I am sharing this on behalf of my friend, the Reverend Michaela Youngson, one of the Chairs of the London District of the Methodist Church, and a regular contributor to Radio 2’s Thought for the Day (or Micky, as we know her).

“6 Bible studies on themes of migration – for use anytime. They would work well in Lent or anytime you want a series. Each includes a quote from John or Charles Wesley, as well as Bible passages and reflections from six writers. The pack comes with a liturgy which can be used with each study or as a resource for public worship.”

I know many of my followers are friends from my time abroad and who are on their own journey and I hope they will be able to share and use this resource.




Happy New Year 2018 Groundhog Day

It feels like Groundhog Day, Happy New Year messages are pinging on my phone constantly and it’s not yet midday, UK time. As a result of us moving to Hong Kong in 2001, I now have friends all over the world and they have been sending Happy New Year messages since I got up at 7am. Thanks to Facebook I am now in touch with family all over the world too, from New Zealand to Trinidad and many places in between. New Year started with a super message from my cousin in New Zealand which came in at just after 7am UK time. Since then, my son has seen in the New Year in Japan, friends have messaged from Hong Kong and it’s only four hours until the UK reaches midnight. Then I shall wait for hubby in New Jersey to call, hopefully then family in Trinidad will post on Facebook and then my friends on the West Coast of America will see the New Year in. Are you experiencing that Groundhog moment too?

Hong Kong has a special place in my heart, no-one does fireworks better than the Chinese.

Don’t mis-understand me, I think it’s wonderful. My maternal family has had a reunion for the last two years and our cousin from New Zealand is coming to the UK in 2018 for the first time in 17 years to share in the next one and we are all very excited.

Having said all that, I am actually sat on my own, watching TV with a bottle of bubbles at my side. I indulged myself earlier today and read “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee and loved it. Being on your own doesn’t mean being lonely so I raise my glass to all my family and friends and wish you all the very best for 2018, what ever it brings. Just know that whether we connect in person or via social media, your friendship means a lot.






Remembrance Day 2017


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.


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.


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.








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.


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.


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!)


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?…..




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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