The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
Sometimes, a book comes along that makes you feel so content with the world, so hopeful that everything will be ‘just right.’ This is one of these times that a book has made me feel warm and satisfied with my lot. A poignant touching tale that will leave you feeling moved, and hopeful of the world. That doesn’t happen very often….
Harold Fry is lonely. A retired brewery salesman, he lives with his wife in a seaside town of Kingsbridge, England. His life is the same day after day whilst his wife cleans around him. Until one day, a letter drops through his mail box that will change his life. So started his journey to visit a dying friend in hospital, a friend that he hasn’t heard from in 20 years. What starts as a walk to the post box at the end of his street ends up as being a pilgrimage to the other end of the country, to Berwick -upon – Tweed. On the way, he meets a mixture of people from all walks of life; a single father of two, a man in a gorilla suit, a pack of cycling mothers and a stray dog.
It is a lovely tale, told in a calm and uplifting manner that will leave you loving the main character of Harold, and his quest for inner happiness. “A magical, moving and uplifting tale about a man’s journey across Britain and into his own heart.” Deborah Moggach
Being an expat, now living in Australia but from the wild and woolly depths of Wales, we as a family often chat about our homeland. My children have grown up in Australia, and we all love the climate, the people and the lifestyle (it’s Winter here now, but we’re having an unexpected heatwave, my barometer reads 30 degrees). They are growing up fast, with social events, friends to see and (in the case of my son) work to go to. But every so often we will have a free evening and will take our dinner desserts and sit in the back media room. It has a huge print of Elvis Presley on the wall (from Jailhouse Rock, his best time in my opinion) and we will chat over a couple of beers (or lemonade for my daughter).
The night inevitably turns to Wales, and we love to regale stories of our times living there. When we used to love to walk on the sands at Porthcawl and eat ice cream whilst the kids played on the park. When we used to take a drive down Tenby, and pop into Folly Farm. Such memories are made of this….
Last night was such and occasion, and our thoughts turned to that little piece of the UK half a world away from us. Naturally the drinks flew and before I knew it we had Tom Jones blasting from the TV. Now, he is a legend in Wales, along with rugby, the Welsh dragon, the Millennium stadium (where the rugby is played, of course) and songs. We killed our rendition of Delilah, Its Not Unusual and Green Green Grass of Home, and the more we played the more noisier we became.
Does anyone have a song, artist (or both) that they HAVE to play when they gather with family and friends?
I have a touch of writer’s block. It nothing serious, (I hope) but I have become stuck on my novel. I’m about 20,0000 words in, and have the basic outlines and plot in my head (even down to the last line of the book), but am stuck as to where my characters should go next. So, they are stuck in the middle of the Sahara Desert (specifically, Cairo during WW1), and are falling in love…..but then, where to fall in love? Stay in Cairo? Go back to England? (where one of them is from) or reintroduce the ‘baddie’ character that appeared a few chapters back.
So, I have sort refuge in reading. I have immersed myself in magazines, newspapers and books in order to find inspiration. I sat in a writing workshop recently and gleaned some ideas, but am not fully in my ‘writing mode’ – yet. I have also enrolled on a writing course with the University of Iowa. Its a free course open to all, in which we are to discuss the works of Walt Whitman. I’m looking forward to discussing the themes of war, despair, loss and honing my creativity skills at the same time. Check it out on the university’s website, and perhaps I’ll catch you there…..http://ir.uiowa.edu/wwqr/journalannounce.html
Has anyone had this feeling of despair in writing? When they feel that creativity is lost to them, out of reach, a fleeting moment in their life that will not return?
Try as she might, Heidi could not get her mobile to work. She shook it, then tapped it against the steering wheel (not advisable) but there was nothing, no sound.
She looked up at the scene before her. The towering skyscrapers were silhouetted against the stormy sky, seeming to rise from the rocky outcrop like monsters raising themselves from slumber. The sky looked dark and ominous, forbidden and angry.
A sudden flash up ahead told her that the storm was on its way. The thunder followed, and then the rain, coming down in sheets on her windscreen.
‘I can’t believe it! Why did I listen to her? She told me that the weather would be fine, sunny even.’ She closed her eyes and opened the car door. A sudden gush pulled it out of her hands and she cursed as the handle swung onto her hand.
Stepping out of the car, she stood looking down at the beach. In this weather it looked stunningly beautiful, she had to admit. The tides hit the rocks and the foam was strong and fierce.
But she had seen this scene before, and needed it to be sunny. Oh yes, as sunny as possible. The case lay on the back seat, and she grabbed it, unzipping the contents. Adjusting the lens, she fired away quickly, taking in the scene, absorbing the inspiring beauty of the day.
‘There you are! I tried to phone, but – ‘ The voice behind startled her, and she turned to see her sister standing there. Mimi was several inches shorter than her, small and fine boned, whilst she followed their father, tall and blonde.
‘My phone is off. I forgot to charge it. What happened to the sun you promised me?’
‘Why do you want to take sunny, nondescript photos? Your camera should reflect your character; strong, feisty and independent!’
Mimi fumbled in her pocket and held up a sheet of paper. Heidi could see the top address and the University of Melbourne printed on the top. ‘It came through this morning. I wanted to see your face when I showed it to you, so that I know you have that belief in yourself. You have the talent, Heidi to go to the top, to stretch yourself and here’s the proof –
“We are pleased to announce that you have been accepted on the Photography and Digital Prints course….”
I have taken up knitting. Well, this is not quite true as yet, but I met up with a couple of my lovely friends this morning, and over a frothy coffee, the talk turned into a knitting chat. My friend has been knitting for years, and has created some gorgeous throws which are lovely for this time of the year when Winter has set in. This got me thinking about learning to knit again and teaching my daughter Jessica to knit. We enjoy films together, and Jessica loves watching Coronation Street with me, but I think this would be an added thing. Besides, it will prepare me for being a grandma (in the distant future course).
So, we strolled around my local Kmart looking for wool and knitting needles. They had a very limited selection, so I will be shopping around. We have arranged to meet on Monday and are calling ourselves the Kosy Knitting Klub. There’ll be nibbles and snacks and some wine, and a Chinese is planned for later in the evening (when we’re exhausted from knitting!) This is a great way of getting together with friends and doing something proactive, rather than just gossiping about family (although we love our kids, we need some ME time too!).
Has anyone else got ideas for clubs to get together with friends? Are you part of a club already? Please share your thoughts 🙂
This is a recent picture of Aberavon beach in Port Talbot, a steel working town in south Wales, which also happens to be my old home town. I used to live literally ten minutes away from this picture, in a old terraced town house (built in the early 1920’s) before the steel works was even thought of.
Not sure of anyone’s thoughts on this, but since I have started to write seriously, lots of stories and images that I see everyday have taken on new meaning – they are usually inspiration for a story, in whatever format; sci-fi, romance, crime or thriller.
That’s why I have chosen this image as an inspiration to a quirky little story that I am writing. Entitled ‘Stella Windermere’ it is a crime novel, about an amateur sleuth that lives in the town. Needless to say, her crimes are set around the town and coastline of Port Talbot, with some maybe further afield.She will have a ‘side kick,’ and assistant that will do her running around for her, as well as family and friends in the community that will share their thoughts and advice (whether needed or not) on the crime.
Has anyone else seen an image or reads an article, that has given them inspiration to write?
Please share your thoughts.
In the meantime, here’s an extract from Stella Windermere: The Case of the Polish Sailor:
Mariner’s Drive was one of the many indistinctive streets that made up the estate. Built just after World War Two, the estate consisted of rows and rows of council houses that were built to accommodate the dockland. Stella parked her Golf on the driveway safely tucked away from the school kids across the way. It was lunch time, and she could see groups of blue jumpers and grey trousers leaving the school grounds. Just last week she’d spotted one of them peering into her back windshield and then try the car door; looking to thieve, no doubt. Not bloody likely!
A tinny sound from a radio came from the back garden, and she bypassed the front door, pushing the small gate around the side. Alfie was in the pigeon coop, talking in hushed tones to someone. He stopped when he saw her.
‘Stella, love, you look a picture as usual. What have you gone for today?’ Alfie pecked her on the cheek.
‘It’s supposed to be some sort of warm gold, but I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenny is just using me as a guinea pig for her colors. She’s gone real posh since she went on that course in London. She’s charging more too.’ She pulled her head scarf off her head and sat down on a patio chair, before addressing Alfie’s companion. ‘Morning, Bert. Is Maggie with you? I want that knitting pattern off her.’
‘Morning Stella! She’s in the kitchen putting the kettle on.’
Moments later, all four were sat under a large umbrella, sipping tea and eating fruit cake. The rain had held off, the sun was out. Drops of excess rain fell from the colorful potted blooms as they sat there, chatting. Marigolds, fuchsia and tulips (an eclectic choice, but Stella was that way inclined) tried to outdo each other as the largest blooms. Further down the garden, potatoes and carrots sat alongside onions and silver beets, whilst huge leaves of rhubarb took up the far corner. Statues of gnomes and other furry creatures were dotted about the garden, as if guarding some rich jewels. Their dog Lucy, a sweet mongrel dog that Alfie affectionately called ‘a mutt of 57 varieties.’ sniffed around the pathway, looking for slugs.
‘Come here Luce! Look what your mother has brought from the shops.’ Alfie pulled a packet from Stella’s bag. It was bulky, and wrapped in newspaper.
A juicy bone.
Betty Turnbull from next door popped her head over the fence. She had on a scarf that hid a row of curlers, and her cheeks were ruddy from the cold.
‘Good morning Stella and Maggie, tho it’s nearly lunchtime. I’ve got some tomatoes from the greenhouse if you’d like; go lovely with a bit of ham and salad.’
‘Yes okay, Betty love.’ Stella stood up and reached for the bowl of luscious red fruit. Betty had placed green beans and a couple of small cucumbers in the bowl as well.
‘Have you heard the news this lunchtime? A man was found up in the dunes. Dead he was, as a door nail. His hands were tied behind his back and he was strangled. The news said that he had on a marines outfit, and they suspect he was a stranger to the area, judging by his ID. Foreign it was; Polish they seem to think, although they’re not giving much away! He came off one of the boats more than likely. They’re a lowly lot to be sure.’
Stella stared at Betty in disbelief. ‘Where exactly was he found?’ she inquired.
‘In front of the Naval Club, next to the docks.’ Betty replied. ‘He was stinking of booze too, so Wilf tells me, although that wasn’t on the news. Although where he gets his information from is anyone’s guess. Sounds strange though, don’t you think?’
‘Now, now Betty. We’ve had enough dramas lately. Don’t go thinking anymore.’ Alfie picked up the bowl of tomatoes and headed for the kitchen. ‘I’ll make some tomato sandwiches for lunch, with some of that nice leg ham. Stella can you make some more tea?’
Maggie reached for her handbag under the patio table, and stood up. ‘None for me Alf; we have to go. I’ve got to visit my mother this afternoon. The nurses there are marvelous with her, especially after the accident, but I still should see to her myself. Thanks for the tea Stell; I’ll give you a ring in the morning.’ She pulled out a booklet that had pictures of Arran jumpers on its front cover, and placed it on the table. ‘Here’s that pattern; it knits up lovely with that wool I got from the precinct.’
Here’s a blog interview I did recently with Dan Alatorre, author of The Navigators, a new sci-fi/action book based around a time travel machine. Very interesting reading, it had me hooked from the start, well worth a recommendation!
1.When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Very, very early.Teachers and others would comment on my writing, occasionally in a good way.As a kid I wrote cartoon strips for my older brother (he was in college) and he loved them. That evolved, and a boss once said I was really good, even at report writing. So I’ve always been good at it. I edited my high school newspaper and learned how to spot mistakes other people made, but strangely I can’t see my own. That’s why my blog followers know it’s really me when I post. They see the typos and say, yeah, that’s Dan. The Navigators has no typos, thanks to my amazing editor.
2.How long does it typically take you to write a book?
The Navigators took right around four months, which is normal for me, but some of my books took less. I write fast. I know that’s not for everybody, but that works for me. I get completely obsessed with a story and think about it 24/7 until it’s done. Even stepping onto the treadmill to run, I’ll get a great idea for a twist in the story and dash over to my desk to write it down, getting back to the treadmill in a few hours later. Maybe.
3.What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
You don’t want to hear this. I get up at 4am to write. It’s a habit I started when my daughter was a baby and it serves me well. I can get 3-4 hours of writing done before anybody else is awake. Oh, and I don’t drink coffee, another deal breaker or most new writers. Bottom line, you have to find time to write, and you won’t find watching TV or reading email, so I do that stuff later – if at all. Navs was written in the early AM most days.
4.How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
I tend to lean indie because I love working on every aspect of my book: the cover, the blurb, the marketing. I also like keeping most of the money a book makes. Some titles lend themselves to trad publishing, and I’ll shop those. I think both worlds can peacefully co-exist. Being a sci fi thriller, The Navigators didn’t neatly fit into a Barnes & Noble book shelf; action, adventure, sci fi, thriller? They don’t have that!
5.What is your favourite book?
Catch-22. It’s funny, original, satiric, and smart. I love the flashbacks and the recurring scenes, the characters – it’s amazing. I hated it in school but I read it later as an adult and loved it. Great stuff. I hope I can write something that good one day.
6.What do you think makes a good story?
Something interesting happening on every page, and something unique happening in every story. That makes a page turner and page turners make readers love reading your book.
7.Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Tons. Write every day. Pour your heart into the pages. Write openly and honestly and in such a personal way that it is embarrassing to say it but anyone who reads it will see it’s from the heart. Join a critique group and seek out the best critique partners you can find. When you discover a new writer who is more talented than you, shout it form the mountain tops. Do everything you can to help your writer friends be successful, and look for authors who would do that for you, too. They’re out there.
8.What do you hate most about the writing process?
Editing. I hate it. HATE it. Deep hatred. I believe everything I write is ready for the public the instant I’m finished typing it – even while it has the typos in it.
9.Where can we find your books?
The Navigators, my sci-fi thriller, is available at Amazon. Stop by, grab a copy, and leave a few kind words. 5 stars is always appreciated, too. You’ll thank yourself! I’ll thank you, too!
10.Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favourite works?
Actually, you can read the first chapter on my blog OR you can read the first three chapters on Amazon. Most of the time if you read one chapter of my book, you’re hooked – so please head on over to Ammy and check it out!
Dan Alatorre is author several bestsellers. His new novel, The Navigators, is a fast-paced sci fi thriller that breaks new ground in its fascinating characters and truly unique story.
As a very well known children’s book, I was interested in seeing how the wonderful Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl was interpreted on the big screen. I remember a previous version of it, a cartoon that my son (around 6 years old at the time), loved and was keen to see this version.
This interpretation just blew me away. It is fabulous! Steven Spielberg has captured the magic and the quirkiness of the story beautifully, and the graphics are amazing. I thought the casting of the BFG by the Oscar winning actor Mark Rylance gave a clever mixture of kindness and naivety that was inspiring. The scenes with Queen Elizabeth 11 having tea with the BFG at Buckingham Palace are witty and cute, and reminded me so much of the nostalgia of the book. How easy it would be to deal with troubles in such a simple way…
The story is about young Sophie, an orphan who is whisked away in the middle of the night (“the witching hour”) to be transported to the land of the giants (somewhere north of Scotland). There, the friendship between Sophie and the BFG grows, as her initial concerns at her kidnapping, lead her to realise that he is just an old ‘softie’ at heart, a dream catcher. He has to deal with giants who are living just outside his door, giants who are larger than him,just as he is larger than Sophie.
And there, for me, lies the crux of the story; however or whomever we are scared of in life, there is always someone who has problems too. This is a powerful message for children to learn at a young age – always face your fears. Roald Dahl understood this beautifully with his story, and Spielberg has managed to convey it masterfully onto the big screen.