It Seems Like Only Yesterday!

How often have you said that? I can clearly remember the day Mum took my brother and I to see Father Christmas in Lewis’s department store in Manchester. It seems incredible to me that nearly seventy years have passed since then.

Isn’t that the way of it, though? Memories can connect us in the blink of an eye to times, places and people long since gone, but who for us are all still part of our lives. To our grandchildren, however, it’s just history.  Of course, we know that each generation influences the next.  In a way, our experiences also shape our grandchildren’s lives too. Surely this is why it’s important to leave them the story of our life and the times in which we have lived. They may not feel this is relevant to their lives right now but I can guarantee that as they grow older and have their own children, they will become curious about the people who came before.

If you feel you would like to start writing your own life story but aren’t sure where to begin, our Life Story package will guide you step by step through the process, until finally, you receive a beautiful book for you and your family to treasure and then to pass on to future generations.

Marilyn Freeman

www.spellbrooktales.com/life-story

What legacy will you leave them?

 A drawing of a single tulip is the only thing I have that was created by my mother.  She won a prize in the Beautiful Oldham competition at the age of eight for painting that tulip, the only prize she ever won, as far as I know; but then again, what do I know?  I only know that she was still proud of that little painting when she died, aged 92.  From my father, I have nothing except the cap he wore and the pipe he smoked; nothing in writing at all. Of course, we have some photographs, fading now and the memories in our heads, also fading. When my generation is no more, the traces of my parents will vanish like the mist.

Memories cover

For myself, I have created a memoir, Memories of a Hollinwood Childhood in an effort to preserve at least some of the memories I have of the family and characters who peopled my early years. I was determined that those who come after will at least have some notion of what their lives and times were like. From my book of poems, they may come to understand what kind of a person I have been.

Perhaps you feel that your life hasn’t been interesting enough to write about? Well, I urge you to think again.  As Mark Twain so eloquently put it,  ‘A man’s experiences of life are a book. There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior, there is drama, comedy, and a tragedy.’ 

Your written legacy is certainly a gift of words, but also, a gift of the hours you spend creating it. Not only will you reach out across the miles to family and friends far away, but also across time, to future generations who will come after you. What more precious a legacy could they receive from you? It is without price.

Whether you include poems from your heart, stories from your memory or the philosophy by which you have lived, they will value each word as it shows them the person you are and how life has been for you. Why not make today the day you begin to write your legacy? What greater gift can we leave to our descendants than the benefit of our experience and the wisdom that comes from a life well lived? It may just help them to make sense of their world.

When you have your stories, how best to preserve them? Digital storage is constantly evolving. Who now remembers the floppy disk? Surely the best way to keep a permanent record is to turn your writing into a book that your family can treasure forever. Spellbrooktale offers the Pen-a-Tale book creation package to do just that. From your writings, we will create a wonderful book that you, and they, can be proud of.

Marilyn Freeman

For more information, visit www.spellbrooktales.com/pen-a-tale or email to contact@spellbrooktales.com

Header image: ‘Arabella’s first visit’

 

 

 

The Hint of Wonder in the Everyday

shutterstock_358582475 (1)

You’d have to be a pretty vain old grandad gristle to imagine you could write a story that would suddenly stop kids playing games on their phones and soak up every word; maybe even asking for more!  Well perhaps that’s just what every author believes they can achieve when he or she sets their words onto the page of a new book.

I’m sure I do; that is until some kid asks, ‘Grandad, whatever is a rocker box cover?’ or some such question, whereas if you’d have written escape velocity plus factor two, they would have understood immediately what it meant.

That’s the time you ask yourself, perhaps I should pen the stories that kids ask for, the sort of flash-bang adventures you find in most children’s book shops, where the beautifully illustrated covers portray a futuristic world of heroes or giant airborne creatures reminiscent of dinosaurs or domesticated dragons.

Stories we would all love to have written; or maybe not. You see there are people like me who still believe in the value of triggering that hint of wonder that can still be found in the everyday world that surrounds us; the plaintive echoes of a world long gone escaping from a gramophone that has to be wound up, or images of Laurel and Hardy, flickering on a silver screen that still have the ability to make us laugh.

Please don’t gasp ‘that’s just nostalgia’, when perhaps you really mean memories, the true links that bind one generation to the next and without which, quiet moments would be shallow indeed.

For me, these are the building blocks for stories, searching out the tiny and sometimes insignificant pictures trapped within our memories and fashioned into a beginning a middle and an end.

Of course, tales that can transport a child into some wondrous adventure in the outer reaches of space, or create the brave immortal heroes that will save the world from destruction, are valuable stories that need to be told.

But so too are the chronicles of the quiet creatures that inhabit the ordinary world, even the strange inanimate objects that are given a voice by so many authors and find a permanent place in our memories, objects such as little blue locomotives or even a fork and a spoon that once, we were told, jumped over the moon.

There are no dragons to be discovered along the track to Crosswart, or evil wizards poised to cast a spell on the unwary traveller passing through Aaron’s wood.  Only a very sad snail.  Even the Companions collecting the magenta liquid from the wood violets offer no threat, but may just help us to understand how our memories may be triggered by the scent of violets carried on a summer breeze.

Working on this assumption it appears that I’m still a vain old grandad gristle who believes that such tales may just have a smidgen of value; simple stories that I love to write and very much hope will continue to be told.

Barry Freeman

Please visit my bookstore for more information on my latest books.

 

 

 

 

 

Quantum Leap

Pollution of one sort or another seems to make the news every day. Only this morning I heard that plastic can now be found at the North Pole, endangering the lives of the animals that live there.   Some years ago, polluted rivers in this country were of great concern and many still are. Much has already been done to clean up our canals, rivers and streams, which is great news but we must continue to look after these precious waterways at all costs.

Back in the nineteen nineties I felt so concerned about what was happening to our rivers, that I wrote a story for young readers pointing out how greed and mass production could so easily result in the destruction of our environment.   In this story Soapy Mellows had recently purchased an old flour mill. His only concern was to make as much money as possible by the automated production of bars of soap, while paying scant attention to the river and the wild creatures living thereabouts.     Finally, the computer enslaved by Soapy Mellows to control the machines making the soap and causing the pollution of the mill pond, made a bid for it’s freedom. Niac, as the computer was called, solicited the help of Tussel Fleabane. You may remember that Tussel Fleabane is an ‘agent of nature’ able to bridge the gap between our own world and the forces ruling the universe. This extract begins as Tussel is invited by Niac to take the quantum leap directly into his domain.

Other Dimensions

Extract from ‘Beyond the Goosebarley Bush’

“Over here,” whispered the computer, as Mellows rushed into the office slamming the door shut behind him, “Quick! Climb up here into the mainframe.”

Tussel looked up to see a small opening above his head where a loop of cables hung within his reach, enabling him to climb easily into the base of the machine where it was dark and very warm and full of tall thin panels with only narrow passages in between.

“Now don’t go touching things,” mumbled the computer, “just follow the yellow wire ’til I tell you to stop.”

Tussel soon became accustomed to the dim light as he walked along the slippery grey floor hanging on to the wire.

“Now,” said the computer at last, “change to the white one with the violet tracer, and don’t stamp so hard. It tickles! Then let me know when you get to a panel marked ‘Memory.’”

Tussel followed the machine’s instructions, pulling himself over all manner of obstacles, not daring to let go of the wire for a moment, convinced that if he did he would become hopelessly lost.

“That’s good. Now you must climb over the power supply, but be careful or you’ll end up like a potato crisp,” sniggered the machine…..(read more)

Ryman Business

Now here’s a funny thing to admit but as a youngster what made me feel the happiest and I confess, the proudest kid in the street, was if some respected adult asked me to help them with a proper grown up job; I mean a real job like planting lettuces, or perhaps mending a puncture in their old work bike. I admit that it is a peculiar thing to say, but what it really meant was that they trusted me to do the job properly, something that parents didn’t always find possible to do.

These are the sort of things that stick in a child’s mind and perhaps why we so often look back at our school days and remember some particular teacher with affection.   With some people it’s the first boss they worked for after leaving school, clearly remembering the first simple tasks they were trusted with. I still remember fondly a particular teacher, Frank Richards, from my days at the secondary modern school in Kempston, an art teacher who taught many other subjects, as most teachers did.  His classroom was always referred to as the art room, possibly because it contained a large sink where we could wash our brushes and palettes.

Then there was the first shop manager who guided me through that mind boggling transition between being a boy at school and the world of paid employment; particularly learning how to deal with the real world which I soon discovered is made up of many diverse characters who depend on your knowledge and whose respect must quickly be gained.

In my case this was also helped by the attitude shown by the teacher I mentioned earlier, who spoke in a language I understood and trusted in my ability carry out such momentous tasks as painting back-drops for school plays as well as encouraging me to become involved in amateur dramatics without questioning my imagination or skill. These were probably not the most demanding tasks I agree but it demonstrated a trust in me that, even after sixty years, I have not forgotten.

I now find it very comforting that after years of filling my days with the necessary essentials of earning a living, I have at last retired and moved back to my home town, only to recently discover, I’m very pleased to say, that my old teacher had the very same political views that I hold and was, I understand, once an active Party worker in my present ward.  I also remember from my youth that he wrote and directed plays, an ‘Over Mighty Subject’ I believe one of them was called and he was a respected member of the long established local amateur dramatic society.

My one regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet him again and only have his reminiscences to read; reminiscences of the town he was born in and lived in for most of his life. To me, however, the most important memory is of the encouragement he gave me and the trust he placed in me as a boy some sixty or so years ago.

Finally, for those of us who were ‘lucky’ enough to go to a secondary modern school in the nineteen fifties and may just have some enduring memory of one particular teacher, I once scribbled down a few short stories about those days at school which I called “The Secondary Years”.  One of these little tales, entitled “A Piece of Plywood” may just jog a few memories as it portrays a teacher I called Frank Ryman, who is very much like the old art teacher who inspired me so much all those years ago. Of course I didn’t always live up to his expectations!

A  PIECE OF PLYWOOD

The old red brick walls of the school felt warm, while the tall windows set in frames of brown and cream flared in the bright afternoon sun high above the tarmac playground.  Around the corner of the building, worn smooth by a million fingers, stood a wooden cloakroom connected to the main block by an arched canopy.

Frank Ryman, the art teacher, stood by the entrance with his hands in his pockets glaring expectantly through his huge horn rimmed glasses. He always seemed untidy and chalky and never stopped pushing his specs back up his nose.

“Benson! Use your ruddy eyes lad!” he shouted as I collided with the dusty trouser legs. “Slow down boy!”

Restricted from further movement by a firm grip on my left ear I was instructed to go to the woodwork room and ask Mister Sutherland, Inky that is, for a piece of plywood.

“Tell him, about the size of an exercise book. An off cut will do. Oh yes,” he went on, releasing his vice like grip, “and try not to disable too many people on the way.”

Not a bad bloke old Ryman, dead sarcastic but always good for a laugh.  He often appeared to be grinning when he was ranting at you.

I walked fairly slowly past the new block. No need to rush I decided, after all I was on ‘Ryman business’…….  Read more

 

The Hint of Wonder in the Everyday

shutterstock_358582475 (1)

You’d have to be a pretty vain old grandad gristle to imagine you could write a story that would suddenly stop kids playing games on their phones and soak up every word; maybe even asking for more!  Well perhaps that’s just what every author believes they can achieve when he or she sets their words onto the page of a new book.

I’m sure I do; that is until some kid asks, ‘Grandad, whatever is a rocker box cover?’ or some such question, whereas if you’d have written escape velocity plus factor two, they would have understood immediately what it meant.

That’s the time you ask yourself, perhaps I should pen the stories that kids ask for, the sort of flash-bang adventures you find in most children’s book shops, where the beautifully illustrated covers portray a futuristic world of heroes or giant airborne creatures reminiscent of dinosaurs or domesticated dragons.

Stories we would all love to have written; or maybe not. You see there are people like me who still believe in the value of triggering that hint of wonder that can still be found in the everyday world that surrounds us; the plaintive echoes of a world long gone escaping from a gramophone that has to be wound up, or images of Laurel and Hardy, flickering on a silver screen that still have the ability to make us laugh.

Please don’t gasp ‘that’s just nostalgia’, when perhaps you really mean memories, the true links that bind one generation to the next and without which, quiet moments would be shallow indeed.

For me, these are the building blocks for stories, searching out the tiny and sometimes insignificant pictures trapped within our memories and fashioned into a beginning a middle and an end.

Of course, tales that can transport a child into some wondrous adventure in the outer reaches of space, or create the brave immortal heroes that will save the world from destruction, are valuable stories that need to be told.

But so too are the chronicles of the quiet creatures that inhabit the ordinary world, even the strange inanimate objects that are given a voice by so many authors and find a permanent place in our memories, objects such as little blue locomotives or even a fork and a spoon that once, we were told, jumped over the moon.

There are no dragons to be discovered along the track to Crosswart, or evil wizards poised to cast a spell on the unwary traveller passing through Aarons wood.  Only a very sad snail.  Even the Companions collecting the magenta liquid from the wood violets offer no threat, but may just help us to understand how our memories may triggered by the scent of violets carried on a summer breeze.

Working on this assumption it appears that I’m still a vain old grandad gristle who believes that such tales may just have a smidgen of value; simple stories that I love to write and very much hope will continue to be told.

Barry Freeman

 

 

 

 

 

Through the cobweb curtains

Whether the old spider lives under a broken flower pot, or perhaps in some dark corner of the window frame, our eight legged companion still demands the same respect. In my opinion it’s a brave man indeed that dares to brush away its silken trap with his bare hand.

     Hands up anyone who has ever owned a shed and never been greeted by a handsome cobweb curtain draped across the window.  It’s as natural as discovering that a colony of greenflies has just taken up residence on your favourite rose. So it seemed a good idea to use Cobweb Curtains as the title for a series of little tales about the collection of unusual objects that had taken up residence in Morris Wainwright’s garden shed.

scrao box hall
Scrap Box Hall

    Of course, I’m talking about Rusty Nail and her friends Sprocket and Young Pinion, as well as Wingsey Nut, the cross threaded wingnut, Springaling and the Two Faced Nut, whose constant arguing with himself often drives the others to distraction.

     These strange but endearing characters sprung to life out of some of my earliest memories, often recalled through a vale of cobweb curtains, when as a child in the late nineteen forties, I would delight in exploring the secret place below the bench in my Grandfather’s garage.

     I never ceased to be fascinated by the shape and feel of objects such as discarded sparking plugs, or mysterious acetylene lamps that I was told had once lit the way for an Edwardian cyclist.

     All this I discovered by the dim light of the sun, bouncing from tins of washers and split pins or an ageing oil can standing on the dust covered sill, as it peeped through the tiny window half obscured by a curtain of cobwebs.  I need only add the aroma of a warm radiator and a hint of petrol and I would be back there, sitting on the chrome bumper of the old Bantam that had just been put to bed by my Grandfather.

      I’m a child of the post war years and realize that since then the world has changed out of all recognition except, of course, for the cobweb curtains.  Whether the old spider lives under a broken flower pot, or perhaps in some dark corner of the window frame, our eight legged companion still demands the same respect. In my opinion it’s a brave man indeed that dares to brush away its silken trap with his bare hand.

     I imagine that the dark corners of sheds, barns and garages still grip the imagination of many youngsters eager to find some long forgotten cricket bat, or a Hornby with a string of red and cream carriages, only to be deterred by a great silken web draped across their discovery like a portcullis guarding a castle gate.

     In the same way perhaps, the old spider ensures the long term survival of Rusty Nail and Sprocket in Morris Wainwright’s garden shed. It would be comforting indeed to believe that such a delicate and intricate creation as a cobweb curtain was in some way responsible for keeping the secrets of Rusty, Sprocket and the others safe, that is, until now!

Barry Freeman

Cobweb Curtains