Dearest child, I can’t recall your name (the consequence of a chaotic mind?)

Dearest child, I can’t recall your name (the consequence of a chaotic mind?)

It’s not an uncommon condition. Anomic or nominal aphasia, apparently. Problems with name retrieval. Or anomia, problems recalling any word. Ah, yes, that happens too, occasionally.

Ironic that there are three names for the condition, and that I probably won’t remember any of them when I’ve finished writing this post.

C’est la vie. Whatever it’s called, I’ve got it. I run through a telephone directory before I hit on the right name for whichever member of my family I’m trying to holler. I might chuck in the names of the dogs, the horses, distant acquaintances (and, all too often these days, the name of a character in the novel I’m writing). My children have learnt to forewarn new partners that mother will refer to them by someone else’s name. In my defence, the name I use isn’t always that of one of their exes, but anomia has no decency filter.

When recalling the stars of TV or screen, Google is my friend. I can quickly locate the cast list for any film or drama. Now, what was the name of that blasted film? Pop stars, and who-sung-that? No point in looking to me for your answer, as many a pub quiz has proven.

Where we stayed on holiday will be ‘that little town/harbour/resort in the north/east/west/south’ and as a writer, I live in perpetual fear of being asked to name my favourite authors. Or what they wrote, come to that.

Apparently, it’s something to do with the way your synapses fire (or fail to fire in my case) and it frustrates me because I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. I can recall many facts of less importance than the name of the person I’m talking to. My history teacher might have disputed my self-awarded IQ, but you tell me how it’s possible to correctly order the monarchs of England if you can’t remember their names. I wasn’t getting the dates wrong, you see.

When I speak, as an author, about my writing, I sometimes recount a funny story about how I changed one of my character’s names halfway through the manuscript (and the beta reading friend who sent me a text asking who the f**k is Ethan?).  It always gets a laugh, (or is it a scornful titter?) and I thought it was amusing too… until the second novel came back from the editor with TWO character name changes, and one poor soul with THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

I’m afraid that’s what happens when you become part of my family.

Thank goodness for proofreaders. And thank you for reading, mary/jane/ben/tom… whoever you are. Please don’t take it personally, I’ve got a chaotic mind and I am synaptically challenged.

The USAAF in an English Hamlet

The USAAF in an English Hamlet

I’m Anglo-American themed this week. We live and farm on one of the many old airfields in the East of England which hosted the United States Army Air Force during World War II.

The runways are farm tracks now, and the Nissen huts store agricultural clutter, but that history has the power to snare.

As a child, I knew the ‘drome’ well. I didn’t live on it then, but I rode my pony over the concrete paths, cycled across it to reach the nearby village and played with mates in the control tower. There was a chalk board with writing still on it, we all thought the place was haunted. control-tower

Later on, I crossed the drome on my way to work, sometimes behind the snow plough as the farmer forged an escape through car-high drifts which often covered the road on that wide, treeless plateau (back in the olden days, when we had proper snow). But it wasn’t until I married and moved to the drome that the story of the people who had lived and worked there became real.

The plough turns up flints, hardcore for runways, and the land offers up all manner of military shrapnel. We dredged the pond and found a pair of discarded army boots, there’s a rusting belly tank a mile along the footpath and one of our fields is called ‘bomb site’.

Some years ago we excavated a single propeller from its resting place deep in the earth. It came from an A-20 Havoc, which crashed returning from a combat mission, on the 30th July 1944. The crew are buried in the American Cemetery. Three of the many young American men who didn’t make it home.

a-20-havoc

I can barely imagine what ‘our’ airfield was like at that time, for the locals who lived there, or for the brave men (and boys) of the USAAF who were fighting so many miles from home. Our village has sewn a banner to remember them, it hangs in the church, and we’ve collected some of the villagers’ memories in a booklet. Here’s an excerpt:

Reg remembers that you could hear planes warming up for morning raids before you got out of bed in the morning, and he used to go up to the aerodrome with his friends before school to watch them all take-off. The aircrew were briefed in a hut which still stands on the lane, and is now in use as a workshop. Guards stood in place outside the doors when a briefing was taking place. The planes’ engines were warmed as they stood on the dispersal points around the airfield, before being topped up with fuel. Then they went to the ends of all three runways and took off in different directions, crisscrossing as they climbed. The whole lot would be up within minutes. They would circle once, get in formation and be gone. And when he came home from school Reg got back on his bike to go and see what damage had been done and how many of the planes had not come home, leaving empty parking bays.

The local history reminded us of happier stories too.  Christmas parties for village children, dances and friendships which endured through the years and across the Atlantic long after the war had ended. The exchange of eggs and milk for nylons and gum. Flowers picked from Cottage gardens and offered to English sweethearts by American Servicemen. Marriages and heartbreak. Families welcoming servicemen into their homes; baseball and big band music.

The village knew something was changing when white stripes were painted on the planes, but when the USAAF Eighth Force left they were gone overnight. There was no chance to say goodbye, and the airfield stood derelict.

 ‘All that life and excitement, and then they were gone.’

The Tudor farmhouse stood throughout the war, and saw good use as a secret meeting place for American airmen and their sweethearts, as an adventure playground for local children and as target practice for dummy bombings.

tudor-farmhouse

Margaret remembers the old house as a magical place, with rambling roses and beautiful, big windows; but Reg remembers it as a ‘knocking shop’ for the Americans!

Anglo-American rustic romance.

A Tale of Two Dogs, episode 3 (my dog’s got no nose)

A Tale of Two Dogs, episode 3 (my dog’s got no nose)

How does he smell?
Awful!

Christmas casts my mind back to Hamgate (subtitled: The Year the Terriers got at the Ham).
Our lean-to doubles as a larder when the fridge is overloaded. The ham was jus’ chillin’ out there when my parents rose early and, being the thoughtful parents they are, let the dogs out for me…

Those dogs stripped that ham bone clean. It looked like a bleached carcass, after the hyenas, buzzards and ants have had their turn on it. Two terrier tummies were swinging like water-filled balloons. You could see they were going to blow. And blow they did.
Apparently, your sense of smell shuts down when you’re asleep, but I know it was the aroma that woke me. Suffice to say the clean-up demanded waders and a tea towel wrapped around my face, gallons of soapy water and frequent dashes outside to gulp fresh air.

At least the mess was sorted in time for our traditional Christmas jolly to the theatre. We went with the in-laws (best clothes and best behaviour, you know how it is). Eleven of us in a mini-bus and that god-awful smell still lingering.

Oh, the mortification. My smartly turned-out little family were all wearing coats infused with Eau de dog-diarrhea.

So my dog really does smell awful, and he’s really got no nose. But that’s a whole other story, which I might share in episode four.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Plain, simple and homely is what I hope for this year. Good food, good friends and an eggnog or two.

Here’s a picture of a pretty pony to lighten your day in the frantic countdown to Christmas. (Cute isn’t he!)

pony in snow

 

2015, the year I published my début novel, is rounding off nicely. A big thank you to all of you who have followed my efforts and stumbles on these pages. I’m super excited to be doing it all again with the sequel in 2016.

Now I’m off to supervise tree decoration. Ed has returned with a red velvet cake, Yd will be back from work any minute and Dil is currently winging her way from Durham. The gathering commences, bring it on! Time to whip up the snowballs and festive music.

snowball

Cheers all, have a good one!

 

 

 

The washing line

The washing line

In our first flat the washing line was actually an airer in the corner of the bathroom. It sported tidy newly-married clothes. Secretarial blouses, skirts and tights. Polo shirts and weekend jeans (his mother still laundering the boiler suit). Undies that showed we minded – elastic firmly in place and lace on display. Socks paired uniformly. Linen from the only bed hung on the banister. Shirts draped over radiators. Hand-wash delicates caringly spread on a nifty bath-top drier.

Fast forward a couple of years. The knickers have grown bigger to accommodate developing bump. The bras are impressive – in size if not in drama. Lace ratio has diminished and pant elastic thinned to drooping point. The cheap and cheerful bed clothes have lost vibrancy. Voluminous maternity dresses hog the airer, jostling for space against faded denims and work-a-day clothes. Comfortably lived in.

A semi-detached house – with garden! A family on the cusp of blooming mayhem. Tiny wee socks, smaller than pegs. Doll-sized button-down vests. Blue. White. Pastels. Cradled broderie anglaise. Soft baby cardigans gifted with love and kissed by the breeze as they flutter above the over-long grass of an un-tended garden. Embraced on either side by parental wear that will not require ironing and forgives baby posset. No hand-wash delicates here. Boxer shorts usurping the arse-out Y-fronts. Knickers – practical. Bras unhinge at the front.

And then comes the deluge. Pastels in pink next to bright-comic-strip, little man Ts. Cot sheets and bed sheets and changing mats. Romper suits, romper suits, romper suits. Toddler denims, dungarees, precious blankies. Cot sheets and bed sheets and changing mats. Bibs. Teddy-bears. Messy-play aprons. Sweatshirts emblazoned with diggers, princess duvet covers. The day-glow yellow washing line sags under the strain. Tumble drier is mentioned. Cot sheets and bed sheets and changing mats. Small socks lodged in filters. Potty training pants and jeans, pants and trousers, pants and joggers…

Move to the farm. Muddy coats, dog beds, wet woollen socks. Boiler suits! Bed sheets and bed sheets and pillowcases. School uniform – too soon! Little white collared shirts. Grey trousers, grey jumpers, grey, grey, grey. Airtex tops. Yards of Rayon. Tumble drier. PE kit. Dog towels and bath towels and washable door-mats. Nylon blazers, track suits, hockey skirts, football socks. Jodhpurs, leotards, shorts. Sweaty underarms. Horse hairs. Whipped and snapped by the wind gusting over the fields. Dusted with chaff. Dried and rained on and dried over again.

A single favoured shirt rotates alone in the tumble drier. Essential wear. Specific pants. Modified tartan school-skirts. Rock band Ts, designer labels, rude words. Black denim. Black, black and black. Hoodies, team kit, man-sized shirts. Strap tops, mini-skirts. Pastel trainer bras. Tailored white blouses, elbow-out blazers.  Single socks of unknown ownership. Bed sheets, mascara stained pillowcases. Duvets and towels. Sleeping bags, hockey kit, rugby tops, riding clothes. Dog beds, numnahs, horse rugs. Buggered washing machine. Miniscule strings of lacy thongs. Wafts of over-used aftershave. Smudges of make-up.

Magical washing which hung itself, oddly pegged and abandoned to wilt. Eye-brow raising underwear. Skimpy dresses. Term-sized laundry bags coming home to roost. Unfamiliar clothes. University sweatshirts. Famine or feast for the washing machine. Rarely time for the washing-line. Four sets of bed sheets, three sets of bed sheets, two…

Summer-holiday clothes, bright and blousy. Khaki shorts, linen dresses, golfing trousers. Two sets of boiler suits. Yoga pants, walking coats. Dog beds and jodhpurs. Celebratory wine-splattered tablecloths. Garden cushions. Trainer socks. Winter holiday sun-dresses. Swimming suits, evening wear. M&S reliable pants. Lace on display.