Poverty is a cruel thing …

Day Eighteen: Hone a Point of View

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

First person, second person, third person, whew! Point of view is a type of narrative mode, which is the method by which a story’s plot is conveyed to the audience. Point of view reveals not only who is telling the story, but also how it is told. Consider a recent short story published on The Worship Collective, “Funny Things,” in which the narrator is a child who has passed away.

Need a refresher on first-person narration? Recall Scout Finch, the six-year-old first-person narrator of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout tells the story through her eyes:

It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

“‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.”

Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.

Mrs Pauley was quiet but friendly neighbour. I had known her since I was old enough to recognize the inhabitants on this street. I thought back to Mr. Pauley. How he had used the garage for a workshop. The small battery powered small car, that he let the neighbourhood kids play on in the alley behind his house.

Once upon a time it had been a “Barbie” car. Pink. Yet for an eight year old, it was dream come true. Up and down the alley in a small cloud of dirt dust. I had revelled in the seeming freedom, that electric motion had given us. A small taste of what adult cars would bring. My sister, Adele, was a year and a half younger. We shared the rides, one or the other in the small interior seat. Squished up against each other. We would argue over who’s turn next to press the pedal, that made it go.

Mr. Pauley, then a small figure of a man. Stood patiently or sat in the plastic chair, from the workshop. Watching to allow us to play. Waving down any passing motorist along the alley. Thanking them for going slow, around the play area. The cones that depicted it.

Mr and Mrs. Pauley had children of their own. All grown and gone. To other parts. All except George. “Georgie boy”, who would visit once in a while. He looked a lot like Mr. Pauley. Slight build. Greasy hair, with a rag tag beard and blue jeans. He never stayed long.

Mrs. Pauley was grey-haired and dumpy compared to my mother. Mom was still young, vibrant and cheerful. Mrs. Pauley … Edna. Was bowed down with work and raising six boys we had never seen. Except for Georgie boy, of course. Their photos were all on the mantelpiece, for the world to see. Poses with smiles and children, that were their own. A few of the pictures were just young men looking out past the camera lens. No children. Just like Georgie boy.

Here I sat on my stoop watching. For this was a grown-up state of affairs. The police were there, as too Mr Davis. Landlord for these small houses of working folks. There was another car parked at the kerb. One that a small, heavy-set woman had emerged from. She was arguing with both police and Davis, the landlord.

Mr Pauley had died last spring. As too all the cheerful rides and happy hellos, given by him. It was now late summer and the air was hot and humid. Snatches of conversation drifted across the street. Fragments of a larger one. Recrimination and a pleading for some human sense of compassions. How the longevity of their stay should be recognized. The younger woman, was trying to be calm in the face of mounting tensions and emotions. It was difficult for her too. It seemed she was from social services? Here to stand up for Mrs. Pauley in the face of an aggression, from authority.

She had a phone in her hand, consulting with whoever it was on the other end. Mrs. Pauley, Edna, was grey faced and streaks of tears, ran down her normally placid face. She said things like, “if my husband were here”? The police too, looked uncomfortable. For they were reminded that this might be their mothers. Some of Edna’s furniture had been pulled onto the lawn. A lawn that was now shaggy from being uncut. A wooden chair lay on its side.

My mother came out and stood beside me, on the veranda. She held a cloth in her hand, drying them. She stood and said nothing, watching the scene across the road. Mom stood and pulled the clinging shirt from her arms and muttered something about rain later that day. She went back into the cool interior, to reemerge some minutes later with a tray of drinks. Lemonade, that she took across the street and offered around. The woman with the phone was grateful. The ruckus subsided as the participants drank.

The phone in the stout woman’s hand rang. After a brief but meaningful conversation. I could see her turn to the cops and Davis. “It’s arranged”, she said. The four of them lapsed back into more reasonable tones. They got back into their vehicles and left. Mrs Pauley dried her tears and began to look happy.

My mother came back with the empty glasses. “Mrs. Pauley’s been evicted”, she said. “Mrs. Lacey, has found her somewhere else to live”, my mother added, with a relieved tone in her voice. “What about her stuff, I asked”? “They will come and move it by the weekend”, my mother said with a grim look. Mom added, “that’s what forty years of living and being a part of our street gets you”. “Tossed aside, like so much garbage”. An odd thing for Mom to say?

I continued to sit and watch. Remembering those times when Adele and I barreled down that alley, in the old Barbie car. Realizing that I was almost grown-up and my childhood was disappearing fast. Like Mrs. Pauley.

Mom called out. “Wash your hands, kiddo”. “Time for lunch”.

My memories faded, as the prospect of food presented itself. I got up from my seat of the past hour and I limped inside to the cool room and our life on the street would not seem the same, without Mr. and Mrs. Pauley. The life of a polio victim, was hard enough for now.



Style is a beautiful thing …?

Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page

Today’s Prompt: We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s Twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

Earlier in Writing 101, we talked about voice: that elusive element that sets you apart from every other writer out there.Style, however, is different. Your writing style might affect your voice, but ultimately style and voice aren’t the same thing.

While your voice is your own, and something that’s innately you, style is much broader. You might prefer long and complex sentences, or sentences with a lot of commas and layers building upon each other, or perhaps intentional run-ons and thoughts bleeding into the next and no pauses and lots of imagery and never-ending moments that run onto the next page.

Or, you might write short sentences. Fragments, even. Simple prose.

Think back to your assignment on sentence lengths. What kinds of sentences do you prefer, or find yourself writing naturally?


Frank Herbert wrote Dune. One of the training forms, for the Atreides family. Was learning to control fear. “Fear is the mind killer”.

When I first started to fly on commercial flights, forty years ago. I was not a happy camper. Not caring for the swaying and banking of the aircraft. The cabin staff would come around and I would take all the free booze offered. Brandy usually. Perhaps, the staff are trained to spot nervous passengers? For they would come by a second time and I would spend the rest of the flight time across the Atlantic in happy oblivion.

These days, while not exactly ecstatic. I can certainly handle the eight hours in the air, without booze. Sitting next to the window, or an aisle seat. It’s all the same. Coming in to Heathrow, after a five-year hiatus in 2005. We were in a holding pattern circling London. I was in a window seat. The plane banked and flew lower, opening up the panorama of London city. The building known as the gherkin, held my curiosity. For it is an unusual sight, as to the one now adjacent. “The can of ham”. Not built then.


Now that’s a iconoclastic image, for a nightmare of architecture?






It’s a fine line for modern architecture. One of  a balance for art and form, betwixt that of function.

If what we read and hear is true? Population reduction is being promoted. In both Governmental organizations and from the wealthy.


One wonders if these people are offering to be the first, to go?

Suppose population is reduced? Then why are buildings like that, necessary? The logical conclusion is that they are not expected to last as long as Chartres cathedral.








Built by Stonemasons in medieval times.

Whereas buildings like the “Gherkin” and “Can of Ham”. Are more disposable? Built by Freemasons, for a New World Order.



Paradise lost and found …

Day Sixteen: Third Time’s the Charm

Today’s Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” What do you think about or visualize when you read this phrase? For an elementary schooler, it might be a box in their classroom, full of forgotten jackets and random toys. For a frequent traveler, it might be a facility in an airport, packed with lost phones, abandoned bags, and misplaced items.

On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of lost and found more generally in this post.

By the end of Writing 101, you’ll have multiple posts around a theme; material you could thread together in a longform piece.

Questions to think about as you write your post:

  • What have you learned about loss over the years?
  • What does it feel like to find an object that was once important to you?
  • When can reconnecting go horribly wrong?
  • When are things better left buried and forgotten?


Paradise Lost BOOK

1 John Milton (1667) THE ARGUMENT This first Book proposes, first in brief, the whole Subject, Mans disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was plac’t: Then touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the Serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many Legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of Heaven with all his Crew into the great Deep. Which action past over, the Poem hasts into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, describ’d here, not in the Center (for Heaven and Earth may be suppos’d as yet not made, certainly not yet accurst) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest call’d Chaos: Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning Lake, thunder-struck and astonisht, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in Order and Dignity lay by him; they confer of thirmiserable fall. Satan awakens all his Legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded; They rise, thir Numbers, array of Battel, thir chief Leaders nam’d, according to the Idols known afterwards in Canaan and the Countries adjoyning. To these Satan directs his Speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new World and new kind of Creature to be created, according to an ancient Prophesie or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this visible Creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this Prophesie, and what to determin thereon he refers to a full Councel. What his Associates thence attempt. Pandemonium the Palace of Satan rises, suddenly built out of the Deep: The infernal Peers there sit in Councel.

Click to access ENGL402-Milton-Paradise-Lost-Book-1.pdf

Paradise Lost

In general terms, I’m not a believer of this type of hell and damnation sort of belief system.

Do I believe evil walks abroad? I guess so – yes. Do I believe in good and it’s opposition to evil? I guess so – yes.

Why the hesitations in answering my own questions? Because it is not so cut and dried.

Man’s disobedience? Now there a strange concept? For it basically put’s Homo sapiens as children, to be scolded. Who’s doing the scolding? Why other men/people who claim to be able to “speak for God”. Not exactly sure why or how? That’s not explained.

If God lives in our hearts? Then we are able to have our own conversation with the supreme being. Yet, the priests are fond of their status and income, to allow this to happen. So, they snort and deride and tell the people. Only we can interpret the will of God, etc.

Paradise was lost, once those people claimed divinity. We allowed it to happen and society’s leaders stood aside to allow it to happen. For they too saw the profit of controlling religious belief. Build a big house, for God to live in. Further divorce’s us from the responsibility of prayer and meditation. Keeps people busy tilling the fields. While their henchmen roam the land rooting out “witches”. To be put to death for the people’s entertainment. We can only suppose the demons saw that, as work well done?


The Poetry of John Milton:

Paradise Regained’s Stylistic Relationship to Paradise Lost Paradise Lost employs a magnificent, elegant, and artificial style which emphasizes cerebral wording, and which alters the normal way an English sentence flows, often adopting instead a polished style most associated with the best writers in the Latin language. Many scholars have commented upon the grandeur of the verse and some even hear within its wording the sonorous tones of background organ music. This grand style seems perfectly appropriate for the Epic genre, which in the Renaissance was generally considered the loftiest form of literature. It seems a bit surprising then, when a reader picks up the sequel, Paradise Regained, and finds the style remarkably different. Puritans tended toward things that were simple, direct, plain, and unvarnished as a means to avoid worldliness and to focus upon God and His Word. They didn’t like their church buildings towering and lofty, filled with Gothic arches, gilded altars, or rainbowhued stained glass windows. Instead, they preferred no-nonsense blank walls, a simple table instead of an altar, and perhaps a single cross on the wall behind the unornamented pulpit. They didn’t like their sermons filled with elaborate Sophistic rhetoric, glossing, tropes, or allegories. Instead, they preferred clear, direct, and logical Ramist rhetoric, a focus upon the meaning of scripture alone, with edifying application to their daily lives. Arguably, then, Paradise Regained can be seen stylistically as a Puritan Epic. It is clearly an Epic in genre, with its brief Invocation to the Muse, its statement of the Epic Theme, its Epic Council, etc., but it is an epic in a simpler style. Paradise Lost’s subject matter is above and beyond the experience of most readers; we do not usually overhear a dialogue between God the Father and God the Son, nor experience the War of Angels, nor view in detail the machinations of Satan, nor dine with a perfect and unfallen human couple. Such lofty material deserves a grand style. But Paradise Regained’s subject matter is more approachable to readers. The protagonist, Jesus, is someone the reader knows intimately from simply reading the Gospels, and the macrocosmic debate between Christ and Satan occurs to some degree microcosmically in the psyche of the reader every time he or she is tempted to have that second piece of cheesecake or to start smoking again. The simple truths of the Gospel seem to have required a simple style. Milton himself hints at this when he has Jesus denigrate the Greco-Roman intellectual style as “their swelling epithets thick laid / As varnish on a Harlot’s cheek” (Paradise Regained 4.343–44), but then he has Jesus extoll the biblical writers as writing “in thir majestic unaffected style . . . In them is plainest taught, and easiest learnt” (Paradise Regained 4.359–361). Most critics judge Paradise Lost as superior to Paradise Regained, but Milton is not among them; he considered the sequel equal if not superior to the prequel. Perhaps Milton’s attraction to Puritan simplicity is part of the reason he favored Paradise Regained.


Paradise Regained

So Milton has us believe that Jesus of Nazareth, dying on the cross. Regained Paradise?

I certainly have no argument with those who wish to believe this. I would urge anyone who has not read the two poems? To do so. Powerful stuff. Still, a product of the late 17th C.

I am often intrigued by the period after the Nazarene’s death and when this death became sanctified by Constantine. Emperor of a Byzantine Rome in what is now Turkey. Just a few hundred miles from communities of Gnostic Christians living in caves. Hollowed out beneath the tufa of the region. For the Gnostic Christian, bears little resemblance to what became the sanctified versions of what we now know as Christianity.

We know more about Buddha who lived 2500 years earlier, than we know about Jesus of Nazareth. Yet, people parade up and down with the symbols of crosses and tears. Not joyousness of re-birth and suffering overcome.

People who claim to be Christian are busy bombing others around the world. Too busy to remember that this Nazarene said his father … i.e. God. Who now commanded the people to “love thy neighbour as thyself and do unto others as you would have done unto you”. Not sure how that fits in?

My Aunty Babs and Uncle Ted. May or may not? Have been too churchgoing. Yet, they did do so. From time to time.

They were good and generous people, who lived lives humbly and with a gusto. If that is Paradise regained? Then I’ll take it and try to pass on their examples.










Wandering in Cleveland, Ohio …

Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

Let’s consider your voice again. This topic can be tricky, as you might not be sure what your voice sounds like — yet. But it’s not that it’s not there, as Chuck Wendig explains in his “Ten Things I’d Like to Say to Young Writers” post. It just takes time to hone it:

You will chase your voice like a dog chasing a car, but you’ll never catch it. Because you were your voice all along. You were never the dog. You were always the car.

Our favorite writers, from Jane Austen to Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Paul Auster, have distinct voices. You read their writing and hear their words in your head. From their word choices, to the rhythm of their sentences, to the intimate spaces they create — right there on the page — they sound like no one else but them.

Today’s twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish,” read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.


Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1990’s was a town/city in flux. It was one of those American towns, that in 1980’s the city centres were generally dilapidated. Located on the Lake Erie and access to eastern Canada the Atlantic through St. Lawrence Seaway.  A city that had downtown streets of working class people. With poverty running close behind.

I was there in 1991 For about a week. The purpose was for the fourth quinquennial convention for Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. One that saw the election of the Union President, that ran  the B.L.E. All delegates from the local unions, were there. I was the local chairman for BLE local 593 for which it was, traditionally, the role of Local Chairman to attend the convention.

At first I balked at the idea. Then my mind was changed and arrangements were made to attend.

This convention was held at the end of August and a hotel was set aside for members to attend. The meetings themselves were held in a convention hall a couple of blocks away.

The meetings themselves were a bit of an eye-opener, for sure. There were some powerful locals from Chicago and New York. That had hundreds of members. Their delegates speeches, were often not so much aimed at those gathered. Rather they were for the benefit of the rank and file, back home. For these union positions, were full-time jobs. Unlike myself, who was a working stiff. Their speeches were usually long and to be honest, a little tedious.

The first order of business was how much the delegates would be paid. These union leaders would grandstand over what the pay for this would be. They needed to show the workers back home that they had their backs, with keeping down expenses.

In the end, the majority held sway and my pay for attending was more than I could have earned over the same period at home. Then expenses were paid. The cost of travel to the city of Cleveland from Nelson B.C. My room and a per diem for meals. All told I made a month’s salary in six days.

Cleveland itself, was one of the first settlements and towns, in U.S. of A. Main Street toward the centre was full of soaring brownstone buildings and dilapidated housing. The wrecking balls were in full swing, bringing them down. Yessiree, Cleveland was becoming modernized. The Cop Shop or Police Station, was a huge eyesore. Built on a foundation set back from the street and looked like a fort, of green plastic siding. Nobody was getting in there, unlawfully. There were even slots, to poke out firearms.

In the evenings, when the work day was over. We would go to the ballpark. That was then, just a few blocks away. Home of the Cleveland Indians, a team that in 1990’s, was rock bottom of the standings. An hour before the game would see the working class people, walking to the park carrying coolers and some small deck chairs. It cost us just six dollars for a seat behind home plate. Three dollars for a seat in the left field. We would go, not so much for the home team but for the visiting team’s players. Nolan Ryan, Andre Dawson and Ricky Henderson, etc. After the game we went back to the hotel and then a couple of blocks walk, past demolished sites, toward a bar.  Set back a little from the street and the only building on the block. “The Crazy Horse”, that had strippers and loud music. Beer and shots.

During the four days of the convention, every evening, there were courtesy lounges in the hotel. Designed to, essentially, buy votes. You went in, they plied you with drinks and hors d’overs. Then tried to make sure your vote was headed in the right direction.

One of the Vice-Presidents hung around the front door, a cheerful fellow who handed out cigars. Cigars that he too continuously smoked. I was never to sure of his role? I suppose he was a low-key doorman, that kept an eye on everything? The four days of convention saw the delegates put forth their feelings on the various points of business. Always the grand-standing from the larger locals.

Since I was from Nelson B.C. I held two votes. One for our sister town of Cranbrook B.C. with whom the delegation went back and forth every five years. Each delegate went to the proceedings armed with these two votes. Which were a prize for those standing for office. My choice for president of the union, went to Ron Mclaughlin. He was elected and his supporters had worked hard to achieve this.

Unions can have a bad rap when it comes to politics. For the stakes are high. One only has to think of Jimmy Hoffa and links to organized crime. Overall my opinion is, where there’s smoke there’s fire.

I only wanted to be of service, to my constituents and fellow Engineers. I think that was not always the case, for others in similar roles. For ambitions went beyond the rank and file.  To Ottawa or Washington and a role of National Chairpersons. Expense sheets and organizational back rubbing. A good salary and perks.

With regard to the writing exercise here in Writing 101. I so enjoyed those six days. The petty intrigues and genuine affections with fellow delegates. We had a ball and I left with a small feeling, of accomplishment.




Dear Gaius Marius …

Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern

Today’s Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration. If you need a boost, Google the word and see what images appear, and then go from there.

Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.


Dear Gaius Marius …

You soldier of fortune and native of Arpino. A career spent seeking fame and fortune through military combat. Product of the Kaliyuga. Tribune and later Consul through marriage, your career was set.

War with Jurgatha of  Numidia. Now known as Algeria. Bought you great fame in Rome. Which you translated into reforms; of the Roman way of life. Opening the door to ordinary folk, to enter the army. Which like today, gave employment to the poor huddled masses.

With the aid of Sulla, your eventual successor. Subduing the North African country of Numidia. Supremacy gave the boost to your popularity, you craved. The defeats of roman armies in Gaul, gave you the opportunity that the oligarchs would otherwise not have given.

The defeat of the Gauls along the Alpine border, gave you your next glory from war. For the people of Rome were grateful, yet the patricians became suspicious of your ambitions. For you were an outsider and not  from an oligarchical family. Bestowing lands outside of Italy to the landless citizenry. Reduced your popularity with these patricians.

After being away from Rome, returning to a peace that was then broken by your old foe Sulla. From one of those patrician families. You had stolen his glory from the Numidian wars. So the hatred was set. As you, Marius tried to take charge of the Roman army, set to invade Greece and the King of Pontus Mithridates. Your political ambition set brother against brother and Rome’s first civil war overtook this ambition.

For Sulla was younger and just as ambitious. You Marius, left for safer climates when Sulla entered Rome. The revenge fuelled arrival, in Rome back from North Africa, was your undoing. The people became fearful of your power and soldiers. They were saved when you contracted Pleurisy. That your seventh consulship, ended with your death. Barely three weeks into it.

Your legacy was one that saw the end of the Roman Republic, just forty years later. As you set in motion the loyalty of the armies. To their generals not the state. Thus the later fate of Europe was sealed.



Your truly,

This was chosen from Page 29 of the Fall of the Roman Empire, by Plutarch.

My Auntie Babs …

Day Thirteen: Serially Found

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

Tell us about the time you retrieved your favorite t-shirt from your ex. Or when you accidentally stumbled upon your fifth-grade journal in your parents’ attic. Or how about the moment you found out the truth about a person whose history or real nature you thought you’d figured out. Interpret this theme of “finding something” however you see fit.

Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.


My Auntie Babs …

Was not a tall woman, yet at about 5′ 1” or so, could pack a punch when she wanted. Which was hardly ever. She was our sitter, when parents were out working.

My Dad lost his father when he was not quite, 2 years old. About a week before his second birthday. This Grandfather left behind my Grandmother and her six kids, of which my father was the youngest. He died in a hole, digging out coal on the eve of the Great Strike of 1926. They lived in the town of Abertillery, Wales. The local men had gone out to dig coal from an abandoned hole. One of many. That at the time littered the Rhonda Valley in Wales. There was a cave in and it killed my Grandfather, stone dead.

The family struggled to survive. The two eldest boys Chris and Dave, left school and went to work. Eventually, the family moved to London in 1930’s. Like so many other Welshmen. They bought a small house in Colindale, North London. My Grandmother, Caroline, was a religious christian woman. A protestant, yet she confided toward the end of her life, that she would have liked to have been a Catholic. Instead she settled for what is known as “high protestant”.

After the war, WW2. My father, his sister Babs, my mother Betty and Bab’s husband Ted. Along with my grandmother, moved to the house in Hendon. That I wrote about in this earlier post. https://hirundine.com/2015/04/10/writing-101-my-uncle-ted/

Auntie Babs too, had left school early. Before the war, going into what was called; service. Which was being a servant in a big house, of landed gentry. Where she learned her craft of housekeeping. She met Edward Sidney, before the war and they married before Ted went overseas. Ted was a corporal in Royal Signals Corp. Rode a motorcycle, delivering dispatches. Babs, Barbara, along with her sisters and sister-in-law Lily. All went to work in munitions factories along the Edgeware Road, for the duration.

I have a few vague memories of our life in Colindale. Enough that I was always comforted by them. Obviously my parents were the primary care-givers. Yet Babs and Ted, could always be counted on to cheer me up. I used to watch Uncle Ted in the mornings. Fascinated by his shaving process. All that foaming soap. Ted used a cutthroat razor, my Dad a safety one. They both stropped the blades on a leather, hanging on the back of bathroom door. From my parents bedroom window. I could see across to the rented garage where my Dad kept his car. My Dad was upwardly mobile. He may have been the youngest of my Grandma’s children. Yet he was always organizing them all.

After moving from Colindale to Hendon in the summer of 1955. Both my Dad and Uncle Ted were busy altering and renovating the house to their tastes. Before the war, Ted who was about five years older than Jimmy, my Dad. Had been a painter decorator. He lad learned the trade, the right way. He was meticulous. Rubbing down, filling, painting, etc. Both my Dad and I learned much of that from Ted.

My mother went back to work as a shorthand typist. Although she started in a pool of fellow workers, her skills moved her up to secretary of a manager. Passap and Singer through the rest of fifties. This bought in money to pay off the mortgage. Babs used her skills as a housekeeper, that my mother reimbursed her for. For the two years after moving, I was taken to school by my mother and picked up for lunch and after school by Auntie Babs. Once in a while my Mom would be there to greet me, especially if there was something on after school. Visit to the dentist, or to buy clothes, etc.

The walk to and from our house was about seven minutes long. Half a mile or so? I had started school in Colindale, in 1954. At that time I was a bright child and went close to the top for marks earned. The school in Hendon, was part of the Parish of St. Mary’s. The next two years. Was in the Infants School, before moving up to the next Junior one. The British school system of the time.


The school was located to the right of Churchyard, pictured here. To the left was “The Greyhound” pub.

Auntie Babs would pick me up, for lunch at home and back again after. Then after school. She often had a bag for groceries. We would visit a small parade of shops in Church End. Occasionally the huge? Brent Street! I once counted the pubs in the small area. Ten, in a one half square mile.


Lunch with Auntie Babs during this time was one of casseroles. Meats, veg and gravies. Foods that today, I would not touch with a bargepole. They were however plain and unadorned except for horseradish and mustard. Common English condiments at the time. She and Ted, lived in the flat [Condo.] over my parents.

Auntie Babs’ kitchen was her refuge. It looked out onto the back garden of our house and the others of the Crescent. Her front room or parlour looked out over Sunnyhill Park and across to Mill Hill.

Auntie Babs was a smoker. From about aged eight, she would send me. Complete with a little note, down to the local post office and tobacconist for a pack of cigarettes. I was told to keep thruppence change, for candy or ice cream. In the evenings, she would sit and smoke at her front window. Waving to me below when I was out on the street playing on my skates or whatever with Peter, my pal.

Auntie Babs died a few years back. Toward the end of her life she was very deaf.

Yet she could always be found in her kitchen. A cup of tea or instant coffee bestowed upon her visitor. While she had eventually kicked the smoking habit. It had been hard on her, to do so. Yet she always had love to shower on any of her visitors, relatives and most of all toward her son and grandson.

While I’m grateful to both my Mom and Dad for the happiness of this time. It would never have been the same without Auntie Babs and Uncle Ted. For they had a tolerance and unbridled love. For all who came to visit.


Brain Cancer …

Day Twelve: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon

Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

We don’t write in a bubble — we write in the world, and what we say is influenced by our experiences. Today, take a cue from something you’ve overheard and write a post inspired by a real-life conversation. Revisit a time when you wish you’d spoken up, reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with you, or tune in to a conversation happening around you right now and write your reaction.

Take time to listen — to what you hear around you, or what your memories stir up.

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

– Ernest Hemingway

Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.


It is interesting to me, the role intuition plays a role in our lives.

Many people are intuitive. Some more than others.

Considering it. The subject starts to devolve into those areas of life; that some will feel squeamish about. Mind-reading, ghosts, apparitions, spirits, and so on. Most animals are intuitive. They can sense things like earthquakes, cancer, sadness, etc. Even explosives and drugs. Yes, acute senses plays a role. Still for us that do not have such senses. I would say that beyond their sense of smell and hearing, is a sense of intuition.

Brain Cancer

For most mammals, brain cancer is a catastrophic condition. While some do escape its clutches, the incidence of mortality from it, is high.

One of my cousins with whom I enjoyed those summer vacations, as described in yesterday’s post. Carol lived with her parents for the first twelve years or so, in West Hendon. In one of those temporary housing units, we locally called “pre-fabs”. Pre-fabricated and clad on the exterior in asbestos board. Once in a while, I would stay over with Uncle Fred and Aunty Doll (Dorothy) and spend a day or so playing with Carol who was three years younger than myself. We would play postman. Using Aunty Doll’s peg bag. Or on child’s scooters, or I would bring my roller skates. Where would share one apiece.

Carol was an only child and Doll was an especially vigilant parent. Always scared Carol would hurt herself. Yet she, Carol, caught all the usual childhood illnesses of the time. One time when visiting our house, we went to play in my usual haunt the local park. … 40 acres of heaven for a child. We ran down the hill and almost at the bottom Carol fell and hurt her wrist. Taking her home, for I had been charged with keeping her safe. Carol was doted on and I felt sheepish. Carol was always pudgy as a child. Fred’s genes. Carol spent the next six weeks, wrist in a cast.

Growing up, I emigrated to Canada. Carol became a teacher and had some of her own children. Yet I was always reminded of how I had caused her broken wrist? On my occasional visits back to Hendon. I would see her now and then. Hardly ever speaking, except for greetings, for we had little in common. Then one day, I received a letter from my mother, in which contained the news. Carol has a brain tumour.

My next visit to England was about two years later and Carol had had some operations. It was believed to be in remission. Then about the time I was in England, the news was grim. The tumour was re-growing.

My Mom and I drove out to Chesham in Oxfordshire, where both Doll and Fred were living close by Rod and Carol with their daughters. Kim and Anna.

Visiting Carol later that day, was rather shocking. I was unprepared to see a previously robust person, now in a nightdress with bandages around her head. hair gone from radiation therapy. … I never quite got that? Radiation causes cancer and they use it to treat the condition? Does not make sense to this lay person?

We spent a lovely afternoon chatting and avoiding the question around her predicted demise. I was of course chided once more, for the wrist incident. All I had done was gently run, down a slight hill? … I never got it?

Leaving we hugged and it was if 35 years had rolled away.

When we reached home, back in Hendon. Over supper I said to my Mom. “You know when Carol goes, Doll will not last long”. That was my intuitive premonition.

Doll died, about three weeks after Carol’s death. Officially it was adult onset diabetes. To me, it was from a broken heart. Fred lived on for about fifteen, twenty years and I visited him when in England. I learned a lot from him, especially his role during WW2. His meeting with my other Uncles, during it. In places like North Africa and Greece.

He had been a mostly quiet person while Doll was alive. It became like a dam was burst, after.

Looking back from time to time. I think of that pre-fab, clad in asbestos board. The chalky white powder that would cling to us, when brushing by. Or on the ground as a residue. There is a strong link of asbestos and cancer. I blame the authority for those housing units. For failing to properly test how asbestos affected people.

When Carol and I would race around the house, on those skates or scooter. Playing postman and whatever else kids do.

Excalibur estate 1








Writing 101 – Bigger is better? …

Day Eleven: Size Matters (In Sentences)

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

This is what is said … “bigger the better”.

I suppose this is true for some members of society?

It’s difficult to remember a lot of things from when aged twelve. The year, 1962 In Britain, Harold McMillan was PM. I was in my first year at Secondary School. Which was a local school in Hendon, then Middlesex. I loved Hendon then. Located on the outskirts of London. Hendon Central or Brent, on the Northern Line. Plenty of fields around us, where I would play with my best pal at the time, Peter. We knew each ditch to splash in and each tree we had already climbed. There were bricked up bomb shelters in the local park as well as steel mounds covered in earth with grass. There was a mostly dis-used aerodrome. That was sometimes used to train parachute jumpers. They would send up an old barrage balloon with a basket beneath. We would watch then jump. One by one, parachutes opening behind them.

Peter lived about three doors away from me. We went to the same school. It was the year we, Peter and I, started wearing long pants … trousers, to school. Where I lived with my sister, Valerie. Our parents and Grandmother. Was part of a larger house.

Upstairs lived my father’s sister Barbara and her husband, my Uncle Ted. When I was a little before seven, my cousin Colin was born. By the time I was twelve, he and I would play. Romping about as cowboys or Robin Hood, etc. My father and Ted, along with Nanna bought the house some seven years earlier. It was divided into two. Living up and down. The first thing done was taking out the wall, that separated the two. That way Nanna could go upstairs in the evening to sit with her daughter Babs.

My mother had gone back to work. Auntie Babs would watch over us three kids after school. I was directed to change out of my school clothes, when coming home in late afternoon’s. Until the previous year, I had shared a room with my younger sister. I wanted my space. So, they gave me the sofa-bed. Which I liked. It meant I could get out of the house when everyone was in bed.

Aged eleven I had started a paper route, because Peter had one. As too, my later best pal in school Philip. I had to be at the shop for seven am, or earlier. I had one of the longer routes, covering the “Downage” and more, further south. Christmas time meant bigger tips. I kept the route until I was almost fifteen, when I moved over to delivering prescriptions after school.

My father had been a Boy Scout, which meant, I had to be one as well. At eleven he took me along to the Parish hall. Where behind was the troop hut.  The 8th Hendon. The scoutmaster named Mr. Raines, was the same one from my father’s time. Every Friday evening we would meet and do the stuff Boy Scouts did. Tying knots, parading, obtaining badges etc. Maybe not in that order, but you get the gist; dear reader?

In the early 1960’s most everyone would go to the coast for a couple of weeks summer holidays. Our family was no different. In 1962, I seem to remember? We, went to Woolacombe Bay in North Devon. In those years the vacation were taken with all my father’s brothers and sisters, still living in Hendon. Along with their partners and children. Travel would be by car. Some of them would go by rail, to be met by my father later the next day. It depended on Dave my father’s brother. I seem to remember that year he had a Rover car which accommodated five plus driver. My father with his car was also six including the driver. The rest likely went by train? All told, that year, we had fifteen people divided between two small houses, that were holiday lets.

Growing up was with all this. Done in a small way. One of crowding people; shoehorned into small rooms, houses and cars. But we had fun! A fun childhood with parents, who also knew how to have fun once the work day was done. Beach cricket, deck chairs grouped behind wind breaks. Sand castles or sand boats. Evenings at the penny arcade. The kids were sent home with one designated sitter. While the others spent late evening, at the local pub.

I love small houses and systems that make the best from little space. Which is likely the product? Of that upbringing.


Courtesy of http://www.bugbog.com/beaches/british-beaches-uk/devon-beaches-uk.html 

Writing 101 – Black or White?

Today’s Prompt: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

Remember those “compare and contrast” essays in composition class, in which you’re forced to create a clunky juxtaposition of two arguments? Just because that particular form was a bore doesn’t mean that opposition has no place in your writing.

Bringing together two different things — from the abstract and the inanimate to the living and breathing — creates a natural source of tension, and conflict drives writing forward. It makes your reader want to continue to the next sentence, to the next page. So, focus on your two starkly different siblings, or your competing love for tacos and macaroons, or whether thoughts are more powerful than words, or…you get the idea.

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!


Earth day is Wednesday, April 22. NASA gives us a way to celebrate our home:


Use #NoPlaceLikeHome on other social media or tag NoPlaceLikeHome on your blog.

The above was posted by Rainman on his blog Quertyness



Below was partially my reply, in his comments section. With much thanks to Rainman for raising the topic. It elucidated these thoughts, used to illustrate the Writing 101 exercise, around Black and White.

So I deleted the comment, to post it here. Where it is more relevant. With regard to why should I use Rainman’s comments section. For what amounts to my diatribe.

Earth Day

True enough, Earth Day is a chance to recognize how much we need the planet to survive.

At the same time, there is a type of cynicism by authority. A type of smoke and mirrors if you will? Around the notion of Earth Day. Why should it be limited to 1/365th of a year?

Corporate greed and the way with which they integrate, with authority. Strip mining our planet, to one devoid of forests. The holes in the ground where there were once mineral deposits.

The idea that turning off a few street lamps and high-rise buildings is going to really help our planet? Other than as a public relations exercise. Or is Earth Day, a better substitute for what should be a vibrant animal kingdom? Or is Earth Day now used as a substitute. For an ocean full of plastic, choking the fish and other sea creatures. Earth Day now seems to be glysophate spread throughout the planet’s fields, or is it air pollutions of radiation? Earth Day is now one. That sees fluoride, designated as a neuro-toxin. When fluoride is  also promoted by toothpaste manufacturers, as an agent for dental health. A neuro-toxin that has seen a sharp incline, of brain degenerate disease.

Authority that insists, corporate inclusion brings jobs. The same authority and corporations that then send those jobs, to where the people are little more than slave labour. Where profit is not about saving the planet. One that sees a commodity price rise, while the production costs decline. An Earth that sees ocean going trawlers with nets that can fit thirteen jumbo jets across the mouth of them. They trawl the ocean bottoms, disturbing the complex life on sea bottom. Nets that strangle mammals, living in the seas.

Every day ought to be Earth Day. Not just one day, a year.



Writing 101 – My Uncle Ted …

Was born in 1920 and he died a few days ago. He and my Auntie Barbara, lived upstairs, from my Parents. Barbara was my Father’s older sister. She too has died and is missed by our family.

Edward Sidney, my uncle was nice to me and my sister Valerie. Growing up, my Mom and Dad would go out of a Saturday evening, with Dave and Lil. My Dad’s brother and wife.

Valerie and myself, would then be looked after by Babs, Ted and our Grandma, for the evening. Which was one of TV and treats. Like chocolates, oranges and nuts. My cousin Colin who was substantially younger than us. Missed the evenings, for he was in bed. While we watched Bonanza or Rawhide. TV westerns, like Gunsmoke, etc. Shows that today, I would feel dismissive of; for their gun culture.

Since living in Canada, over the years, I would travel back to North London. Where until 2002, they still lived above my mother. Dad having died in 1980. Mom now lives with Valerie my sister. Ted and Babs moved to an apartment about 1/4 mile away.

Colin and I would hang out together. Colin lived a few hundred yards down the road. Evening trips to the Greyhound at Church End. Sometimes with his then wife Lynn and sometimes his son Oliver. Oliver was a cute kid and a great sport. Called Ted … Gaggs.

Babs and Ted were like constants in life. Always open toward me/us, a pair of generous souls. Invited to watch soccer on TV and plates of sandwiches, crisps and pickles. Tea and chocolate biscuits. Ted would have beer and scotch for arrival, then Babs would show up with plates of sandwiches.

The last time I saw Ted, he was pretty much confined to a bed and armchair and had a young man to help him with his needs. A Philippino called Joe. While he had his own room, Joe was a paid for carer. With a family in Philippines.

Valerie and I took our Mom, to visit. Joe made tea and supplied biscuits … all too familiar. In place of Babs, who had since died.

Ted had spent a substantial part of WW2 in a German POW camp. The picture of his wife that he had kept through that stay, on the wall. He made the point of emphasizing, that the guards in the camp had been good to the POW’s. “The inmates had been allowed to keep their photos and personal jewellery”, he said, as he opened his hand to show his wedding ring.

As we left, we said goodbye shook hands and kissed. Our eyes both welled with tears. So the news in late March, was not entirely unexpected. It has been a tough 7 years or so, for Colin. While the news was not unexpected it is with a mild shock, that it did come. For it brings on that sadness of memories past and the sadness that his great grand-daughter will miss the pleasure of growing up, with those two lovely people.