Remembrance Day 2017

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I always feel conflicted this time of year and I use the word deliberately.

When I was growing up in the UK in the 1970s, we were regular churchgoers so of course, we went to church on Remembrance Sunday. It always left me extremely uncomfortable, the talk was about the Glorious Dead and I was beginning to question how being dead was glorious. I was lucky, both my Grandads survived their wars but many of the children I went to school with weren’t so lucky.  Every time I talked about going to see them, someone would say that they never knew their Grandad and wasn’t I the lucky one. It was never meant nastily, it was just fact.

My maternal Grandad was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, called up when conscription started in 1916, he was 22.

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My paternal Grandad was called up in World War II and coincidentally, was also a medic. He was a psychiatric nurse and had the gruesome job of landing in France on Day 2 of the D-Day landings and sorting out who was dead and who wasn’t. He then followed the front line as the soldiers fought their way through France to Germany. Afterwards, he was sent to the Far East, based in India. He had the equally horrific task of finding soldiers who had lost their minds after the atrocities in that region and had gone feral.

He is in the back row, second left.

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I never heard either of them talk about their experiences and I wasn’t aware of them wearing poppies, although they might well have done.

I was also conflicted about what we had won. Britain wasn’t at war but it didn’t feel like a place that was at peace either. Every time the England football team played West Germany, the newspapers were full of hatred and I couldn’t relate to that (it has only recently stopped, 70+ years on).  I was confused as to the “evil” we went to war over in 1914. It was much easier to identify the evil in World War II but I hated the fact that Britain didn’t feel reconciled to peace. Places like Coventry were a light in the darkness.

The 1970s went into the 1980s and the Cold War was still a threat. Greenham Common became the focus of anti-war campaigning. I joined CND. I didn’t want World War III, nuclear destruction and the devastation that would follow if the planet survived. We had already lost a generation of men after The Great War, I didn’t want that to happen again.

Yet I am not a pacifist. I believe there is evil in the world and we need to stand up to it, as individuals and sometimes as a nation. I am grateful that some people chose to fight on my behalf and make the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

What I want is for war to be the very last response.

I don’t want anyone’s life to end needlessly.

I want our politicians to work harder to find other ways of solving conflicts.

I want our armed forces to have the equipment they need and not to die because of our negligence.

I want business and commerce to run fairly so people don’t live in poverty and feel that violence is their only way of being heard.

I want each person to be more tolerant to those who are different to us and not fear difference.

I am sorry that our weakness as humans leads us to behave inhumanely towards each other. I believe we are better than that. We see greatness in peace and in times of war. Let’s work harder to look less at self and more at others. Let us learn to let go of our self-importance, as individuals and as nations. I am a patriot not at nationalist.  A journalist at the Huffington Post gives this explanation.

Nationalism and patriotism are two words which are often used inter-changeably. This is incorrect since there is a world of difference between the two concepts, in spite of a few shared ideals. While patriotism fundamentally means affection for one’s country and willingness to defend it, nationalism is a more extreme, unforgiving form of allegiance to one’s country. As opposed to patriotism, which involves social conditioning and personal opinion, nationalism involves national identity and the belief that one’s nation and/or its government is supreme.

The legacy of the Great War was the League of Nations created after the First World War to provide a forum for resolving international disputes. We need to be better at doing this so no more people die.

The Royal British Legion is doing a tremendous job and I support them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A new project

Those of you who know me well, know how devastated I was to leave Hong Kong – so many reasons why – but one of those was the loss of my job as Library Assistant at Bradbury School. It had stemmed from a phone call, received out of the blue, which lead to six wonderful years and, in my mid-40s, I had found my vocation. And then we left.

Now back in the UK, I’ve been lucky enough to find another job in a school library and it has inspired me to share my enthusiasm for all things literary and library orientated.

I’ve started a new blog, just for that. It’s called The Serendipitous Librarian and I hope you’ll take a look.

Crongton Knights book review

I’ve recently started work in the library at a local comprehensive school in mostly white, middle-class suburbia in the South East of England and was pleasantly surprised to discover this on our shelves. I didn’t realise it was the middle book in a trilogy until I’d finished the book, delighted to say it stands on its own two feet, I didn’t feel I’d missed anything by not reading the first book (however, I shall be checking we own all three, such was the power of this book). It moved me, it shook me and it made me laugh. Somehow, this book, written using street talk I am totally unfamiliar with, set in a fictitious inner city, full of gangs and a culture I am so far removed from, struck a chord deep inside that will stay with me for a long time. It proved to me, once again, that the power of words can reach out like a winding rope and wrap around you and reel you in and you don’t want to escape, you want more, you want to ride alongside the characters, you want their safety, you want their bonds to include you and you want them to live. Read it.
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<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/8573306-debra”>View all my reviews</a>

A Trailing Spouse By Any Other Name

I was going through my inbox earlier today and came across this blog. I read it at the time and it spoke so loudly to me that I kept it. On re-reading it, I decided to share it. June is a month when many families are moving countries and/or repatriating so it seems the right time to share this. I hope you find strength and value in this and in yourself.

Wine and Cheese (Doodles)

vintage travel 10Trailing spouse. It’s a term most expats are familiar with and many, including myself, use it for lack of a better alternative. A recent post by a fellow expat caused me to re-explore my feelings about the term and truth be told, the more I think about it, the less I like it.

If I was on the fence before, her vivid description of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe made me come down firmly on the side of dislike. Because in a nutshell, trailing spouse has the  implication of someone following behind and picking up all the debris and crud the person in front of dropped along the way.

The last person in a race trails. Burning exhaust fumes trail. A caboose trails. Spouses shouldn’t trail. Who wants to be compared to a caboose toot tootling along behind the shiny diesel engine?

More than insinuation or semantics, what bothers…

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So good I just had to share it.

I chose this book for our Book Group last year. I confess I didn’t read it. Life unexpectedly got very busy and I was unable to go to our next meeting and I wasn’t going to be there to talk about it, sad but that’s how life is sometimes. However, I recently downloaded it as an audio book and have just spent the last two weeks listening to all 19 hours of it and it is still inside my head and won’t go away.  You know when you’ve read a good book, it stays with you and when you have a quiet moment it pops into your mind and you enjoy it again. This one doesn’t wait for a quiet moment, it shouts at me to take more notice, urges me not to forget any of it and to really hear the messages it delivers. So, here I am, listening to the voices in my head and sharing what I think.

This is the book.

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This is my Goodreads review.

“Probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. One of those books that really gets into your psyche. How do you review a book like that? I suppose I could go on about the plot, how it’s based on the author’s father and draws on his contemporaries’ memories, about how is deals with love on so many different levels, about the times on the Burma railway. There is so much in this book, where do I start? I suggest you read the other reviews, they will explain it better than I can but I can tell you that I read it and then I listed to the author narrate it over 19 hours; he nuanced every single word, he drew out every single pause and gently read the most traumatic scenes with devastating effect. The book addresses the issues of good and evil, right and wrong, nature versus nurture, cause and effect so simply and honestly without being preachy and allows you to make up your own mind only to turn your decision on its head in the next chapter. It deserved the Man Booker Prize of 2014. As the chair of judges said that year “some years, very good books with the Man Booker Prize but this year a masterpiece has won it” Need I say more?”

A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read

It’s the end of February, the second month of the year and I’ve finished my second book of the Reading Challenge I’m following. I chose Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and here’s my review I wrote for GoodReads (no point reinventing the wheel!)

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Mixed feelings about this book. It goes without saying that the writing is superb. I was taken to an America I didn’t know existed. She wrote about her life as a young Black girl in a way that told of that experience I’d never connected to before. That makes me feel naive but I actually think it’s down to her skill as a writer. That said, I was disappointed in her re-telling of her life once she’d left Stamps for the final time. I felt it was rushed, lacked the private thoughts she’d previously shared and which had made such an impact on me, for the sake of delivering the chronological facts. All that said, what a book.

Now, what shall I chose next?…..

 

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A book you can finish in a day

Reading challenge – the first book.

I love my Kindle but was delighted when my daughter asked me for a book list so she could chose one from it to buy me for Christmas in print form. What a joy it was to scribble down books that had been in my head for a while. She chose The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay. It is published by The British Library as part of their Crime Classics series and was first published in 1936. Here’s my review for Goodreads.

A good old-fashioned murder mystery in a Downton Abbey-esque setting albeit not quite so grand. The patriarch is murdered and everyone is a suspect including Santa Klaus. The investigator is the Chief Constable who, of course, is a family friend but remains impartial. The bulk of the story is told from his point of view but various other characters are asked to write their account of events in a story form and these are integrated into the tale. I loved the writing style, so true of the upper classes of the 1920s-30s yet Hay also writes in dialect and it’s perfectly done. I’ve never read Agatha Christie but I suspect they would have similar styles. I would have liked a longer epilogue, I felt it ended quite abruptly but I suppose there wasn’t really any more to say.

Reading challenge 2016

In honour of Debbie Alvarez, woman, wife, mother, teacher librarian and all round incredible human being who died at the end of December 2015, I am taking the Reading Challenge suggested by some of Debbie’s friends. I love reading, always have, so this isn’t difficult but I’m doing it because Debbie read. I can be a lazy reader; it’s all to easy to pick up old favourites or an easy read and there is nothing wrong with that but Debbie always looked to learn something from her reading, she loved finding out new facts, discovering new authors, delighting in illustrations and illustrators, uncovering a hidden gem, realising she could match a book with a reader; I saw her do this every day for a whole year when I worked alongside her at Bradbury School Library in Hong Kong.

So this year I am going to be disciplined about my reading and continue to learn from Debbie. Her life continues, just in a different way.

 

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Comunidad para mi hermana…

startwithsparkles

Community: 

A unified body of individuals.

The people with common interests living in a particular area. 

I am always astounded at how many beautiful people there are in the vast communities that surround my tiny nuclear family. In the last twelve days this community has exploded into a vast array of artists, writers, teachers, friends, family members, doctors, nurses, musicians, and humanitarians.

If you look for the bad in (hu)mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.-Wise words from Mr. Lincoln.

I like to think of it this way: When you look for the good in people you will surely find it… -A Rachel take

In a time of grief and loss there are no words that can absolutely console or express the feelings that reside within. Although, all I have left are words in fact. These words helped guide me through the last handful of days. The first day…

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