Exercise One: The English Bride

This week my husband signed up to do the Your Novel Blueprint course from Jerry Jenkins. Because we’re both writers – and because it costs an arm and a leg – I’m doing the course along with him, sort of. Listening to the instruction videos, as least. The first few are more motivational: carving out the time to write, finding your goal(s), the real reason(s) why you write, committing yourself for the long haul.

In one exercise we were to imagine someone – I’ll call him Joe – getting off a bus. Who is Joe anyway? Where’s he coming from? Is this his final destination? Is he going to visit someone, or some place? Is he running away from something, or someone? Is someone meeting him here? Who is the most important person in Joe’s life, and why isn’t that person with him? As he looks around, what expression is Joe wearing? Many questions for us to answer, constructing a scene. Then the story: what trouble will Joe have to face now? How will he react, or deal with the trouble?

I really enjoyed this exercise, and soon had a tale-in-the-making…

The English Bride

As the train pulled into town, Annie’s eyes swept up and down the single street. Howard had warned her that Fox Bluff was a small place, but could anyone actually call this a town? It wasn’t a quarter the size of her English village, and they’d all thought that was tiny.

Bone-weary after four days and nights of trundling across this vast country, Annie was ready to throw herself down and kiss the solid earth. She stepped off the train ready for a hot bath and a good meal. She was anxious to go home – their home! – and begin their new life together. For the last hour she’d held his picture in her hand, trying to recall every detail about this handsome soldier she’d been married to for three weeks.

But where was he? She’d expected he’d be here on the platform, anxious to see her again.

Annie walked up and down the platform to get her bearings, waiting for Howard. A few minutes later she grabbed her two suitcases, now sitting beside the train baggage car, and entered the depot. She approached the wicket and spoke to the agent. “Excuse me, sir. I’m Mrs Howard Hendry. I was expecting him to meet me here. Has he been?”

He gave her a puzzled look. “Has he been what?” Then the light dawned. “Oh, you must be Howard’s English woman.”

Annie bristled. “I’m Howard’s wife. He was to meet me here.”

His eyebrows rose. “Well, Mrs Hendry, you may have a little wait, unless you want to walk out there. It’s haying time, you see, and the men don’t take time off for just anything.”

“For just any…” Annie closed her mouth. Least said soonest mended. She looked down at her two heavy suitcases. She was not about to set out walking across this dusty country carrying those. “Is there a tea room here in town where I can wait? I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

“Tea room! This isn’t England, lady.” His tone softened. “There’s a few tables down at the hotel and you could probably get a cup of tea. Mabel may even have a bit of baking on hand, if you’re hungry.”

At this point in my tale Annie’s trouble is still small-ish. Howard could still show up any minute. So I’ll send her another big problem…

Annie spotted a fly-specked mirror and decided she’d better tuck in straggles of hair before heading for the hotel. She was straightening her hat when two women rushed into the station. Probably mother and daughter. Possibly her new neighbours? Annie would have greeted them but they never glanced her way.

“Millie here needs a ticket to Donahue,” the older woman said. “She’s off to teach school. Frank’s putting her luggage on the platform.”

“Teaching school, eh? Well, good for you, Millie.” The agent wrote out the ticket. “Here you are. One ticket to Donahue for the new schoolmarm. Hope you like your new job and don’t get too many rowdies to wrestle down.”

Her mother paid for the ticket and handed it to Millie. “It’ll be better than sitting at home pining over that lost beau. He’s not worth it.”

“Oh, mother! I wasn’t pining.”

“Yes, you were! And when I see Howard again, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind, that’s for sure. We all knew he’d pop the question after he got home…and then that English floozy got her clutches in him.”

Annie froze. Her Howard? Surely not.

The mother turned to the station agent again. “I’ve heard say those English girls just hung around our army base bold as brass, begging our boys to marry them so they could get away from all that war mess. Can you imagine?”

The agent waggled his bushy brows and swung his gaze meaningfully toward Annie. “Now, Selma, best not believe everything that’s said. You know how some folks exaggerate.”

Millie sighed. “He probably forgot all about me once he got over there with those stylish English girls with their peaches & cream complexion and all. I hope you’ll snub her good and proper when she gets here, Mom.”

“I’m sure every woman in town will snub her good and proper. They all know you and Howard Hendry had an understanding.”

The agent cleared his voice in a gravelly sort of warning that finally caught the older woman’s attention. Annie saw him arch his brows and shoot a meaningful look in her direction.

Selma spun around. “You! You’re the one that stole our Howard.”

Annie flushed. She summoned all her courage for a response. “Yes, I’m the ‘English floozy’ Howard married. And no, we certainly did not hang around the base and beg the Canadians to marry us. I was working in a shop the soldiers came into now and then. Howard and I fell in love. That’s all.”

“Oh, for sure,” Selma retorted. “Why, you’re not half as pretty as our Millie here. I can’t believe he’d take you in her place without a little…coercion.”

Annie’s eyes stung. Millie was a pretty girl; she could see that. She knew she’d be called “plain” by comparison. Still… Her temper rose. “Howard married me because he loves me,” she said firmly. “Besides, so many men were killed in the war. You had no idea if he’d even come back to marry your daughter.”

The station agent intervened before any more could be said. “Selma, if Millie wants to get on that train before it pulls out, she’d better hustle along.”

Her mother took Millie’s arm and guided her toward the door, adding a loud comment in parting. “Well , Millie, you can be thankful for one thing: you won’t have Eloise Hendry as your mother-in-law.”

Worlds Old and New

We started out the morning on a dreary note: cool, cloudy, rain in the night left the lawn wet. I was up at 5:30 am and went out to feed and water the resident birds. We get mostly grackles, sparrows and finches, the odd mourning dove, sometimes a brown thrasher will join the birds on the lawn. During the day robins, goldfinches, northern flickers and western kingbirds also visit my water bowls.

It’s so nice to step outside and hear a rousing cheer, even if it is just birds waiting for me and all excited when I appear. Sometimes I get a surprise, like three mornings ago when I looked out the half-open door and saw a young buck on my lawn maybe twenty meters away. He must be a yearling, not very big yet and just growing his first set of antlers.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ANCIENT. Well, My Heritage has supplied me with a bit of ancient this morning: my grandfather nine generations back, Samuel Allen II, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632. (Now the city of Boston.) So I guess I have some Puritan ancestry.
Their children’s names were also ancient. One record lists them as:
Samuel, Asahel, Mehitable, Sarah, Bethiah, Nathaniel, Ebenezer, Josiah, Elisha, Nehemiah. (I also have record of a Benjamin, Jonathan, Joseph, and a few others, but family records do sometimes get scrambled.)

Another e-mail, a newsletter from Malwarebytes, fast-forwards me four centuries, bringing me to the cutting edge of technology: “How to free your cell phone from ad-ware.”

The sun has come out now and I shall be on my way to the Villa seniors home for Wed morning Coffee time. Wishing you all a great day.

Idealism Takes A Hit

Occasionally I read an article posted on POCKET, historical articles or some journalist’s take on a recent news story. I’ve read about the newest wave of CENSORSHIP, an issue that often boils down to an idealistic approach versus a realistic one. I read about one young man who responded to the many PROTESTS and CONSPIRACY THEORIES by starting his own. Others said, “Hey, why not?” and the crazy thing went viral.

I’ve heard about the social upheaval massive immigration has caused in Texas. Last night I started reading J D Vance’s HILLBILLY ELEGY, describing the “hollowing out” and desperate poverty in the US Midwest — “the Rust Belt.” All this input rattling around in my mind, plus my own experience, has produced cogitations I’m going to share in several upcoming posts. Starting with…

Idealism In a Real World

A few years after we were married we were discussing a politician of our day and my husband commented, “He’s too much of an idealist. I’d rather see a crook elected to run the country than an idealist.”

I understood where he was coming from. A crook usually has a good handle on how things really work. A dreamer who isn’t facing reality can be dangerous when handed the reins. Now, with almost fifty years of practical observations as well as a keen interest in history, I understand that sentiment so much better. Especially after I read a number of accounts of how the ultimate idealism, PROHIBITION, worked, especially in the US.

An elderly friend once told me about Nellie McClung’s sad observation on being hit by reality. McClung (1873-1951) was one of Canada’s original suffragettes and women writers. She worked hard to get the vote for women; once women had the vote she was elected to the Alberta Legislature. Being all for home and family, and opposed to the demon drink that destroyed homes and left wives and families destitute, she was totally in support of Prohibition.

The sad remark she made in her old age, according to my friend, was: “We thought when women got the vote, we’d outlaw liquor. But we never thought we’d see the day when women would take to drinking!”

I could have told her that. When I was young most of the women I knew drank. My own mother, according to my sisters, “spent half her life in the beer parlour.” My younger sister, Donna, unsuccessfully fought a lifelong battle with alcohol, though it was finally a drug overdose that took her out. Always a feisty kid, I think she would have loved a swig of bootleg booze.

Evangelical Christians have always leaned heavily toward idealism, thinking they know what’s good for the rest of the country. But there’s a whole ‘nother world in their midst – my own non-religious people – that Protestant Evangelicals haven’t really been able to acknowledge. And when those citizens rise up and start following their inclinations, idealism will crash.

Bootleg booze, rum-runners, organized crime: the Christian Women’s Temperance League never foresaw how these would flourish.

Now for a secular example…

Breast-feeding Is A Natural Act

Definitely it is. However, there’s a reason why North American women have been hesitant – some may say “inhibited” – from breast-feeding openly in public places. In fact, one weekend in Saskatoon a group of zealous women set up a display in the Midtown Mall promoting the natural act of breast-feeding. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” they claimed, “Nursing a baby should be allowed openly anywhere with no embarrassment or legal questions.”

In an ideal world, it would work. In this awfully real world…

In the course of shopping, I passed by their display several times. They’d set up a prominent booth and hung huge posters above it showing mothers nursing their babies. Lots of posters and pamphlets displayed around the booth. But reality lingered in the shadows. Each time I noticed a number of fascinated men strolling, or lingering by walls and in corners, so obviously drinking in the visual stimulation.

Yeah, it’s awful – but are you surprised? In a society where respect for women, consideration for motherhood, respect and decency in general, ran the show, this blatant display of lechery wouldn’t be. Pardon me, but I hope those ladies so inspired by their rosy ideals had their eyes opened to the reality of lust. Nursing openly may work in a different, more accustomed, less sex-focused society. But in ours, I believe this peeping is something nursing mothers in our society will deal with if they start to bare it all in public places.

Goals and ideals are great, but a person — especially a leader — needs a clear understanding of what will actually work in our imperfect world.

A Great Book Free This Weekend

Today I’m sharing the love for a good book. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially World War II stories with a touch of romance, you’ll want to read Dan Walsh’s books. He’s done a lot of research on WW II, especially about the US involvement and German activity in the US. Dan has written several books with this setting as a back drop to an amazing tale.

This story starts out in the present, as a budding writer inherits his grandfather’s home and discovers a manuscript his grandfather left for him to find. As he reads his grandfather’s own history, he’s taken back to the early days of WWII and a subversive plot carried out by the Germans in the US.

Free today and tomorrow at your Amazon store.

Family Then & Now

It’s a lovely sunny day today; the temp started at -16 this morning and has climbed to -11 C. Which doesn’t sound awfully warm, but the sun is condensing our banks of snow and putting a hard crust on the surface. Forecast for tomorrow is +1 C; Monday -10. Exactly the kind of up-and-down temps we’ve been having so far this year.

I talked to my sister Wilma last night; still no definite plans for our sister Donna’s burial and the family get together for a Celebration of Life. A lot depends on what sentence the judge will hand out to her youngest son when his court case comes up in a few weeks. The other boys definitely want to wait until he can be there. They’ve no idea what he’s charged with, so are quite much in the dark as to how long he’ll be in custody.

Because a few people in my family have expressed interest in our history, I’ve been posting on the Vance-Turner Connect blog again. Starting out with some of the aspects — and trials — of doing family research. Like the duplication of names. On my latest post I used the heading, Joseph the son of Joseph the son of Joseph. That’s exactly how it was: the oldest children were named after the grandparents, then the uncles & aunts. Then to sort them all out…

It’s a good thing, yet a danger, that subscribers to a genealogy program like Ancestry or MyHeritage can access other genealogists’ family trees and borrow research. I’ve learned that you MUST be very careful to double check before you import data or you can get really mixed up. Birth & baptism registrations, marriage certificates, census records, all help a lot re: whose child is this.

Some researcher has listed an Alexander in our family tree, as the youngest brother of our gr-gr-grandfather, but the birth registration says his father was Robert, not David. I discovered yesterday that someone lists gr-gr-grandfather as Joseph Collville Vance — someone he never was — and go from there to add descendants our gr-gr-grand never had. Grafting their branch onto the wrong tree, you might say. Now a few others have copied that researcher’s error, skewing all their data as well.

For me, following all these lines is like doing a jigsaw puzzles, and I enjoy putting them together. I cooked supper at the Senior’s home last night and one couple were working on a 1000-piece puzzle — a painting of the Last Supper. They were having a hard time getting it together. I have younger eyes, also a very keen sense of color and can detect slight differences between two shades of, say, sky blue, gray or creamy marble, so I helped them and we got quite a bit put together before I left.

Well, enough rambling. I’m doing a bit bunch of laundry today and best get back to it. 🙂

Where Do You Hide When the Long Ships Come?

More Morning Musings

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading the history of the British Isles, mainly the border country between Scotland and England — and it has been a long a bloody story. Invasions by the Roman army, the Irish kings, the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, as well wars and raids between a long list of local tribes like the Picts and the Scotti. The original Celts slaughtered or driven into Wales, Ireland, and Brittany.

Over time it seems these mini-kingdoms came to some uneasy settlement, but then came the Vikings. The Danes, or Norsemen. Dozens of long ships would appear in the firth one morning…

Image by saramarses — Pixabay

I never knew the Vikings were so business-like in their enterprise. They knew where to find the richest plunder – the silver, gold, and jewels – so they hit the monasteries and churches. They knew the best time to raid was during some saint’s feast day, when crowds gathered to celebrate, bringing their offerings to the priests. Not only did the raiders grab the loot, but they captured slaves to be sold abroad. Apparently the slave trade was a hefty part of the Vikings’ business.

Considering how invaders captured people and sold them in Ireland, Europe, and even to the Mediterranean and Muslim lands, what a wild mixture the European gene pool must have become!

So how did the people of the British Isles cope with all of this? Letting my imagination run, I ask, “Where did they hide when the long ships appeared in the Solway Firth? Did they find caves in the hills? Did they hide themselves in a ditch or pit?

I can’t imagine how they coped emotionally, seeing their defenders –husbands and sons– slaughtered, their homes and churches plundered, their children and youths carried off to be sold as slaves? I must admit that whatever troubles this Corona virus invasion has brought to our world, I still live in a very safe place.

Danish invaders started moving inland, settling, and eventually controlled what are now the shires of Derby, Leichester, Lincoln, Nottingham and Stamford. One historian takes a generous view of the Danes’ arrival. While he mentions the continuing Viking raids along the coasts, he feels England not only gained a richer genetic heritage, but being under Danish rule helped make England a sea-faring nation. Perhaps, but I doubt folks living through those days saw things that way.

Do you think maybe two hundred years from now some historian will write about our era and say how the Corona virus was good for us, it brought about this and that? Being smack in the middle of the menace, though, we’re not seeing it in such an open-minded way. I’ll just be glad when this virus is history – and we can ditch these masks.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: DITCH