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

Ego on the way up

Personal friends will know I’ve had a catastrophic couple of months – so much so that it may be worth a fiction if the plot is less chaotic than mine. The good news is that my new novel, JIGSAW ISLAND, is now 33% funded on the Unbound website. Support from friends and family has been terrific. Further to this, two of my pledgers are esteemed book reviewers, a huge compliment. And as it’s my birthday tomorrow, I’m having the day off. Happy rest of July, everyone!

My beloved Leros, the Jigsaw Island of the book.

Posted in catasrophe, Contemporary Women's Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Lesbian interest, new writing, Single mother, Single mothers, Writers, Writing | 9 Comments

Reviews still appearing for the predecessor to JIGSAW ISLAND

I’ll admit I was a shade disappointed when my first novel, TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS, didn’t crash into the best sellers – yeah, well, I write fiction. But one reader said he suspected it would be a ‘slow burn’. And, indeed, TWR is still attracting interest. While JIGSAW ISLAND can be read as a ‘stand alone’ novel, many of the same characters appear. Just as other people loved them, I found it hard to let them go. I’m attaching two reviews of TWR, one recent, another from a 2 years ago (and yes, there have been reviews in between – if you don’t believe me, go to Amazon). Very slow burn but not yet fizzled out – in fact, it may be about to flare up…
(Click on reviews to enlarge)

 

With every pledge for JIGSAW ISLAND on Unbound you will receive a free ebook of TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS – which is currently available nowhere else. What’s to lose?
Read an excerpt from each book by clicking on the links in the menu above.

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, Lesbian interest, new writing, Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Response to rejection of parking fine appeal

Mr Martyn Baker
Parking Manager, West Berkshire District Council
Parking Services, Council Offices,
Market Street, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 5LD
24 July 2019

Dear Mr Baker

Re: Traffic Management Act 2004
Penalty Charge Notice № : KK01325775
Date of Contravention : 12 July 2019
Location of Contravention : Kingsland Centre Car Park, Thatcham
Vehicle Registration № : SV66SBX

Clearly, you take pride in your employment and exercising the powers vested in you by West Berkshire District Council by exacting stringent admonition to those you deem offenders. Please note your statement below:

“Although I am sympathetic to your husband’s circumstances, he does not hold a valid disabled badge and therefore was not entitled to park in a bay reserved for individuals, who do hold a valid disabled blue badge. Having a temporary disability, does not make motorists or passengers exempt from the parking restrictions which are in place.

You could have dropped your husband off at the entrance to the Waitrose store, without obstructing the road within the car park, then you could have parked your vehicle in a bay.”

I explained that he was temporarily disabled (it is not possible to apply for a Blue Badge under these circumstances, despite the severity of the disability), that we were unfamiliar with the area and that branch of Waitrose, nor did we know that it was sited in a council car park (those we know, Wokingham, Guildford and the recently closed Teignmouth, all have their own carparks). Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Had I known that it was a council carpark and not a Waitrose one, I might well have dropped my husband off at the doors. Since it was, however, his first public outing on crutches following a catastrophic break to his leg some 2 months earlier (as you saw from the Hospital Discharge note I attached to the Appeal), I was anxious to accompany him as he negotiated kerbs, shoppers, shopping trolleys and other hazards. Consequently, I would not have ‘dropped him off’.

Since you describe yourself as being ‘sympathetic’, you can understand, I hope, how welcome a parking fine was as we set off to attend the funeral of an old friend.

You may have heard, Mr Baker, of karma, the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). So, just as I, with your assistance, was dealt punishment for some past misdeed, so you too will receive retribution as the effect of your bureaucracy overruling any compassion. When that event happens – and it will – maybe the fact that you spell your first name the same way as my husband’s will help you call to mind the meanness of spirit you exercised on the 23 July 2019.

Fine paid, by the way.

Yours sincerely

Lynne McVernon

Posted in Desperation, Humour, Life on the edge, non-fiction, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Back online

It’s been a long period of enforced silence. The good news is that Martyn is hopping about on crutches now, and I’m not! On his first outing to our local pub, The Ship, Teignmouth, we got a lift from the brilliant Dawlish Community Transport with the saintly Rob, who wheeled him to an outside table while I went on crutches into the bar to order. Ellie, our brilliant hostess, said “What have you been up to?” to which I replied, “You should see Martyn”. She laughed – I laughed. Then she saw him in the wheelchair – a true OMG moment.

Many of you will know that looking after an invalid eats your life, but with Martyn now able to wash and dress himself and make a cup of tea, some of the responsibility has lifted from my shoulders – which will now be applied to the crowdfunding wheel. Speaking of which, The Ship’s crew, Mike, Ellie and Co., along with my 42 wonderful pledgers (which, naturally, includes Martyn), have been a great support, displaying two posters for Jigsaw Island in the bar. I have yet to lurk in the immediate area to see whether anyone recognises me from the photo…

The Ship Inn, Teignmouth

At the moment, funding with Unbound for Jigsaw Island stands at 30% – expect that figure to go up pretty soon!

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