Friday, July 20, 2018

Just one of those things...well two!

I think that life had one last little game to play with me before the big decision to go part time at work. On the Sunday of my last week of working 70 hours instead of a forty hour week ( what will I do with all that spare time? Write books perhaps?)

At two pm on the Sunday we got a phone call from the cleaner at work to say that the practice had been broken into. ( In Scotland we have no crime of burglary- it’s house breaking or breaking in to property). It was a real Italian job stuff, they burrowed in to come up through the floor of one of the treatment rooms, lifting a heavy plinth and a desk from underneath the floor ( there must have been about three of them) and then stole the petty cash box. By then the alarm had gone off and they had exited the premises the way they came in.

Afterwards we worked out that it had taken them about a week to break in and for the amount they got, they would be better off, payment by hour, working in Asda/Walmart.

So there was much hanging around for the police and then the next day for the csi guys. Of course all the patients all thought it was a crime writer’s joke and kept telling the scene of crime fingerprinter that he was very convincing!

Anyway, we drove home at 9pm after waiting 6 hours for the cops to turn up, having had no food and not being able to touch anything! Or even watch the tour de France! We turned up the main road through the village, houses on the left, the tall wall that houses the railway embankment on the right, that road is a long slow climb …. not much going on but we passed a girl sitting with her back against the wall, holding her head, legs out in front of her, head down.

It’s past nine on a Sunday night… the light was waning but still bright enough.
What would you do?
She wasn’t sitting at a bus stop. She looked in distress of some kid, age? Anything between mid teens to forty.

We drove up to the next junction , U-turned and came back. The car in front pulled up beside her… words were exchanged. My other half thought it ok to drive on as somebody else had stopped. I said pull right up behind him, he’s a man on his own.

There was an exchange of words and the car in front pulled off at great speed and did a U-turn, back the way he came when our car pulled in behind his.
Mmmmm.
She was sobbing her heart out.

So I roll down the window;
‘Are you ok?’
‘Naw.’
‘Are you ill?’
‘Naw.’
‘Are you drunk?’
‘Aye but no pished, just had a few.’
‘So why are you so upset?’
‘Ma man’s dumped me.’
‘Oh is that all. Where are you trying to get to?’
‘Ma hoose.’
‘And where’s that?’
‘Johnstone, ah live wi ma maw.’
‘I looked at HWMBI who nodded
‘Ok,’ I said to her, ‘are you a serial killer?’ I think it’s best to be careful.
‘Nae,’ she said, ‘ahm a hair dresser!’

So we ran her home. It was a mile out of our way. We got the full story. She was 29, the boyfriend was 21. His mother was saying she wasn’t well but that only because the lassie herself wisnae well… that was a recurring theme of her distress.

She repeatedly said she was going home to kill herself.
I advised her to have a cup of tea, some toast and a chat with her mum first. Her man and her had been going out with each other for six months but had not spoken for the last four and he texted her and dumped her while she was out with her pal.

I think the modern speak for that is, ‘it’s complicated’.

HWMBI got a fright when she gave him a hug from the back of the car and a big kiss on the cheek. She tried the same with me, I reminded her that her mum would be waiting.
So she gets out the car and toddles of up the close.

‘So what book is she going into?’HWMBI asks.

Indeed. An every day story, except who was in that other car- she told me twice that she did not know him. What was their intent\?

And why was there that little delay? The way she answered questions, simply and honestly almost child like for a woman nearly 30. just a wee something that wasn’t at all the way it should be.

And then there was the wig, not a fashion statement, an alopecia ‘I’ve lost all my hair’ wig.

So, as they ask, where do you get your ideas from?

Well right there!

This post was devoid of pics as I am in the middle of a field. deep in Inspector Morse country with very little Wifi signal.
So, as they say, this will be continued...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

From the nuclear option to champagne!

Stanley - Thursday

Earlier this week, Orenda Books published our stand-alone thriller DEAD OF NIGHT in the UK! Needless to say, we are delighted, not only because it is always exciting to have a new book see the light of day, but also because it was a long and often difficult path from inception to publication.


For a long time, Michael and I wanted to take a break from our Detective Kubu series, which now stands at six books and counting. We wanted something very different. Young adult? No. Romance? We didn't think so. So we decided on a stand-alone thriller with a protagonist as different from Kubu as possible with a backstory dear to our hearts.

And we wanted to challenge ourselves with respect to the writing.

So, in 2012 we started working on what became DEAD OF NIGHT - featuring a female protagonist with an exotic background, written in the first person - not only first person, but first person present. Aargh!

And for the back story, we decided to use the appalling and frightening arena of rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling - something we are both familiar with since 80% of the world's rhinos are in South Africa, and over 1000 of them are slaughtered each year for their horns.

These horns are more valuable than gold in Vietnam - fetching a street price of US$150,000/ kg. A decent size horn is worth nearly half a million dollars. And all it is is keratin - the same material was your fingernails. It has no medical benefits, yet is taken in powdered form as a cure for cancer and other ailments, or snorted like cocaine at the parties of the nouveaux riches. Some use it as an aphrodisiac, where almost certainly it has been laced with a Viagra look-alike. In reality, what is sold at exorbitant prices as powdered rhino horn is probably powdered some-other horn.

The rhino horn trade has everything a thriller writer is looking for: greed, violence, exploitation, conflicting ideas for how to solve the problem, and more greed.

So we started writing.

About 20,000 to 30,000 words later, we ground to a halt. We couldn't figure out where we were going, what should happen next. What was meant to be thrilling was beginning to drag.

For the next three years, we restarted the process several times, switching from first person present to first person past; from first person to third person. All with the same result. We ground to a halt.

Eventually we decided that the problem was that we didn't really understand our exotic female protagonist - Crystal Nguyen, an investigative journalist from Minneapolis, a refugee of the Vietnam war. So I decided to write a short piece about her life in Duluth, MN, where she was working at a local TV station, reporting on environmental affairs.

The short piece expanded, then expanded again, until I had written a 60,000- word novella, which I titled Wolfman. It was written in first person present, which worked well.

Then, with a contract from Orenda Books, we set to write the whole book, again in the first person.

When we submitted the manuscript in mid-March, the pushback was immediate. 'Aaargh,' the editor said. 'Not of your usual quality.'



So we revised it and resubmitted. 'Aaargh,' the editor said again. We revised again. After a couple of more iterations, with the publication date looming and no acceptable manuscript, the editor said we had to embrace the NUCLEAR OPTION - rewrite in the third person. Sound familiar?



In a marathon lasting three weeks, Michael and I rewrote the entire manuscript, changing the focus from Crystal doing a rhino story to Crystal trying to find her potential partner in life and doing a rhino story. The editor nodded. Michael and I collapsed.



And the book was published on time last weekend.

And now we and the book are on a blog tour. Here are some of the reviews so far:
A gripping and devastating novel about an important subject, with a feisty protagonist and more action, twists and thrills than you can handle. It made such an impression n me that I have donated to Save The Rhino in thanks.  (Read the whole review at Live and Deadly blog.)
Dead of Night is more than crime fiction. It’s a breath-taking mix of adrenaline and current affairs brought to life by colourful characters. (Read the whole review at chocolatenwaffles blog.)
And finally, The Writer's Block created two movie trailers for DEAD OF NIGHT. You can watch them here.

So join me in a toast - to DEAD OF NIGHT.  Thank you.

______________________________________________

An update: Thanks so much to those of you who responded to my call for donations to help Books for Africa send a container of 22,000 books to South Africa. So far we've raised about 40% of the target. If you would like to contribute, you can donate here using your credit card. Tax deductible in the USA.


 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer in the City






In Spring of 2017, I hired a man to dig out the grass in front of my Baltimore, Maryland house. He thought I was crazy to pay him for that, but I had the idea of replacing the grass with a lot of perennials that are native to Maryland and Virginia. I wanted to plant food for the local bees and bugs (the good bugs, of course) and have the feeling of a full, lively cottage garden. Native gardening guru friends told me this kind of garden doesn't need much water, because the plants are used to the climate, and such laid-back flora grows happily without special attention.

I also heard a saying that was meant to encourage me: the first year plants sleep--the second year they creep--the third year they leap!

I was pleasantly surprised to see plants getting a nice, full shape the first year. But this year, WOW. I don't really think we can pretend anyone is creeping. The mountain mint is a monster stalking the entire space!




Lots of rain made these plants really grow, and it's amusing to see my short dogs wandering through their personal jungle while bees buzz gently overhead.








Another thing that surprised me about my impromptu native cottage garden is how long it is taking everything to flower. With these natives, varying shades of green are what I'm stuck with for a long time. I will have to wait till August to see yellow petals on these Black-eyed Susans below, and they are already approaching 6 feet tall.



One of my goals this summer was to "be in the garden" most mornings while it's still cool. An overdue book turned my mornings into writing sessions on the screened porch until today--July 17.
The middle of July is usually when most people stop gardening. But it's my start date. I had a bunch of weeds to pull.


But they easily gave way. Today I did a spot-check on a Virginia Sweetspire bush advertised as "good for poor soil" that I'd planted this May. I watered it a couple of days in the beginning and then I started writing overtime and let it go without extra watering.
I think the Sweetspire, below, got mad about that.



Can I make things better for the poor shrub this late in the season? And is there any point in planting anything more in the bare dry spots...or is that insane with the 90 degree heat that lies ahead?

If you ask me, is easier to plant a garden than to write a novel; but it's more tempting to disappear in a rewrite than to pull ivy.


Monday, July 16, 2018

An Open letter to MIE Readers +

Annamaria on Monday



If you subscribe to our blog, we are sure you noticed that functioning here on MIE went kaflooey for a while.  We are almost back to normal, but we want you to know what happened, and what you may need to do to manage your subscription.

I am not the resident techie here.  Stan is.  But at this moment, he is either on a plane, preparing to board a plane, or helping people my height get their baggage out of the overhead compartment  as they prepare to "deplane" (as flight attendants used to say).  So I am going to try to explain MIE's recent turmoil.


A few months ago, your faithful MIE bloggers noticed that we were having trouble commenting on the posts at all, but especially in responding to comments posted by one of you.  Sometimes, comments disappeared while we were typing them.  Sometimes, Blogger wouldn't let us write a comment at all.

Shortly thereafter, suddenly, subscribers (including us) no longer received notifications of new posts or comments.  Our lovely user-friendly atmosphere became frustrating in the extreme.


Not surprisingly, we noticed a drop in our readership.  And a severe drop in the number of comments from you.  We talked it over behind the scenes and started to investigate what had happened.


My theory is that Google's Blogger engineers were reprogramming the software to comply with the EU's new privacy regulations.  (Cranky aside:  there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet.  Attempts made supposedly to provide privacy are a smokescreen meant to quell the general public's outrage/fear/mild curiosity about the loss of privacy--something that faded with invention of credit cards, greatly diminished when CC records went on computers, and evaporated completely with the development of the Internet.)

A number of us MIE bloggers went on line to try to find out what was going on.

Google's Blogger site offered explanations, which unfortunately were written in a rare Tibetan dialect of Gobbledygook.  Using terms that looked strangely like English: G+ widget integrations, localization, Blogspot ccTLDS, and Third Party Gadgets.


I cleared my cookies (all but the chocolate chip ones) but that didn't help much at all.

Finally, Caro's significant other--Alan--came to our rescue.  No thanks to Google, he worked out that he had to re-enter the list of email addresses from our subscriber list.  Then--you may have noticed--we all bloggers and readers received confirmation emails allowing us to confirm our subscriptions.  We hope you said yes to that.  We did.

So now, we are almost back where we were in the good old days of 2017.

If you want notifications of new blog posts and are not getting them, up at the top here, to the right of the title there is box where you can put in your email address.  If you want to see the comments as they come along, in the column to the right, under "Followers" is a Blue "Follow" button.  Click on that and you can sign up for notifications of the commentary.

Here are some images to thank you for sticking with us through this rather bumpy transition.  We didn't do it to you on purpose, and we are grateful (ESPECIALLY to Alan) that it is over and you are still here.














Sunday, July 15, 2018

“We still don’t know how it worked!” the Amazing Thai Cave Rescue

Zoë Sharp

Members of the Wild Boars soccer team
The story started on June 23 2018, when a group of 12 boys finished football (soccer) practice and went, with their assistant coach, into Tham Luang Nang Non, (which translates to ‘Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady’) a cave system in the Chiang Rai Province of northern Thailand, almost on the border with Myanmar.

The reason the boys, aged 11 to 17, from the Wild Boars junior association football team, decided to go into the cave isn’t clear—maybe for them it was the equivalent of a trip to Alton Towers. And it does look to be a natural wonder. A huge karstic cave system beneath the Doi Nang Nom mountain range.

The Doi Nang Nom mountain range, Thailand
Unfortunately for the boys, the monsoon rains arrived earlier than they expected. As the water levels inside the cave rose, the boys and their 25-year-old coach found themselves marooned on a small plateau almost two miles underground.

There they remained, undiscovered, for nine days.

What those nine days must have been like for the boys, I can only imagine. But they must, surely, have thought nobody was ever going to come, or even find out what had happened to them.

The fact they survived in such apparent good spirits despite oxygen levels running low and lack of food, has been credited in part to the presence of the young coach Ekaphol Chantawong, a former monk who encouraged them to rest and meditate to alleviate the boredom and stress. Sadly, I have a suspicion that once the euphoria of subsequent events has subsided and the media begins to look for a continuation of the story—ie, who to blame—this young man’s life may take a more unpleasant turn. Everybody loves a heroic figure, but the media seems to love nothing more than bringing such a hero figure to their knees.

Eventually, on July 02, the boys were discovered by a British cave diver, John Volanthen. By that time, cave rescue experts had been drafted in from all over the world to supplement the Thai Navy SEALs and local volunteers.


I regret that, in the early stages, the details of the story passed me by. I was getting ready for my trip to southern France, and the imminent launch of my new standalone, DANCING ON THE GRAVE. And, I confess, I was trying to tune out anything connected to the World Cup. The fact that the boys were collectively described as a football team in the news did not serve to make them register strongly in my mind. (I seem to remember that when I initially heard an entire football team had gone missing, I even thought they might one of the those entered in the World Cup who had disappeared while in Moscow.)

It wasn’t long before I was as hooked as everyone else and reading the regular updates on the excellent The Guardian website. And as more complications and difficulties emerged, the more hooked I became. It was a rollercoaster of highs and lows that gripped you by the throat and wouldn’t let go.

They found the boys alive—great. They were trapped two miles underground—oh no. The Thai authorities brought in heavy duty pumps and had shifted, by the end of things, more than one million cubic metres of water out of the cave system—amazing. More monsoon rains were forecast and some were predicting it might be months before the boys could be safely extracted—what?!


By July 05, after attempts failed to locate a point directly above the boys’ position in order to drill through 600 metres of rock to reach them, the only logical option was to bring them out underground. This would involve using scuba gear and air tanks for much of the first mile, which was extensively flooded despite the pumping crews’ best efforts.

None of the boys had ever scuba dived before, and there were doubts if a mask small enough could be found to fit the youngest boy and seal reliably throughout the journey. Plus, when they were found the boys had been surviving only on small amounts of water. They were in a weakened condition.

Elon Musk's solution was a mini submersible, but it's doubtful
that the craft would have made it through some of the
incredibly narrow passages inside the cave.
But, by now they’d been trapped for thirteen days. The oxygen levels inside the small pocket that contained them had fallen to 15 percent. Medical experts warned that at 12 percent, the boys would start to fall into coma. Still, it was a choice fraught with danger, as was tragically illustrated by the death of Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL diver.

former Thai Navy SEAL diver, Saman Kunan, who died during the rescue operation
But they were fast running out of options. The monsoons were forecast to let rip at any moment. When heavy rains failed to materialise on July 07, as predicted, the authorities realised they had to make best use of what might be their only reprieve.

The resilience of the boys at this point was quite remarkable. It is reported that they were excited by the prospect of going diving as much as being rescued. The original plan was to bring the strongest out first, but Australian doctor Richard Harris who went in to assess their condition, found they were all equally fit. Eventually, the boys decided among themselves, with the coach making the final pick.

The first two boys were given a sedative as a precaution against panic, then and brought out tethered to two divers for much of the first part of the journey. At a dry area known as Pattaya Beach, they were loaded onto wraparound stretchers and taken the rest of the way, aided by a daisy chain of other supporters along the route until they finally reached the largely dry third chamber, which was the Forward Operating Base for the rescue attempt. From there, they were hooked up to a pulley system and guided through the cramped, muddy terrain by more than a hundred further rescue workers.

If this had been a staged event instead of an emergency response, it would have been years in the planning. The authorities had a couple of days to co-ordinate teams from all over the world. Fortunately, the hand-signal language of diving is much the same everywhere.

The divers involved admitted that it was only as the first boys were being ferried to hospital that they allowed themselves to believe they might be able to pull the whole thing off. Even so, the slightest problem would have seen the plan collapse and might, perhaps, leave some of the boys compelled to stay underground and wait out the monsoon season.

the boys are ferried to hospital as they are brought to the surface
Having managed their amazing feat of co-ordination and co-operation—not to mention skill and bravery—to bring out four of the boys on July 08, the divers then went back and did it all over again the following day. And again the day after that, successfully bringing out the entire team. The coach left himself until last.

Even after the last of the Wild Boars was safely out of the cave, it seemed that the Sleeping Lady had one last drama to throw at them. A water pipe burst and the main pump stopped working, causing the last of the rescue workers to run to escape the rapidly rising water. It will be months, they reckon, before they can return to retrieve their equipment.

the rescued Wild Boars recovering in hospital isolation
Hollywood, as you might expect, has already announced not one but two movies in the works about the event. It is hard to see how they can possibly make this remarkable example of human ingenuity and teamwork any more dramatic than it was in real life.

This week’s Word of the Week is karstic, meaning the topography in a region where the rock is soluble (such as limestone or dolomite) and over time forms sinkholes, caverns and underground streams and passages. Karst is thought to derive from a pre-Indo-European word, karra, meaning stone, or from the Latin carsus, stony ground.

an example of karstic topography in Madagascar
Events:

I am currently in the midst of a Blog Tour for my latest standalone crime thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, which came out on July 01. The tour started out at ShotsMag Confidential on July 09, and will finish up at Sean's Book Reviews on July 22. It's a mix of guest articles and reviews, so I hope you'll join me somewhere along the way. Full details on my website here.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

An Open Letter to Mykonians



Jeff—Saturday

I’ve decided not to write about the young, extraordinarily blessed soul who passed away this week at the age of twenty-four.  The wound is far too fresh and deep.  Nor could any words from me succeed in capturing the deep anguish consuming all who knew this loving, unique man. 

On Mykonos, the island of his birth, all are in mourning, but so too, are off-islanders from around the world who’d been blessed enough to have been embraced within his kind and generous soul.  He lit up my heart when he called me pappou (grandfather in Greek, though I was not). His unabashed joy for life will be sorely missed.

No, I won’t write about any of that.  I shall write about the island, and what’s been on my mind since last Saturday.

Mykonos today is an island of 24/7 glitz, with a physical past rapidly disappearing amid a relentless onslaught of construction vehicles, and a cultural past all but abandoned to an agenda of greater pleasures yielding greater profits.  It is a place without order. And every Mykonian knows that.

But there is hope. Or so I hope.

Mykonians know how to come together in crisis to support one another through the toughest imaginable times. I’ve witnessed that spirit and commitment first hand.  Custom is the bedrock of this community.  It’s at the core of what drives the Mykonian spirit.

Every core, though, needs a compass to remain on a clear course, and recent decades have rocked Mykonos off center. The island, today, is steered by external forces taking the community in directions most islanders neither fully appreciate nor understand.  Mykonians welcome the benefits, and dread the drawbacks, yet so many feel virtually helpless at changing the process in any meaningful way for their futures.

Mykonians, you deserve better. You have the power and determination to move forward in whatever direction you think best for your island.  All you need do is seize control of the tiller, and insist on staying the course you think best for you and your families.  You certainly possess the strength and resolve. You just need the purpose.

To my much loved Mykonian friends I say, in strength of community there is hope.  Otherwise, mourn not just for our dearly lost friend, mourn for yourselves.

—Pappou

Friday, July 13, 2018

William Wallace



Well, the world has gone bit bonks. We are getting ready to protest against the visit of a certain world leader here. The police have appealed for calm and non-violent protest, with the proviso, no matter how you feel, he’s not worth getting arrested over.
                                   

There is talking a banning THE balloon. The Belgians have beat us to the rude balloon competition.




 If you can't control your own hair, then there is no hope..



And the young multi cultural English football team did well in the World Cup. Any Scot ( and there are many) who has gloated at their departure from the tournament after a hard fought battle with the older and more experienced team from Croatia, has appeared churlish and bitter. As a lot of us are. The English boys played well and were beaten by a better team on the night, but I feel that the elegantly dressed Mr Southgate and his boys will be back.
                                       



Meanwhile,  everybody in the government is resigning, trying to force  another general election. In Brexit nobody has a clue what is going on. It seems nothing that Theresa May does it right but nobody seems to be coming up with any better ideas. The independence  army  is on the march again, claiming that the only two exports that ‘England’  has to bargain with in Brexit negiations are Scotch and oil ( which they see as Scottish).


I will just leave that there. Except to add that it’s not Scottish money that got the oil out and that most most whisky companies are now owned by the Italians ( Brexit again) or the Japanese ( the global economy).


It’s all a very sad state of affairs.


So I went for a walk down to the bottom of my garden and across the road to visit one of the oldest trees In Scotland and the actual birthplace of Mel Gibson… sorry  William Wallace. It appears on this old map, and you can the location of my house. Strange to see how it all was in those days.

So sir  William Wallace of Elderslie  is the one of Braveheart- not historically accurate film as I, sure you are aware.  

WilliamWallace  was born around 1270,  as was known as the Knight of Ellerslie or Elderslie. According to Mr David Ross, both these names mean the same thing; the place of the Elder trees, and my village is called  Elderslie, I think that’s a wrap!

There are no real physical borders in  GB,  and any that did exist have always moved about a bit so there is no surprise that people wandered around taking their culture and their language with them. Anything claiming to be Scottish rarely is exclusively so. It’s a whole amalgam of influence that just ended up in the best bit, at the top of the country.

                                      

The nationalist icon of Mel Gibson with a Scottish flag of St Andrew painted on his face is a Hollywood construct. As well as St Andrew being patron of Scotland, Barbados, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Burgundy, San Andrés (Tenerife), Diocese of Parañaque, Amalfi, Luqa (Malta) and Prussia; fishermen, fishmongers and rope-makers, textile workers, singers, miners, pregnant women, butchers, farm workers with protection offered  against sore throats, convulsions, fever and whooping cough.

                                      

The  Wallaces were in the employ of the  High Stewards of Scotland.
Renfrewshire ( the part where Elderslie and Paisley are ) is always known as the cradle of the royal Stewarts, it says this on the sign as you drive into the village. All the High Stewarts are buried in Paisley Abbey.  And Alan is a Stewart as well, but a rather lowly one. His DNA  goes all the way back to the Royal Stewarts. As does  75% of the Scottish population.


But William Wallace’s family seemingly came north from Shropshire at the time of David I of Scotland when the Welsh has a wee meander to the land of the constant rain. And the original form of Wallace means  ‘speaking Welsh!’

                                         

According to  The William Wallace Society, a Richard Wallace, in 1174 witnessed the signing of a charter at Paisley Abbey. He is well recognised as being an ancestor of William Wallace and, as was common in those days, they were rewarded with land,  in this case, Elderslie, sometime before 1250.

                                          

 Here are some pics of the ruins that lie there now. These only date back to the 1500’s but there is  another ruin which adjoined it; the Moat/Mottes/Houses which  means an old fortified dwelling. It  it could easily be that William  Wallace was born in one of these dwellings.
                                          

 Here in Elderslie. There is  historical record of two famous  trees; the Wallace oak and the Wallace Yew.  Only the yew remains now. The parish records as far back as 1700 refer to it as ‘the ancient tree’ the but nobody really knows how old it actually is.


Scotland has the oldest tree in Europe- a yew in Fortingall in Perthshire which is over  3,000 years of age and I think that deserves a  blog all on its own).
                                           



The Wallace Oak. Like many other trees In Scotland is supposed to have sheltered  William ( or any other leader of the scots ) and his/their  followers from an English patrol ( of any type). The tree finally was destroyed in a storm in the 1800’s.  I found an article that said the Oak had been measured a few years before it fell and parish records  state it covered early 500 square yards.



And  seemingly, by a lovely turn of fate, Bonnie Prince Charlie's used the words "Wallace’s Oak" as a camp password during their fateful march of 1745. Although 500 years from one event to the other , must have made the phrase pretty well known, given that  most language would be spoken. No real call for those a Bletchley to be sharpening their pencils. Just listening while hiding in a clump of heather would have done it.

The Wallace society do admit there are no documents that  confirm where Wallace was born but  they refer to Elderslie  being "evidently" the birthplace of William Wallace.


So until you hear otherwise, that will be the case.

Caro Ramsay  13 07 2018




















Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mandela 100


Michael - Thursday

Nelson Mandela returns to Robben Island after being elected
president of South Africa
So much has been written about Nelson Mandela that it seems redundant to add anything more. Pat and I went to the FotoZA exhibition of photographs for the hundredth anniversary of his birth with some reservations. But how could one not allow oneself to be reminded of this life of commitment to a cause and to justice that had to take precedence over everything else, including his own needs and desires and those of his family? There would be no compromise – until it allowed him to move to his ultimate goal.

The exhibition gives few new perspectives, yet pulls us once again into the life of this extraordinary man who spent nearly thirty years in prison yet held to his principles, and then – harder still – spent five years as president of South Africa and still never compromised them.


Two feature of the exhibition struck us - unexpected amongst the flood of bitter pictures. The most moving was a display of the calendars that he was allowed in his prison cell. Year after year with notes, appointments and comments. Just before he was transferred to Victor Verster prison in Paarl and then released, he noted scarily high blood pressures. But most of the annotations referred to precious visits and meetings that the authorities dealt out like scraps to a dog. As the years passed, they became more frequent, yet every one was a cherished connection to the outside world.


The second was a display of posters from around the world calling for his release, the release of all South Africa's political prisoners, and for the abolition of apartheid. Most are from European countries sympathetic at the time to the ANC, and many are lithographs - crude by modern standards - yet their message is strong across the years.


It was a very moving experience. Anyone who is able to see it should jump at the opportunity.

Hard labour in prison.
A less serious poster - the makeover
Artist's impression of Mandela before he was released.
There had been no photographs of him for many years.
Mandela's letters from prison. A new comprehensive collection offers many insights.
From: The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela


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Out in the UK next week!
Already available as an ebook since Tuesday.