Sunday, 24 May 2015

Dunkirk 75th anniversary x

Today I'd like to tell you the story of how history and family come together as one. As many of you may have seen on the news this week, it is the 75th anniversary of the rescue of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk when Germany invaded France in 1940. This rescue mission involved not only the Navy but many hundreds of local Kent boat owners who risked their lives to go across The Channel to rescue those soldiers they could. The story of "the little boats" is famous in this country. Between May 26 and June 4 1940, 338,000 troops were evacuated under Operation Dynamo. This effort also led to Winston Churchill's famous speech given to Parliament on June 4, 1940.........................

"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

This was a very long speech and can be read in full here.

This has a very personal link for me and my family as my dad's father, Jack Sowerby was critically wounded and rescued from there on 31 May 1940. My grandad was an amazing man and I thought I would share a little bit of his story as a memorial to not only his experiences but those of the thousands of men who were injured, killed or captured as POWs at that time.

My grandad was born in Co Durham and he joined the Coldstream Guards in 1932 aged 18 years old. I am very lucky to have copies of his attestation papers in my family history files. These are papers signed when a new soldier signs up and follow him through his career. He was given these by the Coldstream Guards many years ago when my dad arranged a surprise visit for him to their barracks in Chelsea.

This picture is my grandad in his full Coldstream Guards uniform. It's not a great shot as it is a frame so reflects I'm afraid.

My grandad served with the Coldstream Guards, met my grandma and had my dad Gary in 1938. He remained in the Guards and was sent to France in 1939 as the German army began trying to invade other European countries. My grandad was in the 2nd battalion Coldstream Guards for all of his career.

This is a picture from a book my dad owns of all the Sergeants, including grandad, before leaving Aldershot

My grandad is the middle man in the row of three.

From his attestation papers, he was sent with his platoon to France in September 1939 and they eventually found themselves in a small town called Bachy, which is not far from Lille.

My parents has visited the town before and there is a painting inside the station of a Coldstream Guard in full regalia. My dad spoke to a French gentleman who said that the townspeople are forever grateful for the protection the Guards provided them.

As the invading forces moved onwards, the Guards became embroiled in many skirmishes and many were killed or injured. My grandad once told us the story of how his commanding officer requested that he transfer his break in the UK and grandad came home early. On his return to France, he found that his commanding officer and platoon had all been killed in a skirmish which my grandad would also have been involved in if he'd not altered his leave. My grandad always said that he save his life by asking him to go home early.

In my research for this post, I found some fascinating details in the 2nd battalion's war diaries. Most of them have been destroyed but there are some parts which have been transcribed on a website dedicated to WW2. These diaries enable you to get a clearer picture of the experiences my grandad would have had during his time in France.

The main parts that I read described the days after the Germans invaded France and the soldiers had to move back towards the coast as the German forces moved upwards trying to cut them off. The nearest place to get to was the beaches around Dunkirk. The war diaries clearly describe the mass evacuation not only of the soldiers but also of the French people trying to escape through the roads, and you get a real sense of fear as many of these roads made the evacuating people open to the German planes who shot at and killed and injured many evacuees. Often the roads became blocked by destroyed vehicles and dead bodies. It must have been horrific.

Eventually, the 2nd battalion ended up in a place called La Basse Canal where they attempted to hold the Germans back thus enabling the other British and German soldiers to be evacuated from Dunkirk. As I read these diary pages, I came across this section from May 31, 1940................

This shocked and surprised me, as so many soldiers were injured it seemed incredible that my grandad's name, Sergeant Sowerby was mentioned. However, it must be remembered that there could have been another Sowerby injured in the same way and at the same time. I would love to think that it was my grandad but we will never know for sure. My grandad was injured on 31 May and was in Carrier Troop though so it could be him..

My grandad was so badly injured, he had a fractured skull, shrapnel injuries and bullet wounds to the skull as well. These are documented in his attestation papers. We are not sure which boats brought him back to Dover Castle, however he was very lucky to come home and receive the specialist care he needed as many soldiers and sailors died in the boats before they even began to return across The Channel. Many soldiers were killed on the beaches themselves as they were easy targets for the planes.

After returning to England, my grandad spent many months recovering in hospital in Hillingdon and Mill Hill initially for 4 months and then for a further 3 months in 1941.  He was also sent to Roehampton for aftercare. My grandad said he remembers waking up and seeing my grandma and my dad who was a toddler at the end of his bed. My grandad was eventually discharged from the Coldstream Guards in 1941 for medical reasons and because he had what they called "neurosis". I am sure that these days we would call that Post-traumatic stress disorder.

On his papers, his commanding officer wrote:

" Military conduct - Exemplary, A steady, smart, hardworking and intelligent NCO who has done (unclear writing) throughout his period of mobilisation.............. Disability - multiple gunshot wounds to the head"

As a young girl, I remember my grandad had little hair and he had what he called "his dimples" which I would put my fingers into and laugh little knowing that these were in fact the scars of his wounds. He suffered from debilitating headaches for the rest of his life but considering he was only given 10 years to live after Dunkirk, he managed to survive until 1994 when he sadly died as a result of an aortic aneurysm in his abdomen.

In my family, we are very proud of his achievements in the Guards and so was he. He was a member of the Dunkirk Veterans Association and travelled back to Dunkirk for the 40th anniversary of those events in 1985. This is his certificate................

And his medals......................

As so many of the soldiers who fought for our freedom are now no longer with us due to age and infirmity, I am so very glad to be able to continue to tell some of my grandad's story so that he, and his comrades, will not be forgotten.

Some of the 2015 veterans in Dunkirk, they are all in their 90s, from The Telegraph

The Allied Beaches Memorial, Dunkirk

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Jay Bell - Something like series x

Today is a special day.................

yes it's Wednesday, middle of the working week, hump day and also drum roll............

the publication of Jay's 10th book.

photo owned by Jay Bell

Jay is an American writer living and working in Germany, where his husband Andreas was born. Jay writes the books and Andreas designs and draws all the illustrations for Jay's books. A husband and husband team of incredible creativity.

photo by Jay Bell

Above are all of Jay's books to date, the most recent is bottom right "Something like Thunder" which is the 6th in Jay's "Something like......." series. This series began with "Something like Summer" which is the first in the Seasons series and has now progressed into weather i.e. Lightning and Thunder.

This series follows the story of Ben and Tim, two high school students who following an accident become friends and then......................... well you'll have to read the stories now won't you.

I have read all Jay's books, except obviously this new one, although I could have, more on that later. What I love about the books Jay writes is his brilliant characterisation, the engaging stories of a wide variety of characters from all walks of life, romance, life and hope. I always come away feeling real hope when I've read one of Jay's books. The other brilliant concept is that certainly with Summer and Winter the stories are told from different points of view. Summer is primarily Ben's and Winter is Tim's. This provides such a wonderful insight into the parts of the books which were missing, it gives a breadth to the characters and introduces you to even more.

Autumn and Winter introduce new characters but with Ben and Tim well and truly interacting with them, whilst Thunder and Lightning give newer or smaller characters a chance to shine.

So onto  why I could have already read the latest book, Something Like Thunder.

Are you sitting comfortably? Well so was I last Friday afternoon, when there was a thud on my doorstep. Thinking it was a new telephone book, I left whatever it was for a while and about an hour later went to pick it up (sorry Jay).

To my surprise there was a padded envelope with lovely stamps on it.

"What did I order that I forgot about?"

On examination, it was from Jay. "What is he sending me?" I wonder (Jay and I have corresponded for a while via email, Facebook etc).

Opening the parcel, out comes a copy of "Something like Thunder" to which I say another "What?" and 2 pieces of A4 paper.

On said paper pieces are three emails we had shared back in August and September 2013 to which I give another "What?"

On the back is a handwritten note from Jay saying................

Hi Jo!
Surprise! Remember this email exchange? I hope you like the end result. Please keep the details secret until the book has been out for a while. We don't to spoil it for anyone!
Thanks much for everything!

To wit another "What?"

So I re-read the emails and go "Oh yeah, we had a conversation about a plot point and I told Jay about an idea I had". Thinking no more I open the book to have a sneak and come to the Acknowledgements page and see this.............

To which, I have a few freaking out moments using certain language not necessarily heard from this lady's lips. Have another look, freak out a bit more then laugh and wander around in a daze with a stupid grin on my face before sending a gushing fangirl email to Jay.

And Jay, being the lovely gentleman he is didn't run for the German mountains with Andreas but sent me the loveliest reply telling me he'd planned it all as a surprise and how my idea had just happened to work for this novel.

I've only told a few people, mainly mum and dad. This led to a hilarious exchange on Saturday.

Me: So what do you think?

The Mother: So your names in this book?

Me: Yes.

The Mother: So is it only in your book then?

Me: No, it will be in all the copies of the book people buy across the world.

The Mother: so it's quite a big thing then really?

Me: Yes

The Mother: Well isn't that nice.

Yes, actually it is Mum lol.

Now as a hater of spoilers, I know not to tell you guys what my idea was or how Jay made it come to life. Indeed, not even I'm sure quite how it's going to roll out because my copy is now virgin territory. It is one of only 3 proof copies in the world and I want to bu another copy to read so this one remains special.

I am looking forward to seeing how Jay's wonderful characters progress this time.

If you'd like to find out more about Jay then he blogs here and he will be celebrating big time for his 10th book.

Also Something like Summer is about to become a movie in the USA, filming begins this summer and I cannot be more happy for both Jay and Andreas as they move into a new chapter for the books and the characters they've brought to life.

I am sure all Jay's fans will agree he so deserves this recognition and wish him great big congratulations for number 10.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Two on Tuesday x

Wow another week gone and it's Two on Tuesday.

So I hope you've all recovered from the brilliant weekend of Focusing on your crafting with Jennifer Grace. I have to say she truly outdid herself with the crafting this time, I was super impressed. I popped over to most of the posts but I have chosen just one to focus on today as it is something anyone can do and it has such an impact. Make an inspiration wall...........................

I chose this because it is such a simple idea but really, really effective. You can do it absolutely anywhere really. Jennifer used a door and we almost all have a spare one of those, but you could use a wall, pinboard, a canvas, a big frame and lots of other ideas to focus you.
I know I have quite a few bits that are in my craft room hidden away which I could get out and produce a focused area all of my own and it looked really simple. If you go to Jennifer's blog, there is a process video to watch too so you can get an idea of how she put the whole wall together.

If you'd like further inspiration then there are tons of great links on Pinterest of course. I found these 2 ideas for renters like myself.....................

 photo from here
In the picture above, washi tape has been used to both frame and also hang pictures on the wall. The beauty of washi tape is it doesn't affect the paintwork so you shouldn't have any problems with your landlord when you move out. All you have to do is alter the washi tape when you want to refresh you inspiration wall.

photo from here
Here is another excellent idea using an old shutter, or a louvred door. I've seen these used on DIY shows for magazine holders, records and books and you can just take this with you when you move and respray it different colours to suite your mood.

And on a personal note, Mandy from A Teacup of Scrapisms sent me a lovely comment based on my bloghop post which you can read here. She was so inspired by my journal and ideas that she's begun one of her own. Thank you so much Mandy, blogfriends are brilliant.

My second offering today is your own personal Sheldon Cooper amigurami doll. I LOVE The Big Bang Theory, it is by far the best comedy programme I watch and I would love to have my own Sheldon to sing me soft kitty when I'm ill.

If you can't afford your own Sheldon, I'm sure he's way out of my price range, then why not crochet one. A(mi]dorable Crochet has the perfect pocket sized pattern for you here.

Furthermore, Jackie has patterns for most of the Big Bang gang. Here's Amy............

and if that wasn't enough Jackie gave the real Sheldon his own version which he shared on US TV. Go Jackie.
You need to go to about 2.30 minutes in for that part......................

Have a happy Tuesday x

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Focus Your Craft and Soul bloghop x

Good evening welcome to the next part of Jennifer Grace's bloghop in celebration of her latest blog event.

You should have arrived here from K's Crafty Corner or perhaps you hopped over from Bloglovin. However you arrive, do be sure to hop over to Jennifer's blog and follow all the other lovely blogposts, not only because it'll be a beautiful trip but also because you could win a fabulous giveaway. 

This is the rather aptly named "Shine" Insta album kit set you could win courtesy of  WRK. Enter to win by commenting on all the blogs in the Focus Your Craft & Soul hop! The giveaway closes on Sunday the 24th of May at 10pm BST, and is open internationally".

For me, crafting is all about relaxation and to be honest at the moment, I'm really busy so my relaxation times are small. In order to maintain some semblance of creativity, which helps my mental health no end, and to not get bogged down in the daily routines of life, I began doing a small piece of creative activity everyday after I've had my supper.

I have begun keeping a creative book and I'm following 2 projects on Instagram which I found via Amy Tangerine's blog and Instagram account. These 2 projects help keep me focused on being creative everyday without having to get out a load of scrapbooking supplies or taking a huge amount of time when I'm tired or just unmotivated.

This is one of the great things about blogging and using social media - the joy of finding something which inspired you to be creative in new and interesting ways. 

The first project I'm doing is called the Creative Midori Challenge and is the brainchild of Florence Antonette on Instagram aka livelifeandcreate . Every month she sets a daily topic for you to be creative with, this month's May can be found here . I like the fact that the topics are slightly off the wall some days and I have to think a bit before creating my page but also they are brief and I can do as little or as much as I feel up for.

Here are a couple of my pages............

The second challenge project is by Cori aka  The Reset Girl. Again each month,  Cori compiles a daily listing topic and you base your creative activity on that. I use the same journal for this project and much like Amy Tangerine I have one side of the page for my listing challenge and the other for the creative midori challenge. Here are a few of my lists..........

What really focuses me on these projects is that it is so simple and quick. I have a tray in my lounge with all the basic bits I use for the projects. It has my journal which was 99 pence from The Works, my watercolour paints, brushes, a StazOn ink pad, some washi tapes, some stamps, a stamping block, pens, pencils, a few stickers - alphabets, quotes and sayings, and that is just about it.

Keeping this tray simple has meant I am focused on being creative rather than swamping myself with lots of choices. I can always add some extras on as I go along, but I am pretty much keeping it to those few bits. And so far I've done everyday for 15 days so that makes me very happy indeed.

Your next blogger is Jacky so hop on over and see what she had prepared for you. Have a wonderful time.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Two on Tuesday x

Good evening and a little later than usual, Two on Tuesday.

Rolling forward to this weekend, the incredibly talented Jennifer Grace is hosting another of her brilliant crafting weekends from this Friday 15 May at 6pm until Sunday evening. 
This time her theme is Focus: 

Here is her announcement of the event..............

Mark your calendars for May the 15th – 17th!
The theme for the event is loosely based on my word-of-the-year ‘Focus’. This will cover a variety of ideas on how to focus your crafting, about living in the moment, making sure you appreciate the little things, and how to use focal points. We’ll also be using a lot of icons like targets, frames, arrows, triangles, and cameras!
The event will follow the same format as my previous Blog Events, with posts from 4pm – 10pm Friday, and 10am – 10pm Saturday and Sunday (times all BST). There will be lots of crafts, tutorials, challenges, a blog hop, and of course some lovely giveaways! The giveaways AND challenges will all stay open for a week this time to give you a chance to keep up with commenting and creating.
Having followed Jennifer for a number of years now, Jennifer has truly worked hard at promoting her creativity and her own personal style and she has built her blog and developed her own activities. She has recently taken the big step of making her own videos. Her weekend events are always brilliant so if you really fancy finding some new and interesting activities then go visit her this weekend. There will be a bloghop this Friday evening at 6pm and a fancy giveaways too.
Secondly this Tuesday, I know I've picked this one perhaps a little late, however I felt it was such a fun challenge and after seeing Julie Kirk's hilarious pictures I'd give this challenge some publicity.

I first saw this challenge over on Sian's blog although originally the challenge comes from Getting it Scrapped . The idea is to take photographs which demonstrate the movies suggested. I'm holding on for Rinda's Summertime Scavenger hunt which she will announce in a couple of weeks, so excited.

See you next week.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

One photo, 20 words x

Is it really that time already? Don't the days seem to be flying by?

Today being the 9th is the day for One photo, 20 words, Abi from Creating Paper Dreams meme.

"Dandelion - the rustic oracle; its flowers always open about 5am and shut at 8pm, serving the shepherd for a clock." 

Source: Folkard (448. 309), from "The Child and Childhood in Folk-Thought," by Alexander F. Chamberlain

It continually amazes me, how much I remember the games and rhymes from my childhood. Blowing the seeds off the dandelion head was such a fun thing to do, and I do it to this day, 49 years young or not! That link back to childhood and, I suppose, innocence is what keeps us rooted to our personal histories and aren't we always recalling those as a part of memory keeping?

Go look at some of the other beautiful photographs on Abi's blog.

Friday, 8 May 2015

VE Day 1945 - 2015

from The Daily Mail

Today, in the UK, begins a 3 day celebration of 70 years since the official end of the Second World War - known as Victory in Europe Day or VE Day for short. That day was to recognise the formal acceptance on 8 May 1945 of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied Forces.

For many people, this weekend is a huge celebration, but of course we must always remember those families in other countries for whom VE Day was no celebration but a sad day for them.

I wanted to do something to remind people of the event so I asked two lovely, slightly more mature members of my family and a family friend what they remembered of the day.

The unanimous answer was...............

The Street Party, Jo!!

from The Daily Mail

My dad was 6 1/2 in 1945 and lived in Cheltenham. His father had served up until the evacuation from Dunkirk when he was so seriously injured he was medically discharged and spent several years away from his family in London recovering and rehabilitating.

My dad describes how everyone went in fancy dress. My grandad dressed him up as a guard, as my grandad was a Coldstream Guard in the war. He put my dad in his red jacket but it was so big it reached to my dad's feet. Dad's cousins also came and his Aunty and Uncle. Dad remember there being cakes and lemonade which he says he never had during the war, or at least he can't remember having them.

During the street party, dad remembers the coal men who delivered the coal to the house coming dressed as women,

" in drag as they call it now I suppose"

 Apparently, they came as Elsie and Doris Waters who were famous as Gert and Daisy on the radio in the 1940s

from Wikipedia

That must have been a spectacle and a half for a little boy to see.

My parent's friend Shirley was a little older at 10 years old and she lived in Leamington Spa on VE Day. Shirley says Leamington was not the quietest of places in the war as they were on the direct bombing path to Coventry and she remembers a German fighter plane shooting at her and mum while they were walking down the street one day. Luckily a cyclist came and threw himself over them to save them. Heroic.

Shirley has a few more memories of VE Day. She says she was lying in bed with her mum, her mum went to open the window still in her nightdress and leaning out there was her neighbour doing the same thing. Shirley remembers these two ladies having a conversation about "It's all over now,it's all over" Shirley's response was "What's all over". Out of the mouth of babes and children!

Shirley can remember listening to the radio announcer Alvar Lidell informing the nation that the war was finally over. Apparently it was the one time everyone had to stay quiet when the radio war reports came on.

Shirley went to street party too dressed as a Gypsy girl with a lovely headdress and her neighbours boy went as Father Christmas.

It was so interesting talking to them about their memories and I'm hoping I might get a chance to look at Shirley's photographs of the street party some day. Sadly my dad didn't have any and as my mum she doesn't remember it at all cos she was only 5. Aww bless.

I love finding out about historical events from the perspective of people who were there, it gives it life. That is why I am a memory keeper. Happy VE Day.