Tag Archives: Image

Wales: Land of myths and legends. St Winifred, Caradog and a domestic!

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Wales has a strong culture of the Arts. Today that can be seen in the International Eisteddfod and a continuing oral and musical tradition stretching from Male Voice choirs, to harpistry to internationally popular musical bands.

Each area has its own myths and legends and this story comes from Holywell, a few miles from Rhyl…

Mad, bad or humble? 

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My dad’s part in Adolf’s downfall…

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A search for family photos turned up a little scrapbook of pictures of my dad’s family in the twenties and thirties. My dad featured heavily, being the youngest child with three sisters and an older brother.

I’ve seen the full size picture on display in both my auntie Margaret’s and Auntie Olwen’s house.

My dad had a life of promising full starts. He passed to go to the Grammar School in Rhyl, only for the Great Depression to intervene and prevent his dad, who was a parquet floor layer, being able to afford to buy the books and uniform. My dad had to get working and was at the start of a promising career as a store manager at George Masons, the International Grocer’s, when weeks before he was due to start the management course, a certain unpleasantness in Europe called for his attention and he was away to a Welsh Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

The family had originally lived in the courtyard in Greenfield Place, roughly where the Marks and Spencer store was built on the High Street. Ironically, my Auntie Margaret, mentioned elsewhere on the blog spent all her working life of forty years working in the Rhyl Store of Marks and Spencer!

The family had moved to the last house on the left hand side of King’s Avenue, no 24 and the picture shows my dad home on leave, pictured with his mum outside the house. Until he joined the army, my dad used to climb the wall from the entry behind Kinmel Street to get in the house, later a gate was installed in the adjoining street which allowed easier access through Oxford Grove.

His mum was already quite frail in this picture taken in 1940. As she got more frail, the doctor suggested that the family club together to buy her bread and milk, as they could not afford the required palliative medicine. It was experiences like this that made my dad a great supporter of the NHS system. He thought that if him and the lads from Rhyl were good enough to be fighting and dying for their country, it shouldn’t be down to wealth as to whether you got medical treatment.

My dad served in a Heavy Anti Aircraft Artillery Regiment, manning the 3.7in anti aircraft guns.  His role was as the predictor. This involved doing calculations with rudimentary computing instrument to determine the height and direction of the enemy aircraft and then setting the fuses of the shells to the correct setting. He always was good with maths, and he was promoted to lance and then full bombardier.

During the war he saw service defending Liverpool from the Luftwaffe. He told me of the night when a Junkers 88 was shot down in the marshes of the Dee and having been involved in the barrage they were detailed to go and collect any downed airmen. They arrived at the aircraft just before a crowd of locals who were intent on lynching any surviving members of the crew. He said one was an officer and full of himself, another was a flight sergeant, who was terrified and crying and the rest of the crew were dead. Apparently they had to fix bayonets, more to protect the prisoners than to escort them as tempers were running so high!

He went over to the continent a week after D-day and headed north through Belgium and then to shell the Germans defending Walcheren Island, which were preventing the Allies sending supplies up to the port of Antwerp. They kept up random shelling every 24 hours to ensure that the Germans on the island were worn down without sleep and with diminishing supplies. He ended the war guarding what remained of the German High Seas fleet at Wilhelmshaven. He was billeted at one pint on the Prinz Eugen, which he remembered as a rat infested hulk. Prinz Eugen was later given to the Americans and was expended in the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.

In the sixties there were a couple of years when our family seemingly ‘ never had it so good’ and we holidayed in 1967 in Ostend in Belgium. We took coach tours most days, including ones to Ghent, Bruges and Brussels. My dad was obsessed with finding a town square where he had been billeted… a faint hope in towns marked by myriad town squares, all of which looked like the next, still I enjoyed hunting with him as he was more forthcoming about his wartime exploits.

Looking at the photograph, I think there was a competition in the services to see which regiment could wear their forage cap as the jauntiest angle!

I would have recognised my dad, as he did not change in facial features in all the time I knew him!

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Where to find the Reso Trilogy Books

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If you are looking to buy a Reso Trilogy book, ake sure the publisher is JLB Learning Innovation.

If it shows Kings Hart Books, my former publisher, the company stopped trading a few years back and the book will be unavailable through them.

Probably the cheapest route to buying them is through Amazon marketplace, but nothing beats ordering them from an independent publisher.

Resolution

 

Having been vindicated by a publisher picking up the books, which for me suggested there was some value in them, and it wasn’t simply a vanity project, I decided to embark on self-publishing on a print on demand basis. I would recommend it for new writers as the big players like Ingram Spark cover all the incidental costs and help with marketing.

In theory, my books should always be available as long as you look for them under the publisher JLB Learning innovation. If you look under Kings Hart, you are likely to be disappointed.

The Reso - A Sixties Childhood

 

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Rhyl High Street at Armistice Celebrations 1918

This little grainy gem was plucked from one of my mum’s biscuit tins of precious things which resurfaced at the weekend after many years in forgotten storage.

It shows the High Street in Rhyl preparing to celebrate the Armistice to the First World War in 1918, in which the town, like so many others,  had paid so heavy a price.

My Nain had recently arrived in Rhyl to stay in the Children’s Convalescent Hospital, which became the Royal Alexandra Hospital, following an appendectomy. She so enjoyed life on the coast that she settled in the town and from that decision comes all our family.

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What a connected world!

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It is our 37th Wedding Anniversary today. On this day in 1981 Jane and I shared one of the 3 happiest days in our lives. The others being when our children are born.

I posted this letter up on Facebook by way of celebration. I hardly recognise myself as the same person as the one pictured here and the mirror testifies to that daily. Yet I know I am exactly the same person inside. That is both a comforting and disturbing thought – that the years that have passed, and the experiences in them, have both changed me radically and not at all.

I’ve had a stunning number of replies from Facebook friends, which is some testimony to the positive power of the internet on the day that Mark Zuckenberg testifies before Congressional Committee.

Amongst those friends I’ve communicated with today are my earliest playmates on the Reso housing estate in Rhyl, friends from other areas of Rhyl who I joined up with in primary and secondary school – what an amazing melting pot is formal education – giving us our first taste of swimming in humanity and making the friends that, if we are particularly lucky, will stay with us a lifetime, despite the diaspora of work careers and aspirations.

Of course, my family have also responded. At this stage, I’d group my family into three columns, those older than me, of whom there are too few left and whom I treat with respect; those who I have managed to spend a lifetime winding up, and those who have spent their lifetime winding me up. For the latter two groups we always remain about 7 years of age in our mentality. A further group are family members recently discovered or re-acquainted with, through investigations into our family tree made by my Conway family. Which group they will enter is undecided, but provisionally I think they are destined for column 2.

Another group are work colleagues, perhaps fewer than you might expect, especially from my early career as time has taken their toll. The wonderful nature of my chosen career in teaching, for all its other woes, is that I’m in contact with people I taught from the time of my wedding onwards. They too, in my head, remain the age I remember them as students, although as one reminded me the other day, they are now solidly in middle age now. I’m so pleased to have such brilliant and caring people in my life and am proud, on reflection, to have been able to see them turn out to be so successful as human beings, despite exposure to my teaching in their formative age.

I’ve second generation friends who came into my orbit through friendship with our children, Luke and Owen. Amongst all of them, I’ve never heard a bad word said about other members of the group and their friendship has survived the different paths they have all taken since school. They are currently helping each other celebrate marriages and new homes – such an exciting time for them all.

Then there are the people I have met more recently online, or in my travels. These span all the continents and include a number of astronauts and former directors of Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers, aviators and educationalists who share the passion for the power of learning to improve the condition of all from Argentina to Australia.

I look at all this joy and happiness and wonder how the world can be in such a bleak state for so many. I think in particular of a young friend, Nour, who I first came into contact with through a mentoring project. Nour is interested in learning English and attending her course at Gaza University. She loves cats and spending time with her friends. Nour is like the best of young people everywhere.

Nour and her family are currently under siege in Gaza for what seems to be the crime of being Palestinian at the worst time to be a Palestinian. Just like the Second World War was the probably the worst time to be a Jew.

I hope if you have a faith, you will think of Nour, her family and the rest of Palestine in your thoughts. If you have a faith and some spare money, I’d urge you to commit some to the medical and humanitarian relief effort in Gaza and Syria.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned in all these years is what my parents showed me by their words and example: there is no justice without fairness and compassion.

We need a lot more of that in our world today – some of us have it in abundance and will be no poorer for sharing our good fortune around.

 

 

 

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