Berlin – a city with a conscience

From Winston Churchill’s speech

UNITED STATES OF EUROPE

September 19, 1946. University of Zurich

Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the United Nations Organisation. Under and within that world concept we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe, and the first practical step will be to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join a union we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and every land from war and servitude must be established on solid foundations, and must be created by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than to submit to tyranny. In this urgent work France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America — and, I trust, Soviet Russia, for then indeed all would be well — must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live. Therefore I say to you “Let Europe arise!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was in Berlin last weekend, staying with two new friends who live there. She is German/American and he is British. I asked how they were dealing with the possible consequences of Brexit. The younger couldn’t actually believe it would cause that much of a problem, the older was much more pragmatic. Both were born post the fall of the Berlin Wall whereas I remember the wall going up and coming down. I am concerned for them lest Britain’s hostile stance provokes a reaction that affects their relationship by making living together difficult. That would be a pointless tragedy brought about by ignorance, prejudice and posturing – in fact the antithesis of everything Berlin, as a city, stands for.

The photographs above are of the Jewish Memorial and two columns of the Neues Museum – the bullet holes from the Allied invasion of Berlin at the close of WWII still visible – and between them, the Fernsehturm, the Television Tower, opened in 1969. If anything was iconic for me about Berlin, it was these two sights.

The first, a series of concrete blocks set in ground that slopes down towards the centre until the height above you becomes oppressive, symbolises the seemingly immovable horrors of the Holocaust. It had a profound, emotional effect on me.

The second brings history into sharp contrast. It is fitting that these columns have not been repaired as the reminder of conflict, not so very long ago, is a warning to us all. And yet, visible between them is an example of progress in technology and communication. Whether we use them for good or bad is our choice.

I did, of course, do the usual tourist trek around Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall Art, Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz. Also, never forgetting my theatre roots, I went to a performance of The Ugly Duckling, not the Hans Christian Anderson children’s tale, but a very clever and riveting production about drag artists at the Deutsches Theater (English with German subtitles and vice versa – hats off to the superb actors – and to the dialogue operator).

I was aware, though, the whole time I was there, that Berlin is very much in touch with its recent past. The modern Jewish Museum concentrates on Jewish history from 1930, the rise of Fascism and its catastrophic effect on Jewish people. It is guarded 24/7 by armed police, a sad recognition that the Right is on the rise again. There is also a Remembrance Garden, opened in 2012, of the Sinti and Roma victims, who met similar fates to their Jewish fellow countrymen. Guilt is a recognition that the city finds hard to shake.

And now, unashamedly, comes my political statement. The greatest peace project we have in modern times is the European Union. Forget squabbles about trade and funding (even though Britain had a better deal than any other member) and remember that we have been at peace for over seventy years. Yes, there are problems, I recognise them. Greece has borne harsh austerity and unemployment which continues today, but this is a complex story and financiers are at fault as much as Europe. Much of my heart lies with Greece, but my hope lies with the EU.

As a writer, I am featuring the plight of refugees passing through the Greek islands and the aid workers and volunteers who help them in my next book, Jigsaw Island. I have met people who have been through unspeakable experiences to escape war, talked to those who work with them and for them. I feel anger and shame that innocent people are in such desperate situations and we do so little for them. It is the disconnection of politicians who, as you read this, are committing crimes against humanity; the greater the crime, the more likely they are to get away with it. And the biggest culprits head up the largest states. And we know who those are.

Let us never forget what lies, misinformation and demonisation of a people can do. The scars are still there to see. Berlin, thank you for your conscience.

Posted in Britain in EU, catasrophe, Contemporary Women's Fiction, Desperation, Greek Islands, Leros, Life on the edge, new writing, Personal, Refugees, Religion, Remain in EU, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I’ve got the doodle bug…

Well, TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS is re-edited, re-released and the copies are ready to wing out to new supporters of JIGSAW ISLAND – and, not that I have little else to do, I decided to respond to everyone who commented on the cover of TWR. UNBOUND will be designing a new one  when the eBook is released alongside the paperback and eBook of JIGSAW ISLAND – but until then… wodjer fink?

 

OK, OK – stick to the day job, Lynne…

Link to UNBOUND PUBLISHING

Link to TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS on Amazon

Posted in Art, Contemporary Women's Fiction, Design, Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Single mother, Single mothers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting literate…

Persuade a friend to pledge on UNBOUND.COM for a copy of JIGSAW ISLAND at Paperback or Super Patron Paperback (EARLY BIRD) levels and receive a free paperback of the prequel, TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS (TWR), yourself. Pledges at READ WITH A FRIEND level or higher and the friend receives a free paperback of TWR, too – (Believe the tags – all areas significant). Notify me of friend pledges at this website – once their names pop up, TWR is on its way.No alt text provided for this image

Jigsaw Island

unbound.com

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Desperation, Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Leros, Lesbian interest, Life on the edge, new writing, Single mothers, Unbound publishing, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New edition of TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS

Good Evening – Kalispera –

In anticipation of the publication of JIGSAW ISLAND, its prequel, TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS has been re-edited and re-released with updated publicity on Amazon – HERE.

JIGSAW ISLAND is written as a standalone novel, but if you want to get to know some of the characters in advance, this is how you can. Although the original TWR was published in 2013, the most recent five star review was posted only last month:

Nina Geraghty
5.0 out of 5 stars  A Greek tale…
4 July 2019
A love of Greece and strong observations bring the story to life, you get gripped and feel you know the characters. Once into this book I was gripped and didn’t want it to end. If you want to escape to Symi, with a dose of Scotland and the cheekiness of two West Highland Terriers then this is the book for you.

The eBook of TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS is currently unavailable as Amazon’s publication agreement kdp is somewhat restrictive, but it will be re-issued by Unbound with a new cover when JIGSAW ISLAND is published.

You can reserve an advance copy of JIGSAW ISLAND  on Unbound  – now 38% funded.

So, if you fancy hanging onto summer on the glorious Greek Islands, give TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS a whirl…

Thank you – Efharisto – Lynne

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Crowdfunding, Greek Islands, Humour, Lesbian interest, Life on the edge, new writing, Single mother, Single mothers, Unbound publishing, Writers, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

From Leros Solidarity Network, 20 August 2019

Poem translated from Google – bear with it – the essence shines though…

They collected, I read, from the sea of Italy.
They used to wear them, men, women, children.
Desperate people, wearing their old shoes, flip flops, slippers were trying to save.
People lost shoes left at the bottom of the sea empty, sad, without life.
So many shoes, so many lost human lives.
It is certain that also in the Aegean, the shoes of the drowned were left alone, there at the bottom of the sea, wedding, with a particular lament for the tragic losses.
Seeing this image, you think of those who are saved, having lost their own, living like living dead, shadows of people, broken.
To them, as in all the weak, the government decided to take care. And inhumanity is now getting new dimensions.

Posted in catasrophe, Desperation, Greek Islands, Life on the edge, non-fiction, Poetry, Refugees | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Diana re-appears on Leros!

In 2002, Martyn and I went to Leros to celebrate his 50th birthday. As usual, we stayed at Studios Happiness and had fun with the Varnas family, Mixailis, Eytychia, Despina, Takis,  and micra – little – Eytychia (granddaughters being named after their grandmother). This was before Takis met his beautiful partner Eglantine and set about fathering his two charming children, cousins to micra Eytychia.

We love walking and often went on the long hike from Pandeli and round the bay from Aghia Marina to Dio Laskaria, four or five kilometres at least. On one particular day we never made it there as we were stopped just beyond Milos restaurant (see left). “Kalispera” boomed a voice from a balcony above the path. It came from an impossibly old-looking man, who put me in mind of the Ancient Mariner – Methuselah, even. He introduced himself as Phanes (the diminutive of Aristophanes) and insisted that we come up to join him and his friend, Michael, an Australian writer and regular visitor to Leros to research WWII history.

We spent an – unusual – afternoon, drinking retsina made by Phanes and eating cheese made by his mother (could she possibly still have been alive?), during which he invited us inside to inspect the photos of his many ex-lovers (whom Michael verified, were not simply our host’s wishful thinking) – all Scandinavian and extraordinarily beautiful – mothers of the occasional tow-headed Lerian we’d noticed, presumably? Another surprise was his living accommodation which housed a glass-fronted cool counter, a fitting from his late brother’s shop. We had met an island eccentric.

Down in Pandeli, there was a disused building with its name ‘Diana’  attached in long-dead neon lettering . Wrong on at least one level as Diana is the Roman copycat of Artemis the Huntress, the Ancient Greek goddess associated with Leros. The building, we learned, belonged to none other than our retsina-toting host, Phanes. But it had been shut for years. We were surprised and delighted, therefore, to see this post by our friend Takis, this week. See, the neon ‘Diana’ is back?

He didn’t say whether Phanes had anything to do with this, so we must investigate further.

In the six (seven?) times we have returned to Leros since then, we haven’t encountered Phanes again. His balcony is empty, no-one seems to have an update on him (most unusual in small Greek communities) and we fear the worst. Of course, he may have met another blonde beauty and relocated to Malmo or Copenhagen. We hope that is the case.

Just as Symi and Leros inspired much of the writing in my first novel TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS, Phanes has influenced my writing, like so many other of his compatriots. He doesn’t actually appear in JIGSAW ISLAND, but if his presence isn’t seen, it is definitely felt.

Posted in birthday, Contemporary Women's Fiction, Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Leros, new writing, Personal, Single mothers, Unbound publishing, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s all about observation and empathy – sort of…

I won a course on marketing my book (in this case TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS) and the tutor commented on my first assignment that some of its appeal might be to single mothers. I hadn’t thought of that, even though the main protagonist is a single mother. Going forward, JIGSAW ISLAND, too, features a single mother. Hmmm – is this a case for personal therapy? For, you see, I don’t have children. I have two wonderful stepchildren and a lovely ‘sortadorta’, as we joke that she is, who now has two little charmers of her own. Then there are these three little beauties – whose Dad I’ve known for some forty years.


I have known single mothers, of course, witnessed their personal, emotional, logistical and financial juggling, have been a friend, colleague and sometime employer. Some mothers have coped better than others, some have been practical, tolerant, generous, celebrated their children, and others, well, least said… I don’t judge, merely observe.

As to why I don’t have children – well, I just don’t. But what I can do is empathise, have always been interested in imagining another person’s situation, which is why I write. Also, some 30 years working in theatre taught me a lot about creating and exploring character. Added to which, I have trawled back into my personal career as a nightmare daughter (with occasional lapses into humanity) and been as honest as I can.

This section from TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS was lifted from memory, partly when a single mother friend faced a crisis and summoned me to care for her little girl (yes, the ‘sortadorta’) who was very poorly. I cradled this beautiful child for an afternoon. Later, I watched as she grew, added a dash of my own rebelliousness and came up with this observation made by Clair about her daughter, Jess:

“I watched the incredibly beautiful young problem I’d brought into the world and tried to stave off my habitual wave of guilt. As ever, fear seeped into the vacuum. Jess was growing up too fast. Blossoming too soon. Where was that tiny body with pale blue veins tracing delicate ribs? Abandoned to relentless adolescence, that was where. Heading fast into womanhood.”

The ‘problem’, by the way, was not Jess herself but the circumstances of her birth. I remembered also the fun mother and daughter can have. This is an excerpt from Clair and Jess’ arrival on Symi:

“We hauled our grips up several uneven treads to a small terrace shaded by a large mulberry tree. A plaque over the door read ‘Aphrodite One’. The key was in the lock.

– Look, JJ, no need for Neighbourhood Watch on Symi!

– Mmm. Cool.

Inside, it was – cool – wonderfully cool. I flipped the light switch, illuminating white walls, marble floor, simple furniture. We dropped everything, savouring the chill. Jess, though, was still gripped by iPhone fever. How to buck her out of it? By this time, I was hyper on nicotine withdrawal. The opportunities for a sneaky drag since leaving Guildford had been nil. I didn’t need a scene on the first night. Inspired by desperation, I started a hectic, clumsy strip, heading for the shower.

– Beat you to it!

Jess finally set down her newborn to hop and struggle out of her jeans, shrieking.

– Not fair! I need the loo!

– Tough!

– No-ho-o!

She laugh-howled, pushing past – and won. Or thought she did.

Half an hour later, dried and well sprayed with insect repellent, we sat on plastic chairs under the mulberry tree sipping overpriced whisky, late of Gatwick. Far opposite, a plantation of sapling white masts rose over rippling black water that flickered firefly reflections of taverna lights. Jess’s face, though, was uplit by her phone. I prodded her.

– No telling Maggie I’m weaning you on whisky.”

Readers who didn’t know me have been surprised that I don’t have children and those who did, appreciative of the insight. I’d be interested to hear other opinions.

There is an excerpt of TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS on the menu, above. Better still, go to Amazon and buy the paperback – or pledge  for a paperback of  JIGSAW ISLAND on Unbound and receive free copies of both ebooks.

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Crowdfunding, Greek Islands, new writing, Personal, Single mother, Single mothers, Theatre, Unbound publishing, Writers, Writing, Young Adult | Leave a comment