Category Archives: Nostalgia

Beaches, Boutiques and Beatles

20171012_145549Earlier this month, hubs and I took ourselves off for a few days to Chester (north of England). AJ had some meetings arranged, so I tagged along and we made a short break of it. Chester is a gorgeous place, very close to the border of Wales. It’s a walled city, founded as a Roman fort in 79AD. You can still walk the city walls and view the amazing medieval buildings, most of which were restored in Victorian times. The main shopping centre has The Rows, said to be unique to Chester. These are continuous galleries reached by steps and forming a second row of shops above those at street level. Pretty little boutiques and charming coffee shops are in abundance here. Some parts of The Rows still boast original 13th century buildings, making Chester a truly fascinating place.

20171012_121617We took the train from Chester into Wales and the seaside town of Rhyl. The weather was lovely, our trip being placed between the two storms which hit the UK this month: Ophelia and Brian. Rhyl has a gorgeous sandy beach and a long promenade, just perfect for dog walking. We really missed Vivvy and kept saying how she would have loved it there with all the other dogs. We did take her back a stick of doggie rock though 🙂

20171013_152317Then it was time for a trip down memory lane and a day visit to Liverpool. I absolutely love this city, it’s vibrant, friendly and steeped in culture. Naturally, the Beatles influence is everywhere, from the musicians who pepper the streets serenading the shopping public, to the restaurants and museums. Of course, we had to do the touristy things, like visiting the Cavern Club and taking that Ferry Across the Mersey. Well, you have to, don’t you?20171013_145537

It was a really lovely trip and we packed a whole lot into a short time. I’m starting to enjoy mini breaks like this one almost as much, and sometimes more than full-blown holidays/vacations. Here’s to the next one…

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Book Junkie

As a writer and avid book reader, I’m often asked who my favourite author is, or whose work influences me the most, or what my favourite book is. All are difficult to answer as I read many genres, many authors, and many books have stayed with me throughout my life. I grew up in a household where books and reading were encouraged at an early age, indeed our mother taught us to read long before we first went to school. She read us exciting bedtime stories, fairytales told German and herself read all kinds of novels. With six of us in the family, the choice and quantity was large and books passed around as we grew older.

My father read science fiction, so I became familiar and enjoyed the work of Arthur C.Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. My older brother loved adventure stories so I soon became immersed in Treasure Island, The Coral Sea, Kidnapped and so on. My two sisters read everything they could get their hands on from Alice in Wonderland, What Katy Did Next, Black Beauty, and the list goes on from there as we grew older to all of John Wyndham (Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos to name but two), Dennis Wheatley (The Devil Rides Out), Alex Haley, and Catherine Cookson. So many good writers, so many books to read, far too many to mention.

And along with all these books there were the comics and annuals we devoured including Bunty, Jackie, the Beano, Dandy, and Hotspur.

However, despite all these great stories, two in particular from childhood have stayed with me. The first is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis. I must have been about 8 or 9 when I read this. I was ill in bed at the time, a frequent occurrence when I was young. I remember the illustrations too, and longed that my wardrobe would open up to reveal a hidden, wonderful world where animals could talk. At that time I had no idea this was a complete set of these magical stories and with so many other books in the house, I didn’t seek out any of the rest. It wasn’t until my daughter fell in the love with Narnia series that I learnt there were more. And of course I was in my element when the film franchise came out. A few week ago I came across The Magician’s Nephew, sixth in the series but a prequel to the whole Narnia world and how it came about. I was engrossed from the first page.

The other story is from a “comic”. I use the word comic in a loose sense as, if my memory serves me correctly, it was an educational magazine for children, the name of which I cannot remember. We didn’t have this at home, I used to read them at my best friend’s house whenever I went to play there. On the back page was always a cartoon strip story of a family who lived under the floorboards of the house and used items taken from the house for their furniture. Cotton reels for tables, matchboxes for cupboards and drawers, doll’s house china. I loved those stories, the magic and wonderment, the concept, the impossibility – or was it? – that there were little people living inside our homes, but in later years I never could remember what the comic strip was called to go in search of the book. You’ve probably realised I’m talking about “The Borrowers”. I found this out when the film came out. I watched it, and was bitterly disappointed. Probably because I’m now an adult, a grandmother, and the film was aimed at children, as was the original book. But the magic in those comic strips lives on in my head. 

So in answer to who influences my writing, it’s all of the authors whose books I’ve read and enjoyed. My favourite author? There isn’t one, because I enjoy many including Rosie Thomas, Nora Roberts, Barbara Erskine, Jeffery Archer, Ken Follett, as well as those writers mentioned above and a whole lot more, but not everything they write. Some of their books I’ve not liked, but these are probably the authors I would go out of my way to read. And my favourite book? Again, there isn’t any one I could pick out because I’ve loved so many.

Kit’s Website and Blog  and Kit’s Art  Site

Flaming June

June has been a surprising month not at all what I had anticipated.  Finally, Peter and I managed another 3 night break away after months of me suggesting places from Spain, Croatia, France, Scotland and back to Wales.  On Monday 12th we sat having a “sundowner” when I mentioned an apartment I had found in Bowness-on-Windermere in The Lake District, Cumbria.  “Book it” says Peter, the only available date was Friday 16th for 3 nights, yes the following Friday!  It was available so I grabbed it.  Well someone was guiding us as it was a beautiful, attic conversion in an old house in the woods above Bowness with a great view of Lake Windermere from the sitting room window.  With stops the journey took over 5 hours (nothing to our friends in US) but to us Brits it’s a long way!!  Everything is comparative, we never thought about 6 hour round trip to airport when we lived in Spain.  It was well worth the effort. Friday evening we had a superb meal in a local bistro with good wine. Suitably relaxed we walked the half a mile uphill back to our retreat.  It took a long time but a comfy bed awaited so a good incentive!

Saturday morning we woke to brilliant sunshine which lasted the whole weekend.  Hot but fresh – perfect.  After a breakfast of fresh Danish and good coffee in a local bakery we got a boat (cruise boat) across the lake (one mile across) to Lakeside.  A steam train then runs alongside the lake for about 5 miles which was a real treat.  We stayed on and made the return trip, full of nostalgia for me as I remember steam train journeys as a child.  Boat trip back to Bowness, much busier now with tourists of many nationalites.  We managed to find a wonderful deli run by a young couple with a range of meats, cheese, pickles, olives etc but we decided on pastrami sandwiches, the best I’ve had since I was in Manhattan over 10 years ago – well worth the wait!  We found a secluded sheltered spot and ate our picnic over-looking the lake.  We were unsure what to do next but decided on a movie, air conditioned theatre and friendly staff.  Popcorn too.  The movie was Churchill starring Brian Cox and Miranda Richardson which has had some bad reviews but we enjoyed it.  We could have booked a three course meal at a local restaurant  for afterwards (including the movie ticket) but saw the deal after we had seen movie!  I was tired so maybe not best time for a big meal but I thought it was an enterprising idea for cinema and restaurant.  We had an Italian instead which was just right.  Up the hill again and another great night’s sleep.

Sunday back to the lake but we crossed this time on a small ferry which pulls itself over on wires, I don’t understand how it works but it was a great way to cool down!  On the other side we walked up to a restored Claife Viewing Station originally built in the 1790s which had wonderful views of the lake. Next we walked 4 miles (and back!) alongside the lake through woods,  families were picnicking on the “beaches” generally enjoying the rare sunshine.  It all reminded Peter of Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie, Ohio, where he attended a conference.  Some of you will be familiar with this place.  Back to the deli and we stocked up for evening meal in the apartment after packing so much into 2 days.  One treat awaited for the next morning before returning home. (Note the rare photo of the Smiths together!)

My book club read this month is Haweswater by Sarah Hall.  Coincidentally, Haweswater Reservoir was 20 miles north of us so Peter was happy to divert.  A valley was flooded to create a new reservoir to supply water to Manchester and a dam constructed.  The work commenced in 1929 and was completed in 1940. Inspired by the building of the dam the book is a fictional story about the village of Mardale that was originally in the centre of the farming community, their lives and the impact of the dam.  I was so overcome with the beauty of the place I forgot to take a photo! Peace and tranquillity with all that history under the water.  It was an emotional experience, I have discovered my family originally came from this area in the 1790s so Cumbria remains in my genes.  I recommend the book which is a well researched first novel by a sensitive writer. I’ve also read and enjoyed The Wolf Border Sarah Hall’s latest novel which was also set in Cumbria but begins in Idaho about the re-wilding of wolves the Lake District.

I always feel I’ve been away ages following one of these breaks and think I enjoy them more than longer breaks these days.  Just to note the weather has returned to “normal” for summertime which makes the whole weekend even more special. Another June Surprise was an unexpected lunch with friends at their house. Two added guests arrived which I think will make you smile!

It’s That Time of Year Again

So, here we are again at that time of year when everyone seems to go crazy, often completely overboard just because it’s Christmas. A special time of year, yes, but Christmas is only 1 day. One day, not 3 months, which is how it now seems to be. It was back in August when I first spied Christmas cards and mince pies for sale in the supermarket; mince pies with a use-by date of 31 Oct 2016! And as we hit December running, I can’t find my usual things in the supermarket, because shelves have been reorganized for Christmas stock – row upon row of chocolates and sweets and all the good things to eat. Horrendous queues at checkouts; one would think we’re going to be snowed in for 6 months with the amount people buy “just in case unexpected visitors arrive!” The stress and worry, never mind cost, usually on credit cards that take over a year to pay off, of buying gifts for everyone including neighbours, the cat, and anyone else who happens to pass or ring the doorbell. Houses in our town decorated since October with icicle lights blinking from the guttering, and Christmas trees on sale in November, which will have shed all their needles by 25 December.mr-mrs-snowman

I may sound a bit of a grouch, a kill-joy, Scrooge, a person who hates Christmas, but I am not. Quite the contrary. I think it is a magical, wonderful time of the year. I just wish it didn’t start so early, that the commercialism wasn’t so intense because nowadays, that sparkle, that anticipation has been killed. It just isn’t the same any more.

In my childhood home, the Christmas tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve, long after we kids were in bed so that in the morning, there it was in all its glittering glory with our presents – mostly handmade by my parents: clothes and toys, just a few each, stacked underneath. As children in the 1950s and early 1960s we were extra lucky, although we didn’t realise it at the time.

Every year my German grandmother would send over a large parcel to us in England. It would be packed with all the lovely, delicious treats of Christmas that were then unobtainable here: glittering Advent calendars, iced gingerbread hearts and Lebkucken, and Pfeffemusse, marzipan filled Stollen, and so much more. I think it was smell of that parcel I remember most, that wonderful spicy cinnamon and ginger smells that said “Christmas is coming.”

tree Christmas in the Domino house is a very quiet affair now. We do have a tree, an artificial black one with gold baubles and one two other little sentimental decorations. We stopped doing presents years ago, except for the littlest children, and how much simpler and more enjoyable it has become. We’d rather folk spent their money on themselves, not on us. We don’t have turkey to eat, we don’t like it. We might indulge in a Christmas pud and a few mince pies, but no crackers to pull on the table. No fuss, no hassle, simply a large enjoyable meal in good company in an atmosphere of calm serenity to relax in.

Don’t get me wrong. I love large family gatherings. The noise, the laughter, the company, and I do so wish I could have all of my family at mine one year, but we are many and scattered far afield. Thank goodness for the telephone and internet so we can at least speak to each other even if we can’t share a hug and a kiss. The thoughts are with family. With friends. With those we have lost and those who are new to the fold. With memories. To me, this is what Christmas is all about: Family. Not the gifts, not the food, not the decorations, as much as I love seeing them. It’s also about magic. Father Christmas and sleigh bells, and the Christmas movies to make you laugh and perhaps shed a tear.

I’ll leave you with what is one of my favourite Christmas carols. Apologies if you’ve heard it before but I’m sure many haven’t. Whatever Christmas means to you and whatever you do this Christmas, do have a good one. A safe one. A warm one, from the heart.

Silly me: I meant to include the English lyrics. These are the closest and best I’ve come across for translation.

The Bells Never Sound Sweeter

The bells never sound sweeter
Than at Christmas-time.
It’s as if angels would sing
again of peace and joy,
How they sang at blessed night!
How they sang at blessed night!
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

Oh, when the bells ring out,
As soon as the Christ child hears them,
He swings from the sky
Hastily down to earth.
He blesses the father, the mother, the child
He blesses the father, the mother, the child.
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

It chimes with a sweet sound
Far across the seas,
So that all will take delight in
The blessed Christmas-time.
All rejoice with beautiful song,
All rejoice with beautiful song,
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

 

 

Guest Blog – Reminiscing with Linda Shook

Our good friend Linda Shook is here today with a guest blog filled with memories and gratitude:
lindaagetwo
I recently celebrated a birthday…it was another big one. Funny how they keep getting bigger. One of the people who sent me a ‘happy birthday’ wish on Facebook commented, “Next year you’ll be a diamond Linda.’  So there you have it. Yes, I was 74.  74!!!! It’s hard to believe. It seems like only yesterday I was a kid, going to school, helping out on our mini farm each day. Maybe I’ve lost track of all those years because I still live in the same town I was born in (in fact I retired from the same hospital where my mom was a R.N. before she had me there), where I grew up and where many of my friends still reside.   The first house my folks bought after my dad returned from WWII is exactly 2.4 miles from where I live now. After I finished 4th grade they bought 10 acres with an old house on it.  There they built a new house and that’s where I played and left for school each day until I graduated from high school. The ‘farm’ is exactly 4.5 miles from where I live now. So you can see, I haven’t gotten very far in my 74 years. (So to speak)

I’ve loved living in the same area..I always run into people I know ~ from school, places I’ve worked, people I’ve know from the couple different churches I’ve attended and I feel sorry for those who grew up here but circumstances have taken them off to another town, another state, even another country. Many of them wish they could come home…home to the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

One of the sad things about living in you home town is all the changes over the years. I remember when I was in high school, a BIG adventure was going ‘downtown.’ Now living in the country it wasn’t always easy. There was a bus but it went into town twice a day and came back twice a day. And if you missed it coming home , well it wasn’t good. But usually one of us had a mom or dad who would take us 3 miles to one of Tacoma’s main streets where we could catch a city bus. Then off to town we’d go. Downtown Tacoma was magical back in the late 1950’s. There were the usual big department stores (Sears and J.C.Penneys) and we also had a great store called People’s Store and then Rhodes Brothers Store. I remember being able to get a pair of really neat shoes at Leeds for $5 and then of course there was Woolworth’s, Payless and S.H. Kress. I remember one time several of us were in the Kress store and I opened a bottle of Blue Waltz perfume and it spilled and the whole store reeked of that sickening, sweet smell.  We laughed all the way to the lunch counter at Woolworth’s where we had our BLT’s and Cherry Sodas.

Now there’s no more downtown, no more Woolworth’s, no more S.H. Kress, no more Peoples store and no more Rhodes Bros.  I’m so grateful I grew up when I did, I was born January 4, 1942 and I graduated from high school in June 1960.   Those were truly magical years. My hometown has changed so much. I feel sorry for the kids growing up the last 40 years…they have missed some great adventures.

Each day God gives me is a blessing.  Another day to be in contact with family and friends. And another day to see the additional changes my hometown is making.

Linda

 

Gallery

Christmas Past and Present

Following the thread of reminiscence I seem to be indulging in lately I find myself remembering some of my Christmas Days as a child growing up in the fifties. I grew up in a small valley town in South Wales … Continue reading

Christmas 2015 Past

image2Christmas has come and gone and the way time fly’s another one will be here before I know it. As usual I always think the current Christmas is the best ever. But in the years they have changed. For one thing there are loved ones that aren’t physically here. However we all ‘feel’ them. My parents loved Christmas and always worked to make ours extra special. I remember the year my mother passed away. It was in September so that first Christmas came way to soon. Rick, our son confided that he wasn’t doing so well. First Mike (his older brother) and now Grandma. We all felt what he voiced. Christmas morning came and I know this sounds surreal but they were there. I’m writing this a few days before Christmas and I know they, and now Jack, will be with us this year too. Maybe part of it is the traditions that we pass down and add to each year. Or maybe it’s a gift we can receive if we believe.

With Christmas a memory, are you looking forward to 2016? I am, but then I always am. This year may be a travel year. Jamaica with family, there will be 5 leaving from here and 2 more leaving from Utah. It’s an all-inclusive resort and if you haven’t experienced one I would recommend it. There are a number of restaurants. The one last year in Cancun had a steak house, Italian, Seafood, Mexican, Chinese and buffet. There are also coffee bars, ice cream shops and bakeries. Drinks, food, and room service are all included in the lodging.

Two road trips scheduled. And hopefully a lot of day trips. Heyyyy do it while you can. ☺

I’m closing this year with wishing you all a huge HAPPY NEW YEAR. Start the happy right away because in a blink 2016 will be over.