Now is the month of Maying…

May is a spring month in the northern hemisphere and an autumn month in the southern hemisphere. For us up in ‘the north’, May holds the promise of warmer and sunnier days ahead, with green land stretching for miles beneath a clear blue sky. Oh, and lots of colourful flowers and singing birds… Of course, the reality can be totally different, but we live in hope.

The month has a number of traditions and celebrations attached to it, many of which – in the UK – have now been moved to the first Monday of the month, which is not always the 1st of May. The day is a bank holiday, when everyone has an extra day off work or school.

The earliest May Day celebrations are thought to have taken place during the Roman era when youths would celebrate the coming of spring with a day of dancing dedicated to the goddess Flora. There are several pictures of Flora on Wikipedia, but not all are particularly modest … so I thought I’d better stick to this one:

Roman fresco from Stabiae, close to Pompeii, from villa di Arianna, called Cosiddetta Flora. Ist century. Now in Naples Archaeological Museum. Public Domain. Photographer Marie-Lan Nguven

Due to its pagan origins, over the years there have been many attempts by the Church to stop this type of celebration. This was particularly true in more puritanical times, including the years following the Civil War in England when Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans controlled the country (the Interregnum, 1649-1660). One form of celebrating, dancing round the maypole, was described as heathenish vanity generally abused to superstition and wickedness. Legislation was passed  to ban village maypoles throughout the country and dancing did not return to village greens until the restoration of Charles II in 1660.

Morris dancers with pipe and taborer. 1864, Chambers Book of Days. Author: Robert Chambers, editor. Public Domain

Today, May Day is celebrated with a number of events and activities intended to celebrate the end of winter and the start of the summer season. In some areas, May Fairs/Fayres are held. These usually involve a number of stalls for games and crafts, foods of various types and any number of items for sale. Face painters and people modelling balloons into a variety of animals and objects are also present.

I took these photos of a banner and poster in the village of Collingham (two miles from where I live) on Saturday. It’s advertising the May Fair on Monday, which I’m planning to attend. Unfortunately, it seems there’ll be no maypole this year although the list of attractions looks promising (if it doesn’t pour down!).

In Collingham, as in many villages, the May Fair was traditionally held on the village green. The fair in Collingham grew to be such a large event that a few years ago it was moved to the cricket ground, which is where I’ll be heading tomorrow.

Major traditional May Day events include maypole dancing, Morris dancing and the crowning of the May Queen.

Maypole dancing involves dancing around a tall pole from which ribbons are suspended. The dancers are generally children or, more traditionally, just girls. The aim is to create a decorative pattern on the pole with the ribbons. Nowadays, it is often schools who organise this event. The maypole dancing in the following video took place at Greenfield’s Junior School’s Summer Fair in 2010, in the village of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire. It shows the children making interesting designs with the ribbons. The video was uploaded to YouTube by Craig Arnush.

Morris dancing is another event associated with May Day, traditionally performed by men. The dancers often dress in white, with bells on parts of their costumes, and carry white handkerchiefs and/or long wooden sticks, depending on the regional customs and requirements of the dance. The dancing is to the accompaniment of loud accordion music.

Cotswold-style Morris dancing in the grounds of Wells Cathedral, England (Exeter Morris Men. Author: Adrian Pingstone, July 2006. Public Domain.

There are several thoughts on the origins of Morris dancing, one being that the word Morris comes from the word Moorish or morisco – a derogatory term for little Moor. The fact that Morris dancers often painted their faces black has been used to substantiate that idea. However, there is no evidence that the dance came from the Moors. Another suggestion is that Morris dancing could be linked to pagan rites to celebrate the coming of spring – during which time the dancers would blacken their faces.

The earliest reference to Morris dancing in England is 1448. It is possible that this type of dancing originated in 15th century courts across Europe, when a dance called moreys daunce  (Moorish Dancebecame common. For this, the dancers wore colourful costumes with bells attached. By the 16th century, Morris dancing had become  a part of many Church festivals, and later that century, a regular feature of village fetes. By the 18th century, Morris dancing became linked to the Whitsun ales. (Whitsun, or Whitsuntide, is the Christian festival of Pentecost, on the 7th Sunday after Easter.) Parish ale was brewed by the Church for use in both seasonal and sacramental services, including weddings, christenings, funerals/wakes – and Whitsun.

Despite a big decline in the 19th century, due to many new forms of entertainment, Morris dancing has seen a big revival for several decades now. Perhaps it’s just a renewal of  interest in traditions and all things past. This YouTube video shows a Morris dance in which the dancers use white handkerchiefs. It was uploaded by Avi Roy.

The May Queen or Queen of May is a personification of the May Day holiday, and of springtime and summer, and the crowning of the May Queen is an important part of May day activities. The young lady chosen usually feels honoured and proud to hold that title. She has been chosen from amongst the local and unmarried young women  and crowned with greenery – Traditionally including May blossom (hawthorn blossom) shown in my ‘header’ above. Many Roman Catholic parishes hold  a May crowning, dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus. 

This is how Wikipedia describes the role of the May Queen:

Today the May Queen is a girl who must ride or walk at the front of a parade for May Day celebrations. She wears a white gown to symbolise  purity and usually a tiara or crown. Her duty is to begin the May Day celebrations. She is generally crowned by flowers and makes a speech before the dancing begins.

There are too many traditions to talk about here, but an interesting one includes the men of the village celebrating with Jack-in-the-Green (often believed to be the same as the Green Man). A hobby horse also features in some celebrations in southern England:

Painting of Morris dancers along the Thames near Richmond, c 1620. Now in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Source: http://www.themorrisring.org/more/preRef.html
Public Domain

In Oxford, May Day events start at 6 am with the 500-year-old tradition of the Magdalen (pronounced Maudlyn) College Choir singing a Latin hymn from the top of  the college tower. After this, college bells signal the start of the Morris dancing in the streets below.

Magdalen College on May Day morning, 2007. Author: Romanempire at English Wikipedia. Creative Commons

Tomorrow, Nick and I will be taking ourselves off to the Collingham May Day Fair. I hope to share some photos of it soon after.

Refs:
1. Various Wikipedia sites
2. https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/uk/early-may-bank-holiday
3. http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/May-Day-Celebrations/
4. http://metro.co.uk/2010/04/30/a-history-of-may-day-why-do-we-celebrate-it-275721/\
5. http://www.rattlejagmorris.org.uk/history-of-morris-dancing

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April Fools’ Day

April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day, as it was originally called, is observed throughout the Western world and is generally celebrated by playing pranks on people, sending someone on a ‘fool’s errand’, looking for things that don’t exist or getting them to believe ridiculous things. It has been celebrated for several centuries, although its origins still remain a mystery.

Some historians have linked April Fools’ Day to ancient festivals such as that of Hilaria in Rome, when people would dress up in disguises. It is also thought that the day could have been part of the celebrations of the spring/vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The reasoning here is that this was a time of the year when Mother Nature fooled people with the unpredictable and variable weather  – something she continues to do in this part of the world!

Then there are historians who believe the custom originated in France in 1582, when the the old, Julian Calendar was replaced by the Gregorian Calendar, as ordered by Pope Gregory XIII. The new calendar involved a shift of the date of New Year’s Day from the end of March to January 1st. People who continued to observe the former, end of March date, were labelled as ‘fools’ and as such, had jokes and hoaxes played on them. One of these hoaxes involved ‘fools’ having paper fish stuck on their backs and being labelled poisson d’ avril (April Fish). The title is said to be the symbol of a young, easily caught fish – and a gullible person.

The tradition continues today in France, as well as other French-speaking areas, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Canada.

Unfortunately there are problems with the theory that April Fools’ Day started at the time of the change in calendars, the first being that there is no definite historical evidence for it, only conjecture – which seems to have been made relatively recently. Another problem lies in the fact that it doesn’t fit in with the spread of April Fools’ Day in other countries. In England, the Gregorian Calendar wasn’t adopted until 1752, but April Fools’ Day was already well established here by then.

In most parts of the Netherlands, the origin of April Fools’ Day is attributed to the Dutch victory at Brielle in 1572. During this encounter the Spanish Duke Alvarez de Toledo was defeated. The Dutch proverb, Op 1 avril verloor at Brielle translates to On the first of April, Alva lost his glasses. The glassses – or bril in Dutch – serve as a metaphor for Brielle. This date continues to be celebrated every year in the Netherlands with mock battles…

Ready for battle geuzenarmy dressed for attack Brielle. 1 April 2015. Author: Peter van der Sluijs. Creative Commons

…and a tradition called Kalknacht (Lime Night) in which people use lime chalk to write slogans and draw pictures on windows. Kalknacht stems from the actions of locals who painted chalk on the doors of those who were loyal to the Spanish. Unfortunately, as with the French theory, this story gives no explanation for the celebration of April Fool’s Day in countries elsewhere either.

During the 18th century, April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain. In Scotland it became known as Huntingowk Day, the celebrations lasting for two days. Gowk is a Scottish word meaning cuckoo, or foolish person. The first day started with running the cuckoo. The prank involved asking someone to deliver a sealed message, supposedly asking for some kind of help. In reality, the message read Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile. On reading this, the recipient explains he can only help if he contacts another person, and sends the ‘victim’ on with an identical message. And so it continues.

April Fools’ Day jokes and pranks are played on people in many countries today, but I don’t intend to do them all! So I’ll just outline a little about the day in the UK and allow everyone else to have a think about how the day is celebrated (if at all) where you live.

An April fool in Denmark, regarding Copenhagen’s new subway. It looks as if one of the cars had an accident and has broken through and surfaced in the square in front of the town hall. In reality, it was a retired subway car from Stockholm, cut obliquely, with the front end placed on the tiling and the loose tiles scattered around. Public Domain

Here in the UK, the earliest association between April 1, pranks and general foolishness, can be found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in 1392. Over the years, jokers, jesters and jokesters have  become the images associated with April Fools’ Day.

In modern times, people have gone to extremes to create really elaborate hoaxes (and not just in the UK). Newspapers and the media in general have all taken part in a variety of these. Perhaps the most well-known and outrageous hoax ever pulled in the UK was in 1957 on BBC TV (in the days when all British newsreaders and presenters spoke with a very ‘posh’ accent – which became known as a BBC accent).

This film was shown on Panorama, a current affairs series which was, on this occasion, supposedly showing Swiss farmers picking freshly grown spaghetti. The programme was called the  Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. Following the programme the BBC was inundated with requests as to where spaghetti plants could be bought! 

Despite being very popular since the mid-nineteenth century, April Fool’s Day is not a public holiday in the UK. And in the UK and countries whose traditions derive from the UK, the pranks and hoaxes cease at midday. After that time the person attempting to make an April Fool of someone becomes the April Fool him/herself.

Today, there are mixed opinions regarding the practice of April Fool pranks. Some people see them – especially the ones orchestrated by the media – as a terrible duping of the public. April Fools’ Day hoaxes are seen as manipulative, creepy, deceitful and altogether nasty. The adverse effect of the media hoaxes is that “When genuine news is published on April Fools’Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke”.

Others see the day as being good for the health in that it brings the benefits of laughter, which include stress relief and the reduction of stain on the heart.

And on that positive note, I’ll finish off.

Refs:
History.com
Wikipedia
April Fools’ Day History

Posted in Customs and Traditions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Good Things Can Come in Threes…

Today is Sunday, March 26, and I have three things to crow about…

First, today is Mother’s Day in the UK, a day when I get lots of nice prezzies. This date doesn’t coincide with Mother’s Day in other countries around the world, but in Britain (in case anyone didn’t know!) we’re sticklers for tradition. And our Mother’s Day – or as it was  originally called, ‘Mothering Sunday’ – originated several hundred years ago and has gradually evolved to become what it is today, with Mums getting cards and gifts ranging from flowers, chocolates or meals out and so on…

I wrote a post about the history of Mothers’ Day two years ago, and retweeted it last year. It would probably be pushing things a bit to retweet it again but a link to the original post can be found here.

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The second thing I’m happy about is that today the clocks have moved forward an hour, putting us into British Summer Time (BST). From October to March we’re on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). In the UK the clocks go forward at 1 am on the last Sunday of March – which, from what I’ve seen on other people’s blogs, is a week or so later than in the US – or, at least, in some areas of the US.

Moving the clocks forward means a lot to me because I loathe the long, dark nights of winter and now daylight lasts an extra hour every evening! Yippee! It does mean that mornings stay dark an hour longer, but that gradually adjusts over the next few weeks. Naturally, in contrast, I whinge and moan every October when we move the clocks back and evenings get dark an hour earlier. Then it’s boo-hoo time!

Many people remember whether clocks move forward or back with this little saying, which I believe came to the UK from ‘across the pond’: Spring forward, fall back.

This is interesting because we haven’t called autumn “fall” in the UK for a few hundred years. Apparently, the word travelled to America with the early settlers and stuck, whereas its use eventually changed to autumn here. According to this site the use of the word was first found in print in 1545 in an archery instruction manual by Queen Elizabeth’s tutor Roger Ascham, who refers to autumn as faule of the leafe. 

I don’t intend to write about the reasons behind the moving backwards and forwards of clocks, other than to say it involves daylight saving time (DST) and its use has interesting origins. Perhaps I’ll write about that next year.

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My third thing to be happy about today is my latest review of Shadow of the Raven on Amazon UK. I confess, I haven’t read any books by Giles Kristian, so that’s something I’ll do as soon as I finish Book 3 of my trilogy. This is the review, which I’ve just copied from Amazon. I’ve no idea who Catherine is, but I’m very grateful for her lovely review.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read.

By catherine stelfox on 21 Mar. 2017

 Format: Kindle Edition

Well written with fabulous characterisation. I would even go so far as to say that Milli Thom is very nearly up there with Giles Kristian: Strong praise indeed. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the next two books in the series.
Millie Thom makes every action lend weight and meaning to the story. That the author knows her subject well shows in her attention to detail.
All this contributes in making this book a thrilling reading experience, and my delight in finding a new author who can provide my ongoing cravings for a Viking fix is to be celebrated.

*****

Lovely spring… Who wouldn’t be happy at this time of year?

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A Look at Cornwall (4): The Magic of Tintagel

island-courtyard-6

On the second full day of our week in Cornwall last year – a Monday – we set off from Newlyn in the south-west of the county where we were staying, and headed north-east for 63 miles to the site of the village of Tintagel and its famous castle.

Tintagel Castle is one of the most famous historic sites in Britain and long associated with King Arthur, though its history reaches back centuries before the tales of the legendary king. The actual name, ‘Tintagel’, probably comes from the Cornish word ‘Dindagell’ or ‘Dintagel’, meaning ‘fort on the constriction’, or ‘fort on the headland’.

Tintagel sits on one of the finest sections of the Cornish Coastal Path and is built half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland or ‘island’ that projects out into the Cornish Sea. These photos, as the one directly above from an information board at the site, show the connecting bridge between the mainland and island.

We started our visit in the village of Tintagel – where most tourists park – before heading up the track for the half-mile walk towards Tintagel Head and the castle. The car park we chose was opposite a very aptly named pub, where we stopped off for coffee before setting off:

And this is the track…

This is the signpost at the bottom of the first part of the climb up to the castle. If we carry on walking past here, we come to the Beach Cafe and visitor facilities – and the sea.

Before I show a few photos of the parts of the castle we explored, here’s a little about the history of the Tintagel area.

The site of the castle has been inhabited since the Roman period and probably even earlier. There is no real evidence of an Iron Age fort, although it is believed that the site would have been similar to promontory forts on other S.W. headlands – such as at the Willapark headland a mile to the east. Nor is it known how much activity there was at the site in the Roman period. There is no evidence of Roman structures, but a few artefacts dating from the late 3rd to the early 4th century have been found, including an inscribed pillar. This was originally in the cemetery of St Materiana’s, the 11th century church in Tintagel village, but has since been taken inside the church itself. Other small finds, such as Roman coins and pottery have also been discovered in the area.

During the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ – roughly the 5th-7th centuries – Tintagel was an important and prosperous stronghold. Right across the island are the remains of rectangular houses. Fragments of glassware, wine-jars and other decorated pottery vessels have also been found, all evidence of a thriving trade with Mediterranean regions at this time. Some of these Dark Age houses can be seen in the next few photos:

There is little evidence of activity over the following 500 years. Then, in 1138, Geoffrey of Monmouth in his work, History of the Kings of Britain, linked Tintagel to King Arthur. Since the site had no military value, it seems it was this legend that inspired Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the younger brother of King Henry 111, to build Tintagel Castle here in 1230.

In the early centuries an isthmus (narrow neck of land) would have linked the mainland to the island. We know that the isthmus survived until the 12th century, as it was recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the above-named book. But by the time Earl Richard was building his castle the isthmus had already partly eroded away and by 1540, the antiquary John Leland reported that the only way onto the island was by longe elme trees layde for a bryge. Today, passage between mainland and island is via the man-made, wooden bridge shown above.

And so our journey upward began…

Once we got to the top of the incline leading from the signpost on the lane, we arrived at the first part of the castle, which is on the mainland. The ticket kiosk is here and as we’re members of English Heritage we didn’t have to pay – other than the cost of the requisite Guide Book (requisite for me, that is). We didn’t stop to explore the mainland section of the castle as we were keen to get over to the island. So on we pushed towards the island, across the bridge and up dozens of steps, with my rickety knees complaining all the way.  

But the views of the sea, the beach and cliffs – not to mention, Merlin’s Cave – were worth it:

The parts of Earl Richard’s castle on the mainland include the lower and upper courtyards, or outer bailey, which has suffered greatly from erosion of the cliffs. When the castle was built in 1230, the mainland and island parts of the castle were connected by what was left of the isthmus, which had already partly eroded. Richard probably fortified this neck of land with a gatehouse and possibly some kind of drawbridge, which has now been lost as a result of landslips.

Our first stop on the island was the inner ward, or courtyard, with a great hall and chambers. Between 1240 and 1260, a curtain wall was built, forming a high, battlemented enclosure around the courtyard:

We pushed on through the gate in the curtain wall…

…and headed on up toward the top of the island:

The ruins at the top of the island date mostly from the Middle Ages. There is a well…

…and a small walled garden. The garden was first recorded in the 1540s  and excavations  in the 1930s show it was used for flower beds and herbs, although its position on the top of the island seems strange.  The garden has since become linked with the story of Tristan and Yreult/Isolde. In some versions of the myth, the lovers meet in the garden. A number of slates inside the wall, tell part of the story. Unfortunately, the light on some of them make them difficult to read:

Further on, close to the edge of the cliffs, we came to the statue of the warrior (King Arthur?):

And to finish off, here are a few photos of the views from up there:

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References:

Guide Book and leaflets from Tintagel Castle

Wikipedia

English Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/

Posted in Travel and History | Tagged , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Virginia Creeper

shutterstock_227405548

Virginia Creeper

The first time Emily saw the outhouse at the bottom of the rambling, overgrown garden, she was entranced by the colourful foliage bedecking its red brick walls. Her family had only recently moved into this old house and investigating it thoroughly was irresistible to an inquisitive girl of twelve.

‘The one covered in Virginia Creeper?’ Dad asked, glancing over the rim of his teacup when she’d asked about it last night. ‘It was the gardener’s domain years ago. An ancestor of mine was gardener here before the Great War. He was sent to the Western Front and is buried out there in Flanders.’

This was all news to Emily, but interesting all the same. She wondered whether that was the reason Dad had wanted this place so badly, especially as it was very run down and needed a lot of work doing on it. Until now she’d thought Dad wanted the house because it was big, and cheap for the size. Mum was expecting again, and a family of eight would need a lot of bedrooms.

‘If you look inside, you’ll see some really old tools,’ Dad added as an afterthought.

‘Make sure you don’t touch anything,’ Mum warned, bouncing Emily’s youngest brother, Stevie, on her lap before standing to take him up to bed. ‘Tools can be sharp.’

Straight after breakfast, Emily headed out into the early September sunshine, pushing the dismal thought of school next week to the back of her mind. She flipped the latch on the old door and stepped inside.

A young man wearing a flat cap was humming to himself as he hung a variety of rusting rakes along a wall. ‘Hello, Emily love,’ he said. ‘I’d hoped you’d pop in today. ‘Your dad said you might.’

‘He did? When did he tell you that? Who are you, anyway? Are you one of the workmen come to repair all the windows?’

‘I’m your great-great-great-grandad. Now there’s a mouthful for you to get your tongue round. I’m the gardener your dad told you about last night and my name’s George. I’d seen you having a look round yesterday, so I thought I’d best introduce myself next time you came.’

Emily suddenly smiled. ‘But you’re, uh, dead…aren’t you?’ He nodded. ‘So you must be a ghost! I’ve always wanted my very own ghost. Can I come and see you every day…and can I just call you Grandad? And I’d love to know what it’s like to be a ghost. And, if you can remember, can you tell me what it was like in this house before the Great War?’

‘All in good time, Emily. We’ll have some years to talk now we’re acquainted. I can tell you a lot about many things – and yes, just Grandad will do nicely. But please don’t ask about what happened in France the day I died, ’cos I don’t rightly remember after I went over the top.

Emily had no idea what he meant by ‘over the top’, but she’d look it up later on. ‘That’s all right, Grandad. I wouldn’t think anyone would like to remember their own death. We’ll talk about nice things, I promise. So, tell me, what it’s like to stay young-looking forever … and how long have you’ve been talking to my dad … did you know him when a little boy … and why have you grown Virginia Creeper all over the outhouse walls?’

Grandad suddenly laughed. ‘You’re just like your dad was at your age. He couldn’t keep quiet for a moment, either. I’ll answer one of your questions, Emily, but then I need to rest for a while. I grow Virginia Creeper because it reminds me of my beautiful wife – your great-great-great grandma. Her name was Virginia, you see, and she had lovely red hair. So whenever I see the plant at this time of year, I feel she’s still with me.’

Emily felt a sudden lump in her throat. ‘That’s such a sad but very romantic story, Grandad. Thank you for telling me.’

‘Right then,’ Grandad said. ‘I’m very glad to have met you, Emily, but I really need to rest now. Come back to see me tomorrow and we’ll chat some more.’

Emily watched her grandad fade away then hurried back to the house. She’d spend some time searching the Internet for information about the Great War and ‘going over the top’. Then she’d look up all about growing Virginia Creeper. So tomorrow, if Grandad mentioned them, she’d have no need to ask so many questions and tire him out.

But there was one question that continued to pique Emily’s curiosity and she sighed, knowing she wasn’t likely to find the answer on the Internet. Tomorrow, she’d simply have to ask Grandad why he couldn’t meet up with Grandma now that they were both dead.

virginia

This is a story I wrote over a year ago as one of the longer ones for my book ‘A Dash of Flash’. 

For anyone who doesn’t know what a flat cap is, here’s an image from Wikipedia with a little bit of information about what one actually is – also from Wikipedia.

Flat cap, side view. Photographed by Heron. Creative Commons

Flat cap, side view. Photographed by Heron. Creative Commons

“A flat cap is a rounded cap with a small stiff brim in front. The hat is also known as a cabbie cap, longshoreman’s cap, cloth cap, scally cap, Wigens cap, ivy cap, derby hat, jeff cap, duffer cap, duckbill cap, driving cap, bicycle cap, Irish cap, Newsboy cap, Crook cap, Joao’s hat, Sixpence, or a Paddy cap. In Scotland it is known as a bunnet, in Wales as a Dai cap, and in New Zealand, as a cheese-cutter.”

“The style can be traced back to the 14th century in Northern England, when it was more likely to be called a “bonnet”, which term was replaced by “cap” before about 1700, except in Scotland, where it continues to be referred to as a ‘bunnet’.”

My husband, who’s as ‘Northern’ as can be, being a Yorkshireman, wouldn’t dream of gardening without his flat cap on his head.

*****

Posted in Creative Writing, Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | 34 Comments

The Game of Life – FFFAW

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The Game of Life

Max stared at the iron bars, cursing the day he’d met Sophie. He’d been happy before then, his future stretched out like an unplayed game.

To Sophie he’d been little more than a prize bull, a trophy to display to her friends. One twist of the nose ring kept him compliant throughout each humiliating display. With her shapely body close to his, he’d gaze at her beautiful face and melt all over again.

But when Sophie demanded a diamond as proof of his love, Max panicked. At nineteen, that kind of money was not to hand and robbery had been his only option…

Alarms screamed before he’d left the shop, the old jeweller’s blood dripping from his knife. No hope of evading arrest; surveillance cameras didn’t lie.

He’d stared at those bars for two years now and dreaded the next twenty-three. Early release was unlikely for taking a life…

He refocused on his lonely game of Solitaire and reached for the pills concealed in his shoe. His game of life would be ending here.

Word Count: 174

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by MajesticGoldenRose.

Apologies for the morbid nature of my story this week. I really am feeling very down at the moment and happy thoughts seem to evade me. Perhaps I need some sunshine…or some fairy dust from Tinkerbelle. 🙂

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To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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A Look at Cornwall (3): As I was going to St Ives…

st-ives-beach-3

 As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits,
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives.
How many were going to St. Ives?

Perhaps the main thing most people know about this Cornish seaside town is the old poem/nursery rhyme/riddle As I was going to St Ives. This anonymous poem was originally printed around 1730 – but in that version there were nine wives. The modern version, with seven wives, appeared in 1825. Although there are a number of St Ives in England and elsewhere, the poem is generally thought to refer to the one in Cornwall.

The answer to the question in the last line is usually assumed to be that only one person is heading towards St Ives while the others – wives, cats or kits – are heading away from the town. But the poem gives us no indication of the direction in which the others are heading. It has been suggested that the person going to St Ives could even have overtaken the party as they were also heading to St Ives!

This little video was uploaded to YouTube by Appuseries. I have to admit, I’ve never heard the poem sung before but it’s very sweet.

We visited St Ives in June 2016 on the first whole day of our stay in Cornwall. It was the third site we visited that day, and we didn’t spend too long there, but we managed to take a few photos. For this post I’ve used several images from Wikipedia to illustrate places we didn’t get to see.

To start with here’s a location map…

cornwall-map-to-show-st-ives-and-penzance

St Ives is one of Cornwall’s most famous destinations. It is situated to the north of Penzance on St Ives Bay at the edge of the Celtic Sea. The name of St Ives is attributed to the Irish Saint Ia the Virgin in the 5th century, and the old town is clustered around the parish church of St Ia, built in the 15th century. The church can be seen clearly in this nighttime photo:

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St Ives, spring night. Author: Dave Taskis, 11th April 2007. Creative Commons

Since medieval times fishing has been of great importance to St Ives and the town became one of most important fishing ports on the north coast of Cornwall. The Sloop Inn on the Wharf dates from 1312 and is one of the oldest in Cornwall. It was a fisherman’s pub for many centuries, a reminder of the town’s importance – and former dependence – on fishing:

St Ives. The Sloop Inn, serving traditional food, is located here. From geograph.org.uk Author: Kenneth Allen Creative Commons

St Ives. The Sloop Inn, serving traditional food, is located here. From geograph.org.uk Author: Kenneth Allen Creative Commons

Commercial fishing is very reduced today but the harbour is still in use, often for recreational boating and tourist fishing, and since 1930, people have been taking boat trips out to Seal Island, 3.5 miles/6km to the west of St. Ives. The island is home to over 40 seals.

The Carracks, a group of offshore rocky islands, known locally as Seal Island. The boat is probably one of the regular tourist trips from St. Ives. From geograph.org.uk. Author: Tony Atkin Creative Commons

The Carracks, a group of offshore rocky islands, known locally as Seal Island. The boat is probably one of the regular tourist trips from St. Ives. From geograph.org.uk. Author: Tony Atkin Creative Commons

Today, St Ives has become primarily a seaside resort, renowned for its working harbour surrounded by beautiful beaches. The irregular coastline ensures sunlight on the different beaches throughout the day. There are four main beaches, two on either side of ‘The Island’ which is also known as Pendinas. It is not an island at all but a promontory. On the photo below, taken from above Porthmeor Beach, the small Chapel of St Nicholas can be seen sitting on top of Pendinas. The one-roomed granite building was an ancient fort and has become a birdwatchers’ paradise. Of the four beaches, we  managed to visit two of them, one on either side of Pendinas: Porthmeor Beach and the Harbour Beach.

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The town boasts art galleries, cafes, restaurants pubs and shops and is known for its quaint streets and alleys. There are also many old fishermen’s cottages we didn’t have time to see, as well and one of the four Tate Galleries in the world.  After we’d spent time at Carn Euny and Land’s End, our visit to St Ives was pitifully short, but it was enough for us to get the general feel of the place.

These few images from Wikipedia give more of an overview of St Ives than we were able to get:

We headed into St Ives along the northern coast and parked on a road up on the hillside looking down on Porthmeor Beach. These photos were taken as we walked towards the town centre. To the right in the first photo is the lifeguard station:

We then turned into the town centre and took a few photos of the streets and shops:

Then we headed across to the lovely harbour where lots of people were enjoying the June sunshine and the ever-present seagulls.

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On our second day in Cornwall we visited two more of the county’s most famous sites: Tintagel and the Gardens of Heligan. So my next post will be about Tintagel.

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A Look at Cornwall (2): Land’s End

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Land’s End – or Penn an Wlas in Cornish – was the second site we visited in the far south-west of Cornwall on the first full day of our holiday. It’s located 8 miles west of Penzance at the end of the A30, a road notorious for its traffic jams throughout the summer due to the thousands of tourists, and is in the village and parish of Sennen.

location-of-lands-end-in-the-penwith-peninsulaPeal Point/Land’s End is the most westerly point in Britain, and the area boasts some of the country’s most beautiful natural coastline. Stunning 200 feet high cliffs are still carved out by huge Atlantic waves and views are magnificent in both directions along the coast as well as out to sea. Seabirds circle above and the area has become legendary as a place for bird watching. Gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and even Cornish choughs (pronounced ‘chuffs’) once extinct in Cornwall, are making a welcome come-back.

These are a couple of worse-for-wear information boards about the bird and sea life of the area.

Land’s End and John o’ Groats in the far north-east of Scotland, have become renowned as the two extremities of Britain, as this map from Wikipedia shows:

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These are the signposts at Land’s End and John o’Groats. Both images are from Wikipedia. We couldn’t get near the one at Land’s End to get a decent photo because of the queues of people waiting for the professional photographer to snap them all, smiling nicely beside the famous signpost (at £10 a time).

The route of 874 miles has often been travelled by walkers and/or cyclists, either as individuals or in small groups and for a variety of reasons. For some it has been a matter of personal achievement, whereas others, often well known personalities, have undertaken the route as a means of raising money for charity – as cricketer, Ian Botham, did in 1985, and the terminally ill cancer sufferer, Jane Tomlinson did in 2003. The first recorded walk of the route was in 1871 by the brothers John and Robert Naylor.

I must admit, on arrival at the Centre we were quite surprised. Having never been to Land’s End before we expected to see just views of the renowned landmark. What we found was a collection of buildings including several ‘eateries’, shops and a list of interactive entertainments that take place throughout the spring and summer months – including a fireworks display, Pirates Day and so on. Naturally, these are aimed at families with children which, I suppose, sounds sensible. Most children would soon get bored just walking around with parents simply taking photographs. But a few reviews on the online sites I checked include criticisms of the place having become ‘more like a theme park’ than a beauty spot. It’s free to enter the Visitor Centre, but there are extra costs for the ‘extras’.

These photos are of the outside, apart from the cafe. We didn’t bother looking round the souvenir shops:

The Visitor Centre itself doesn’t sit on the site of the actual point of Land’s End. That’s a little further along, northwards, and is also known as Peal Point. It can be seen in the first photo below:

Just over a mile offshore and visible from the headland is a group of islets called the Longships. How dangerous these were to shipping in the past is evident in the need for a lighthouse. Together with the Seven Stones Reef and the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles to the south-east, these islets form part of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse in the Arthurian legends.

Since Norman times (1066 0nwards) a number of custodians have looked after Land’s End, and it is currently owned by a private company called Heritage Attractions/Heritagegb. This legendary Cornish destination has inspired people since Greek times, when (according to an information leaflet from the site) it was known as Belerion – the shining land.  The whole area is steeped in history and people have travelled to, and been living here, for at least 10 thousand years. The granitic lands away from the coast are home to a Neolithic (Stone Age) cemetery. Bronze Age burial mounds and an Iron Age hill fort can be found within 200 yards of Land’s End.

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In the early 19th century, it was to The First and Last Inn, just a mile away from Land’s End that travellers in their coaches would stop for food and rest before continuing on to the famous landmark on foot or horseback. We passed it, just before reaching the Centre, but didn’t think to take any photos. It could well be the distant white building on the photo above, though I can’t be sure. But the inn is somewhere over in that direction – and is still open today. The Inn is one of the most famous in Cornwall and not only because of its location. It has had a notorious reputation since the 1600s of being the headquarters of smugglers and wreckers.

Nowadays visitors to Land’s End are more likely to walk to the building shown on my featured image and the photo below for refreshment. If they continue along the coastal path, past the actual point of Land’s End, they will come to a building called ‘The First And Last House‘.

most-westerly-point-in-englandThis was originally opened by Gracie Thomas who served travellers to Land’s End with food and drink, as well as a piece of local granite as a souvenir. Today, gifts, toys and refreshments are still offered here, as well as Cornish ice cream.

By the time we left Land’s End, having previously spent a long time at Carn Euny, it was well past lunchtime. So we headed northward towards St Just to have something to eat before we all starved to death. Then we continued on to seaside town of St Ives – which I’ll post about next.

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Blog Award Time – 2

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In this post I want to finish off with three more blog awards. The first two are different versions of the same award, with similar rules, so I’ll do these two together.

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I was nominated for the first award (the orange one) by Antonia. Her blog, Zoale.com. is another food and cookery blog that I love, and Antonia posts recipes which are – in her own words – Greek and American Inspired Fare. Antonia likes to balance healthy eating with occasional more decadent and festive dishes suitable for various celebrations throughout the year. I recommend you to take a look. I’ve simply linked to Antonia’s About page here, as the Award post was last April.

The second Blogger Recognition Award is one I was nominated for a couple of weeks ago by Timi Townsend. Timi’s blog, Let Us Live Like We Mean It, is full of exciting historical posts and write-ups of reenactments that she has taken part in at a variety of venues. Timi is a particular lover of the Viking era and I’m very much looking forward to reading about her coming holiday in Iceland in May.

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These are the rules for Zoale’s nomination: 

  1. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award. Attach the award to the post.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started
  4. Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers
  5. Select up to 10 other blogs you want to give the award to.

And these are the rules for Timi’s nomination:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

These are my (combined) answers to the two sets of rules:

3. My blog started in August 2014 while I was still writing my second book, and several people suggested to me that all writers should have a blog. Well, despite not knowing anything about blogs and blogging, I set one up (with much help from daughter Louise (thestorytellersabode) who decided to set one up for herself at the same time).

My blog got off to a very slow start, and I didn’t write many posts until January 2015 when I became involved with several flash fiction challenges. I’ve been enjoying myself with all kinds of posts ever since.

4. My advice to new bloggers is to be active on your blog from Day One. Look for bloggers who post about topics that interest you and follow them. Read, like and comment on posts and you’ll soon become part of the blogging community. Entering some of the many challenges (which relate to many different topics, including photography, story writing and poetry) also helps you to connect with others, although they can be time consuming. Most of all enjoy your blog and just post about things that interest you.

One piece of advice I’ve read a time or two is to be sure to include images/photos/pictures in your posts to make it more appealing. A page full of text alone can look quite daunting and people can be out off from reading.  There are several places where you can get free images (e.g. Pixabay) or you could use your own photos. If you intend to use a lot of images, as I do on my Travel and History posts, make sure to edit them to keep the file size small. I didn’t realise it mattered until my media file was suddenly almost full. It took me ages to go through all past posts and reduce file size of my pics.

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My seventh and last award is one I was only nominated for the other day. This is the logo:

mystery-blogger-award

I was nominated for this award by Jo Hawk on her blog, johawkthewriter , so it’s a big thank you to Jo. Jo is a writer, in the process of completing the first draft of her first novel – a journey she shares on posts about daily writing and what works best for her regarding inspiration and writing habits. Jo also shares short stories and sometimes takes part in challenges. Her creative writing is excellent and witty and I recommend you to take a look at her blog and have a read!

This award was created by okoto enigma, so a thank you to Okoto, for that. I’m guessing that the name of this award (Mystery Blogger Award) relates to the name of its creator.

Here are the rules for this award:

This is a much longer award post than all the others I’ve done in these two posts, and I’m afraid I’ll be answering the questions very briefly. As this is my 7th award over two posts, I won’t be nominating too many bloggers either. shutterstock_152788070

  1. Display the award logo on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers three things about yourself
  6. Answer five questions from the nominator
  7. Nominate 10-20 bloggers. Notify each by leaving a comment on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including one weird or funny one.
  9. Share the link to your best post.

5  Three things about me:

Oh dear – more facts wanted. Let me see…

  1. I have blue eyes and fair hair. Sorry, that’s not exciting at all, but I’m struggling to find things to say that I haven’t said before on previous award posts.
  2. I’m a titch. At 5 foot two (which I’ve probably said a million times before) I need to stand on a chair to reach anything in my kitchen or on top shelves in cupboards anywhere in the house. But the height goes nicely with a great old song, so that’s alright. Here’s a video of the song from YouTube, uploaded by secretgate. This clip is from the 1952 film, Has Anybody Seen My Gal?

3. I don’t have a middle name and nor do many in our family, other than my dad. He was a Thomas Peter. My mum was just Millicent (Millie) and her side of the family didn’t bother with middle names…  And I always wanted one, for some reason!

Q. 6 The five questions from Jo for me to answer

1. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

My answer: Because I’m an ‘oldie’, I suppose it would have to be a number of actors for different periods of my life – a child actor for the childhood scenes, for example. Post childhood, the actor chosen would have to be a youngish person (in their twenties or early thirties) who could be ‘made up’ to look older as I aged, or younger to play my late-teenage years (in the ‘Swinging Sixties’!). It would also, perhaps, need to be someone who resembles me, at least a bit – not a six-footer, for a start.  So, my answer in a nutshell is: I’ve no idea because I’m not a movie-goer nowadays. Lol

2. What is your inspiration for writing?

My answer: I generally write historical fiction, so obviously actual historical people, sites and events inspire me a great deal. I’ve loved history all my life and am intrigued by all the events that have happened to make the human race and this planet we call Earth what they are today. But I also respond to all kinds of prompts on flash fiction challenges, although wherever possible, I’ll try to do something historical for those as well!

3. Where would you live, if money didn’t matter?

My answer: I would never live anywhere else (permanently, that is) than England. I might complain about the weather, but ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ is what I know and love – and all my family is here. Besides, we have a wealth of historical sites, so what else could I ask for? As to where in England I’d prefer to live, the answer is Southport in Lancashire, where I was born and raised. But we’ve been in ‘Robin Hood land’ (i.e. Nottinghamshire) since the late 1970s now, and I’ve no real complaints. And it rains less on this side of the Pennines (hills known as ‘the backbone of England) than on the wet west where Southport is!

4. When did (or will) you consider yourself successful?

I suppose success means different things to different people. Many of us can have successful lives without becoming rich and/or famous. I consider myself successful in many things, such as gaining my geology degree and teaching certificates, in raising six children and having a great time teaching teenagers geography and history for many years. I’ve also been successful in keeping relatively healthy for so long and in being able to visit many countries of the world – although I still have a long list of places yet to be ticked off.

As far as my writing goes, I’ve loved writing my books and feel successful in having eventually got round to writing novels after so many years of not having the time (too many children and too long in teaching! Lol). I also feel successful in having had so many great reviews of them, but I’m still hundreds of miles away from what people would call a successful writer – usually meaning one who makes a lot of money from their books and has become famous. I don’t want to be famous… a quiet life suits me fine.

5. Why did you start blogging?

I’ve just answered this question for the award post above (Q.3) and on yesterday’s award post (Black Cat Award, Q.1) so I won’t repeat it all again! Perhaps I’ll just repeat that, after a slow and hesitant start, I do love my blog.

Q. 8 As this is the 7th award post, and this particular award is a very long one, I’m going to chicken out from asking my nominees 5 of my own questions here. Instead, I’ll cheat and pass on Jo’s questions (the ones I’ve just answered above). They were interesting ones to do.

My nominees for these three awards.

As I did on the last post, I’m leaving it to nominees to decide which of the three they accept – if they choose to accept any. Apologies in advance if I’ve nominated anyone whose blog is ‘Award Free’.

Prabhat

Cheryl Foston

LaRonda Moore

Inkyfire

London Wlogger

Carina

 

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Blog Award Time – 1

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I haven’t done an awards post for well over a year, although I’ve been nominated for several. But I was recently nominated for another two which have shamed me into doing them all, although I intend to fit all seven into two posts. I won’t be writing as much as I usually do for each, or nominating as many people as the rules ask for.

In this first post, I’m responding to four award nominations – most, but not all, in the order in which I received them. Some with similar rules, I’ve tried to put together.

This is the first award and the one I’ve been sitting on the longest:

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I was nominated for One Lovely Blog Award by Joy Pixley a whole year ago now (i.e. February 2016) so it’s a big (belated) thank you to her. Joy’s blog Tales from Eneana, is full of amazing stories – many of them in response to various writing challenges. I recommend you check her out! Joy is a very creative writer and her stories really draw readers in. Joy is currently writing her first book, set in the fictional world of Eneana, and it promises to be excellent!

These are the RULES for this award:shutterstock_152788070

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Add 7 facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 10-15 bloggers (or as many as you can /want) for the award, and comment on one of their posts to let them know.

So I’ve already done Q’s 1 & 2.

Q. 3 I’ve written several Award posts that ask for facts about yourself, and it’s hard to think of anything else original enough to say. But here are a few, not too exciting revelations:

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  • I’ll be seventy in April. What an admission! I cringe at the thought and cling to the fact that people tell me I don’t look it (even though I feel more like eighty at times). This is how I feel, especially when confronted with any modern appliance.

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  • I’m a summer person and tend to shrivel up in the winter. It’s not that I don’t love the stark beauty of the winter landscape, because I do. A crisp, frosty morning can be beautiful and exhilarating. I just hate the really short days and the long hours of darkness. I loathe writing by electric light and long for the time when we can enjoy our lovely long hours of English twilight.
  • Travelling  is a passion with me I’d spend most of every year doing it if I had the money and time to do so. As it is, we have lots of short breaks around the UK, and go abroad a couple of times most years.
  • One of the ways I unwind is by spending hours in my kitchen baking. I’ve baked since I was a child and by the time I was twelve my mum retired from that particular household activity as I muscled in. Having six children of my own, my baking skills were later put to very good use.
  • I adore swimming and think I should have been born a mermaid.
  • I also love riding  – which probably sounds a bit strange coming from a would-be mermaid.

Q. 4  A few nominees are listed at the bottom of this post. 

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I’ve decided to do he next two awards together, as the rules are exactly the same – so I can cheat a little here.

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I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Aquileana in March 2016 and can say it’s an honour to be nominated by such an awesome blogger. Aquileana’s posts on her blog La Audacia de Aquiles must be some of the most popular on WordPress, and rightly so. If you love to read about Ancient Greece, I suggest you have a look through some of the posts she’s written. Sometimes Aquileana writes about various aspects of literature, occasionally teaming up with other bloggers – poets, artists etc. to do literary criticisms. All are equally interesting! (I’ve linked to one of Aquileana’s Greek posts above).

I was nominated for the Best Blog Awards by Inese, whose wonderful blog, Making Memories, is another hugely popular one. And rightly so. The name of Inese’s blog stems from the many beautiful photos she shows, mostly of Ireland, but some are of places in the USA taken when she visits family who live there. All Inese’s posts are accompanied by a superbly entertaining  and interesting commentary which includes historical background and a look at the lives of people past and present. Needless to say, I also recommend this blog to everyone.

These are the Rules for both of these awards:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Add the logo to your post
  3. Nominate 5 – 10 bloggers of your choice and tell them about the award.

There are no facts to find or questions to answer for either of these awards .

Nominees are listed at the bottom of the post.

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And this is the fourth and final award for this post – and the logo’s a real cutie:

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I was nominated for this award by Lynne Hoareau, so thank you Lynne and apologies for the long delay in my response. Needless to say, Lynne’s blog, Lynne’s Recipe Trails is about Food and Cookery, and it’s a great one too. I follow a few cookery blogs and always enjoy finding new recipes – or variations of an already existing recipe – and Lynne’s posts provide both variations and individuality, many with a keen eye on healthy eating. Lynne’s is now an award free blog.

These are the Rules for this one:shutterstock_140966836

  • Anybody nominated, can nominate seven (lucky number) other bloggers.
  • Anybody nominated, answers three questions.
  • The questions you ask while nominating, can be any three questions.

So, here are my answers to the three questions – with a note to be passed on:

If any of the questions asked are offending or simply do not want to be answered, the nominee does not have to answer them to earn the award. This award is for bloggers who strive to write for everybody, and no matter how many viewers they get, make an impact on a reader. This award is an expression of gratitude to the nominee. It should be awarded to anybody that you choose deserves it and it doesn’t mean that they must have hundreds of followers and likes.

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The following are the three questions are the ones Lynne answered on her own awards post and passed on to her nominees. I’m going to do the same again (time restraints!) but asking three different questions is what the rules suggest. I’ll leave it up to my nominees to decide what they do.

1. Who was the first blog / blogger you heard of / read and did they inspire you to start? 

I’ve answered similar questions to this on a few award posts now, but here’s a version of it again…

I had no idea what a blog was until a number of people suggested that, as a writer, I should have one. To be honest, social media of any kind wasn’t my ‘thing’ – although my daughter, Louise (thestorytellersabode) had already set up a Facebook page for me – which to this day remains hardly used other than having my blog posts linked to it. All the bloggers who inspire me are those I’ve met since I started my blog and are too many to name.

2. Do you see Blogging as a future career or just a side hobby?

Blogging would never be a career for me. I love writing my various types of posts, and although a few are linked to my books and writing in general, most are about what interests me. Other than writing and flash fiction, that includes history, customs and traditions and travel. I also used to enjoy doing my Word of the Week (WOW) posts, which I stopped over a year ago due to lack of time. I hope to be able to start doing them again soon.

3. What is your all-time favorite Album and Why?

In a nutshell, I haven’t got one. I adored Leonard Cohen’s voice and had LP’s of his as long ago as the ’70s. Later on it was tapes, and still later I had some CD’s. But I like a wide variety of music, including folk music, some classical and even some country and western pieces. I just go with what I like at the time.

Nominees:

I’m going to break the rules completely here and nominate a few bloggers who can choose which one of the above four awards they like. No one is under any obligation to accept any, of course. (Apologies, too, if I’ve missed a notice on anyone’s blog that says you’re Award Free.)

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Inese

Joy Pixley

Johawk the writer

Ellie Blue

Susan Langer

Timi Townsend

Forestwoodfolkart

Singledust

Arv

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In my second awards post – which will, hopefully be tomorrow – I’ll respond to the other three nominations.

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