There was a young man from…

 

This post is from the very talented Valerie Fish. Not only is Val a terrific storyteller but she is an absolute star in the world of limericks.

writer working on typewriter in office
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

 

We are fortunate to have in our writing group, the extremely talented, Tessa Thomson, who writes the most beautiful poetry which often induces teary eyes round the table when recited at our monthly meetings…

Then at the other end of the scale, there’s me and my bawdy limericks! Well to be fair, they’re not all like that, although members of the clergy do have a tendency to misbehave….  And there’s a difference between being risqué and downright rude, I would hate to offend anybody.

I have been composing limericks for years, I have hundreds of them, enough for a book, which may be one day I’ll give a try.

What is it about a limerick that I find so attractive?  I love that sing-along A A B B A rhyme meter (an anapaestic trimester, I’ve just learnt);  I love the challenge of composing something that hopefully will make people smile, and I like to inject something different into my limericks, get that final twist. Sometimes it will take ages to find the right word, not the poshest or the longest, but the right word; it can make all the difference.

Where do my ideas come from? Sometimes I will have a prompt; in my early days, my local radio station ran a weekly limerick competition, incorporating a place in Cambridgeshire.

This was my winning gem:

This is from a while back, when Eastender’s viewing figures were a lot higher than they are nowadays…

At a fancy dress do down in Bury

Maid Marian had a drop too much sherry

It wasn’t young Robin

Who had her heart throbbin

‘Twas Little John who made Marian merry!

 

I am a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, where it pays (actually it doesn’t!) to be topical.

 

After Phil’s Christmas cracker with Mel

She decided to kiss and tell

To her best mate Lisa

Who gunned down the geezer

In a classic crime passionelle

 

 

And a couple more with a soupcon of Francais.

 

Late for school, couldn’t get out of bed

I’ve been summoned to see the head

In a fait accompli

No detention for me

Sir’s been given the sack instead

 

The wife got wind of our affair

When she came across a blonde hair

In the marital bed

(She’s a flaming redhead)

It’s au revoir to the au pair

 

My poor hubby doesn’t always fare well, I hope he realises it’s ‘what I call’ poetic licence…

 

It was all planned, a cruise round the Med

Now thanks to Covid 19, instead

I’m stuck home on my tod

Whist hubby, the daft sod

Is self-isolating in the shed

 

Last night I dreamt of the Azores
Palm trees, clear blue seas, sun-kissed shores
Sadly paradise
Was lost in a trice

Woken by hubby’s thundering snores

Here are those naughty men of the cloth….

 

With his sermon about to begin

The priest had to suppress a huge grin

Cos just minutes ago

Out the back with a pro

He’d committed a cardinal sin

 

Tired of living a life of vice

She went to her priest for advice

‘You must renounce your sin’

He said with a grin

‘But one last performance would be nice’.

 

Forgive me, father, I concede

I have sinned in word thought and deed

With Sister Theresa,

She begged me to please her

The poor girl was in desperate need

 

Followed by a few random risques…

 

The best man was proposing a toast

But he just couldn’t help but boast

‘Today’s stunning bride’

He drunkenly cried

‘Was yesterday’s notch on my bedpost!’

 

I just couldn’t believe my eyes

I have never seen such a size

There was no topping

Her melons, so whopping,

She waltzed off with ‘Best In Class’ prize

 

Under the boardwalk of Brighton pier

A drunken encounter cost me dear

I gave him my all

Up against the wall

The little’ n’s due early next year

 

Said the dentist, clutching his drill,

‘Now just open wide and sit still,

First a tiny prick,

That should do the trick,

You won’t feel a thing – but I will!’

 

 

I’ll finish with a nice clean one for all you animal lovers out there, I know we’ve got at least two here in Whittlesey Wordsmiths.

 

Lay quivering in his bed

Blankets pulled over his head

‘Whizz bang and pop,

Please make them stop

I’m waiting for walkies’ he said

 

I hope you have enjoyed this small selection of my work, and in these troubled times have put a smile on your face.

A link to Tessa’s blog:

https://tessathomsonpoetry.wordpress.com/page/1/?wref=bif

 

Valerie Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POETRY PLEASE

This post is another about favourite poems, Jan Cunningham shares some of her favourites and a fond memory.

Pam Ayres
Pam Ayres website Pam Ayres (picture credit Pam Ayres Website)

 

My go to Poet (ess? who knows these days) is Pam Ayres.

When the black dog visits, when I wished I’d never got up that day, when everything goes wrong, when I keep dropping things to the point I’m screaming —-sitting down and reading a few of her poems soon has me  smiling, then giggling, often  laughing out loud and I’m cured—- for now.

Her poems are down to earth, about the every day, the small things in life, she is observant, witty and poignant. I cannot choose just a single poem, so I’ve picked two which I think demonstrates her range:

 

CASHED AT THE CASH POINT

 

My Grannie was coshed at the cash point

She had only just entered her pin

When out came the dosh

And down came the cosh!

But Gran, not a gal to give in …

 

Turned round and kneed her attacker,

Saying,” Buster, you’re  making me nervous!”

The machine on the wall,

Having witnessed it all,

Said: “Thank you for using our service”.

 

7Am Procession

Poor  old babies, row on row,

In the day care joint they go,

Strangers tend them, fill their tummies,

Tuck them in instead of mummies.

 

There is one particular poem, whilst not being a favourite, haunted  me for years because of the childhood memory it evoked and because I could only remember the first four lines. This poem my Dad would recite to me when he was shaving. I would curl up in his big armchair with wooden arms and he would have his shaving mug on the mantle piece above the black lead stove and looking in the half moon mirror would lather his face and begin reciting:

 

The Sands of Dee

By Charles Kingsley

O Mary, go and call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home

and call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee

The western wind was wild and dark with foam,

And all alone went she.

 

The western tide crept up along the sand,

And o’er and o’er the sand

And round and round the sand,

As far as eye could see,

The rolling mist came down and hid the land:

And never home came she.

 

‘O is it weed, or fish, or floating hair –

A tress of golden hair

A drowned maiden’s hair

Above the nets at sea?

Was never salmon yet that shone so fair

Among the stakes of  Dee.

 

They row’d her in across the rolling foam,

The cruel crawling foam,

The cruel hungry foam,

To her grave beside the sea,

But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home,

Across the sands of Dee,

 

I sat mesmerised.

 

Jan Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations of Life on Holiday by Gwen Bunting

Before we had the Corona Virus, before we were all locked down and isolating Gwen wrote this piece about a recent holiday. Holidays seem like distant memories now.

group of person sitting inside cafe le dome
A meeting of strangers Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

 

On a recent journey I could not help but find people’s behaviour fascinating.  Some being friendly; others reserved; and others downright aggressive.  As the journey progressed observations became very much clearer.

The mum and daughter syndrome: the mother commenting to me, that now she was a widow she could enjoy all things SHE wanted to do,  as opposed to her late husband’s  dominance.  Little did she know she had spawned a duplicate of her husband; a daughter!  The daughter was an aggressive type, would barge her way to the front of any queue. Wow betides those poor souls in her way.

The quiet man who gave off the aura of ‘don’t speak to me’ was an interesting personality.  He had a partner, whom conversed with him, but his sole intention at the dining table was to eat as much as he could in the time allocated. His partner was quite different.  Nice friendly person.

The very tall man, his wife was bent over due to a back problem. Preventing her falling by constantly holding her hand.  How dedicated can one be:  Never had a chat with him, but on leaving the group he warmly shook your hand saying ‘it was a pleasure to have met you?’

The sad lady who had dementia and caused a lot of anxiety for her friend, who had not realised she was so confused.  Her wanderings around the various hotel lobbies very early in the morning asking when the coach was leaving and having her bags packed.  She realised on some occasions she was confused.  It made life difficult for her friend, most of the group supportive when needed.

The gentleman who requested they change his bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice as this one contained too many pips.  He got his way after many arguments.  His face was not dissimilar to a beautiful pencil drawing on display in one of the hotel lounges.  The said ‘orange juice man’ was extremely tall and as we were in Viking country I would have enjoyed researching his family history.

The various nations with whom we shared our hotels with were varied.  One nation in particular took it upon themselves to attempt to clear the buffet of all foods.  Hiding  loaves of bread, butter pats and boiled eggs into every orifice that was available to fill.  Life is very interesting when you are travelling and gives me lots of ideas to write stories about.

Favourite Poems

A month or so back members of the Wordsmiths shared their favourite poems with the group. As an occasional feature we will publish their individual pieces, this one is by Val Chapman.

Not so much a song but more a poem

There wasn’t one particular poem that I could claim to be a favourite, so I decided to do a bit of research and still couldn’t come up with one that I enjoyed above all others.

It was when I was singing along to myself, as I do, that it occurred to me that songs were, for the most part, poems, set to music.

As I am one of those boring people who like their poetry to rhyme, otherwise it’s prose, this naturally opened up a lot more availability, which I am not altogether sure was a good thing, as I am hopeless at making decisions.

 

However, these two struck a chord (if you pardon the pun) for different reasons.

 

“It would never have worked,” I like as it seems to be taking the reader down one path, then veering off down another unexpected one, and finally, down yet another.

 

“Love song,” I can barely get through without a lump in my throat. I am sure this resonates with so many of our, though perhaps more so, the previous generations when feelings were often hard to express.

— Just a quick note,   I don’t know whether it is just a northern expression, but the words “I was tight” indicates a somewhat over-enjoyment of an alcoholic nature! —–

This one in particular came as a bit of a surprise, as they were both written by the same very talented writer, known more for her humour, and this poem is an unexpected offering from her I think.

 

They were written in 1978 (love song)

1987 (It would never have worked)

By the wonderful Victoria Wood.

Victoria Wood.jpg

Victoria Wood (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

 

IT WOULD NEVER HAVE WORKED

 

It’s over,

We missed the bus,

Nice idea, but not for us,

We didn’t click, let’s make it quick and say goodbye,

Don’t hold my hand,

And don’t demand a reason why.

No loving looks, no fond regards,

Tonight was always on the cards.

 

I wanted champagne and roses,  ’cause that’s the way I am,

You gave me vimto,

Tinned carrots,

And spam.

 

I wanted love to come and knock our blocks off,

But even Venus takes her cards and clocks off.

Your idea of foreplay was to take your socks off.

Things would never have worked

 

Rapport is a thing you just can’t manufacture,

You had your pin up girl, I couldn’t match her,

I didn’t want to, it was Margaret Thatcher.

Things would never have worked.

 

I wanted moonlight, romance and all that silly tosh,

You wanted gerbils,

A whippet,

A wash.

 

I wanted love songs but you wouldn’t write them,

My earlobe nibbled, but you wouldn’t  bite them,

You’d only fart and then attempt to light them,

Things would never have worked.

 

We’re not compatible,  let’s not get blue here,

At least we see each other’s point of view dear,

I like big, hunky men and so do you dear,

Things would never have worked.

 

LOVE SONG

 

Made your breakfast this morning,

Like any old day,

Then I remembered and I threw it away

 

I found an old photo,

In a kitchen drawer.

You by the seaside,  during the war.

You were laughing at something,

With the wind in your hair,

You were ever so slim then, and your hair was still fair.

 

And I wanted to kiss you,

But you always laughed,

And I wanted to tell you,

But I felt daft.

 

Still, we got married,

I was tight,

We both got embarrassed, played rummy all night

 

I remember the baby, and it’s sticky out ears,

But I can’t single out things,

Over the years.

 

On Woman’s surgical, sat by your bed,

I knew that I loved you,

But I never said.

 

I brought you Black Magic,

And they said you’d died,

I had a cup of tea there,

Came home and cried.

 

Got to go back to the hospital to collect your things,

Your nightie, your glasses, your wedding ring

 

Made your breakfast this morning,

Like any old day,

Then I remembered  and I threw it away.

 

Thank you Val, I find that every time I read Love Song I get something in my eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Virtual Meeting

a formal dressed man faces a video conference screen, but hidden under the desk he is wearing spotty boxer shorts and red clown shoes
 

    There is always one.                   (picture credit https://www.leading-edge.co.uk/loving-the-virtual-world/)

 

 

 

Thursday saw The Whittlesey Wordsmith’s first virtual meeting via Zoom. Stephen Oliver kindly hosted the meeting Cathy Cade did much of the organising thank you very much Cathy and Stephen.
Considering it was our writing group’s first attempt, as slightly older members of society, it went remarkably well. A few members were too unsure of their technical skills to try it. Gwen had problems seeing us and being seen, Sandra had synchronisation problems with her device or signal. Six of us started the meeting, five managed it right through.
The meeting followed its usual form in cyber space as it does in real life, plenty of wondering off topic and anecdotes but as usual an interesting conversation. Jane found it easier as she was able to see everyone’s faces and could lip read more easily.
It is was not as good as a real life meeting but it was nice to chat to friends and see their faces. Hopefully we can address the technical issues before next month, if we need to have another virtual meeting.

Reading whilst isolated

During this period of isolation and library closures it is worth knowing that not only are there books available to read for free online.

https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/libraries-leisure-culture/libraries/library-online/ebooks

https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/free-online

But if you enjoy a good read and would like to support your local U3A authors.

We have the following available on Kindle at modest prices, if you have Kindle Unlimited I think they are free.

Click on the link under the pictures to order

9781916481701
Order the kindle edition
A following Wind book cover front page white writing
Order Kindle version of A Following WInd
Witch Way
Order Kindle edition of Witch Way

 

Wendy’s fantastic autobiography is not available on Kindle but the payperback is available at Parkers, (they are open) or from Amazon with free delivery.

The Railway Carriage Child front cover2
Order the Paperback of The Railway Carriage Child

Favourite poems

hunts cyclists 1
Before it all started “Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.”

As an excercise our U3A writing  group members each wrote a short piece about their favourite poems and included the poem or poems in the piece. Over the following months we will be publishing the contributions on this blog.

The first piece in this series is by Val Fish, it seems a strange time of the year to use this example but we are approaching spring, a time of renewal, new growth and the hope for better things. We can only have spring after winter the sun can only rise after it has gone down.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Inspiration for ‘For The Fallen’

Laurence Binyon composed his best known poem while sitting on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the dramatic scenery of the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath. However, there is also a small plaque on the East Cliff north of Portreath, further south on the same north Cornwall coast, which also claims to be the place where the poem was written.

The poem was written in mid September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force had suffered casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army at the Battle of Mons on 23 August, its rearguard action during the retreat from Mons in late August and the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, and its participation with the French Army in holding up the Imperial German Army at the First Battle of the Marne between 5 and 9 September 1914.

Laurence said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for ceremonies of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and women.

Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist in the military forces, but he went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

 

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

 

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.

 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

 

Laurence Binyon 1869 – 1943

For the Fallen
For the Fallen we will remember them.

Postscript

I was privileged to perform on the stage at The Broadway Peterborough in 2014, in the ‘Sing for Life’ ladies’ choir, to raise funds for a new wing at Sue Ryder’s Thorpe Hall Hospice.

On the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, we sang an adaptation of ‘For The Fallen’ by Rowland Lee.

In the final few bars, we were as stunned as the audience as poppies came falling from above onto the stage. It was a moment I’ll always treasure.

 

Valerie Fish

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

Image result for The Royal Hotel, Mundesley       (Picture credit Tripadvisor)

This is a slightly less than enthusiastic review by Jan following a weekend away in Norfolk.

My husband Bill and I escaped to Norfolk for a short break  in autumn last year.  As the weather forecast  was good  we thought we’d take advantage of it.

On the Sunday evening we booked a table at the 16th century Royal Hotel Mundesly,  for a carvery. Yum Yum,   a favorite of mine. As we drew into the car park my mouth started watering.

We were greeted and taken to our table by a young lady dressed in the old style for waitresses: Black dress, white apron and a white coronet in her hair. The dining room was spacious and could easily have served a hundred covers. On the way to our table I noticed various other eating areas and a spacious comfortable looking lounge. It was a large Hotel.

When asked what we like to drink Bill enquired as to what draught beers they had.

“None Sir” replied the waitress.

“OK what other beers do you have?”

“None Sir”

“Are telling me that you have NO beer at  all?

“Yes Sir”

It was a classic Victor Meldrew moment. I wished I’d had my camera handy. The shock and outraged look on his face  would have won first place in any  photographic  competition.

 

“I quietly asked about white wine.

 

She listed three” We have Pinot Grigiot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.”

 

“Pinot Grigiot will do nicely, thank you.”

 

She went off to get it.  After a good while I watched her walk back empty handed.

 

“Sorry Sir, we have run out of the Pinot”

Bill just sat ,gave her a special look but never said a word.

“Chardonnay will be fine” I said.

Whilst waiting for our drinks Bill starting singing softly “There’s nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear than to stand in the bar of a Pub with no beer”

I giggled.

Paying the bill at reception the young man asked if everything had been alright.

“No, it wasn’t” declared my husband.

“Oh, why Sir?”he asked.

“Because you haven’t any beer.”

“Oh. But we do Sir. We have I.P.A. and Pale Ale” he replied.

Bill is partial to a pint of I.P.A.

We will not be returning or reviewing this establishment. Bill’s remarks would be unprintable.

 

 

Jan Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas past

The Memory of Christmas past
Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

This post is by Val Chapman a reminiscance of her childhood Christmas.

It was never going to be the same again. My father had died suddenly just 3 months ago and although the festive season was upon us, I was feeling somewhat less than cheery.

It made matters worse that it was his birthday on Christmas Eve, and so it seemed that I had been dealt a double blow. The shops seemed to be full of things that dad would have loved to have received. Usually it was a struggle to find suitable gifts for my dad, after all, what do you get the man who has everything?  Knowing my dad would appreciate the joke, one year I found the answer to that question and gave him a bottle of antibiotics!

Of course it wasn’t just me.

My mum was understandably devastated and although she put on a brave face, she had little to no interest in anything.

My children, her grandchildren, were a godsend to us both on those dark days, and made us both realise that life does indeed go on.

I am now at the same age my mother was when she was widowed, and I took some ‘me time’ for a little reminiscing.

“It’s ok, I’ve got my gloves. Let’s get going.”

I looked up at my dad and took his hand.

“See you later mam”

We both gave her a kiss and she shushed us out of the house before turning back to busy herself with the Christmas dinner preparation.

This was our usual routine on Christmas morning. My mum sending us off to my Nana’s house, while she peeled potatoes, chopped carrots, made Yorkshire puddings and did everything that made for a perfect Christmas dinner.

I found out years later that mum had always regretted that decision, declaring that “children should not be taken away from their toys at Christmas”. One reason why she never let me bring my children to visit at Christmas. Oh it would have been very different if we had lived close to one another, and could have just popped round for a couple of hours, but as it was it was a 6-7 hour round trip, it meant at least one night’s stay.

A trip we did every 2-3 months, except at Christmas. The very time when families are supposed to be together. So why didn’t they come to us?

Well, mum once again declared that ” you would all have a much better time without us getting in the way”.

I can’t deny it hurt a little at the time, but she was a bit of a ‘home-bird’ and hated travelling. Nor can I deny that actually, she did have a point!

So, there we were, dad and I walking the two miles or so to my grandparents house. Dad didn’t drive, probably couldn’t have afforded a car even if he did, and of course, there were no busses on Christmas day.

I never minded, it always seemed to be snowing, but that is probably just my wishful thinking, and I was spending time with my dad.

I was definitely a ‘daddy’s girl’, and he in turn adored me.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mum too. She was amazing, wonderful and a credit to her firm but fair miners daughter upbringing.

We walked down the path which runs alongside the semi-detached houses, and borders the playing field. Looking across this field we could see the sea, grey and threatening as it usually was at this time of year..

Before long we were at the main road. There were a few people about, often children who had just had a new bike from Santa, determined to ride despite the snow.

We walked beside the road for about a mile until we reached the railway crossing.

It was a place my father knew well. For all of his working life he had been at the docks and spent part of that time riding on the wagons which transported coal from one of the local pits to the docks where it was loaded onto ships to end up who knew where.

Crossing over the line, it was a fairly easy walk to my Nana’s house, past the Londonderry Arms where they were probably getting ready for another busy Christmas, and then turning right, with our destination straight ahead, just before the local working men’s club. A place where later my grandad, at the age of 97, and the oldest member, would be the guest of honour at its re-opening.

There were already some cousins there and we children delighted each other with stories of what Santa had left for us, and handing out presents for my Nana and grandad.

We didn’t seem to have been there for very long before we had to leave for home, with a promise that I would be good for my mum. We always took home a box of liquorice all-sorts, a gift to my dad from his in-laws.

Dad was the only son-in-law who was handed a present at Christmas. It was given by way of a “thank you” for the little jobs he did for them, fixing the toaster, putting up shelves, plumbing in a washing machine when the old twin tub gave up the ghost, that sort of thing.

As the ‘favoured’ son-in-law, my dad was also given the job of ‘first foot’ on New year’s Eve, being ushered out of the house before midnight and with a lump of coal for luck in his hand ready to re-enter once the church bells had struck. So whilst the rest of us were laughing and celebrating in the warmth, poor dad was outside, freezing cold and on his own.

Dad checked that I had fastened my coat up properly and we said our goodbyes and set off for home.

The terraced houses lining our route, normally blackened thanks to the coal dust which settled on the walls, took on a beautiful festive look with glittery snow settling on the tops of garden gates and privet hedges.

Getting back to the warmth of home and the welcoming smell of Christmas, the celebrations could start properly for our little family. Playing, eating, watching television. More or less just as I do today.

I often wonder what my Nana would think if she could see the piles of presents my grandchildren woke up to on Christmas morning. Would she be proud that her family were doing so well that they could afford all of these gifts, or horrified at the expense and ‘show’? I have no way of knowing obviously, but I suspect it would be the latter.

 

So yes, in a way, Christmas isn’t the same. But in many ways, thanks to children and grandchildren, it hasn’t changed very much, and I still love it, almost as much

 

Val Chapman

A favourite Book

This piece is by Tessa Thomson and tells of her love for a favourite book.

Trilby gold
Trilby by George Du Maurier

After my mother died, when I was about 3 years old, I was discharged from the hospital where I had been since contracting septicemia at 9 months. I was taken to live with my grandparents. When I was about 8, I was introduced for the first time to my two half-sisters, Margaret and Anne, who were twins and had been living up to that time in a children’s home. They had reached 16 and their time at the home had come to an end, and they were now to fend for themselves. They stayed with my grandparents for a very short time but both were quite wild and wanted to be up and away to the bright lights of London. From photographs that I have found over the years, it seems that the twins did visit my grandparents during their time at the children’s home and the group photos show me to be about 4 or 5.

I had no more contact with my sisters until I was about 12 when Margaret came to see my grandparents. Margaret, by now 20 was living and working in London although I have no idea at what. But amazingly she bought me a book. It was called Trilby and was written by George Du Maurier. My grandparents home was devoid of books unless you count my grandfather’s Zane Gray western paperbacks.

It was a substantial book for a 12-year-old and it took some years before I appreciated its dark overtones. The cover of the book was a luscious green and the pages were edged in gold. It had a few illustrations. One I remember to this day was of Svengali, the one character in the book that stirred my young imagination the most.

Trilby was one of the most popular novels of its time. It was originally published serially in Harper’s Monthly from January to August 1894, then in book form from 1895. It sold 200,000 copies in the United States alone.

The book is set in the 1850s in an idyllic bohemian Paris. Though the book features the stories of two English artists and a Scottish artist, one of the most memorable characters is Svengali, a rogue, masterful musician and hypnotist.

Trilby O’Ferrall, the novel’s heroine, is a half-Irish girl working in Paris as an artists’ model and laundress; all the men in the novel are in love with her. The relationship between Trilby and Svengali forms only a small, though a crucial, portion of the novel.

Trilby Hat
The Trilby Hat

The novel has been adapted to the stage several times; one of these featured the lead actress wearing a distinctive short-brimmed hat with a sharp snap to the back of the brim. The hat became known as the trilby and went on to become a popular men’s clothing item in the United Kingdom throughout various parts of the 20th century.

Rebecca
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The book became my constant companion. Every few months I would dip into its pages. When I was older Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier became another treasured book and my favourite film. Asked by my family what I wanted for my 70th birthday, I remembered seeing an advertisement for a watch called Rebecca made and styled by Ben Du Maurier, George’s great-grandson.

Rebecca Watch
The Rebecca Watch

 

Tessa Thomson