever reason, I liked the man. Maybe it was because, when he did speak, he was not afraid to say what he thought. He was stubborn and could be incredibly witty: his guffaw creasing his face into a quirky smile. Also, the fact that he did find my ideas good enough to use with his own pupils boosted my ego; after all, I did not have his training or qualifications.
The day I retired from teaching, I was formally handed cards, flowers and a gift from the staff, but the thing I treasured more than anything was the simple present left on my desk. A single white rose stuck on a homemade card — a flying dove cut out of white cartridge paper — with Mark’s name and best wishes inside. I was deeply touched.
It was some years before I saw Mark again. I was surprised to see him on several occasions shopping in Ulverston. I recognised his lumbering gait before I saw his rugged unshaven face. But on each occasion, he was across the road and walking too quickly for me to catch him up. A few weeks later, I actually met him face to face. He told me that his mother had died and that he was moving out of Barrow to live in Ulverston, but he did not have time to go into details. So when I saw him enter a house just around the corner from us, I was pleasantly surprised. He saw me and invited me into his cottage to show me the improvements taking place. I invited him to my home for a chat when he had a free evening.
It wasn’t long before he was ringing our doorbell. I was pleased to see him.
‘Come in, Mark. We’ll go in the small sitting room; it’s quiet in there. Do you want a coffee?’ He declined: he’d only come for a brief chat.
So he sat on one of our vintage armchairs and made himself comfy. He had a way of wriggling into a chair as though shaping it to fit his body. Having settled into the seat, he sat back, shuffled his shoulders, crossed his legs and placed both hands on the top knee. He looked around the room, twitching his loose foot and occasionally jerking a shoulder. I could imagine him thinking, ‘Nothing Andy Warhol in here.’ He made no comment on my pleasant collection of Heaton Cooper prints — not his style.
I sat close by with my armchair at an angle — distant enough to be non-threatening but easy enough to converse eye to eye should he wish to do so. I gave him a few moments to take in the relaxing decor of the room: neutral pastel colours of walls, carpet and curtains with little splashes of colour introduced in cushions and pictures.
‘So, what made you move to Ulverston?’
He began by telling me about the trouble he’d had with his neighbours. ‘I like a garden that grows naturally — wild like.’ I nodded in acceptance, but thinking I was glad he wasn’t living next to us. ‘They complained about the tree growing in my garden. None of their business. I wasn’t getting it pruned back, it would have ruined it.’
And so he continued chatting, telling me about his search for a house and the need to have somewhere for his horse. The tiny cottage he had just acquired had cost him £19,000 and he was busy with alterations to give a more spacious feel to the place. He now had a gas fire set in the wall above floor level. ‘I’m giving it a black surround to match the furniture. Call in and see what you think.’
After a while he started shuffling in his chair and fidgeting with his hands. He looked at me and opened his mouth to say something then changed his mind. ‘I was going to tell you about…but no, better not…’ He shuffled some more. ‘Yes, I will tell you. I can trust you not to tell anyone else.’
Then began an extraordinary tale about receiving a letter from a woman he had known in his student days, who, at the time of writing, was dying of cancer. According to Mark, she wanted him to know that he had a son, and that he was also a grandfather. He then told me about the money his mother had taken from him every month, and of his wondering what she had done with it all, especially since she had died almost penniless. ‘Unknown to me,’ he said, ‘I had been keeping my son at Winchester. He’s a consultant surgeon now.’
He told me how his parents had decided he was too young to marry his student girlfriend and so kept their knowledge about the baby to themselves. Evidently the girl’s parents had been in touch with them and it had been a joint decision: presumably the girl had acquiesced to her parents taking over the baby’s welfare. Well, knowing things were different years ago, it was not difficult to believe the story, especially as Mark was going to show me a photograph of his grandson when I called at his house.
The photograph was of a handsome young boy, dressed in a riding outfit and astride a fine-looking horse. The fact that it was a black and white photograph was explained as having been snapped for a newspaper, his son being the winner of a prize. That was the first of many tales about his family. I saw no other photos but I refused to be suspicious.
Mark’s son had moved to New York but came over occasionally as he was following up a few of his important cases. I was told about a boy’s big toe being amputated to form a missing thumb and the complications resulting from the procedure, and of other tricky operations that his son specialised in. Do consultants really travel across oceans to follow up their cases?
Evidently the family visited him occasionally but did not stay long. They wanted him to go and live with them in New York. Mark said that he had visited the place and was not sure that he would be happy there. He told me quite a few stories of a private nature, but the one that sticks out in my mind because I can see it starkly in black and white, concerns the parentage of father, son and grandson. The three males were taking a walk together; each was dressed in black coat and black woolly hat. Mark said he had to laugh. ‘Look at us,’ I told them, ‘three bastards all dressed alike!’
Mark giggled at the telling of the tale. ‘All of us were born out of wedlock. Not many people know that.’
I felt honoured that he should confide in me. From that time on he often came up with a story about his surgeon son, of which he was very proud, and his grandson that took after his granddad for horsemanship.
Mark was still active: judging at horse trials and still riding. He also had a part-time job lecturing at Lancaster University. He told me that he only had three or four students to tutor: the young men were below standard and needed personal tuition. Mark said he had received a letter from one of the youth’s parents, thanking him for the help her son was receiving. Later he said he had a few hours a week at Edinburgh University. Those were the only times I saw him going out dressed up, walking into to town with brief case and umbrella to catch his train. Most of the time, when he was going down Soutergate to do his bit of shopping, he was unshaven and scruffy-looking. He was just the same when he was walking his nervous little dog.
One Sunday, I met him on my way to church. He stopped for a chat and, much to my surprise, came with me. Then some time later, when I was working in a church some distance away, he came to hear me take Evening Prayer and preach. It so happened that he knew the organist who was studying for a doctorate with the Open University. It was after that event that Mark told me he’d studied to become a doctor, but could not stand the sight of blood and so had to drop out. But he had done well at his London art college, so I decided he was a man of high IQ and many talents. I was not completely aware then of his wonderful talent for lying!
His son’s wife came into the stories occasionally, the two seemed to get on well together, certainly enough for him to be invited to live with them in New York. He told me he was going to stay there for three months to see if he liked it enough to move. He would not give up his home because he would use it for holidays. That seemed a very sensible thing to do, even though he had no idea then that the value of his little cottage would have increased almost fivefold twelve years later.
Other people came into his tales. He told me that a friend of his son was staying at his house while doing work at Glaxo. But I never saw anyone going in, or coming out of Mark’s house — including his family. No cars parked outside either, but maybe his visitors used the train. In fact, there could be an explanation for any oddity in Mark’s stories. Even so, when I asked him when he was going for that three months trip to New York he looked puzzled and needed reminding of what he’d told me. Also, why didn’t his close neighbours know anything about his family? And, why did they all think of him as a teller of porkies? As to Mark’s drinking and tramp-like appearance, had the man been a spinner of yarns to hide a sad and lonely existence? Well, the funeral would surely come up with answers about his family — or lack of it.
Life went on in the town without Mark but I sometimes saw a figure and thought, ‘Oh, there’s Mark,’ until realising I was mistaken — a common happening with people who have made a deep impression before their death.
We were away when the funeral had finally taken place. I did not make enquiries as to who was present: I decided to leave my memories of Mark intact. Mark is dead, but for me he will live on as the warm colourful character I knew him to be.
Or would I rather not know that I am a gullible fool?
Years later, and I still miss him. I ‘see’ him down the road and walking the footpath. He was part of my landscape and I guess he always will be.

Gill Banks

The stream at Gill Banks where Mark walked.

The Man Who Told Lies is published in Northern Lights, an anthology published by Magpies Nest Publishing — visit the publishing site for more extracts from the book

Gill path seat

Is Mark still here?

And More Dress Design sketches 1950’s (Awakening Love era)

November 27, 2009

When I was sorting out stuff in the attic, I came across a large pack of designs I did when I was a Freelance Dress Designer in the 1950’s to early sixties. I first designed for manufacturers of dresses, suits and separates. Then I was also taken on by a lingerie manufacturer, followed by a housecoat and nightwear manufacturer to sold directly to a well-known High Street store. Later, when I decided on education as a career (to suit home obligations with a growing family) I just kept to lingerie free-lancing, and exercised my design abilities in other directions — clothes, including wedding outfits etc for family and friends. Plus, of course, artistic stuff for school work,and later on, for my work in churches. But I kept the sketches and, looking at them, thought that today, over 50 years since they were drawn, they would still look good enough to attract customers! Well, let’s face it, folk can wear anything these days, whether suitable or not. In fact, ‘baby doll’ nightwear I designed all those years ago can be seen today as outerwear! But I’ll post those outfits later.
See also my design sketches in colour
and ‘More dress Designs from the 1950’s
My own experiences in Dress Design inspired the writing of my Love’s Design trilogy presently being published by the Australian publisher – Dare Empire for worldwide eBook readership. Awakening Love is already being sold for Kindle reading and other formats ready in early January 2011 — likewise for part two Seduction, and part three Checkmate. Printed versions quickly following.

Here in the UK Magpies Nest Publishing produce printed versions. Can be ordered from any good bookstore such as Waterstones or post free in the UK directly from Magpies Nest Publishing.

See my author site for reviews etc and Magpies Nest Publishing for all my books plus chapters to read and reviews to ponder.

UPDATE: DARE EMPIRE HAS BEEN PUBLISHING MY NOVELS. FROM THIS MONTH (SEPT.2012) TURQUOISE MORNING PRESS HAS TAKEN OVER THE RIGHTS TO AWAKENING LOVE, SEDUCTION, CHECKMATE, AND SMOULDERING EMBERS.

 

Ernie Johnson’s masterpiece — The BOOKHOUSE

July 24, 2009

Ernie Johnson’s masterpiece — The BOOKHOUSE
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I say ‘masterpiece’, because I consider the BOOKHOUSE to be a true work of art — creative, tasteful and incredibly well put together. Ernie is a craftsman of the Internet. But not only that but a philanthropist to authors looking to showcase their books.

Being a clumsy, computer illiterate, I admire anyone with skills and knowledge of computer language. Unfortunately, many web sites employ so many gimics and bizarre flashing items in clashing colours, that they are a ‘turn off’ as far as I am concerned. Just because things are available does not mean that all of them have to be employed — to the detriment of the essential contents.

A visit to the BOOKHOUSE is like entering a well-ordered bookstore or library where the genre you are seeking is there ready and waiting, clearly ordered. Here – at the click of the mouse – we see the latest books by new authors. All of them potential best sellers. Book covers, reviews or synopsis reveal each books contents, plus where they can be purchased. You can even have a chat with one of the authors on certain days.

Take a look at the BOOKHOUSE

And my page there.

Maybe you should be there too?

Late 1940’s Factory Life — Training To Be A Designer

July 21, 2009

This is the third part of the story of my design training and growing up into an adult.
That first day at work was painful on my hands. The cutting shears were huge and my hands fairly small and tender. The pressure on the ball of my thumb caused by the unyielding metal as it sliced through several thicknesses of fabric, was unrelenting. Binding the the thumb and finger grips may have softened things a little but it did not stop blisters forming.
The constant noise of heavy machinery above and below that huge room, as well as in the room itself, was like nothing I had ever before experienced. Noise of tanks going along the road and shaking the house was about the nearest thing but that was just an occasional occurrence, this noise only ceased when the workers stopped for lunch.
The room — almost a whole floor of the huge factory — was dull except next to the dirty windows. Plenty of lighting over work benches though. A smell of oil pervaded everywhere. The floor was worn and shiny from many years of use. Shiny knots and heavy grain in the wood stood out of the floorboards, not enough to trip us up but showing the factory’s age like the wrinkled and gnarled faces of some of the aged workers. Many of those employees had spent the whole of their working lives at that factory.
By the time I arrived home on that first day, I felt incredibly weary. My hands hurt and my feet ached. Everything had been so new to me. All my ideas about dress designing had been completely at odds with what I had experienced that day. I may have been staff, but to start with I was part of the workforce. The girls on the cutting bench were lovely, but I felt alone and gauche when talking to the staff. At lunchtime, the office girl took me down to the canteen to have lunch with her. Morning snack with the work-girls, then all change at lunchtime. I ate my pudding with a spoon. She ate it with a fork and spoon. We had nothing in common to talk about. She talked posh and had a boyfriend about twenty years her senior. I was back with the girls on my own level after lunchtime. Well, not really on my level because they were more sophisticated and knowledgeable about life as well as their jobs. (That is where I found out a lot about sex!) I felt everyone was laughing at me. Since I blushed easily, they had cause to.
It sounds daft now, maybe because my perception of life has radically changed. I was young and vulnerable in those days. I had never been away from home and even the girls at college, during my short time there, seemed above my ‘station’ in life. I had been the only girl at school without a navy gabardine coat (I only had a second-hand pea-green coat), and patches stitched over cracks in the uppers of my shoes had marked me out as a poor child. But I started work in the factory wearing a jumper and skirt I bought with my pay from the six weeks’ job I had before getting the trainee designer position. Even so, I was aware of poverty. Poverty had brought about humiliating experiences and they could not easily be dismissed from my memory.
So the evening of that first day of working in that factory, weary and disillusioned I cried myself to sleep. What had I expected? Bright offices and pleasant workrooms with genteel ladies working on individual garments. My mother wanted to know why I was crying but I could not tell her. I did not really know myself.
Teasing over blushing went on, but I settled in. Eventually I kicked the overseer on the shin because he refused to stop rubbing the knuckle of his thumb down my spine. Okay, so he called me ‘a nasty little bitch’ but he never did it again.
I became friendly with one of the cutters — May, a girl six feet in height and a big welcoming smile.
Joan, a young woman, was head cutter. She also modelled the new designs. A lovely friendly girl, she invited May and me to her twenty-first birthday party. I remember we had a lot to drink, mostly stuff like cherry brandy but also gin and lime. I stayed the night at May’s house. We had more to drink before we went to bed. Her younger brother was still up. He drank too, turned a greenish grey (I had never seen anyone turn that colour before) and threw up in the sink. Us? We ate a few large pickled onions, dropped a few and picked them up — likely with fluff attached — ate them and went to bed. We had a good night’s sleep and I went home the next day, fit and happy.
More of my adventures with May later.