Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside (Leytonstone Underground)

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Inside Leytonstone Underground station is a series of mosaics celebrating the films of its most famous son (and one of him as a young boy outside the family shop.)  I won’t insult your intelligence by labelling them. What I will say, is that for those interested in such things, one of the films depicted in these mosaics,  gives is the title of the book Lucy is searching for! Feel free to guess… there’s no prize though!

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For more takes on this challenge click here

An Avuncular

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My mind today has been exercised by the concept of an “Avuncular”. Good word isn’t it? Very underused I feel. So I set about redressing this…

Svengali_in_spider_web._Illustration_by_Georges_DuMaurier_1895One of my characters  is being an “avuncular”, and – while I’d like to think he is operating from the purest of motives – at the back of my mind lurks the possibility he’s more of a Svengali like figure; though he is certainly no incubus,  and I’m sure he’s not manipulating my heroine. There are others in the story far better placed to do that. Besides, he’s too good looking to be the original manifestation of George Du Maurier’s character from Trilby.

So, for the moment, I will put aside this nagging doubt and return to my original musings.

An Avuncular is such a Victorian concept. It relates to the “uncle like” relationship between an older  and younger – less experienced – person.  Its first recorded use is in 1831, although it is of Latin derivation – from  avunculus, meaning “maternal uncle.” Strictly speaking the term describes the relationship between an uncle and his nephew, but I first heard it used by Poirot in relation to a young lady he is with on a train. Murder and mayhem abound and he is helping her order wine and generally showing her the ropes.

Warming to my theme, I hunted around for other Avunculars. The most obvious (for me at least) were all the classic incarnations of the Doctor – especially Tom Baker and Pat Troughton. Santa Claus came readily to mind and then I stopped. I googled (well why not?) Vocabulary.com put the Dalai Lama forward as an Avuncular and there the trail stopped. It was far more concerned with telling you that Shakespeare invented Nuncle and that Materteral existed earlier and is the word for an Avuncular Aunt. In despair, I went to Facebook and posed the question to my friends.

Below are their offerings: some I agreed with; some I did not. I put them forward and leave you (dear reader) to make your mind up. Are they true Avunculars or would better adjectives describe them?

Mr Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)

Mr Brownlow (Oliver Twist)

Mr Micawber (David Copperfield)

Mr Tom (Goodnight Mr Tom)

The Professor (Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

Mr Jarndyce ( Bleak House)

Yoda (Star Wars)

Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)

Professor Dumbledore (Harry Potter)

Weekend Theme: Secret Watcher

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From the Diary of Lucy Pevensea Von Schmidt – Time Traveller –

November the 8th 1949

I’m dressed up to the nines in a white evening dress I can’t begin to describe – except to say Greta Garbo would look better in it than I do. It’s backless and strapless and held up with will power. We’re at the party,  in an ante-room waiting to be met by the guest of honour. I’m by far the youngest here. But I’m not the most nervous.

Everyone I look at is nervous. Soldiers of various rank and stature; eye each other up. Women with far more poise than I will ever have twist their fans and stare around them, at the array of famous faces. Infamous faces, to my mind, ruthless murderers and their ladies dressed in their finery  – taking full advantage of this disruption to the timelines. I’m not nervous, because I have nothing to lose. If I’m caught; I’m dead. I know the risks. And it’s a risk I’ll gladly take to make everything right again.

I’ve never been to this location before. Not in my time. Not in any time. But I know whose house it is. Or rather I know whose palace it was. It makes me sad that all this now belongs to the Conqueror.

As I wait my turn (at the end of the long receiving line that wends its way down long, thin corridors stuffed with dead animal heads and crockery) I tire of looking at the paintings on the walls, at the Van Dyke clocks and  the beautiful tapestries. My feet hurt and I want to get this introduction over and done with. Not that I know why we’re here or what this party  is for. HE won’t tell me! Says it’s on a need to know.

I want to get the meal over and done with I want to get to the dancing in the room where the library is. I want to get a chance to look at the books. You see I think the one we’re looking for is here.

The line moves slowly; very slowly. Obviously our unknown host is spending time talking to each of his guests. That’s fine by me – I get to spend more time in this palace. And it is beautiful, even with all these Swastikas everywhere. When/If I get home, I must go and see what it really looks like.

My thoughts are interrupted: “Look up! We’re being watched.” It’s a silly statement, we’ve been watched by sharp faced guards ever since we arrived in Woodstock. Dutifully, however,  I do as my companion tells me. And he is right. Four secret watchers:one in each corner, staring  down at us.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

I nod. I wish I could get closer, touch the golden wings with my finger; trace the outline of magnificence. But they are high above me.

“I wonder what secrets they’ve overheard in their time?” Valentin says.

So entranced by their beauty, I momentarily forget where I am: “And what ones they should have heard but can’t because Time’s gone wrong?”

A woman with more jewellery than sense, stares at me

Valentin returns her look  and it is clear she is frightened of his uniform. He smiles and pulls me closer – as sign of ownership. “Be on your guard” he whispers, loud enough for her to hear and think these words were meant for her. “You don’t know who’s listening. And remember always German. Never English. It’s so common.”

Jewellery woman condescends to smile and I realise she doesn’t speak English. I am safe.

It’s then he drops the first bombshell of the evening. “Someone, from your future is here. He’s watching you. Can’t believe his eyes. You see, he last saw you in London,1940! Be careful, Lucy my love.” I nod to show I understand. He puts his mouth next to my ear, so only I hear the next three words. “Mengele is dangerous…”

***

This extract was inspired by the following picture, and is in response to Sidey’s weekend challenge. For more takes on this challenge click here

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Churchill’s and Lloyd George’s Graves – a few thoughts…

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On the last day of the holiday, we went to Blenheim; this time to “do the indoors.”  Why? Well because  In 1949, Lucy (of The End of the Pier fame) finds herself there. I’m not telling what the reason for her visit was – that would be telling; and until we were back on the terrace, she hadn’t told me! Still I now know, and I am back to “writing like the wind.”

Anyway, back to the point…

Having recently revisited Lloyd George’s grave, we decided to go to the grave of Winston Churchill.  I was curious, why after a state funeral he would choose to be buried not in Westminister Abbey but near his childhood home.

From his letters, I knew that he frequently commented that his happiest times were at Blenheim. He was born in the palace, spent many happy holidays there with his grandmother; proposed to Clementine in the temple near the rose garden; and felt a massive affinity with the first Duke – John Churchill – that other great war leader. He is buried in St Martin’s church, Bladon. Beautiful isn’t it.

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Bladon_StMartin_south (Wikipedia)

I’m not sure what I expected; I certainly didn’t get it. Churchill’s grave is much simpler than his political friend Lloyd George. In fact I missed it because I was looking for something more ostentatious. Something more fitting the grandson of a Duke.

What I found was a family man; a man whose family are all around him – his wife Clementine; his children, grandchildren, cousins; .even his parents.

And it made me sad; sad beyond belief. Not for Churchill, who was so loved.

But for Lloyd George.

Yes it is peaceful – and like Churchill he is buried near his childhood home. But he has  no family or friends around him; neither wife buried beside him. He is alone.

Flawed Hero – David Lloyd George

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I first found out about David Lloyd George from my nana; she was a font of political songs – and “Lloyd George knew my Father” was one of them.

At school, we learned he was a working class boy – who was brought up by his Uncle Lloyd in Llanystumdwy, He was articled to a law firm in Porthmadog at the age of 15; became an MP at 27 and was responsible for some of the most radical and socially aware legislation of all time. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he introduced Old Age Pensions and National Insurance; took on the House of Lords to get the People’s Budget of 1909 passed; and, of course, became the Prime Minister who won the First World War for Britain.

Learning about his private life – was not done at school; that came from the Life and Times of David Lloyd George a fabulous BBC Wales production starring the inestimable Philip Madoc – even though he had more of a welsh accent than Lloyd George.  And instead of being disappointed that my political hero had feet of clay, it made him – somehow – more heroic.

The fact he was flawed; that he was an outsider who didn’t fit in with the privilege of Westminster – made it so much better. I loved the fact that he was distrusted by the Establishment; that he was prepared to sell peerages and use his foreknowledge as a Minister of the Crown to profit from the sale of Marconi shares. I loved the fact that he’d never have been successful in our times – where sexual peccadilloes (what a lovely Victorian phrase) end a political career; because there’s no way the late 20th Century press could have kept quiet about Frances Stephenson. Or indeed the rumours of other women.

As always, when it came to Historical visits, it was me who dragged my parents to Llanistumdwy all those years ago, just like it was me who dragged OH there today.

The museum is well worth a visit, as is the film narrated by Philip Madoc which you see after you’ve done the museum. Then you have a choice – either walk over the road to the grave or go around to the house. We did the house then the grave.

It was  an eye opener to see how small Highlands – his boyhood home is. Lloyd George claimed to be a cottage boy and indeed he was. Highlands is a two up two down. He, his mum, sister and younger brother shared two beds in the larger room. Uncle Lloyd had the other smaller room. His Uncle’s workshop was attached to the house. Downstairs there’s a kitchen/ parlour and study – complete with table and two school desks  (of the kind us oldies had.) You can swing a cat in both rooms – but I wouldn’t like to try.

This makes him the first working class Prime Minister. After all, how many politicians can claim that their Uncle was a boot-maker; that they were part of a one parent family, and that they went to the local village school? Even Attlee’s background was more privileged. Perhaps the only nearest comparison is Aneurin Bevan (who was a coal miner before becoming a politician.) But he never became Prime Minister.

After the house, we went over the road to the grave.  It’s so simple, unassuming. And in the fall out and controversy surrounding Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, so Ironic! This was a man who clearly did so much for ordinary people, and he was buried after a simple village funeral (ok with over a thousand mourners) overlooking the River without a headstone or proclamation of his achievements to astound future generations. If you don’t speak Welsh, you don’t even know what the plaque on the outside of his grave actually says…

And the translation of his gravestone?

The Grave of David Lloyd George (Earl Dwyfor)

“The rough stone, stone of his heart, is the grave of a man who was a hero to his people; a beauteous watercolour is the merry Dwyfor, t’will ever caress his grave.” The words come from his nephew who died on 20th November 2006 at the age of 94

I Went with THIS one:

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Thanks to everyone who sent feedback. It was a tough choice, you liked all versions, but I eventually went with this one.

Let’s hope the world out there likes it….the first adventure is now on Kindle!!!

So, if you want to find out how it all started, this is your place to go 🙂

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Book cover – other options

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Another two possibilities:

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book cover

Book cover – what do people think?

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Proposed book cover for the first book. What do you think folks?WebRender