Pennsylvania Spring

Spring has come to Pennsylvania. For several days, the temperatures rose above 32F and we could consider putting the heavy winter coats further back in the cupboards. Earlier this week, we noticed that the small birds were back, flitting between the bare branches looking, no doubt, for suitable perches for nesting. Yesterday the robins were parading on green grass.

American robins aren’t a bit like the cosy balls of fluff on British Christmas Cards. American robins are big, bold birds, thrusting their orange paunches before them under their severe black caps. Upright and territorial, they strut their patch, eyes everywhere looking for the merest encroachment. I call them avian policemen.

Today, it’s snowing. The temperatures are hovering in the 20Fs; the roads are only wet at the moment but the grass has turned white and it’s coming down pretty heavily. No sign of the birds, policemen or otherwise. We are fortunate in being home before it began to look serious.

We had dental appointments this morning and were met with the crushing news that our much-loved dentist is hanging up his shingle later this month. I can remember as a child being held down forcibly in the chair while someone poked around inside my mouth and for most of my adult life I dreaded dental visits, seeing the men in white coats (and they almost always were men) as adversaries not far above the Inquisition.

Then we moved to this little town in Pennsylvania and met Dr. Sunday and his wife ,who ran the paper side of things. I could not believe that I began to enjoy visiting the dentist, where each appointment became a social occasion, filled with softly spoken advice, much laughter and tales of family – as much a friendship as a professional interaction. Today, I had tears in my eyes not of fear or pain but of loss. I understand that they, like many professionals, have dedicated their lives to their patients and are more than entitled to some freedom to enjoy life and happier pursuits— but, oh, how I will miss my dental visits.

Posted in Books & Writing | 1 Comment

Woolly Thoughts
(with apologies to William Henry Davies)

It used to be, when sleep was hard to find
We turned to silly sheep to help us stare
Into the dark and they, obligingly, climbed
In unending line before our eyes.
Looking alike, all black and white
They passed before us through the night
Until we wearied of the same.

But then the scientists cloned Dolly
And, by giving her a name,
Gave sheep identities and took away
Our rite of passage to the light of day.
And then they told us, au contraire,
That sheep just do not stand and stare
But memorise themselves and us.
Another blow to soporific care!

If sheep remember faces,
Will they remember us who call them
When next we  stand and stare
Into the dark of night’s lost sleep?

A famous writer once declared
That sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care
But should the sheep become reluctant
To give their wool to men like us who pester
Them to pass before us through the night,
Our hole-filled garments will remain un-mended.
Tension rises, insomnia increases …

And as we toss and turn each night, the sheep may
Watch us with interested faces:  “Thank goodness
We have no time to stand and stare
Like silly men in holey garments” they may say.
And who could blame them?



(William Henry Davies)
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


Posted in Books & Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Family Search – June 2017

Some of you reading this will know that one of my pastimes is genealogy. I am using this post to seek information from descendants of Leslie Daniel Sayer, b 1915 near Winchester, Hants, UK. Leslie’s wife was named Valerie.

Some years ago, Leslie wrote to another family member with questions about his relations. That enquiry has recently been passed to me; I have no idea whether Leslie acquired answers to his questions but would be interested to hear from his children or grandchildren.

In his letter, Daniel says the family moved to Jevington in Sussex where his father worked in the racing stables. This particularly caught my attention because my novels (Henrietta, Legacy and Ellie) were set in the countryside near Jevington and the village is mentioned frequently in them. – yet another example of life’s circles or coincidences?

So, if anyone out there recognizes Leslie, please let me know! If only so that I can file the papers in the success file! Or, if not, perhaps help with any queries outstanding.

Posted in Books & Writing, genealogy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Curves – 2

Life moves in circles – well if not true circles then certainly in curves where experiences meet and part only to sweep around and meet again. I suppose you could call them coincidences but – I wonder sometimes.

I grew up in a family unit of four: Mum, Dad, my sister and me. We had no grandparents, aunts, cousins and although I was always a bit wistful about it, it never occurred to me that the situation could be changed. Neither of my parents knew anything about their parentage. My father didn’t find out his real name until he was in his forties and applied for a passport when he had to acquire a copy of his birth certificate. Looking back, I can only dimly understand what that must have meant to him; certainly he never wanted to discuss the matter, even years later when I tried to raise it with him.

My mother was different. When her birth certificate arrived she discovered that  for forty years she’d been celebrating her birthday on what had been her christening day; so we all made that adjustment as well. She was different, too, in that she wanted to know about her birth parents but none of us had any idea how to set about such a task. This was years before computers entered the home or records became available on line.

By the time I had the necessary knowledge and time to begin research, my father had died and my mother was ailing. I sat down with her on several occasions to find out what little she could remember from her earliest days; surprisingly there were ten facts which she recalled every time and they became the framework of my search. It took me nearly twenty years to unravel the mysteries of her mother, my grandmother,  sadly, too late for mu mother to know. My paternal grandmother took longer and is still not definitely confirmed.

The odd thing, the curve, is that both these grandmothers lived within twenty miles of us while we were growing up – and we never knew. Both they and we moved often yet ended close by. Life circled around tantalisingly close with the answer to our questions, leaving us in ignorance.

During my genealogical research, I have found many other instances where I lived unknowingly within easy visiting distance of cousins, uncles and other relatives. I have moved around a lot – different countries, towns, jobs – and so did my mysterious relatives and yet – and yet –  time and again we have been near to each other without knowing. Just coincidences? Perhaps. Or were we caught in the circles of our shared heritage? ESP or telepathy would have been so useful!

Posted in Books & Writing | Leave a comment

Curves – 1

An artist once told me there are no straight lines in Nature; from the universe to the nano-world of quarks and beyond, nature moves in ellipses. Well, life is like that too. It’s a year since I wrote about a man I had worked with in Jersey, C.I.  A quiet man, a stickler for detail; a man unknown and unrecognised beyond the enclosed society which was Jersey in those years almost sixty years ago. When I left the Island, I never expected to hear of him again.

All that is about to change.

Another Woman’s Son, has recently been released. The film tells the story of Mr. Le Druillenec and his sister, Louisa Gould and of their quiet, determined courage in the full knowledge of the consequences they faced. Two ordinary people acting with compassion for others regardless of their own danger. ‘Ordinary’ is the wrong word, isn’t it? There was nothing ordinary about their actions.

I don’t know whether the film will be shown in this small American town where I now live but f it is I will go to see it although for me it’s a private matter but there’s always a shiver of undeserved pride as one hovers in the shadows of the spotlight focussed on the famous. I am gratified that the heroism of two unpretentious people will be recognised – Mr. Le D. would have snorted a bit at that word, heroism, I think but their sacrifices  deserve to be known. They were icons of what human beings can be, should be, and all too often are not.

I do hope you will see the film and if you do, please let me know your reactions.

Posted in Books & Writing | Leave a comment


I finished reading The Crow Trap last night. I did not pinpoint the villain. The clues were there – not obvious perhaps, certainly not to me so I got it wrong!! The reveal was clever and unexpected – a  good end to a detective story. Now I want to read more Ann Cleeves to improve my scorecard. “Must try harder” isn’t good enough!

Posted in Books & Writing | Leave a comment

Another Absence

Once again I’ve been absent from writing for some weeks. In my last post I mentioned a late snowfall. Oh, that it had never happened! I slipped on  ice hidden beneath a deceptive veneer of melt-water and managed to break my arm in four places! Under the twin assaults of pain and medication, my brain turned to mush and quietly went into hibernation. Today’s brief foray into the world of tapping keys with five fingers instead of ten marks, I hope, the start of a slow exit from the fog – not so much for what I say but the fact than I want to say it!

One (the only?) benefit of such a period of enforced inactivity has been the time to read, discover new authors and re-visit some favourites. A discovery is Ann Cleeves. In the UK people may be familiar with her work as her books have been adapted for a TV series. I hope it will be syndicated here in the USA too.  I have almost finished The Crow Trap – almost because I don’t want the story to end! Have I uncovered the guilty party?

Set in the bleak Pennine hills of England, the murder mystery is supported by a wealth of detail of the local countryside. The characters are quirky and original, especially DCI Vera Stanhope.  For much more information on Ann Cleeves and her other books, see I’m excited to read more of this author and hope you will enjoy her books too.

The fingers are protesting that they have worked hard enough for the first day back on the job, so farewell for now.



Posted in Books & Writing | Leave a comment