Monthly Archives: March 2019

19 Crimes…. and a glass or two of wine

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions where I find my story ideas and what inspires my blog posts. I always answer that it’s a little bit of everything- song lyrics, a place I’ve visited, an event, a name, etc….

Well, this week’s blog is inspired by the glass of wine I enjoyed with dinner on Sunday. Well, the label on the bottle to be more precise. (No, I didn’t drink the whole bottle before you ask!)

For weeks while I’ve been doing the weekly supermarket shop a particular bottle of Australian Chardonnay has been catching my eye. However, at full price, it was a little over my preferred budget. This week it was on special. Still a little over my price but I thought “What the hell!” and picked up two bottles. (I’m a bit weird that way as I’ll always buy bottles of wine in pairs.)

What had attracted my attention? The label on the front of the bottle and the name 19 Crimes.

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Over dinner on Sunday,  initially conversation wasn’t really holding my attention  (sorry, guys) and I turned the wine bottle, that was sitting in front of me on the table, around to read the label on the reverse.

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Intriguing…..what were the 19 Crimes?

This sparked an entirely different dinner conversation after a little emergency “Googling.”

So, were there really 19 Crimes that led to convicts being transported to Australia?

Yes! And between 1768 and 1868  thousands were in fact transported to Australian.

The 19 Crimes were:

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Once dinner was over and a second glass of wine had been poured, I sat down at my desk to do a little more digging into this subject.

Don’t panic! You’re not about to get a lengthy history lesson…… only a short one.

The first eleven convict ships set sail from England in 1787. They arrived at Botany Bay on 20 January 1788 where the first European community on the continent was established….and so Sydney, NSW was born.

the hougoumont

Over the next forty some years several other penal colonies were established as more convicts arrived. The most famous of these was Port Arthur in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1803.

Port Arthur Penal Colony Tasmania

Penal transportation peaked in the 1830’s. However opposition to this practice grew throughout the 1840’s. Transportation to Van Diemen’s Land ended in 1853 when the last convict ship, the St Vincent, arrived from England.

Small numbers continued to be transported to a colony in Western Australia but on 10 January 1868 the last convict ship, The Hougoumont, docked. (pictured above)

In total 806 ships had transported approximately 164 000 convicts to the continent over a period of eighty years. Around 24 000 of these were women, some of whom had deliberately committed petty crimes in order to be transported to join their husbands. Records show that 70% of those transported were from England and Wales, 24% from Ireland, 5% from Scotland and the remaining 1% a mix of convicts from the British colonies in India, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

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Some of those transported went to lead successful new lives in Australia. Some notable convicts were:

James Blackburn, famous for his contribution to Australian architecture and civil engineering

Daniel Connor who was sentenced to seven years transportation for sheep stealing went on to become one of the largest landowners in central Perth by the 1890’s.

Francis Greenway became a famous Australian architect.

Laurence Hynes Halloran founded the Sydney Grammar School.

Henry Savery is noted as being Australia’s first novelist and author of Quintus Servinton

 

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One female convict stands out. Mary Wade was the youngest convict transported to Australia aged only 11 years old. She went on to have 21 children and at the time of her death had over 300 living descendants!

 

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Twenty one children!!!!

That thought calls for another glass of wine! 😉

 

some images sourced via Google – credits to the owners

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Silently Watching at the Storm Moon

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Finally, the pungent aroma of decaying flesh became too much to bear. Grimacing at the pain it caused her, the dark angel dragged herself up into a sitting position. After the warmth of the animal furs and the velvet blanket that she had been shrouded in, the air of her mausoleum home felt icy cold. Reaching out a withered hand, she pulled herself onto her knees and then finally, her balance unsteady, she stood naked in the middle of the floor. Her weeks of enforced dormancy had left her severely weakened and somewhat vulnerable. Unnourished, even vampires wither and age.

Blood!

She needed blood and she needed it urgently. But, did she have any strength left to hunt? She was going to have to try then she needed to check on her fledgling. Had the blood from his mother tamed the Rabbia Sanguigna?

Dressing sapped more of her limited strength but, eventually, just as the sun rose over the horizon, she was ready to venture out into the world again. Drawing her cloak around her for warmth, she set out in search of much needed sustenance.

 

A lone commuter stood on the platform at the station, engrossed in a news article on his phone. Her fangs found his jugular vein before he even realised that he was no longer alone. As his warm blood flowed smoothly down her throat, the dark angel felt life seep back into her ravaged body. With the businessman’s body drained dry, she pushed him off the platform onto the tracks, kicking his bag and phone after him.

If she could feed again before the sun set, she might just recover before the full moon.

A glance at the newspaper the man had dropped informed her it was 20th March   confirming she had been dormant too long.

 

Eleven long weeks and two full moons had passed with no sign of her. Eleven long weeks since she had delivered the two flasks of blood with her gentle kiss. It had been a rare show of tenderness and that kiss was imprinted on his memory.

Every Friday night he had checked the tree for his expected blood ration only to find the hollow empty.

He had been left with no choice but to hunt for himself. The blood from the flasks had sustained him for almost a week before he felt the now familiar hunger start to grow. Before she had vanished, the dark angel had promised that he’d “know” if the blood from his mother had calmed the rage of his Rabbia Sanguigna. Within twenty-four hours he’d noticed a change in himself – a subtle change. He had still craved blood as badly as before but he felt more in control of his desires. Over the next few weeks he learned if he stayed calm and relaxed, the desire melted into the background; as soon as he became angry or frustrated, the urge returned instantly and the desire to taste the warm ferrous nectar from a live creature pulsed more overwhelmingly than ever.  Once, when he’d almost lost his temper while driving, he’d felt a sudden craving for human blood. That thought had chilled him to the bone.

Calm……how could he stay calm when the angel had abandoned him and vanished without a trace?

Hunting during the months of winter had proved challenging. He had taken to hunting on his way home from work, feeding from the livestock in the fields behind the village. There had been plenty of sheep to choose from but the blood of the expectant ewes soured his stomach, leaving him nauseous. After a third day of vomiting rings round himself, he decided that sheep were off the menu. At the back of his mind, he recalled the angel’s warning about drinking from expectant mothers and deduced that this must hold true for expectant ovine mothers too.

Cows’ and horses’ blood sustained him. Deer, despite tasting divine, proved too quick for him. A feast of deer blood was a rare treat obtained through sheer dumb luck rather than hunting prowess.

The day before March’s full moon fell on his scheduled day off from work. With the kids at school and nursery and his wife out running errands, he decided to treat himself to a long run along his beloved forestry trails.

It was a clear crisp Spring day, perfect for a long run. He’d hunted on the way home the evening before and, with his music playing through his iPod, was content just to allow the ground to pass under his feet without the need to watch for a possible victim. Deciding to deviate from his usual route, he set off in search of a small remote reservoir far up in the hills behind the village. His plan was to circle the small loch then head east along the trail to the larger reservoir that served the area before doubling back and returning home via the remote B class road that led into the back of the village.

When he reached the trail that led down to the small reservoir, he found that it had been washed out in a storm and was unpassable. Changing his plan, he stayed on the trail he’d been following. The reservoir was about fifty yards off to his right. A movement caught his attention and he paused to gaze over at the shaded expanse of water. For a split second he thought he’d seen someone bathing in the icy water. He could have sworn it was her.

Deciding that his mind was playing tricks on him, he returned his focus to his run and set off again, upping his pace.

 

Breaking through the surface of the cold water, the angel came up gasping for breath. That has been close! Thank God for that infernal noise he chose to listen to. If she hadn’t heard it, she would never have known he was close. That thought triggered a fresh concern for her. He might be oblivious to it but her fledgling had developed a new vampire talent – silent footfall.

As the water stilled around her, she glanced down at her reflection. Her skin had rehydrated after her breakfast of human blood. There were still dark shadows under her eyes with deep wrinkles around them. A wide white streak had appeared in her raven black hair.

Her trip to Spain had certainly left its mark on her.

There was no time to dwell on things beyond her control. She had neglected her fledgling for too long. It was time to resume his education.

 

Next morning dawned wild and wet, a strong gusting wind sending wheelie bins flying across the roads. When he left the house, running late for work, he almost missed the sign that had been left on his windscreen A white pebble had been balanced on the wiper blade and a small black feather with a purple tip was tucked under it.

She was alive!

He let out a long, relieved sigh, releasing weeks of tension that he hadn’t realised had built up.

But where and when was he to meet her?

First things first, he had to get to work.

 

It was growing dark when he finally logged off his pc and gathered up his belongings. His last conference call of the day at four o’clock had over run, ending with an action for him to revise a paper he had prepared before the end of the day. He’d managed to pull the figures together in record time and hoped they met with the approval of those further up the food chain. It had been a long day and it was now an hour and half past the end of his shift. Pausing to wish the security guard goodnight, he left the building and headed across the car park towards his car.

As he unlocked the car, he felt the air move beside him.

“Son of Perran,” whispered a familiar voice. “You ignored my sign.”

“I didn’t ignore it,” he replied as he spun round to find himself face to face with the angel. “I didn’t understand it.  I needed to get to work. I was planning to look for you in the cemetery on my way home.”

Staring deep into his soul, her green eyes locked with his brown ones. Unable to look away, he felt her probing into his mind uninvited.

“Praise be” she sighed. “It worked.”

“Eh?”

“Your Rabbia Sanguigna is under control.”

“If you’d asked, I could’ve told you it was” he snapped, his hand clenching tight around his car key. “Don’t enter my mind uninvited again!”

“My apologies. That was unforgiveable,” she said, bowing her head. “I needed to see for myself. Needed to know for sure.”

“Yeah and I’ve needed you. Where have you been for the past eleven weeks?”

“Indisposed,” replied the angel softly.

Looking at her properly for the first time, he saw that she had aged. Without thinking, he reached out to touch the white streak at the front of her hair. “What happened?”

“My trip to find your mother took its toll,” she replied evasively. “I drank tainted blood on the way home. That and the effort of keeping the blood warm for so long almost ended me.”

“You ok?”

“I’ll recover,” assured the angel forcing a smile. “And you, Son of Perran, are you well?”

“I think so,” he replied sounding a little unsure.

“Is the blood rage really under control?”

He nodded, “As long as nothing winds me up. If I get frustrated or pissed off at something, I can feel it rising. I’ve not reacted to it…. yet.”

“Well done,” she praised. “You’ve shown maturity.”

“You didn’t leave me much choice!”

“True,” she conceded.

“Look, I need to get home. I’m late,” he began awkwardly. “Can we talk later?”

“I need to hunt later.”

“Get in,” said the runner impulsively as he opened the passenger side door. “We can talk on the way.”

“I can’t sit in there,” answered the angel, rustling her wings gently.

“Shit! Forgot about those,” he muttered slamming door shut then not to be thwarted said, “Get in the back. You can lie along the back seat.”

“How undignified,” complained the angel as she slid into the backseat of the car.

“Sorry. It’s the best I can do,” he apologised as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

As he exited the car park, he could feel her eyes boring into him. She watched him in silence for a few minutes before saying softly, “I saw you yesterday.”

“So, it was you I saw at the reservoir?”

“Yes,” she replied. “If it hadn’t been for that awful noise you listen to, I wouldn’t have heard you approaching.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You run soundlessly, son of Perran.”

“Pardon?”

“You’ve developed some new vampire traits while I’ve been absent,” she observed. “Some full blood traits.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“I’ll make this easy for you to understand, fledgling,” began the angel sounding irritated. “Your partial transformation has failed.”

“Failed?”

“Yes, and I am truly sorry about that,” she apologised sincerely.

“So, what does that mean?” he demanded as he stopped the car at a red light.

“From what I saw in your mind, the blood from your mother calmed the Rabbia Sanguigna but it also disturbed the delicate balance of your transformation. Your full blood faculties are developing. You run and walk without making a sound. You could already read minds. You had perfect vision. Now, you also have perfect hearing over long distances, if you choose to listen.”

“I don’t get it,” he said as the traffic lights turned to green.

“Visualise your home, son of Perran,” she instructed. “And listen.”

He did as she asked then felt a chill run through him as he heard his wife talking to the kids as clearly as if he was standing beside her.

“How?” he spluttered, not fully comprehending what was going on. “Why?”

“It had to the blood from your mother. She must be more of a full blood then I detected.”

“Christ, I don’t believe this is happening!” he growled, slamming his hand onto the steering wheel. “So, now what? Am I going to grow a set of wings and go around killing people to survive?”

“In time, most likely.”

“You have to be kidding me? This is not what I agreed to……. You promised me!”

“I know,” she interrupted him. “And you have no idea how dreadful I feel about all that has happened. Maybe if you spoke to your mother. Found out about her history.”

“No way!” he declared loudly. “Besides, she’s disappeared.  I’ve not heard from her since Christmas. She’s not been home since her trip to Spain.”

“Disappeared?”

“Yeah,” he muttered sourly. “She’ll turn up. She always does.”

“Has she vanished before?” quizzed the angel sharply.

“Many times, but, sadly, she always turns up.”

“Where does she go?”

“No idea. She never says and I don’t care enough to ask.”

In the rear-view mirror, he could see the dark angel looking thoughtful and he wondered if his mother’s vanishing acts were somehow important.

They drove on in silence for several minutes and, as he indicated to turn off the dual carriageway to take the back-road home, the angel said, “Stop when we are out of sight of the farm.”

“Sure,” he said as large drops of rain began to hit the windscreen.

A loud peel of thunder rattled over head and the rain instantly grew heavier. As he pulled off to the side of the road, the sky lit up with a flash of fork lightning.

“Do you want to wait here till that storm blows through?” he asked as he killed the engine.

For a moment the angel hesitated then said, “No. I need to feed and the storm will afford me some cover. People die easily during thunder storms. Unexpected unexplained accidents.”

A chill rattled through him as he realised that she intended to dine on human blood when she left his car.

“What’s the plan here then?” he asked, still struggling to process the information she’d given him

“We need to resume your education,” she answered simply. “You need to learn our old ways, how to feed properly and how to live unseen and undetected in the human world.”

“How long will that take?”

“Years, I hope,” said the angel quietly. “The partial transformation enchantment should slow your maturity. We can work together to slow the changes. Double your mugwort. That should be strong enough to prevent your wings from budding.” She paused for a second then added, “You need to continue to hunt for yourself. Hone those skills. Not too often. Vary your targets. Choose different locations. You’ll learn in time what your body needs most.”

He ran his hand through his hair and yelled, “This is all a fucking nightmare! And it’s all your fault!”

“Yes, it is,” she agreed reaching through to touch his slender shoulder. “This storm will pass though. You’re young. You’re strong. You’ve matured since the start of the year. With a bit of luck, your life can continue as normal for many years yet.”

The touch of her cool hand was comforting. While it rested on his shoulder, he felt an energy from her easing into his blood. With each breath, he felt his anger abate.

“When will I see you again?”

“Soon,” she replied evasively. “If I leave a pebble for you, meet me that night at dusk by the tree.”

“And if I can’t make it?”

“I’ll come for you,” she said bluntly. “Regardless of where you are. Now, I need to depart.”

 

Next morning, the area was littered with storm debris. Wheelie bins and tree limbs were scattered around the village and surrounding areas. As he was preparing to leave for work, his wife asked if he would drop the kids off at school first.

“Right, you two, out to the car,” he called as he drained the last of his coffee. “We’re leaving now.”

With the kids safely buckled in, he started the engine and pulled away from the kerb.

“Dad,” said his daughter. “Where did this feather come from? It’s pretty. Can I have it?”

Glancing in the rear view mirror, he saw that his little girl had one of the dark angel’s long wing feathers in her hand.

 

 

image sourced via Google- credits to the owner

 

 

Photographic Memories

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Who remembers the big leather bound family photograph album?

It might have been your grandmother or an elderly aunt who was the custodian of the big bound photo album. Or perhaps it was your own parents.

I’ll bet as you were growing up there was someone who had it.

I’ll also bet there was someone who had or still has countless old photos in envelopes in a drawer that they’ve inherited and haven’t a clue who the faces of the past in the images are.  We’ve a few of those somewhere.

Confession – I love photos.

Photos capture that one precious moment in time. That one memory then lives forever.

I’ll confess to having thousands upon thousands of photos.

When the kids were little, before digital cameras were affordable and before phones had decent cameras inbuilt, I shot at least one roll of film a month, maybe more. These photos were developed and lovingly added to my collection of photo albums. (Don’t panic, I’ll spare you the baby photos.)

 

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Even after I bought my first digital camera, I still selected hundreds of images from our summer holidays to the USA and compiled photo albums of each trip. To these I’ve also added maps and tickets from the various excursions we enjoyed. More precious memories captured forever.

 

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It’s been a few years since I last printed off images to add to an album but my phone and my laptop have become my substitute photo albums.

On my laptop everything is neatly catalogued in year and month order. The photos that I take at the rock shows I attend are duly added into the appropriate time slot and they too are catalogued by who, where and when. (OK, I’m a bit OCD about all of this.)

 

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My phone’s photos are split into albums over and above the basic camera roll folder- some of the sub-folders contain book baby related images that can be used for social media promotion at the touch of the screen, others are quotes and memes that are humorous or motivational or just simply cute. There are old favourites, family photos, photos of my cats, photos from special rock shows and another large folder of stored images for updating the real-life rock star’s FB fan page that I admin daily. (Honest, I’m not a crazy stalker!)

Until recently there was also one folder that I turned to regularly for comfort. It contained a couple of hundred images – a mix of screenshots, photos from friends, photos from the kids, photos of daft moments that never failed to make me smile. There were two hundred and eighty precious memories in that folder and I made a huge error of judgement with it.

I never backed these pictures up. That one folder held the only copies.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly what happened but, about three weeks ago, I was transferring the photos I’d taken with my phone at the Slash show in Glasgow onto my laptop. I followed the same routine as usual. I never saw any error messages. When I disconnected my phone from the laptop, the precious “gallery” folder had vanished, along with another one of downloaded images. I’ve scoured the phone and the pc but those images are gone forever. I can only assume something became corrupt within the SD card. Who knows! One of life’s great mysteries that has swallowed these photos forever.

Upset doesn’t begin to cover it and I was so angry with myself for being so careless with these. It really isn’t like me.

All was not lost with the second folder that vanished. I found an old version of it on my laptop so could restore at least the majority of those.

The first thing I did was invest in a new SD card and the second thing was to back up the lot. It took hours but I wasn’t risking losing anything else!

With the new SD card securely added to my phone, I created a new sub-folder. I was able to retrieve a handful of the original memories from FB messenger, What’s App and FB itself. In the end, I  was able to recover less than a dozen of them but it was a start.

As the days have passed, I’ve come to realise something.

The photos from the original file of two hundred and eighty that were of the most importance to me aren’t totally lost. They are safely stored in the “original” photo album.

They’re in my own memories and safe in my heart forever.

 

 

World Book Day 2019 ….it’s never too late to pick up a book

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In the UK, today it’s World Book Day.

Other countries will celebrate in a few weeks’ time on 23rd April when they mark World Book and Copyright Day.

World Book Day is the world’s largest campaign to provide every child and young adult in the country with a book of their own.

It’s a celebration of books and reading.

Reading can open up whole new worlds to children and adults alike. It’s never too late to pick up a book and discover this for yourself.

I grew up in a house where there were always books available. I was lucky. As a small child, my mum would read to me, would read me a bedtime story every night, introducing me to many magical adventures. In time, I learned to read for myself and devoured books. (I still do!) By the time I was about seven or eight years old I was quite content to spend an afternoon curled up with a good book, invariably Enid Blyton. I loved her adventure and mystery books. I’d talk to my beloved Wee Gran about the stories I was reading.

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She was a fabulous old lady. At that time, she was in her late seventies and had never been a reader. When she was growing up in Tarbert, Harris, there was little money or time for books other than the bible.  As an adult ,she never had time or money either but she introduced my mum and her sister to books. She would bring home books from the “big houses” where she worked as a housekeeper that the household’s children had out grown. The lady of the house happy to gift them to her for her girls. I still have several of these now very old books and have precious memories of my gran  reading to me from them and of me reading them to her.

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Watching me reading these simple Enid Blyton mysteries piqued her curiosity and soon she was reading them once I had finished with them. After a while my mum suggested that she move onto something more suitable for her and proposed that my gran join the local library. (My mum also bought her a few second-hand books. She always liked David Niven the actor but after reading his autobiography The Moon’s A Balloon, I don’t think she ever felt the same about the man. I think it was an “educational” read for this innocent soul.)

Her little green cardboard library ticket opened up a whole new world for this wonderful little lady. She developed into a voracious reader through her eighties and early nineties, liking nothing better than a “nice” doctor and nurse romance with a happy ending. As her eyesight failed a bit, my mum would bring her large print editions of Mills and Boon romances. (Some of these proved educational too!)

 

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A late bloomer but proof that it’s never too late to pick up a book for the first time.

Sadly, she’s long since passed but I often wonder what she would have made of a Kindle……..

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some photos sourced from Google- credits to the owners