24 April 2018

P is for PIRATE...starting an occasional series about... pirates


Tuesday Talk with Helen Hollick 




CHARLES VANE - A REIGN of TERROR

(Spoiler alert.) When the TV drama series Black Sails killed Charles Vane off (played by New York born actor Zach McGowan) there was an outcry from the show’s fans. Which is a little baffling as the real Charles Vane (played by himself) was hanged in  1720 or 1721, so his death was not exactly a secret or a surprise.

Born between 1680 – 1690, Vane was an English pirate who terrorised the Caribbean from 1716 to 1719. He had a notoriously violent career and reputation.

With no documented evidence for his early life it can only be speculated that Vane served somewhere as a seaman where he gained knowledge and experience. He is first recorded as sailing with Henry Jennings and Samuel Bellamy. These men had amassed a fortune and Nassau was, then, a safe harbour for ne’er-do-wells so Vane and his colleagues probably lived a relative life of luxury with money enough to spend on wine, women and song (perhaps not the song?)

engraving of Charles Vane
Vane plundered ships throughout the West Indies bringing trade almost to its knees. By April 1718 he had a small fleet under his command with men such as Edward England and Jack Rackham (better known as Calico Jack) serving as crew. In that April he took twelve vessels as Prize, treating the captured crews with horrific cruelty. Vane brutally tortured his victims, making them tell where the valuable cargo was hidden. He worked to his own rules, stole from his crew and committed acts of violence towards them.

When he captured a ship he would often abandon the previous vessel and exchange it for the new one, calling most of them Ranger. In July 1718 he took a twenty-gun French sloop and returned to Nassau, took possession of the town and hoisted his colours above the dilapidated fort. His ruling authority was short lived. Enter Governor Woodes Rogers who had sailed heavily armed from England with a Royal Navy escort to put an end to pirates like Vane by offering an amnesty to all who agreed to give up the piratical life, although it is doubtful that he expected the likes of Vane and Edward Teach (Blackbeard) to surrender to a life of peace. Charles Vane certainly had no intention of doing so - he fled Nassau. But he seems to have had a plan to retake what had, before Rogers' arrival been a pirate haven, for in October he met with Blackbeard on the Ocracoke Island off the coast of North Carolina where they held a week-long highly inebriated party with Vane attempting to persuade Blackbeard to join his retaliatory enterprise. Blackbeard refused, and within a month he was dead, attacked by a Navy crew sent at the express orders of Governor Spotswood of Virginia.


By February 1719, Vane was hunting in the waters around the coastline of New York, where he and the crew encountered what turned out to be a French warship which Vane considered to outgun and outmatch his own vessel, so he called off the Chase. Much to the annoyance of his crew. Led by Rackham, they deposed Vane and sent him off in one of the smaller boats with the fifteen men who remained loyal to him.


With his luck running out, in March 1719 his ship was wrecked and with only one other survivor, Vane found himself marooned on an uninhabited island in the Bay of Honduras. They were to be there for several months. When a ship did come by, under the command of  Captain Holford, he recognised Vane and chose to leave him where he was. A second ship came by and this time, not being recognised, Vane and his fellow maroonee were taken aboard as foremast jacks. Vane’s cache of luck had completely emptied though, for this captain met up with Holford who spotted Vane and spilt the beans. Vane was instantly arrested.

Holford handed Vane over to the British authorities at Port Royal, Jamaica where he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to hang. He was executed at Gallows Point in Port Royal not expressing any remorse or regret.

The dates for his death vary between March 1720 and March 1721, whatever the correct date, his corpse was left to rot in an iron gibbet next to Jack Rackham’s remains, who was hanged in November 1720. Given that the area quickly came to be known as ‘Rackham’s Cay’ I would hazard a guess that Rackham was executed first, and Vane followed in 1721, whatever the date, I do not feel sorry for the man.

* * * 
Charles Vane appears as a member of Henry Jennings crew in my novella 
When the Mermaid Sings - a prequel story to my Sea Witch Voyages.

Purchase from Amazon
Jesamiah Acorne is still a young lad in his late teens, serving as crew aboard Mermaid, He has been asleep after a night of celebration...

A sound woke Jesamiah. He opened his eyes, narrowed them as a wave of outrage swept through him and he scrambled to his feet.
“Oi! You! Piss over the side, not on our deck. Or do it aboard your own bloody ship!”
The man, continuing to stream his urine onto Mermaid’s deck, glowered over his shoulder, his features contorted in contempt. “I’ll piss where I want t’piss, boy.” The insult stung, for the culprit was only about three years Jesamiah’s senior.
“Not on this vessel you won’t, boy,” Jesamiah retorted, his fists bunching at his sides.
Finished, Charles Vane buttoned his ragged and stained breeches and turned towards Jesamiah. Folding his arms, his head on one side, his sneer was as nasty as a murderer’s grin.
“So what are you goin’ t’do about it?”
Jesamiah moved fast. Taking Vane completely by surprise, he cannoned into him, shoulder first, knocking him off balance and to one knee. Vane twisted around, a knife coming into his hand, a snarl leaving his lips, but Jesamiah had anticipated the move, kicked out and caught Vane’s jaw, sending him sprawling into the puddle of urine. Not giving ground, Jesamiah knelt on him, pinning him down, riding out Vane’s anger and his attempts to buck his opponent off. They were evenly matched; similar age, height and build, but there the likeness ended. Vane enjoyed brutality. He delighted in the power he held over others and in delivering pain and terror to those who could not fight back. Jesamiah knew his sort. He had lived with the cruelties of his half-brother for just under fifteen years. 
“You are a guest here,” Jesamiah hissed as, one-handed, he tugged his blue ribbon free from his hair and, releasing the grasp he had on Vane’s collar, looped it around the man’s neck. “Add to that, I am no ‘boy’, and you will…adhere…to…our…rules.”
The ends of the ribbon held tight in each hand, Jesamiah crossed his arms at the elbow and steadily tightened the improvised garrotte with each enunciated word. Vane’s face was going puce-red, his eyes were bulging, his tongue was poking from between lips that were starting to bear a blue tinge. Jesamiah pressed his knee further into Vane’s spine, tightened his grip on the ribbon. A few more tugs would strangle the bastard, or one quick downward thrust with his knee could break the man’s back.
“Alright, lad, you’ve made your point. Let him go.” Henry Jennings’ voice from behind.
Jesamiah ignored him.
“I do not have so many skilled topmen that I can afford to lose one to your sense of justice, Acorne. Let him go. Or are you as callous a killer as is he?”



Does Jesamiah let Vane go.... read the book and find out!

purchase from Amazon
Charles Vane - A Reign of Terror is from Pirates: Truth and Tales
published by Amberley Press - available now

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17 April 2018

My Tuesday Talk Guest: Anna Belfrage and Losing the history and sticking with romance

 – sort of ...

I’m going to come right out and admit it: the reason I write is because it allows me to indulge the huge romantic streak within, the one that has me sighing happily whenever true love overcomes whatever obstacles crosses its path. This doesn’t mean that I necessarily write 100% pure romances – you see, I get distracted by the historical setting, by the political scene of whatever time I am writing about. It is called context, and it is massively fun and elucidating to research and write. It is also essential when writing historical fiction as people read historical fiction to be transported back in time. Ergo, if you’re writing a love story set in the 14th century then you need not only to get the love and kisses right, you also need to do so without dressing Mr Hero in anachronistic clothes or allowing Ms Heroine to walk about with her hair uncovered and a revealing décolletage—unless Ms Heroine is a lady of the night, of course, in which case I’d suggest you dress her in yellow. 

I love history. I love well-written historical fiction. I cringe at historical novels that have people peeling potatoes in 11th century Ireland or lounging on a sofa in the 13th. That beautifully written historical romance, with the beautifully depicted protagonists, loses some of its glow if the context is incorrect. I suppose that may just be me, but incorrect historical facts yank me out of the story so fast I end up gasping like a landed trout. Not a pleasant experience…

So far, I have mostly stuck with combining my romantic streak with my passion for history. Yes, I’ve added a titillating angle in my first series, The Graham Saga, by making one of the protagonists a most reluctant time traveller. Well, she is until she meets Matthew Graham, the man destined to be her other half no matter that they were born three centuries apart.  


However: while writing books set in the 17th century, books set in the 14th century, polishing a Work in Progress set in the 13th century, I have all the time been working on a different project. One where romance and suspense takes over from romance and history. All told, I’ve invested twelve years in this particular story, so obviously I must feel it is very good—or important (to me).

It all began with lions.
I can hear you going “Qué?” 


It did. It began with these vague images of a young girl with the most amazing set of blonde curls running barefoot somewhere very hot. Red dust rose in her wake, the shapeless linen garment billowed around her as she ran and ran, accompanied by three half-grown lionesses. Very strange. Even stranger was that when I saw that same girl as an adult, that head of curls was tamed in a short edgy haircut, her toned legs encased in black trousers. Plus she was in London and to judge from her attire and the laptop she was carrying, she was busy at something in a financial environment. 

Obviously, I had something of a dilemma on my hands. How was I to marry those images of the running child in old-fashioned clothes with this high-flying professional? How to create a plausible context in which lions ran with the girl without snacking on her?

“Plausible context?” Helle Madsen looks at me over her laptop and grins. “Good luck with that one.”
I actually think I have found a good backstory. Helle can’t express an opinion. You see, she doesn’t remember. Nope, she has no memories of her first and very distant life in which her only friends were those three lions—until the day Jason made his first appearance in her life.

“Ah, yes.” Jason smiles, those copper-coloured eyes of his lighting up. “She was for once silent and neat—not as much as a smudge on her garments, not a single wayward curl escaping her heavy braid—standing some feet behind her father. Such a pretty little girl. Such a lonely little girl.”
“I was?” Helle asked, sounding intrigued. “And how would you know?”
Jason just smiles and winks at me. You see, Jason does remember—all of it. And I can tell you that while he is more than happy at having found his Helle again after spending sixty lives or so looking for her, he sincerely hopes his presence won’t nudge all her dormant memories to life. After all, there’s a reason he’s been tumbling through time looking for her and hoping to make amends…

Things are further spiced up by my third reincarnated character, gorgeous but dangerous Sam Woolf. Jason would tell you everything that happened in that first life was Woolf’s fault. So would Helle—if she remembered. So would Woolf. Thing is, he doesn’t care: he set out to destroy them last time round and hopes to finalise that particular task this time round.

 So, peeps, how does that sound as a premise? Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree on the fact that this does not qualify as historical fiction, and this in itself leaves me somewhat out of breath. I like staying in my comfort zone. I enjoy the structure recreating a historical setting gives to my stories. But now I feel a bit like Dorothy, setting a foot on the yellow brick road. Will it carry me all the way to Oz? I hope so!

Not only am I taking on a new genre. I have also decided to try to secure a publishing deal with Kindle Press by submitting this book to their Kindle Scout programme. Not that many days left on my campaign which ends on April 21st and of course I need all the nominations I can get. I am therefore VERY grateful to Helen for having given me some air-space on her blog and hope you will all pop over to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/ICMPHQBF30CN and do some nominating.


About Anna
Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. 
Anna has just released the fourth instalment of The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. 


When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she's probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex(andra) and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.

Anna’s books have won multiple awards among which feature numerous Historical Novel Society’s Editor’ Choice. She has also contributed to several short-story collections and aims to release a contemporary trilogy in 2018 – a mixture of time-slip, suspense and burning passion.

Find out more about Anna on her website, Amazon, on FB or follow her on Twitter. Or pop by her blog and submerge yourself in historical posts about everything from golden camels to abducted nuns.  


The King’s Greatest Enemy: https://myBook.to/TKGE
The Graham Saga: http://amzn.to/2sVzZsZ

Please support Anna by clicking HERE 
and nominating her new project
thank you,
Helen
my previous article: 25 years 'in the business'  







10 April 2018

Twenty-Five Years ‘in the business’



website
Twenty-five years ago this month I celebrated my fortieth birthday during the Easter Weekend while on holiday in the Lake District. (I'll do the maths for you ... I'm sixty-five this year). We (that’s me, husband Ron and daughter Kathy, then aged 11) were camping on the shore of Coniston Water. For the actual day we went for a walk up Coniston Old Man. I seem to recall that it was a bright and sunny morning, but somewhat chilly. We had our wonderful dog, Nesta, back then. She was a Lakeland Collie (same as a Border Collie but with short hair) and bred from one of the Mountain Rescue dogs. And a sweeter, nicer nature I have never met, before or since. She inherited her mother’s sense of ‘search’ so was wonderful for playing hide-and-seek with. We had her from when she was weaned at a couple of months old to when she passed away at the age of thirteen. I’ll have to write a post about Nesta one of these days.

We had a lovely holiday, but I was on edge throughout because just before leaving home I had spoken with my (now ex) literary agent about The Kingmaking. William Heinemann, an imprint of Random House UK, had expressed an interest and I would know their decision after the Easter break. That meant I had to wait until we returned home to North-east London.


The Kingmaking, is the first part of my Arthurian Trilogy – although when I submitted it to the Marsh Agency I had no idea it was to become a trilogy. The agent liked it, but said it needed a lot of work and, ‘you do realise this will make a trilogy, don’t you?’

Er, no… I didn’t.

It had taken me ten years to write that ‘final’ draft. Not continuously, there were huge breaks and often I would only write a few sentences once a week, but in between writing I was researching and visiting places with a post-Roman connection. You see, my novel about King Arthur was to be set in the mid-to-late 400s. The vast machine that was Rome had abandoned Britain, leaving behind a void of chaos where groups of people vied against each other for supremacy. It was a power-grab period, and may the best man (or men) win.

This was the time when Caledonia, and the land of the Picts, became Scotland – when the Scotti tribes came over and settled from Ireland. When the Angles, Saxons and Jutes upped-sticks from across the Channel (the Narrow Sea – the English Channel) and made their homes and life here, eventually creating ‘Englalond’.

This was the time, IF he had existed, that ‘King’ Arthur would have been around. (Whether he was or not is a subject many Arthurianites heatedly debate, with never a definite conclusion being reached – except we argue like mad and insist that we are right.)

MY Arthur was going to be a warlord. Rough round the edges, a military man, not the later Medieval-tale chivalric knight in armour chap who turned a blind eye to being cuckolded. Ah no, had there been a Lancelot in my story he’d have been gutted and got-rid-of by my Arthur without hesitation.

Nor was MY Guinevere – I call her Gwenhwyfar – going to be the eye-lash batting, bosom-heaving nit-wit who fell for a posturing vain and proud Lancelot. MY Gwen was every bit as equal in rough toughness as was Arthur, and no way would she be daft enough to give up her position for someone like Lancelot. You might have guessed by now that I can’t stand Lancelot. In fact, I dislike the traditional Arthurian tales, the knights in armour, holy grail, nampy-pampyism. So there is no Lancelot in my story. No grail, no chivalry, no Merlin …. Instead we have two strong people who love each other but fight like mad. My Gwen has a sword and knows how to use it. My Arthur fights hard to gain his kingdom, and even harder to keep it.

Back in the '90s - outside the British Museum with a few friends...
Charles Evans Gunther on the left, with the late Kathleen Herbert
standing next to me (I'm in the red!)
No idea, now, alas, who the other guys are
So, there we were back in 1990. (ex) agent told me to go away and re-write what I had as the first part of a trilogy. It took me until late 1992 to do this. I re-submitted what had now become The Kingmaking as it is now, and half of what is now Pendragon’s Banner, book two. The (ex) agent liked what she saw, and sent it to Heinemann.

As it happened they were after the wonderful Sharon Kay Penman, but she was contracted elsewhere… she had assisted me with tidying up that first (final) draft (there had been countless other writes and re-writes before I even considered contacting an agent.) Sharon had encouraged me and suggested me to this agent, so Sharon will always be in my heart as the world’s best because she not only helped me on to the ladder, she gave me a hefty push a good way up it. And incidentally, this is why I try as much as I can to help new and novice authors now: I know full well how much that little bit of assistance can mean!

So there I was, submission submitted…. Waiting. Hoping. Fingers crossed…

We came home. Holiday over. Exactly one week after my fortieth birthday I received the news that yes, Heinemann wanted the entire Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy – what I had already written and  Part Three, which was still in my head. I was  offered a contract, and paid a nice advance. That I was over the moon is an understatement. I was, after many years of boring people with, ‘One day I am going to be a proper author’ was going to come true!

To get a scoop, the London Evening Standard took me, Ron and Kathy out for the day to Colchester (don’t ask… no idea why Colchester!) When we came home the street was crawling with reporters all wanting a story. The post-six o’clock  local news on ITV spent the day with us filming, and we had a good long spot on the show.

My official promotion photo
(don't I look young!)
Launch day was so exciting. A bookshop in Walthamstow High Street hosted it, we had wine and canapes and loads of people turned up. I had radio interviews (who remembers Derek Jameson on Radio Two? I spent a happy hour with him in his studio chatting about this and that – and my novel. And as it was a late night show the BBC even provided a car to take me home.) The Kingmaking should have become a bestseller. I was nominated for a couple of awards, but from there the rose-coloured glasses proved to be more tinted than I had thought.

Launch day at Walthamstow High Street
The marketing for Kingmaking lasted a few short months, and the marketing for other two books in the trilogy when they came out did not materialise. The reality was, historical fiction was suddenly not as popular as it had been, Heinemann had been sold, and a lot of money had been paid out to supposed best sellers which turned out to be dreadful. Let’s face it, sorry, but models and footballers are not novelists! Heinemann undertook very little follow-up marketing. This was the nineties. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, were still things of the future, even websites were a new concept and very basic. Authors were entirely in the hands of agents and publishers, and if either did not back you, you sank. To this day I do not understand how a publishing house can pay out a generous advance and then not bother to promote the books they have taken on. Eventually, said agent also let me down, well, her loss, frankly.  

The original cover
designed by artist Chris Collingwood Historic Art
My Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, twenty-five years after the first part was accepted for publication is STILL going strong – published traditionally by Sourcebooks Inc in the US, Indie published here in the UK, and are being translated into German with Part One now published.


buy book on Amazon Germany

So, Happy Silver Anniversary to me, from me. It’s been a rough road with lots of ups and downs, but I’m still here, writing and I’ve met some wonderful people – authors and readers – along the way. (Met a few ratbags as well, but we’ll skip that fact.)  

This is where the champagne cork pops, and someone enthusiastically shouts ‘Hooray!’

If you want to wish me some sort of ‘best wishes’ please do so by:
1)     Buying The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the King
2)     If you’ve already read them, please, please, please, leave a review on Amazon
3)     Tell twenty-five people to buy the Kingmaking! Well, I can but try to encourage sales *laugh*

Seriously, thank you to everyone reading this (and sharing and retweeting etc.) Without you, I wouldn’t be sitting here sipping my glass of celebration bubbly!


 UK covers designed by www.avalongraphics.org

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 Website: www.helenhollick.net
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Twitter: @HelenHollick



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3 April 2018

Tuesday Talk: One writer’s experience with traditional publishing by Susan Appleyard

Susan Appleyard
 A long, long time ago, in the days of yore, even before the internet and all its offshoots were anything more than a gleam in a mad scientist’s eye, I was traditionally published. Furthermore, the publishing company actually paid me for the right to publish my book. It’s called an advance. Come what may afterwards, my book had earned money and people would read it. So far so good.

The book was about the favourite mistress of King Edward IV, and I called it The Merry Harlot because… well, that’s what she was. That’s what the King called her. My editor didn’t like the title because she was afraid my readers wouldn’t know what a harlot was! She suggested The King’s White Rose. Who was I, a young housewife with three rambunctious kids, to argue with someone of such vast experience? So I agreed to the name change. After all, I consoled myself, a king figured prominently in the story and one of his heraldic symbols was the white rose.  So there was some relevance.

As an aside, in creating a certain scene I mentioned a pincushion. The copy editor discovered that this object hadn’t been invented until the 16th century and as my book was set in the 15th, the pincushion had to go. The point of this, in case you missed it, is that my readers were viewed as so stupid they wouldn’t know what a harlot was, yet so smart they would know that the pincushion hadn’t been invented until in the 16th century!

I was nervous that the cover (chosen by the publishers) would feature a half-naked man and a half-naked woman in an erotic embrace because it was a historical novel, not romance, so I was partially relieved to see only a half-naked woman. I was asked my opinion of the cover, but given my vain protests about the title I reckoned it would be an exercise in futility.

Fast forward to my second book, which I didn’t have a title for. It was set in the Holy Land during the second crusade. My editor suggested The Sultan’s Red Rose.
“But,” I sputtered, “there isn’t a sultan in the story!” There wasn’t a red rose either, but that didn’t seem quite so important.
“What about this fellow, Zengi?” said she.
“He’s an atabeg,” I retorted, “which is like a military governor.”
She thought about this for a while and finally came up with a stunning solution.
“Why not have Zengi compare your heroine to a rose growing in the sultan’s garden?”

I know you would like to hear that I stuck to my ideals, that I didn’t prostitute my art for the almighty dollar; that I told her if she persisted in this tacky, tasteless design she could take a long jump off a short pier. Of course, I didn’t.

Very soon after that book came out, my burgeoning career went down the toilet. My agent went into furniture sales and my publishers sold out to another company. My contract was sold as part of the package, but they were not interested in me. It was back to square one. I was dismayed, disheartened and discouraged. (I can’t resist alliteration.)

A sad story, isn’t it? But put the tissues away; it has a happy ending.

The next time I was published I did it myself as an ebook and, rightly or wrongly, chose my own titles.

Would I want to be traditionally published again? 
Don’t think so.

About Susan

Susan was born in England, which is where she learned to love English history, and now lives in Canada in the summer. In winter she and her husband flee the cold for their second home in Mexico. Susan divides her time between writing and her hobby, oil painting, although writing will always be her first love. Since joining the ebook crowd, she has published seven books, some of which have won various awards. Presently, she is working on a historical romance series set during the War of the Roses.

Some of Susan's books - the ones with sensible titles and covers! 

Reviewed on Discovering Diamonds

Reviewed on Discovering Diamonds
Reviewed on Discovering Diamonds
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1 April 2018

April 1st - Best Wishes for Easter

To all my readers, friends, 
 and visitors 

wishing you 

peace and health for this season of celebration




27 March 2018

Tuesday Talk with Helen Hollick. Iced Snow.


We had snow. Twice. OK so maybe that isn't unusual for winter, but it isn't so usual for the latter half of March, at least, not here in North Devon.





But it wasn't just the snow, it was the biting cold that went with it that wasn't very enthusiasm enducing. The top layer of snow in the first fall (The Beast from the East) was ice, so none of that nice 'snowman making' material,  just hard crust, like the top layer of a badly made cake!







The second lot was proper snow, daughter Kathy and I, and the two dogs, went for a lovely walk up the lane and into our top field - the dogs loved it! (Well, Eddie did, Baz is a sit-in-front-of-the-fire Labrador-type, he wanted to go home.)








This, below, is the lane beside our dairy where my Donk lives (taken in summer when we'd brought the hay in) You can see how steep it is. We'd kept most of it clear of snow, but it froze once the temperature dropped in the evening and where the field run-off had drained down the hill it formed a sheet of black ice.


Which I didn't know was there.

I went out to give my donkey some evening hay - and got stuck half way across the lane because I had stepped out onto this malevolent ice and discovered that I was in trouble!  I managed to get to 'safe' ground and give Donk his hay, but how to get back to the house?

Try lower down the lane? Bad idea.
Same thing happened. I stepped out and the ice was even worse. I was well and truly marooned! I found that I daren't move - unable to turn back, unable to go forwards because if I tried either option I knew I'd fall. And it would hurt. A Lot.

Baz, the dog, was with me. I grumpily informed him that had he been Lassie he would run back to the house, bark loudly and inform them 'Mum's stuck."
All he did was sit there and look at me quizzically.


Hmm. Problemo.

I shouted. I shouted again.

No response.


Darn 3 foot thick farm house stone walls, loud TVs and double glazing!

I was starting to wonder if I would be there all night (would anyone indoors notice I was missing?) when FINALLY I was heard.

"Don't come  onto the lane!" I cried: "go get some salt!"

So I was rescued, but that was not a pleasant experience.

How on earth did people in the past manage with the snow and ice? 





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