#weekendcoffeeshare: Celebrating my Father’s Life

If we were having coffee, I’d be sharing anecdotes with you from the remarkable life of my father, Tony Greenfield. I can assure you that you would not be bored and that you would be asking for more.

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Tony Greenfield (1931-2019)

On Thursday of this week, about sixty family members and friends assembled in at the Nightingale Centre in Great Hucklow, North Derbyshire, to celebrate Dad’s life. There was plenty of tea and coffee and more sandwiches and cake than we could consume.

The intention was that it would be a happy event. That was even reflected in the dress code: Colourful and Happy. My personal attire was a light grey suit, pink tie and a Panama hat: a tribute to the way that my father often dressed.

We listened to contributions from seven family members and then seven friends from Tony’s long and distinguished professional career, finishing off with a couple of local friends. All of the contributions were brilliant reminders of Dad’s life. They were personal to the contributors and I was touched by them all.

If there had been time, we could have continued for a few more hours. He certainly packed a lot into his life.

My intention is to produce a booklet containing the notes of all of the contributors and a selection of photographs from the slideshow of Dad’s life that I had put together to play on the wall while people circulated around the room.

I related a couple of memories from my early life with my Dad and followed up with a poem that I had written on Wednesday evening. To put this into context for those of you who were not fortunate enough to know my father, he was always learning and teaching, he was a leading statistician and an excellent mathematician. He loved to travel and to invent. He was born in Chapeltown, on the edge of Sheffield, and died in Broomcroft House Care Home, on the other side of Sheffield.

More information about Tony Greenfield can be found on his Wikipedia Page.

Here is my poem.


The Decamile of Life – the life of Tony Greenfield

From Chapeltown to Broomcroft
Is a mere ten miles:
A decamile, mas o menos.
That’s not a long way,
But it took me almost eighty-eight years. 

I taught you all to estimate,
And to understand the errors.
Fifty-two thousand and eight hundred feet
Sounds like a very long way,
But it took me over thirty-two thousand days. 

That’s less than twenty inches a day!
But consider this:
I went via Bedford and Brocksford,
Healey and Hillsborough,
Grenoside and Millbush,
Lyme Regis, Lake District, Peak District.

I went to Barcelona, Budapest,
Linz, Oslo, Rimini,
Dortmund and Gothenberg,
Copenhagen, Helsinki,
Katmandu, Quito and Marrakesh. 

Skiiing in the Alps . . . AND on the River Tay.
Around the world, along my way.
Fiji, Bangkok and Chang Mai.
Nelson, New Zealand
To see my brother. I’d have liked to stay. 

Sydney and San Francisco,
The Amazon rain forest,
Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru,
Rio Napo and the Andes,
Islas Galápagos too. 

I’ve dined in Turin and Cagliari,
And Venice and in Rome,
In Ljubljana and in London,
Paris, Wroclaw and Stockholm,
In Tel Aviv and Vienna. 

And I’ll tell you this.
Everywhere I dined,
All over the world,
I’d spill gravy down my pink tie,
And I’d ALWAYS check my flies.
. . . THAT’S a lie!

So my life was just a decamile,
A very remarkable decamile,
Thirty-two thousand days.
Every inch and every minute,
For all of us, here today,
Has been full of laughs and smiles. 

Have fun!

© Lance Greenfield 2019

 


Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Eclectic Alli.
Check out her blog to read her own Weekend Coffee Share post.
You can post your own link and join with others in this community for coffee by clicking on the following link.

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Etchings In Stone

Wow! The power of the lyrics of “Etchings in Stone” grabbed my emotions and squeezed them hard until rivers of tears flowed down my cheeks.

I didn’t even know John Beam in life but he has had a profound effect on me today. 🎶💖

Writing and Music

I’ll never forget coming home from work one evening in 2002, to find Rick excited about a new song project.

We were in the planning stages for his new CD, “Etchings In Stone,” and he wanted someone to collaborate with him in writing the title track. He’d reached out to several of his songwriter friends, but so far no one had been inspired. That was until that day.

He told me to go to the phone in the bedroom and he placed a call, then yelled for me to pick up.

I did and found our good friend, John Beam, on the other end.

“John’s written the song I need to put on the album,” Rick said.

Then he proceeded to ask John to play and sing it. Tears ran down my cheeks while I listened and I had chill bumps all over. The song was the profound emotion-filled…

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Book review: Incendiary by Chris Cleave

IncendiaryIncendiary by Chris Cleave
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Original, entertaining, authentic and believable

An East End [of London:] woman decides to write a letter to Osama bin Laden after a team of his suicide bombers wreck her life by indiscriminately blowing up the crowd at a football match, killing both her husband and her four-and-a-quarter year-old son, along with over a thousand other football fans.

The letter is written, mainly in the authentic language of an East End gal, but with snippets of people from other worlds. The grammar and punctuation is appalling, but it is totally in context. She relates, to Osama, all of the events and all of her feelings from immediately before the atrocity to many months afterwards.

There is a lot of humour interspersed throughout the tragedy. One of the funniest passages that I have read recently will not spoil your enjoyment of this book.

It didn’t smell posh in Harvey Nichols it smelled of all the different perfumes in the world very strong and mixed up together. It felt like having your throat scraped. I took my boy into John Lewis once and it smelled just like that in the perfume section. Yuk Mummy he said. It smells nice and nasty all at once. It smells of angels’ feet.

Hilarious!

I can understand why some people do not like this style of writing and cannot get into the book at all. This is a book that you will either love or hate. It is either one star or five stars plus plus. I cannot tell what it will be like for you, but I would recommend that you give it a chance. For me, it was one of the best books that I read in 2009.

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Book Review: Perfectly Flawed: Living with Genetic Illness by Molvia Maddox

It is with great sadness and heavy heart that I report the death of Krystie, a very courageous and inspirational young lady. I worked with her mother, Molvia, at the time that she published this book, which you must read. I was one of the first to review the book on Goodreads and Amazon and on BBC Radio Oxford.

Molvia and Krystie have continued to inspire me over the years.

My heart goes out to her family today as I re-post my original review in memory of Krystie. The bright flame of her spirit will burn forever in Molvia’s heart and in the hearts of many of her friends and family.

She may even be remembered by members of the musical group McFly. You can find out why by reading the book. I commend it to you.


Perfectly Flawed: Living with Genetic IllnessPerfectly Flawed: Living with Genetic Illness by Molvia Maddox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspirational!

This is the astonishing personal account of the courage, determination and perseverance of the author as she battles her way through a life that has more than its fair share of obstacles. The main subject of the book is the plight of her daughter, Krystie, who has been diagnosed with Friedrich’s Ataxia, a crippling and life-shortening genetic illness. However, from childhood, Molvia has suffered occasional family tragedy and near-tragedy.

When Krystie is born, Molvia’s instinct and previous experience tell her that there is something amiss. The medical experts think that they know better, but they are proved to be wrong. As Krystie grows up, this is a pattern which is often repeated. Molvia researches all the possibilities and analyses the best path for her daughter.

Krystie becomes as determined as her mother. She insists on as much independence as possible and succeeds at home, socially and at school in the face of adversity. Her awareness of her condition strengthens her resolve to milk every drop of positive experience out of her life. She has probably already achieved more in her life than people who are three or four times her age.

Whilst reading this book, I was reduced to tears on more than one occasion. These were not tears of sadness but of joy as I shared Molvia’s pride in Krystie’s achievements.

Molvia’s account is interspersed with Krystie’s own versions of events and is nicely rounded off with the recollections of one of Krystie’s elder brothers.

There are some tiny discrepancies in the chronology of the account, but this just proves what the reader already knows; that Molvia is human.

You must read this book. Whether you are living with genetic illness in your family or not, you will be inspired and filled with great hope.

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Do you enjoy my book reviews?

If you do, you now have a chance to show your appreciation.

The voting for the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards 2019 is open for the next fourteen days.

Amazingly, I have been nominated for Best Book Review Award.

There are a lot of nominees (sixty-five!) for this award and most of them are fantastic. I admire them. If you enjoy the book reviews on my blog, please be kind enough to vote for Write to Inspire.

Follow the link to the voting page in the image below, and search for “Lance Greenfield Mitchell.” Click on the radio button and then on “Vote”.

Thank you!

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VOTE HERE!

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Review: The Magic Mountain

Having just read the 216th comment on my original [2009] review on Goodreads, I felt the urge to re-blog.

When I posted my review, I never expected that it would lead to such a protracted and, often, very passionate, discussion.

It has kept me entertained and amused for several years.

Write to Inspire

The Magic Mountain
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

At the risk of being labelled a Philistine, I declare that this book is one of the most insufferably boring tomes that has ever made it onto my bedside table. I admit that I only struggled my way through the first 170 pages, but that was enough to convince me that I should not waste any more minutes of my precious life wading through any more of this drivel.

I know, I have also been chastised for criticising modern art in the same way. Tracey Emin’s “Unmade Bed” and Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” will just have to live in the pile of junk that I fail to understand.

I realise that I am in the minority, as most reviewers and professors of literature believe this to be a masterpiece, and probably the best book to come out…

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What’s the Truth behind Historical Fiction?

I have always loved historical fiction ever since I read Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff when I was about eight years old.

This interview by Leslie Tate with Ali Bacon is fascinating. The St Andrews connection particularly resonates with me.

Original post: Leslie Tate interviews Ali Bacon


Interview by Leslie Tate with Ali Bacon

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Ali Bacon

I interviewed novelist Ali Bacon about writing ‘creative history’ and her use of a male protagonist when writing for a women’s press. Ali’s third book, In the Blink of an Eye, is a ‘fictionalised biography’, aka ‘faction’, or ‘docudrama’, written about the Scottish Victorian photographer David Octavius Hill. Ali tells his story mostly through the eyes and voices of a number of women who have been largely overlooked by history.

Ali Bacon’s story The Bird of Wax, which forms Chapter 4 of In the Blink of an Eye, won the 2017 Evesham Festival of Words Adult Short Story Competition.

I began by asking Ali about her personal story, and how that led to writing historical fiction.

kettle of fishLeslie: Can you give a brief overview, please, of your writing career so far.

Ali: I think of my ‘career’ as beginning in 2003 when I joined a class called ‘write a novel in a year’. I didn’t quite manage that but I did have an idea for a novel which I eventually completed around 5 years later (speed is not my thing!) I also wrote occasional short stories and had a few short or long-listings in competitions. My second novel A Kettle of Fish (a coming of age novel) was published as an e-book and I self-published the paperback version. It was in the course of writing Kettle that the idea for In the Blink of an Eye came along, an unexpected switch into historical fiction. Blink took me just as long to write and along the way I embraced the short story form more whole-heartedly and took to entering ‘livelit’ events and performing my work on the (small) stage. I find this a great antidote to the long haul of writing a novel, where there is very limited short-term gratification!

Leslie: What stands out from your Scottish upbringing?

Ali: After the death of my parents in the 90s I didn’t feel much connection with my Scottish roots (an only sister had also moved down south) but following a holiday in, 2007, I felt a definite need to reconnect and went on to write A Kettle of Fish which celebrates many places which defined my childhood: the Dunfermline public library (the first of its kind), the view from Fife towards Edinburgh (the big city!) and the tiny seaside village of Largo where I spent many several summer holidays.

st andrews

St Andrews from the East Sands

I went to university in St Andrews – just along the coast – which was a factor in my choice of the Hill and Adamson story (Robert Adamson was from St Andrews) and visiting there recently I have appreciated that town’s many histories and how they interleave with my own: as a student, a writer and even a golfer!

The other things which stand out now from my childhood are the influence of our extended family, the central role of the church, or ‘kirk’, in our lives. I’m no longer a church-goer but I’m aware how it provided a community other than family and school. One of my few forays into memoir is a reflection on the fact that my own church burned down soon after our marriage and was never rebuilt. The other thing I reflect on is how although we never considered ourselves ‘poor’ how much was defined by money, or lack of it.

Leslie: ‘In The Blink of an Eye’, published by a women’s press, follows the life of a man, David Octavius Hill. How did you cover the experience of late Victorian women through a male protagonist? What other aspects of social history were you aiming to cover – and how did you do it?

DO Hill

D.O. Hill by kind permission of Preus Museum, Norway

Ali: What fascinated me about DO Hill’s story was the number of women he seemed to attract or influence and I wanted it to be their story. The problem was in choosing which one to carry the thrust of the narrative. In the end I divided it between several women (and two men) some with bigger and others with smaller roles. This multi-faceted approach may have thrown more emphasis onto Hill himself but I don’t think it detracts from the women’s story. It was a matter of more surprise when I ended up giving the prologue and epilogue to a man, which did fly in the face of my original intention, but it felt absolutely right for the structure of the story I had made.

Leslie: What were the stand-out experiences for you in researching your historical novel? What have you learned from that task?

Ali: I carried out research over a long period with lots of changes of direction. I needed to understand photography – which didn’t come easily – and I had very little knowledge of Victorian Scotland. Two things probably stand out – a article about Hill and Adamson’s assistant Jessie Mann, an ‘ordinary woman’ who embraced and helped develop a new scientific technique. For a long time I intended her to be my sole protagonist. The other major turning point wasn’t a discovery but an event. At the St Andrews Photography Festival of 2016 I met a whole community of people who regarded Hill and Adamson with the same affection as I did myself. I made friends and gained access to technical expertise, but the biggest change was the feeling of being part of a community rather than a lone traveller. It motivated my to finish the book which had been in the doldrums for quite a while and probably taught me that connecting with people is as important as reading for hours on end!

blink of an eyeLeslie: Your book is classified as non-fiction but presents as a novel. How would you describe the book’s classification and approach to its subject?

Ali: This one is quite tricky. I wrote it as a ‘fictionalised version’ of what I knew or thought might have happened. I guess this is very close to narrative or creative non-fiction and at times I wondered if I was straying into this. However there are many non-fiction accounts of D. O. Hill, from the scholarly treatise of Sara Stevenson to the more popular (populist?) Mr Hill’s Big Picture by John Fowler. I always knew Blink was different again and I personally wouldn’t classify it as non-fiction. It’s my attempt to tell the story for the reader of fiction – people who like me were unlikely to pick up any of the non-fiction accounts. I think its proper category might be fictionalised biography (of which I’ve read many examples, both good and bad!). In tele-visual terms it’s faction, or docudrama which I think are more useful, though not very beautiful, terms for something praised for the elegance of the writing.

Leslie: Which writers are particularly important to you – why them?

Ali: I’m not sure there is one writer who has stayed with me throughout my life, unless some of my favourite children’s writers like Enid Blyton and Elinor M Brent-Dyer, and also classic writers like Dickens or R L Stevenson whom I knew mainly through BBC classic serials! I’ve had many favourite contemporary novelists ( Margaret Drabble, Penelope Lively) who were big influences for a while but whom I’ve returned to only to discover the allure has worn off. Now that I read with a more writerly eye, I’m impressed by anything with a distinctive voice, including memoir. I’m also a great fan of Robert Harris and his unique talent to inform and entertain at the same time.

Leslie: How did you approach the task of writing a character-driven story with so much factual material to ‘get through’?

Ali: The other thing I learned from research is that it mustn’t stifle the story. When I came to rewrite Blink in 2016/17, I didn’t just throw away my first draft but also turned my back on all of my research references and simply wrote what I felt to be true. This did entail a lot of checking and a few changes in the final version, but generally it made me focus on the story rather than the facts, whatever they might have been.

Leslie: Should historical fiction stick closely to verifiable historical fact, or be free to imagine the fictional ‘feel’ of events and characters?

Ali-Bacon-with-calotype-images-by-Hill-and-Adamson-300x215

Ali Bacon with calotype images by Hill and Adamson

Ali: History, in terms of facts, is a slippery fish. Every age interprets the past in a new light and even writers of factual books will select and refocus on what they have found. Many historical writers deal with only fictional characters, which makes the task easier, I imagine, but I don’t think many writers would fly in the face of known facts unless for some very particular reason which they will probably explain in notes for any reader who is interested. Readers are also aware that fiction is fiction; regardless of research authors can convey only the impression of authenticity. Anyone who wants to follow up a good historical novel and uncover what did or didn’t happen can do so and make their own judgements. I admit I erased a few people from my story who might have cluttered it up (!) One day maybe someone else will tell their story.


 

ABOUT LESLIE TATE’S BOOKS:

  1. Heaven’s Rage is a memoir that explores addiction, cross-dressing, bullying and the hidden sides of families, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. “A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage” – William Blake. You can read more about/buy Heaven’s Rage here.
  2. Purple is a coming-of-age novel, a portrait of modern love and a family saga. Set in the North of England, it follows the story of shy ingénue Matthew Lavender living through the wildness of the 60s and his grandmother Mary, born into a traditional working-class family. You can read more about/buy Purple here.
  3. Blue tells the story of Richard and Vanessa Lavender, who join a 90s feminist collective sharing childcare, political activism and open relationships. You can read more about/buy Blue here.
  4. Violet is about late-life love. It begins in 2003 with Beth Jarvis and James Lavender on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister… Signed copies of Violet can be bought here.
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