Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another good read.

After my post Six of the Best which reviewed six books that had caught my imagination, I received an e-mail from an American writer – Libby Cole, who said she enjoyed reading the review of The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society and that she was ‘the unwitting author of it prequel: War on the Margins and to let her know if I would like a copy for review.

Warning her that I was not a fast reader, I asked Libby for any background information – how she came to write the book for instance.

‘This book arose out of my midlife crisis. I am a radiologist, and the whole medical rat race was a huge disappointment to me. I decided to get a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. This book was originally my thesis (my advisor suggested doing something “different” and was happy with the idea of historical fiction). After two trips to Jersey and several years of scribbling, the thesis was completed. I then decided to try to publish it. I couldn’t interest a publisher, so I self- published it.

Then the UK blogosphere got wind of it, and it was picked up by the UK publisher Duckworth.’

Have you ever wondered how you would comport yourself if you had lived in Nazi occupied Britain? War on the Margins set in Jersey; one of the Channel Islands close to the mainland, gives you a glimmer of what it would be like to live with near starvation, oppression, suspicion, betrayal and great courage as part and parcel of everyday existence.

War on the Margins spans five wartime years 1940-1945 on the island of Jersey. The Channel Islands belong to the Queen but after the fall of France they were deemed to be indefensible by the British and the islands were occupied by the Nazis. Many of the locals had fled but there were some Jewish people and some with Jewish connections who experienced the full force of a Nazi regime.

The book is based on fact and with some original documents and papers; I had to remind myself that it was fiction. Two of the main characters - Lucille and Suzanne lesbian lovers and surrealist artists - are based on Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. A timid, female clerk Marlene, who works in the Aliens Office, has tenuous Jewish ancestry but feels a net closing round her and flees, sewing a few worldly goods into the lining of her coat.

She cycles to another part of the island and after spending the night in a chapel she is discovered by Lucille and Suzanne and taken under their wings. In return for their kindness she is encouraged to help them in their Resistance work. The two women were fearless and slipped propaganda papers into the pockets of the enemy with gay abandon. Not surprisingly Marlene felt safer with them than living amongst Jerry bags and informers. They became her family along with the precious voices from the BBC. The Beeb was a life line to Marlene although she wished they mentioned Jersey some times.

As supplies from France dried up they lived mainly from eating swedes and drinking ersatz coffee made from parsnips. Although the suedes were beautifully sculpted by the artists – they yearned for real food.

As conditions became more dangerous Marlene had to live in the cellar where the crystal wireless set gave encouraging news of the Allies’ progress. Lucille and Suzanne had each other and, in her late twenties, Marlene longed for someone to love.

Inevitably with the risks they took, Lucille and Suzanne were arrested and imprisoned. They managed to give a pre-arranged warning to Marlene and, with just time to collect her precious coat, she fled again. She took refuge in an abandoned farm house and there met a ‘bundle of rags’ who she came to know as Peter, a Pole who had escaped from a hellish life in a labour camp. At last Marlene found someone to love.

Meanwhile Lucille and Suzanne faced their greatest punishment - that of separation and eventually were sentenced to death.

War on the Margins was an eye opener to me and as a child during WW2 I wish I had known more about the plight of the Channel islanders. It seems to me we left them in the lurch. I came to care for the characters in the book and remembering how victims of war often seemed to lose the battle just as the war ends, I desperately wanted them to survive but I will refrain from giving the game away.

One passage I found strange: when the author describes Marlene she says:

Marlene was plain. She had, perhaps Vivien Leigh’s eyebrows, but not her exquisite bone structure. She had Gracie Fields’ wispy hair but not her dazzling smile.

The tragic Pauline, who Marlene later betrays, is described as- a tall girl who resembled an auburn–haired Vivien Leigh.

Both these women were highly popular during WW2 but I still think this is a strange description. Otherwise I enjoyed reading the book and recommend it

Monday, March 28, 2011


Tomorrow Jackie, Joy and I take the bus to Taunton to meet Margaret off the train from Cheltenham. DV!
They are taking me out for a late birthday lunch. Here's hoping for fine weather. Three times this morning I have tried to publish an accompanying photo of the girls and three times it has failed. I hope it sorts itself out soon.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brits: two things for your diary today!

The Oxford Cambridge boat race at 3.45pm. Champagne is on ice. Don't want to sway you but, up the dark blues!

The clocks go forward tonight so we lose an hours sleep. The photo is the year the Cambridge crew sank ?1951?
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Today's Garden

At 6.15am this morning the sun was bright red - but didn't come out in the photograph
Outside the family room

Our secret path where grandchildren used to stalk tigers with Grandpa's old pistols. Freshly raked by yours truly

This glory hole awaits a visit from the young to help me clear it.

I love a magnolia sky

The pink ones to the left - the white to the right

Isn't this tree lovely even before it blooms
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dame Elizabeth Taylor

The last of the Hollywood super stars, she was born in London to American parents and has been a star since her early teens.
She was married 8 times - twice to Richard Burton - a great stage actor who learned from Elizabeth how to act on film. I always felt Mike Todd was the one she would have stayed with but he was killed in a plane accident.
She lived life to the full in spite of being dogged by ill health for many years. Her love of priceless jewelry was legendary but much of it was donated to charity and she raised millions to help others and made the Aids charity acceptable world wide.

Rock Hudson, Michael Jackson, Montgomery Clift and Roddy Mcdowell were very special friends of hers. She adored animals and she was a great humanitarian.
She proved once and for all as Martha in 'Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?' that she was a great actress.
As Joan Collins said 'She was a gal's gal- women liked her.'

May she rest in peace

Elizabeth Taylor 1932 - 2011

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MTL visits the dentist.

Receptionist: ‘That’s £33 please. That’s for the two of you.’

MTL: But there’s only one of me.

Receptionist: ‘No it’s for you and your wife.’

MTL: Oh did she forget to pay when she was here last week?

Receptionist: ‘No it’s for this morning – she’s sitting over there.

MTL looked over the waiting room at a strange lady sitting next to a man with a puzzled expression on her face.

MTL: ‘That’s not my wife!’

The receptionist was new but fortunately MTL remembered what I look like.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Burt got it right!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Musings

On a day when Cruise missiles and Tornado fighter jets were deployed George Osbourne said:
' The killing has to stop.'

Andrew Marr said
'No music or actresses on today's programme - for reasons you'll understand.'

It was pointed out that the UN resolution does not authorise an occupying force in Libya
and although Russsia and China and others abstained nobody vetoed the motion.

The resilience, courage and dignity of the Japanese people was applauded.

Vincent De Rivaz, Director of Nuclear Energy in the UK said there should not be a pause- the plans should go ahead and Nuclear Energy is necessary and must be greener. Lessons would be learned from the Japanese experience.
He said his position demanded humility to respect different opinions, and leadership to earn the trust of people

This was all on the Andrew Marr programme this morning. Meanwhile in the garden yesterday:

The stellata is like a giant fragrant snowball

These are a present from my friend Joy.

The double camellia

The single - lovely this year.

These are sweet and they come in pink and lilacy blue also.

Grape Hyacinths everywhere

Primroses not so profuse - we've had to make room for other plants but they'll thicken up again .
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Friday, March 18, 2011

The missing photo - the room where we had lunch.

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A Heartfelt Thanks!

For all the support , good wishes , prayers,vibes, white lights - all we have received from our fellow bloggers in the last six months, a sincere thank you and if you don't mind we're going to hang on to them for the time being.
On the birthday we were both feeling a bit limp, so postponed any serious revelling. After getting a bit weepy at the hairdresers- when one is at one's most vulnerable I think, G suggested the Stag at Dunster was good for a pub lunch but the parking was a way from the pub so we drove on.
First though I walked down the lane - remembering how pretty it was when we took mum and dad there years back

The three photos below are down the lane from the Stag at Dunster. The skies were overcast so it all looks a bit dark

Eventually we reached Timberscombe and decide to sample The Lion which we hadn't visited for some years. Well worth it - it was warm , cosy and the food was good.

I admired the excellent photographs. Mine host told me the rider below was killed some weeks back, in a tragic riding accident.

The photos are being restive. Two have escaped and Timberscombe church is out of place. Next time we'll visit it.
Yesterday I had lunch with the girls and gave way to MTL's blandishments to choose some earrings for my birthday. I found some plain gold studs I liked. Feeling a bit decadent I then bought three sets of pretty underwear - long overdue! A cheque for Comic Relief has partially salved my conscience.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Birthday

My best present was the oncologist yesterday greeting us with a beaming smile and telling us the scan was clear and after completing the chemo next month, we are discharged from him.

Random memories of yesterday

Mum and Pat

Pre training school with a flea- ish kitten

Cycling to the Trossachs hotel - suitable dressed !

A small patient

My nursing pal Tommy in the Lake District

Modelling with an actor who always made me giggle

In need of a trim

# 1 son

Southborougj woods taken by my late business partner

Graduation Day

Son et lumiere at Tonbridge Castle

My old garden in Kent with Mum

My sister and I on one of her flying visits from the States

When I had a waist.

Oh those fags! Dropped them in 1977

Day in the Death of Joe Egg at Tonbridge.
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