ANIMALS AND AFRICA

TRAVEL

The Schonbrunn zoo is managed scientifically and set among the gardens, with several pavilions set in the area it’s a really great place to spend a long afternoon. We walked all of it, and I know this because my feet told me I had.

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Today they focus on conserving species and they have also conserved some of the old buildings as well (apparently, they are in the baroque model – so remember you heard that first here on my blog). Oh, and the menagerie-buildings are after the Versailles model, I’m sure you needed to know that as well. Personally, I’d just look at the pretty pics of the animals.

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Red pandas look nothing like their giant cousins do they?  I noted that we saw elephants, a polar bear, meerkats, giraffe, zebra lion and eland with the comment that many of the animals were past masters at hiding behind the leaves, branches, and shelters.

HISTORY

Bishop of toledo

 

Now, do you remember that King Henry, uncle to little Isabella, just isn’t a statesman, he’s an intellectual and he’s indolent? He’s frivolous, loves splendour, colourful pageants, and filling his court with poets and dreamers. He is wildly extravagant and imposes taxes on his poverty-stricken people to pay for it all. He’s at his pleasure 24/7 and leaves it to John Pacheo, Marquis of Villena, and Alfonso Carillo, the Archbishop of Toledo to run the country.

That’s a picture of the Archbishop and not the king – you can tell that from his pointy hat.

AFRICA FACTS

Over the 30+ year period, I lost count of the number of radio and TV scripts I wrote. At one time I had 4 x 15 minute programmes running daily on the radio all translated into one of the 9 indigenous African languages and the totals must run into the thousands. It’s also sad that I seldom even thought to take still pictures of all the TV shoots – mind those were in the days when you took a photograph and – wait for it – traipsed all the way to the chemist or similar, handed in the film and waited several days before you could go back and collect your pictures – which were occasionally rather blurred.

few of the videos I made

Later when we were filming I rarely took pictures of the crew or the subjects until I was working on a series which also commissioned illustrated booklets to accompany the videos.

I was also unfortunate to lose all my photographs in 1994, every single one of them.

Want to know what happened? You can find out in Walking over Eggshells my first biography – the personal one.

Until next time, take care.

Lucinda

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MEET ALICIA GIRALT

My guest this week is Alicia Giralt, and reading her story has struck a chord with me and made me feel very humble yet grateful. It reminds me to be thankful for what I have right now. Do, please read to the very end, and you will see exactly what I mean.

Alicia, over to you.

Alicia

I was born in Barcelona, Spain. At twenty, I moved to the United States, where I have lived for almost 40 years. I started writing when I was a child and have continued ever since. In college, I majored in print journalism inspired by Hemingway, who was also a reporter.

I loved working in newspapers but wasn’t thrilled that my Hemingway-esque words would end up lining a bird’s cage.

One of my professors invited me to apply for a scholarship to pursue a master’s in Spanish. He said he was sure I would get it. Taking this course of study had never crossed my mind, but he had planted a seed in my brain. I continued working and studying at the same time. In December 1990, I was pregnant with my third child and ready to graduate. It was a time of economic crisis and I was elated to have three offers from different newspapers. One evening in class I was talking to a friend Bettina about Christmas plans and feeling excited. I’d chosen my new job and was going to start working the day after classes ended. Bettina told me that since her job was being a teaching assistant, she didn’t have to work until the new semester started. Something was wrong with this equation. But I was happy about going to work, five-months pregnant, and leaving my two older sons in daycare.  Bettina did not have to work. Very interesting.

I talked to the professor who had mentioned the scholarship and my future changed forever. I loved reading, so studying literature didn’t feel like work. It was fun. When I was almost done with my studies, I was offered a scholarship to obtain a Ph.D. in modern languages. Was that possible? And how much fun would that be? A lot, I thought, and it was.

With my Ph.D. in hand, I went to a job interview at Weber State University in northern Utah, a place I knew nothing about. The night before the interviews –there were to be several– I strolled around my hotel. The town is in a valley framed by the Salt Lake to the west and the Wasatch mountains to the east. The mountains were covered in snow and the full moon shined on them. It took my breath away. Next morning, I taught an advanced class. To my surprise, one of the students started talking to me in Catalan, my home language. A young man in Northern Utah speaking in Catalan? This had to be a sign.

Nineteen years later, I’m still in awe of the scenery and amazed by the quality of my students. I’m certain the future is in good hands.

This January 1st. I had to resign due to health issues, but I keep in touch with many of my former students and colleagues. There’s always a silver lining: Finally, I have time to write those stories that have been percolating in my brain.

alicia'spoetry book

I’ve published academic articles, a book about Spanish writer Lourdes Ortiz, and a medical Spanish textbook. I’ve also self-published a poetry book in Spanish and a bilingual Spanish-English children’s book and did the illustrations to the former. My poetry has appeared in journals and magazines. I’ve received so many rejection letters that I could wallpaper my whole house–and my neighbor’s. Luckily, I have also received numerous teaching awards, among others, the Higher Education Teacher of-the-Year by the Utah Foreign Language Association, Outstanding Mentor Award, Excellence in Teaching, Secondary Education Award by Southwest Conference on Language Teaching. Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (Best higher education, foreign language professor in the 9-state region), the John A. Lindquist Award for Community Involvement, the Gwen S. William Award of Excellence, and the Lowe Award for Innovative Teaching.

Alicia kids book

In 2005, I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to present a paper at the World’s Interdisciplinary Congress on Women. On an organized trip to honor Korea’s comfort women, my mother told me she loved me. The only problem was that she had died when I was 15-years old. I felt I had to share this experience with anyone who would listen, but being an academic put a damper on it. My colleagues would no doubt see me in a different light, maybe in a bat-crazy light. So, I only told close relatives and friends. Ten years later, in 2015, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Now, I really had to share my story. I could die soon and my story would die with me.

Alicia's book

After chemo, I went back to work and research, with no time to write my memoir. When my cancer came back a year later, at stage four, I knew I was running out of time to tell my experiences. No more procrastinating. I am convinced of the existence of an afterlife–my mom had shown it to me. Gone was any fear I might have had about dying. In April 2016, my oncologist told me I had a year left, maybe two. I’d better hurry up. I finished my memoir, which should come out in February 2018.

In Blooming out of Darkness: A memoir about cancer, spirits, and joy, my goal is to offer readers a progressive look at spirituality, without dogma or limitations, with only joy. If someone benefits from it, all the work will have been worth it.

You can get Alicia’s children’s book here  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1419667173

This is the link to Alicia’s website. https://aliciagiralt.org/blooming/

Alicia, it has been a privilege to have you as my guest this week, and I hope you have many more days left on this earth. One comforting thought for all writers is that their work will live on long after they have gone.

 

MEET MADELEINE BLACK

Madeliene Black is another of life’s survivors, but I will leave it to her to share her story.

Head shot by NJ copy

After many years of keeping quiet, Madeleine Black decided in September 2014, to share her story on The Forgiveness Project’s website and she completely underestimated what the response would be.

Many women and men got in contact and explained how reading her story gave them strength, hope, and a different perspective of what’s possible in their lives. The founder of The Forgiveness Project, Marina, often refers to the various people on her website as  “story healers” rather than “storytellers” and now she completely understood why.

In March 2015, Jessica Kingsley Publishers released a book called The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, by Marina Cantacuzino. It’s a collection of 40 stories from the TFP website, including hers and has forewords by Desmond Tutu and Alexander McCall Smith.

The sharing of her story also opened many doors for her in ways she never imagined and after that, the invitations started to pour in.

What it took for me to forgive  

I never intended to forgive the 2 young men who gang-raped me when I was 13 years old.  I wanted to hate them forever.  As far as I was concerned they were evil, sadistic animals and I wanted someone to kidnap them, tie them up, beat them up, rape and torture them just like they had done to me for hours on end.

But in 2003 there was a combination of events, which I believe released memories that I had locked deep within. My eldest daughter was turning 13, I was attending workshops run by a teacher of life and was studying for a psychotherapy course. The memories of that night started to come back and haunt me again in a way that they hadn’t before and I was unable to block them out anymore.

They were very disturbing; like a porn film running in my mind and to be honest for a long time I thought I was going mad.  I mean surely if it was that bad then I would have remembered it?  I now know that after a trauma it’s very common for our minds to numb out and shut off disturbing memories, but they can usually resurface many years later, once it thinks you are strong enough.

Unbroken front cover

So I decided that I needed some help to get rid of them.  I quickly discovered that I couldn’t get rid of them but that I had to face them and learn to accept what was done to me in order to recover and heal from that night.  I learnt that the way in was the way out.

It was during this therapy that my therapist suggested to me in a session that maybe they weren’t born rapists.  I could not believe what I was hearing and was completely outraged by what he was saying.

But he planted a seed within my mind and that seed started to grow.

They weren’t much older than I was, perhaps 17 or 18 and I wanted to understand what went so wrong for them?  How did they know how to be so violent to another human being?  What had they heard; witnessed or experienced that changed them so much?

I do believe that we all come into this world the same way as an innocent baby like a blank sheet and I don’t think anyone is born a rapist, murderer or burglar but that we get conditioned by life, which shapes the path and decisions we make.

A good friend used to be a midwife and she told me that she has delivered 1000’s of babies but has never once met an evil one.  That has really stayed with me.

And once I really understood that, I felt for them.  In their dehumanising of me I realised that they had dehumanised themselves and were cut off to their own source of aliveness

And the more I thought about being gang-raped and the 2 young men, I couldn’t help but take them into my heart and I started to feel compassion and forgiveness towards them.

I came up with a plan which I call my “best Revenge” many years ago when I decided to become a mother and live as good as life as I can.  I chose to be happy but I often wonder what must it be like to live with what you do to another human being?

Forgiveness for me initially was an act of self-love as I had so much blame and shame for what had happened to me.  And then it became an act of understanding towards them.  I chose to let go of all the pain, hate and resentment I felt for years, which has resulted in a much more peaceful and content way to live my life.

After all they would have no idea if I was consumed by hate, bitterness or revenge and the only person it would hurt would be me and all those in my life.  My healing came when I finally faced all the details of what they did to me on that night and learnt to integrate it. I realised that I’m not my body or the things that they have done to me.  The real essence of me could never be touched.

And if I am not what was done to me; are they what they did to me?

Her memoir, Unbroken, was published by John Blake Books on April 4th 2017

You can check out Madeleine’s book here:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XNLZ8RV

and visit her Website   www.madeleineblack.co.uk

 Facebook page  www.facebook.com/madeleineblackunbroken

 Twitter @madblack65

Madeleine, you are an inspiration to many of us. Thank you for sharing your story.

 

MEET BARBARA CARTER

I’m sure many readers will resonate with this week’s guest Barbara Carter, living with a burst of creativity inside and not knowing how to express it – life always gets in the way!

BARBARA CARTER was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. She is a visual artist and writer and is currently working on a series of memoirs focusing not only on her personal journey but highlighting important issues such as: anxiety, depression, loss and grief and the not so great ways of dealing with inner pain. Also living with a narcissistic mother. Barbara has an amazing ability to shed light on the sometimes dark subject matter with her ability to use humor. She also instructs art classes and offers guidance in writing memoir. The focus of her work is on examining the past in order to heal and move on.

Barbara - May 2017

My story is about learning how to follow my inner voice/intuition/soul.

As a child, I loved colouring books. At about the age of 10, I learned how to draw. There were no art classes taught in the schools I attended, so I was very much on my own. Later, in my teens, I purchased how-to art instruction books to help me learn more.

My dream at that time was to become an artist.

I was also drawn to writing, especially poetry and song lyrics.

But I felt I had to choose one or the other, that I couldn’t do both.

Living outside a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada life didn’t work out as I’d planned. No one encouraged me to pursue creative avenues and I lost hope, ending up on a self-destructive path.

After years of spiraling more and more out of control, I eventually managed to do what everyone else around me was doing: get married and have children.

Giving up on my earlier dreams, I tried desperately to suppress my inner voice, to deny my desire to create. I struggled to become what I thought I was supposed to be: to fit in and just be considered normal!

During this period, I’d stumbled upon quilting. I made necessary items for our home, such as quilts, chair cushions, curtains, etc. But it wasn’t enough. There was still this longing inside, a need to create my own images.

I had no money for art supplies, so one day, in a flash of inspiration I made use of the only materials I had on hand: fabric, thread, and needle.

My earlier creations were black, white and gray, the colours I’d been using just before giving up on my dream of becoming an artist.

When I first began creating my fabric images, I didn’t realize that I lacked joy and colour in my art, as I did in my life.

I was a shy, insecure young woman who didn’t know how to achieve the life I wanted. I had no idea that my images were anything more than a “picture” to hang on the wall, because I, as a person, didn’t realize I had anything of value to say.

Over time, I grew as an artist by my commitment to step out of my comfort zone, to contact strangers, to ask questions, and to seek answers. As I did this, my confidence also grew.

On that journey, I met many amazing people and learned how to show my art in galleries. It all seemed like a dream come true.

Skip ahead many more years to my mid-forties. My desire to write became overwhelming, and I felt that if I didn’t get whatever was inside of me out, I would literally lose my mind.

So I began to write, having no idea of how to properly go about doing it.

Once again, I simply followed my inner desire/voice.

After years of secretly writing on my own, I signed up for a creative writing course, and it was there that the voice of my child-self first emerged. She was a strong, powerful voice, pouring out thoughts and feelings that I had no idea were even inside of me.

Floating Bird - Small

As an adult I had blocked out who I’d been as a child, especially how I’d thought and felt growing up. Until I began writing, I had relied on the facts and the memories of others.

 

My first memoir, Floating in Saltwater, contains stories of my childhood, the lessons I learned, the questions I asked, the messages about life I received and the struggle to trust my inner voice.

My second memoir, Balancing Act, is about my early teen years, my struggle to fit in, and my need to find love, happiness, and freedom. It expresses how I dealt with an over-controlling mother, my anxiety, depression, the loss of young love, and the steps that led to a nervous breakdown at the age of 15.

Balancing Act - Front Cover

I continue to follow my inner guidance and plan to write and release a series of memoirs that deal with various stages and issues in life. I hope that my journey, my words, can heal others on their own journey, and to encourage them to trust their intuition/inner voice, to find love and happiness, joy and peace, to address and finally, to lay their past wounds to rest.

Find me on Facebook at: Barbara Carter Author

https://www.facebook.com/Barbara-Carter-709937872489827/

Website: www.barbaratercarterartist.com

 

Barbara’s Web Page:  http://www.barbaracarterartist.com/index.html

I think Barbara proves what we all know, that until you’ve experienced life, had the knocks, the highs and the lows you are not as well equipped to write and share that pain and laughter with the world. You have more to give to your books and what they tell the world.  As the daughter of a narcissistic mother, I can relate to so much of what you say Barbara. Thank you for being my guest this week.

 

MEET KRIS WILLIAMS

I never realised what fun it would be to have all these guest authors on my blog. I’m learning so much about so many people many of them new to me. One of them is today’s guest Kris Williams and she has yet another interesting story to tell.

KRIS WILLIAMS

Ever since I was a little girl growing up in a crowded house on a crowded street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was always so very curious about other children around the world who were growing up in their houses on their streets in their hometowns.

Were their houses crowded, too? Did they have to take turns with ten other brothers and sisters to use a single bathroom, like I did? Did their mothers dole out breakfast oatmeal that became less and less creamy by the time it got plopped into the tenth bowl further down the table? Did younger children in other countries always wear hand-me-downs, or was there ever any piece of clothing given new, just for them?

My curiosity about other children around the world didn’t mean I was discontent with my life in Pittsburgh. Not at all. My mother was a good cook and we always had enough food to eat. My mother was a stickler for cleanliness and we always had clean clothes to wear and a clean bed to sleep (although my mother’s concentration on cleanliness didn’t stop us from having to sleep three-to-a-bed at times). And my mother was passionate about reading. She regularly encouraged all of her children to read.

It was this last thing which stoked my curiosity because the world I read about seemed to me a gigantic, fascinating place. Reading planted in me an ever-growing urge to explore.

After college (& earning a degree in Graphic Design) I nabbed a job as a flight attendant, which gave me the opportunity to continue my education in graphic design at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland. (The job provided for two requirements: money to pay for the school, as well as the means to travel to Switzerland.)  I was so excited with the opportunity that lay before me! Who wouldn’t want to study with some of the most well-known graphic artists and typographers in the world?

Upon arriving in Basel I was calmed by the Swiss craziness for order and precision (something I had been longing for since my crowded house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania …), and humored by Schweizerdeutsch, a musical Swiss-German dialect which calls all big things small.

Basel

This calm humor soon turned into enchantment with all things Swiss.

From Basel, where the teachers patiently imparted their knowledge of design and typography to me and other foreign students like me…slowly directing us along their path of perfection…I was able to direct my attention toward the rest of Switzerland.

Switzerland’s mountains were where physical and emotional senses I hadn’t even known I possessed were awakened. Taking trips into the Alps and learning about the traditions that enliven them developed in me a profound respect for this “tiny” country.

Kris's book

It is in Basel, Switzerland that I met Ruedi, the subject of Switzerland To Alaska: Just To Die. He worked at the design desk next to mine, and introduced me to his mountains.

When he told me of his dream to go to Alaska and spend a year in the wilderness there, I was one of the ones who thought he was crazy.

How far into darkness was it necessary to go to prove how tough he was? What were his limits?

He answered these questions simply.

“I’ll have to find out.”

What was the coldest temperature he could function in?

“I’ll have to learn,” he answered.

What animals could he elude or defend himself from? He’d have to wait and see which ones crossed his path. And if bears, wolverines, or even mosquitoes found him, would they be the death of him? Every circumstance could be dangerous, but he would test himself and see how he’d come out on the other side.

Ruedi’s trek from Switzerland into Alaska is a story of contrasts… a story that takes the reader from Switzerland — a tiny country full of well-mapped-out Alpine Mountains…quaint villages…well-honored traditions… to Alaska…a vast land of shifting rivers… frigid towns… unpredictable wildlife…and winters of unending darkness. The immediate question Ruedi had on his mind before leaving was: If I go in prepared, will that be enough? Will I survive?

After coming to know Ruedi-the-artist, I instinctively understood that because of his way of seeing, because of his way of expressing himself, because of his extraordinary journey into the wilderness, the world would be a poorer place if his story weren’t told.

Ruedi headed west in May 1982 to spend a year in Alaska. He took with him $5000 purposely saved for the journey, a mini-survival kit wrapped around his waist, a few woolen clothes, and a stout belief that he had the skill required to survive a year in the Alaskan wilderness. Five months after abandoning his mother, sister, friends, and job as a graphic designer, Ruedi found himself hunkered down in the Ray Mountains, having every one of his survival skills tested to the limit. How this Swiss explorer faced much more than he bargained for in the wilderness of Alaska is the extraordinary story of Switzerland To Alaska: Just To Die.

Glauser had wandered up and down the mountains and valleys of the Swiss Alps in his youth, always confident in his ability to endure whatever Nature sent his way. But Switzerland had become too tame. He needed a greater challenge. Settling into a routine lifestyle might have been more comfortable, but “settling” would never have forced him to face up to the insecurities so deeply entrenched in his being. Ruedi’s initial intent was to go it alone in Alaska or to have with him at most a pack of dogs. But in the end he opted for one solitary companion to go with him.

What challenged Ruedi were not only the unrestrained forces that nature presented but the constant inward journeys his circumstances forced him to undertake — journeys that required him to crawl deep into his soul. Ultimately, Just To Die is a book about survival. It is about what happened when one human being decided to test his ability to survive at one of the far ends of the earth. It is about one man who wanted to discover what his limits were.

Ruedi’s trek from Switzerland into Alaska is a story of contrasts… a story that will take the reader from Switzerland — a tiny country full of well-mapped-out Alpine Mountains…quaint villages…well-honored traditions — to Alaska…a vast land of shifting rivers… frigid towns… unpredictable wildlife…and winters of unending darkness.

Switzerland To Alaska: Just To Die is Ruedi’s story. I am simply the one who wrote it down.

For more information, to download the first chapter, or to order the book, go to:

http://www.kriswilliamsauthor.com

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Although she didn’t mention it. I suspect that Kris is still working magic with her graphic designs so that may be worth checking out as well.

Thank you, Kris, for being my guest this week, and telling us about your book, such a different story to tell, and one to read by the fireside in winter.

 

MEET CAROL GRAHAM

Carol Graham is one of my most favourite people on Facebook. She works tirelessly for other authors and her radio show is heard all over the world. It was one of the nicest radio interviews I’ve ever done, such a lovely friendly lady. Carol has not had an easy time of it but she’s a survivor.

CAROL GRAHAM

Carol Graham has survived the challenges of major illnesses, devastating personal losses and financial ruin more than once, yet has refused to become a victim.

She writes for several monthly columns in various publications.  She has been published in many anthologies including a best-seller.  In 2015, Carol received the Woman of Impact Award from Focus on Women Magazine and Author of the Year for her memoir, Battered Hope.

Carol hosts a bi-weekly show “Never Ever Give Up Hope,” is an international keynote speaker, jewelry store owner and a certified health coach.  Carol has five grandchildren and has rescued over 30 dogs.

How did Carol come to write her autobiography? It’s a delightful story.

Writing a memoir, when it means dredging up painful memories you have buried for decades, is never easy. However, putting pen to paper changed my life forever.

When my daughter turned sixteen, she went on a trip for fourteen days and asked us to take care of her new puppy, a miniature Dachshund. This little guy’s name was Louis Vuitton and he was one smart fellow.

My husband and I were sitting in the living room when we heard an awful commotion upstairs followed by the thump-thumping of something heavy being dragged down the stairs.  I peeked around the corner and saw this little six-month-old puppy with short legs laboriously dragging his large, hard-sided Louis Vuitton carrier down fourteen stairs.

sneaky-dachshund

He glanced at us, wagged his tail and scurried back up the stairs. “What do you think he is doing?” We sat in amazement as one by one he dragged his worldly possessions down those stairs. First his blankie, then his bowl, his bone, ball and his sweater. Wait! There’s something else! One last trip – his leash.

What happened next caused us to sit on the sofa with our mouths hanging open. He took each item and placed them into the carrier. This was not easy as the carrier was considerably taller than he was – please remember he is a miniature Dachshund with very short legs.

After he finished packing his “suitcase,” he attempted to jump inside. It took several tries but he made it. Oh, my goodness he wasn’t done yet. Once inside, he got the zipper between his teeth and with all the strength he could muster, he pulled the zipper closed, laid down and went to sleep.

The message was abundantly clear. He wanted to go see his mommy. He had seen her pack her suitcase and go away. He must do the same so he could find her. He stayed there all night and when I unzipped the carrier in the morning, he was elated believing he had arrived – but mommy was not there. He was still at Gramma’s house. After lots of cuddles, I had a great idea to start making notes of his escapades.

After two weeks, I had completed Louie’s journal written from HIS perspective and it was hilarious. For Christmas that year, I turned this journal into a hardbound book. When my daughter saw her gift, she laughed and cried at the same time. I will never forget the staccato words she spoke, “Mom, NOW will….you…… write…… your…… story?” She began a campaign and no matter what excuse I gave her, she squelched it until I finally said “Yes!” just to make her stop!

It was inevitable. I had to do it. No excuses. No delays. It took almost ten years to complete. Thus, began my therapeutic journey to visit places I never wanted to go to again. Twelve chapters with twelve major traumas. Although a survivor of numerous situations that would make most people roll over and quit, I never regarded myself as a victim – only as a victor.

Battered Hope front cover

Battered Hope is written as a novel – opening as a mystery and continuing by making the reader wonder if the author will survive.

Publishing Battered Hope changed my life. It opened doors to international speaking engagements and my talk show, Never Ever Give Up Hope, now heard in over 140 countries which ranks number one in Google search results for the message of hope.

http://amzn.to/1wEwEsN

I owe it all to a little dog, Louis Vuitton.

Everyone makes choices — some good, some not so good. The difficulty is learning to live with them. Author, Carol Graham learned the long term effects of one bad choice that led her life into a downward spiral. Her sharpest memories were shrouded in darkness and no amount of hope in the future could change the past. She wanted to find her reset button but the only thing she could do was to put one foot in front of the other and continue, hoping each cloud had a silver lining. It is not a story of an abusive or sordid childhood but one of mistakes, poor choices and circumstances as an adult that developed into a series of major losses in physical, financial and emotional arenas. Her story of triumph shows incredible strength, tenacity and sheer determination to become successful against all odds.

You can connect with Carol here.

TRAVEL  – AMSTERDAM

In May of this year DH and I spent a week in Vienna, and after only half a day I fell in love with the city. It’s absolutely beautiful and steeped in history.

VIENNA HOTEL

We stayed at the Erzherzog Rainer Hotel and I was thrilled to discover it had an interesting history as well. It’s located in the heart of the Freihausviertel also home to many small shops and was established in 1813 by Leopold Nedomansky who was the court supplier for picture frames. The appointment was quite an honour, except the nobles were lousy at paying their bills so he thought about businesses which demanded immediate payment – restaurants and lodgings. He went ahead and built a hotel, but was savvy enough to realize he needed a patron to give it a bit of class. He flattered Archduke Rainer by naming the hotel after him and he was on the road to success. – I’ve always said it’s ‘who you know’.

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The same family owned it for 80 years before selling it to another family of hoteliers, but in that time it has been used as lodgings for the top German soldiers during the Second World War, and if I remember Hedda Hopper and a couple of other famous people have also stayed there. And now, of course, there’s me too.

HISTORY

Now you must all have heard that behind every great man there is a woman – or preferably in front if the truth be known. In this case, as poor old George was catapulted onto the throne, the woman, lady behind, beside and in front of him was his wife, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, a Scottish lass who had married the Prince several years before.

GLAMIS CASTLE

She was brought up in this little shack north of the English border.

RED CHEEKED BIT

I’ve shared the opening pages of the Amie series here, now it’s time for the three memoirs. My first one, Walking over Eggshells sold all of 37 copies in the initial twelve months after it was published – before I found out I had to tell people about it – I had this belief that people would magically find it all by themselves!

 https://www.books2read.com/u/md7Py3

The first time I tried to leave home, I was three years old. Not that I could have told you that at the time, but many years later, while looking at some childhood photos, I asked my mother what age I was when I wore the red hat and coat. “Three,” she replied, and I remember quite clearly putting them on for my first intended escape into the outside world.

It was a cold, overcast day in a quiet suburb of Dublin at the beginning of the fifties. We were in the lounge, and my mother was sitting by the fire listening to the radio. I walked quietly to the door, hoping she wouldn’t notice, but as I reached up towards the door handle, she reminded me in her cold, hard voice not to let the cold air in from the hallway. I opened the door just wide enough to squeeze through and pulled it shut behind me.

I dived under my bed and pulled out a small brown, cardboard suitcase. I’d thought about this departure for some time and had already made a mental list of what I would need on the journey to my new life. I packed three Noddy books, my favourite doll, a comb and a clean pair of underpants. I struggled into my coat and hat and I was ready to run away.

Quietly, I crept back along the hallway to the front door and gazed up at the door latch. It was way above my head.

“And where do you think you’re going?” My mother stood in the lounge doorway, her arms folded across her chest and she looked furious. Having got this far, there was no turning back.

“I’m leaving home,” I squeaked.

“Oh, really? And where are you going?”

“I’m, uh …” I knew exactly where I was going. I’d thought about it very carefully, but I was not about to tell my mother. She would know where I was and maybe, just maybe, come and try to bring me back.

“Little girls who want to leave home should be tall enough to reach the doorknob. If you go, then don’t bother coming back. I never want to see you again. I don’t want you. You’re nothing but a nuisance. I wanted a good little girl who would do as she was told, not a bad, bad little girl like you.” My mother went back into the lounge and slammed the door.

I blinked back the tears. Why couldn’t my mother love me? I tried so hard to be good. Earlier that morning I had broken a glass full of milk. It had slipped out of my hands and crashed to the floor.

“Look what you’ve done now!” screamed my mother.

“I’m sorry, Mummy, it fell,” I burst into tears.

“Clear it up right now!”

“Yes, yes, but please don’t be cross with me, please. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I was shaking as I looked at the mess on the floor. The milk was slowly disappearing under the stove.

“You never give me any reason to like you. You’re always saying ‘sorry.’ If you really meant it, you wouldn’t do the same thing again and again and again. You said ‘sorry’ when you broke my best cup. I suppose that just fell, too? Don’t say ‘sorry.’ ‘Sorry’ doesn’t mean anything to you.”

As soon as my mother had gone back into the lounge, I dragged a chair from the kitchen, climbed up and opened the front door. I jammed the suitcase in the gap and returned the chair to its place in the kitchen. Then, as quickly as I could, I grabbed the case and ran down the front driveway.

Till next week, take care.