On our quest to trace Vine ancestors at Jevington, we spent a night at Hastings. It was my first visit and we were amazed by then tall black timber sheds for storage of seafaring equipment in days when everything was made of natural fibres. A friend showed us around the old town with wonderful old Tudor buildings, and walls jutting out at odd angles. Mellow light from bookshops and old pubs tempted us to linger. We dined with our friend and met her partner’s delightful sons. One lad draws wonderful cartoons of Donald Trump. The other had a delightful image of photographic images, with hand-written text in a style which perfectly complements the images.

The next morning, we took a train to Eastbourne. Melissa had looked up details of the bus to Jevington, including the number, but it wasn’t listed on the shelter. She asked everyone from passengers to other drivers, ‘Is this where the bus to…’ They looked blank. ‘Never seen that.’ We began to fear our ghost-bus would never arrive, or didn’t exist. Had it been cancelled? She asked one official looking gent in uniform. His bristling moustached seemed to confirm it. ‘Small community vehicle. Green and cream.’

We had about given up hope when the little bus drew up, almost apologetic. All its larger cousins, looked down their noses as it crept in and out. We stopped at the Eight Bells Pub, not open until 11. Promising ambience, we’d call back later. Wonderful country of the South Downs on every side, much of it still owned by the Dukes of Devonshire.  Not much opportunity for a young couple to acquire their own property then, as now. Probably little changed since they left for Australia in 1884Fields with horses in jackets, fluffy trees on hills. And set off to explore. Walked along the busy road – narrow, edged with leaves turned into mud, no footpath.

Avoiding ruts and water, we reached St Andrew’s Church, Jevington. A squat building in local flint and green sandstone, it dated back a thousand years. The broad proportions of the unbuttressed tower seen as 11th c . Arched headings of outside windows made from re-used Roman bricks. Seems a Roman road once passed through Jevington, and a Roman coin was picked up in the churchyard. It has a Saxon defensive tower, refuge against Viking raids on coastal villages. Seafaring connections are indicated by a rare anchor cross above the South porch and Nave Roof. The chancel dates to 1230, with a quirky mix of restoration architecture, from the original Saxon, to Norman, Roman, Victorian…

A Tudor Wagon Roof in the nave has alternating king posts and hammer beams. And a rare bell 1456-1486 ,is  one of two from the Medieval period.

A black marble tablet, memorial to one Rector Nathaniel Collier, highlights the dispute about the date of New Year. Did it start on 25th March, according to the old Julian calendar, or on 1st January as indicated by the new Gregorian one? The date was recorded as 1691/2. An Act of Parliament in 1752, finally confirmed New Years Day as 1st January. It must have seemed very confusing at the time.

Inside we admired framed historical images, depicting many of the above influences, from Saxon kings to our Vine ancestor who drew a map of the village in his time, and wrote of his recollections.

We wandered around the Jevington Churchyard. Was this tablet for a Sarah Pitcher the mother of our Sarah Jane, who married James Stephens at Eastbourne in 1877? There were several Vine headstones  of those who are probably relate

We viewed a rare Tapsell gate, characteristic of Sussex Churchyards.  Built of oak or other hardwood, with a central spindle to balance the gate, it is often reinforced by iron. It turns at the slightest touch and, when swung full circle, closes on stops of the gate posts. It requires half the radius of a conventional gate, and is excellent for keeping out livestock, or allowing coffin bears to pass through, without missing a beat. The design was first introduced two hundred and fifty years ago.

It was too muddy after recent rain to explore byways, but potholes provided lovely images of bare-branched trees. WordPress seems to have removed the option to add more than one photo to a posting, which is a pity, since visitors enjoy visual images

We lunched at the Eight Bells Inn, popular with walkers and locals alike. It dates back to the 18th C and it is strange to think of my ancestors dining or drinking there in the 1700s.It seems to be the hub of life in the environs, with all sorts of activities listed. The tiny village is served by a volunteer bus service twice weekly, so were lucky to be there on a Tuesday, with a return at 3.17 pm

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Your Etihad Business begins with a Priority Pass through boring old Customs, to the usual magical array of Duty-Free Liquor, French Perfumes, jewellery, chocolates enough to put on kilos…You resist temptation, regardless of Oscar Wilde’s famous injunction.

At the Etihad Kingsford Smith Lounge Reception Desk, an obsequious employee in white stores you goods until it’s time to leave. He accompanies you into a lift to the Lounge with acres of glass and a display of starters enough to make your mouth water. You join other Sybarites and Patricians at work or play, tapping away on computer keyboards or mobile screens, dining with wives, lovers or both. Every five minutes a black-clad minion walks by, giving the gleaming tiled floor another buff. It’s mirrored surface is bright enough to do your make-up. It puts even my friend, David’s obsessive-compulsive, housekeeping skills to shame!

A female waitress glides to your table, clad in formal noir, attire the occasion demands. Would Madame like iced water, juice, white or red wine from France… French Champagne Bubbles in your mouth… You try several starters. Your taste buds zing. A gentleman offers succulent dates that melt on your tongue. Then Madame orders from the wide menu and fillet steak slices, with potato and parsnip mash appear.

Along the corridor to the loo, other minions stand to attention, lest you lose your way. With your flight about to depart, you walk through the hoi polloi to a small area reserved for Business Class Passengers like me. It’s easy to see one could become accustomed to this heady lifestyle.

In the aircraft, you are shown to your seat cum bed – almost like a mini cabin, really. The TV has a 17” screen, which was once the norm for homes all over the country – not bad for aircraft travel. Certainly bigger than the ones in Tourist. One can dine at any time of your choosing, so hostesses move to and fro, forever on the go. I think of their tired legs in those high heels.

In the cabin across from mine, I see a man whom, at first glance, appears to be in a pyjama top, legs and torso covered by a blanket. Then I notice the large emerald ring, another with diamonds, and decide it’s a woman. Then glimpse the hand- it’s definitely that of a man. Or not. I never did decide. Glances avoid glances. We take our places as if we are invisible: I guess it’s not done to notice others are there. So in silence and blindness we share – yet avoid sharing – our delusions of grandeur.

What would Madame like for dinner? Have another glass of the Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve French Champagne – what other type is there? Figure I’d rather sleep, rocked off by the ebb and flow of air-currents as the big aircraft floats through the long night

What would Madame like for Breakfast? Yoghurt and cereal with breads and Earl Grey tea is perfect. My plane bumps to earth on the tarmac of Abu Dhabi – definitely not a Magic Carpet arrival, I’m grateful the pilot flies better than he lands. I traverse a winding succession of corridors, buy a French Croissant with American dollars, find my departure gate, sit and wait. Don’t bother to seek out the Etihad lounge.

Another plane, another Business Class Cabin. Would Madame like red wine, white wine.. For starters, I sip a glass of French Champagne. I’m gradually figuring out how to operate all the accessories at my disposal, finding the way to open out the table, and lift the lid on my box of goodies. Order an A La Carte Luncheon. The hostess puts a damask tablecloth, with matching napkin, supplies silver. An excellent selection of appetizers teases my taste buds. Then my main, yummy chicken-breast, stuffed with sage and ricotta, with sides of fondant potato, kale and cranberries. I drink A Paul Comeau Sauvignon Blanc, Pouilly Fume- France 2015. Expressive floral and citrus meld into a core of yellow orchard fruit, apricot, mint and wildflowers of the region. A selection of cheeses follow with a ripe Camembert and very nice cheddar, artisan crackers, fruit and paste. Dessert follows. I chose a delicious orange crème brulee with Chenin dessert wine.

At Heathrow I have a fixed idea – catch a bus to Reading Station, same as last time, then the train to Bath Spa. Only, from that Terminal, the girl assures me, there is no bus to Reading. I’m incredulous. Another woman suggests the National Express Coach to Bath at 3.30 pm, about an hour’s wait. I privately dismiss that plan, thinking it’s too late, and wander off with my trolley, wondering what to do. Inside the Terminal, another national Express man suggests two stops on the train to Hayes and Harlington –    sounds ideal. I ask, Are there lifts? He assures me in the affirmative.

On arrival I rename it Hayes, Hell and   Harlington.    Dozens of stairs. No lift. I have no intention of hefting two cases etc up and down stairs. Nobody offers to help. Had I been twenty and pretty… They suggest a train to Paddington station, and a direct ride back to Bath Spa. By then I know the National Express Coach at 3.30 pm had been the perfect option. Madame will just have to be wiser next time.

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Sad to say some folk are denied the joy of poetry. Bad teaching at school made it punishment, not pleasure, and they loathe it with a passion. I’m lucky to have always enjoyed reading –and writing – it, ever on the quest to improve. Like many of my fellow enthusiasts, we workshop our efforts and send them off to small poetry journals. This month I feel privileged to have had four of mine printed in ‘Mozzie.’

The poem below was written on a day out , near Bath, south-west England when a peaceful drive suddenly took on a turn for the worse. The driver little knew he had a back-seat poet on the lookout for material!


his aristocratic confidence knows
no bounds   some call it noble
arrogance    that self-satisfaction

regardless of achievements
or knowledge of the route
and don’t remind him how he

reacts  that tell-tale
blink     blink      blink
of a man   under stress

road barrier    change
direction     the problem
becomes entirely hers

he screams why didn’t you tell me
to take the side road?

This one was written one foggy morning in Bath.

the sky and hills are gone
this morning   someone
stole them overnight

even the trees are missing
streets and houses shiver
beyond that curtain
of white

it gives me the scares
will i be next?

With rising costs of child-care, and unaffordable housing, many grandparents find themselves as regular babysitters, at a time when they might have hoped for some free time to indulge their hobbies and passions. Others take up the task when their children can’t manage the parental role. But, sadly, there are some who don’t get the chance to interact with their grandchildren at all.

huge distress   denied access
to my grandson   if i can’t
hope   what’s the point?

yearning for that knock on the door
if I was wrong  can’t I be forgiven?
just pick up the phone  and call home

didn’t even know his name until last week
saw his photo on Facebook  i’m aching   to
share secrets    show him the beauty

and magic of  life   i’d cherish his heavy
innocence   asleep in my arms   be joyful
over milestones first tooth  steps  words …

grandparents   conspirators of love
help make their young all they can be

Finally ,a thought  for all those writers – or others -whose efforts in the creative field, fails to meet their goals. All I need is one more lifetime to write that bestseller…

of study and striving   perfection
a distant atoll   glimpsed from my
shingled shore of self-education

i’ve struggled to create the perfect
novel    have my lyrical poems astound
wavelets of hope   foam and groan

around my toes   sand  sinking ‘neath
my feet   tries hard  screeches a seagull
but does not always succeed

very good   mutters a crab   walking sideways
at some things  in the music of air and sea i
know for me  this is the way it’s meant to be

yet nothing can replace the joy of creation
success? Well yes   i’ve done my best


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I’ve had a lazy Saturday tweaking my poetry. It’s wonderful how one can transform a mediocre first draft of anything – whether prose or poetry – into something pleasing to the ear and eye. Often it needs a second, third or even subsequent visit. The work  reveals itself to you in ways that weren’t obvious before. That’s part of the joy of writing.

I have lots of these fragments in my poetry  repertoire, many of which have now been breathed into life. They’re almost ready to share with my poetry group. We meet every Wednesday night at the Writers’ Centre and it’s great to receive input from  experienced poets. And it’s always a pleasure to see our work in one of the magazines and or online.

As I mentioned last time,  I have another reason to rejoice. My novel, LETTERS FROM A DIGGER  is with the printer. Like thousands of young women in 1916, Allie Wakeling waits for the precious letters from her fiancé fighting for freedom on the Western Front in France. The remarkable love story of Allie Wakeling and Billy Wraxall begins at a cricket match in the summer of their young lives when their future promises happiness and children in the bright days of innocence in the early twentieth century.

 But by 1914 the clouds of war threaten to destroy the world and the age of integrity seems lost forever. Young men like Billy who answer the call for King and Empire fight the enemy in conditions that will scar them for the rest of their lives.

 Allie’s story depicts the bravery of these young men and the courage of the women who stayed behind, praying they would come home.

 Billy returns to a world that has changed forever. As Allie and Billy begin their lives together, they fight against the injuries of war until tragedy finally overcomes them.

 Then, against a background of the Great Depression, a new life begins… a life that brings happiness and joy but also a difficult secret that must one day be revealed.

 I now have a date for the launch of LETTERS FROM A DIGGER :at the NSW Writers Centre on Friday 28th October. The time is racing by and I’m really getting excited, as the time draws near.

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It is pleasing to know how books help break down barriers and build relationships. My daughter was in hospital – on holiday from the UK, she underwent emergency surgery in Sydney. Sincere thanks to St Vincent’s Hospital which gave her the wonderful care needed.

She happened to overhear another patient saying she had trained as a nurse at the RAHC  – the Childrens’ hospital  – in the fifties. They struck up a friendship and spent an hour swapping stories of the shared experiences of nurses from that era. During the conversation, Melissa gave Joy a copy of my novel, BLACK STOCKINGS, WHITE VEIL – A TALE OF ADVERSITY, TRIUMPH AND ROMANCE AT ROYAL PRINCE ALFRED HOSPITAL. It celebrated 50 years since my graduation as young registered nurse, the Class of 1962. And was a Finalist in the 2009 Indie Book Awards.

Back in the fifties, Joy and a couple of nursing buddies were seconded to RPAH for six months to undergo adult nurse training. So they actually trod the long corridors in which this story is set, appreciating it from a hands-on perspective. As Joy wrote, ‘ I cherished every word savouring memories and nostalgia. Thank you for your wonderful, personal and insightful story of that memorable time in our lives.’

It’s lovely to know this story is being read and enjoyed by a wide variety of folk. Being of historical interest to the profession, it has a timeless quality. Hospitals and technology have changed dramatically since the 1950s and nurses are now educated at universities.  It shows how things were when nurses lived in nun-like seclusion of Nurses’ Homes, with late Passes and strict curfews. This book is of interest to those who have ever visited a hospital, been a patient, trained as a nurse, graduated as a doctor, or those who simply take pleasure in hospital tales.

Since the release of BLACK STOCKINGS in 2008, I have been co-editor on two anthologies of poetry and prose from the Women Writers Network at the NSW Writers Centre.  Our WOMEN’S WORK was a Finalist in the 2010 New Generation Ippy Awards in the Womens’ interest Anthology section. BARE, another quirky collection, has been well received and reviewed, praised for both overall design and content.

I have also been developing three further novels. The first to be finished, LETTERS FROM A DIGGER, the first of a duo, has just emerged from my editor. Billy Wraxall’s beguiling letters to fiancée, Allie, depict his risky voyage on the Osterley to Egypt. Vivid images of Cairo are soon followed by the beauty of France and dangers at the front…The manuscript is now with the printer.  The novel will be launched in October this year.



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Our Lady atop Lourdes Cathedral

Our Lady atop Lourdes Cathedral

The many testimonials to cures at Lourdes include these

The many testimonials to cures at Lourdes include these

I added my candle to the flickering throng

I added my candle to the flickering throng

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We were about to arrive. Bathtubs of water poured down the coach windows and drenched

The door of life, Lourdes Cathedral

The door of life, Lourdes Cathedral

the town. In the crisp breeze roofs dripped, streams raced along gutters, trees shaking off showers of raindrops. I offered prayers for a fine day, and others did the same. Gloomily, we donned wet weather gear. The moment we stepped out, the skies cleared, brilliant light glittering from the wet footpath. Our first miracle!



Lourdes is in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It became world famous in 1858 following the visions of a young peasant girl, Marie-Bernadette Soubirous . She claimed the Virgin Mary had appeared and spoken to her on eighteen separate occasions. Nobody took her seriously. Everyone laughed when she claimed the Virgin Mary had told her to dig in a certain spot in the Massabiello Grotto and a spring would burst forth. Drink the water, the vision told her. It will heal the sick.

One day a spring gushed forth. No special qualities were found in the water yet, many cases of healing took place. People stopped laughing. Plaques in the Rosary Basilica attest to grateful patients who had bathed in the waters. Today, a stream of hopefuls are brought on stretchers. Some arrive in wheelchairs. Others hobble on sticks.

This quiet town soon became an important pilgrimage destination. In the Catholic religion, it’s now renowned as a place of miraculous healing. Visitor numbers are second only to Rome and the Holy Land. It’s also the second most important tourism site in France.



The Grotto, Lourdes

The Grotto, Lourdes

Bernadette’s grotto is decorated with lovely flowers. I was expecting some huge cavern, where one could wander at leisure. But an atmosphere of reverence made up for the modest size. The spring site is protected by glass, surrounding rocks worn smooth from the caress of pilgrim fingers. There are lots of places to collect holy water. I filled a small Our Lady bottle. My suitcase didn’t stretch to the litres some folk carried away.

But, having had our miracle, who could complain?



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The Loire Valley is a rich area of gardens and orchards, inhabited since the middle Paleolithic period. Famed for many Chateaux, the one I visited was Chenonceau, built between 1556 and 1576. It spans the river Cher and was a gift from Henry 11 to his mistress, the lovely Diane de Poitiers.

Chenonceau Chateau

Chenonceau Chateau

She adored the chateau and made extensions, also engaging a landscape architect to design magnificent flower and vegetable gardens.

When Henry died, his widow and regent, Catherine de Medici, forced her rival to exchange Chenonceau for another castle – not exactly a hardship but it must have been annoying to abandon a home which had made her happy, and one in which she probably hoped to end her days.

Chenonceau has had a number of



additions over the years, with beautiful galleries on two levels, and wonderful views over the water. On the day I visited it was redolent with the perfume of lilies; delightful flower arrangements from the gardens filled every room.

During the First World War, Chenonceau became a hospital. It treated over two thousand two hundred and fifty four causalities. On the 31st December, 1918, the last patient was discharged from the chateau.

The castle spans both banks of the river. The little adventure I am about to relate is funny now, but seemed a crisis at the time!

Late in the afternoon, ready to leave, I faced a locked door at one end of the gallery. Convinced it was the one where I’d entered, and thinking the coach was in that direction, I asked how to reach the opposite bank. I was dismayed when a receptionist told me the door couldn’t possibly be opened: I’d have to cross by the bridge. Far off in the distance, I could see le pont, and she confirmed my worst fears by saying it was a long way.



The last thing I wanted was to be late, or worse, miss the coach. Close to panic, I rushed across the beautiful gardens and set off at speed once along a pretty path in the woods. The bridge never seemed to get any closer. Hot and perspiring, I plodded on. Half an hour came and went. By then, both path and bridge had vanished. Faced with thick bushes ahead, there was nothing for it but to turn back, and even less time to lose. They must





open that door! On the way I practised my hissy fit, in French. J’etais une dame trop agee pour marcher aussi loin. On doit ouvrir la porte etc etc. I was too old to walk that far. They must open the door…

Amazingly, they understood my French and responded in kind. A woman nearby immediately offered to show me the way. What a fool I felt. I’d been on the correct side of the river all along! We chatted in French all the way, a rare chance to do so, with everyone except the guide speaking only English.



I arrived five minutes before the coach was due to leave. Phew!

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Post Impressionist painter

Post Impressionist painter

The amphitheatre has 33 rows of seats; in Roman times the actors were all men. The arena, was built on two levels, where 20,000 people could watch blood sports, gladiators pitted against wild animals. The site was in use until the end of the 5th C. Then the Barbarians moved into Roman buildings, living inside the arena. They utilized stones from Roman buildings to make their own.

In medieval times, the 5th to 9th C, Arles was invaded by Visigoths, Barbarians and Saracens, which sent the city into decline. Yet, throughout the Middle Ages, it became a centre for Jewish scholars, translators and philosophers.

E'SPACE de VINCENT VAN GOGH Garden courtyard of hospital where he spent time

E’SPACE de VINCENT VAN GOGH Garden courtyard

Most of us associate Arles with one of the art world’s most famous sons, the Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. He lived in the city from 1888 to1889. A great admirer of the Provencal landscape, he produced hundreds of paintings and drawings in the region, including some of his most famous: Night Café, Starry Night, L’Arlesienne and Over the Rhone.

We lingered in the garden courtyard of the Old Arles Hospital where Vincent spent time during his mental illness, now named, L’espace Van Gogh. Decorated in yellow as in the painting, the building is now a centre for his work including several masterpieces. Everywhere in the streets one sees replicas of his work.



People used elements from Roman buildings in their houses or embellished them with ancient  fragments from that time

Decorative fragments on a wall

Decorative fragments on a wall

 BULLFIGHT POSTER  Provencal-style bullfights still take place in the Roman Amphitheatre. Athletic men attempt to remove ribbons and a tassel from the animal’s horns, hoping to avoid getting gored. Happily, the bull isn’t killed or hurt as in the Spanish variety.

Provencal-style bullfights still take place in the Roman Amphitheatre. Athletic men attempt to remove ribbons and a tassel from the animal’s horns, hoping to avoid getting gored. Happily, the bull isn’t killed or hurt as in the Spanish variety.



Cameras clicked at these umbrellas displayed above the street. I waited to capture the reflections in windshields and bonnets of passing cars.

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Vineyards glow in the morning light, surrounded by ancient walls decorated with moss. Crumbling ruins dot the fields, testament to the beauty of past architecture. In steep, cobbled streets of the town, we imagine occupation of the region stretching back to Neolithic times, the many caves making perfect homes for primitive tribes.

Situated on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the village name was inspired by a monk from Brittany. Interestingly, after Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet, in 1152, it was ruled by the Angevin King of England, Henry 11.

In the 8th C, Emilion, a Breton monk fleeing persecution from the Benedictine order, took up residence in one of the many grottoes carved into rocks. He lived there for the last seventeen years of his life, performing miracles and attracting a big following.

It is said Romans planted the first grapes at St Emilion in the 2nd C, shortly before the end of their occupation. Many monks joined Emilion. They recognized the quality of the wine being produced, and its commercial possibilities. Since then, St Emilion has grown into one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux, which is the largest wine growing area in France. Most of the best wines are blended, typically 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Monolithic Church was built in the 12th C, after St Emilion’s death, and is on three levels. First a pilgrim site and now World Heritage, I was surprised at the vast space and high, vaulted ceilings cut out of the limestone beneath the medieval town. Most of the church pictures and treasures were sold during the French Revolution, and many of the frescoes have been destroyed.

By the 18th C, the church suffered severe structural weakness and risked collapse, due to constant infiltration of water into supporting stone columns. Initial attempts at a solution only exacerbated the problems.

A team of European geologists, engineers, architects and international experts conferred, eventually developing measures which have rendered the building safe. Two rows of columns, surrounded by protective metal bars are part of the solution, which also includes restored drainage, part of the original concept.

In the dim light we took care walking on the uneven dirt floor. Gazing at Emilion’s bed we noted he was a man of small stature. And there was his chair, carved into the wall. Women who wish to conceive sit there now, and the miracle happens…A nearby spring is also said to possess magical powers. Anyway, miracles or not, we decide Emilion deserved to become a saint, spending so much of his lifetime underground, and in dim candle light. A few clusters of ferns grow there now, beneath electric lights.

Outside in glaring sun, we glimpsed the tower of the Monolithic church against a brassy sky. I felt ravenous, more than ready enjoy our luncheon of Fromage de Chevre in puff pastry, Coq Au Vin and Soup au Fruit. As for le vin rouge, it was the finest of our trip – we were still talking of it days later. There’s only one word for it: superbe!

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