The Prom Queen and an Ugly Duckling

I am an emotionally charged Mummy. Yesterday was Daughter’s prom. Fab day for Daughter, a rollercoaster of emotions, dramas, malfunctioning Satnavs, makeup disasters and bare-knuckle fights for me.

A whole day off work was requisitioned so that I could assist Daughter in her transformation from her customary leggings/baggy t-shirt getup and an aversity to hairbrush to… well, this amazing beauty I hardly recognised. I hasten to add that by assisting I mean chauffeuring to and from appointments, getting under her feet, stabbing her with a mascara brush in the eye and tying her shoelaces. I left the proper stuff to the professionals. And here comes my Prom Queen:

I am amazed and proud, and taken aback by her confidence and grown-up poise neither of which she got from me. And I thank her lucky star for that!

To illustrate my point, I will take you back in time to my own prom. What a tragic affair that was! For I was the ugly duckling who had never made it to the rank of swan.

First of all, it was a social event. Social events weren’t for me. They scared the living daylight out of me (still do, but pst…) as I had no idea what to say and felt deeply uncomfortable rubbing shoulders with all those people who knew exactly what they were doing. My thoughts were far away in lands fantastical and if I were to articulate them, my peers would regard me with contempt, I was sure of that. So I kept my mouth shut. I had no boyfriend. I had zero social acumen.

On the morning of the prom, while other girls were having their hair and nails done, I was away attending the final of The Young Writer 1985 competition. Instead of shoes and makeup, I was contemplating restless ghosts and the sound of a black horse’s hooves on a cobbled road in my gothic horror piece. Incidentally, I came third so that wasn’t a runaway success either.

From that event, my Dad drove me home at breakneck speed (in his car, not a black-horse-and-cart). With half-n-hour to the start of the prom, I hurriedly refreshed, washed the ink away from my fingers and wrapped myself in my new shiny dress (my Mum had chosen it for me on her own. I had been too busy doing something much more important at home).

It wasn’t only the dress that had been chosen for me behind my back and without my input. It was also my partner for the evening. Did I mention I didn’t have a boyfriend? But I did have a few good-Samaritan friends. One of them had recruited their brother’s mate to accompany me. So there I was in his arms on the dance floor, breathlessly counting the steps and never taking my eyes off my feet. Poor guy, it must have been the worst night of his young life!

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Thicker than Blood – a story of family feuds and desperate measures

Thicker than Blood is the third book in the DI Gillian Marsh Mysteries. It is a story of an unfinished business between two brothers, greed and regrets, old age and desperation, but also love.

As the old saying goes, You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Even more to the point in this story, you must be very carefully who you choose to be your enemy.

Sandman, a story of betrayal and revenge

This is the fourth book in my DI Gillian Marsh detective series.

In this thriller DI Marsh takes on a seasoned Afghani ex-soldier who is on the mission of taking revenge on the West for the losses he and his kind suffered at the hands of the Soviets and then the Allied Forces that occupied Afghanistan during the War on Terror.

The story takes the reader to Afghanistan, Russia, Syria, Italy and finally Britain.

The array of characters ranges from a Falklands war veteran, through an ex-Rhodesian farmer to a group of young men on a stag night and finally to the homeless living in the depths of the West Country.

Praise for Sandman:

One of Anna Legat’s great strengths is the ability to create a cast of believable and sympathetic characters using well-chosen detail. In “Sandman”, this is overlaid with a sense of impending tragedy as the plot draws them towards the fateful and fatal train journey.

Tim Stretton

Like a rollercoaster Sandman took me on a breakneck journey, with the route and the final destination impossible to predict. Unstoppable.

Amazon Reader

This is a book impossible not to finish!

Charlie Laidlaw

 

Sandman, the conspiracy of outcasts

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Just off the genteel Quakers Walk weaving its way amongst rolling fields towards Devizes’ White Horse sprawled upon Roundway Hill, a timid narrow footpath dives into a deep wood. The path is frequented by shady individuals: most of them skinny and unkempt, dressed in threadbare garments, looking older than their actual years due to what one would describe as falling on hard luck.

I once followed that path. It took me down a slippery slope and across a lazy stream towards a well-camouflaged network of under-the-scarp caves. Their existence was betrayed by rugs flapping in entrances and sheets of corrugated iron wedged on top of them. There were also signs of a campsite, a stack of firewood and a few empty bottles and drugs paraphernalia scattered around. The place had a distinct vibe of alienation, depravity and wretchedness about it. It was the homeless’ colony.

In the bushes not far from the path, I heard grunting noises. A quick reconnaissance revealed a couple engaging in the act of fornication. Out in the open! In broad daylight! Those were my first indignant reactions to what I was witnessing. Later on however, upon further reflection, I concluded that I couldn’t really expect the homeless to go and get a room, could I?

That god-forsaken place would a few years later make a perfect setting for Sandman. Haji had to find a hiding place, hole up in there and stay under the radar for days. He had to hide in plain view. He had to blend in. He had to look like he belonged. An Afghan outsider in an alien land, he could not book a hotel in the city or waltz into a quaint village pub in search of low-key accommodation. But he could sit around a campfire with a bunch of like-minded outcasts, and look like he was one of them. They were as disenfranchised as he was. The pariah status was his and their common denominator.

But was their shared existence on the outer perimeter of respectable society enough to give them strength in togetherness – well, let’s see…

Sandman is out tomorrow, 11th April 2019, the fourth instalment in the DI Marsh crime series.

Marching for people’s vote

It was one of those London outings that I won’t forget in a hurry. It didn’t involve the West End theatre production or shopping, but it was 100% pure London: people’s power in action. We were marching with the estimated 1 Million ordinary people for peace, friendship and unity of our small continent, sending a clear message to Mr Putin and Mr Trump who are so keen to divide and conquer us.

It was crowded, it was hot, it was slow-going as the mass of people filled every nook and cranny of the main streets and every side alley. There were youngsters hanging from scaffolding and statutes, waving EU and British flags. There was a great sense of comaraderie and good humour all round. Husband brandished Danny Dyer’s famous quote about Cameron and his trotters up in Nice. I grabbed a photo with none other but the now iconic STOP-Brexit Man who camps on the doorstep of the House of Parliament day and night, rain or shine, to deliver his message.

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Canada in instalments: 3 Its People

As mentioned previously, size matters in Canada. People there have big visions and they live in huge log cabins (you could carve a Titanic-type cruiser out of one of those logs!). Inside their enormous homes, they drink lots of spirits out of gigantic bottles (photographic evidence to follow in the slideshow below). They are also biiiig party animals. Every night they hold five-course meals for themselves and the legions of their many friends. Did I mention that Canadians are extremely sociable, chatty and generally great mixers?

But when in Canada one tends to go searching for the Last of the Mohicans. As did we. We tracked them down in the end and, although they didn’t resemble Daniel Day-Lewis closely, I felt like I caught up with the ghosts of the land. And I felt honoured to speak to those amazing – and elusive – people. That brought back memories of my childhood when I would always be an Indian when we played Cowboys & Indians. I even had a bow with arrows and a feather headdress!

 

 

 

Canada in instalments: 1 Port Edmonton

Canada is big. You will hear a lot of that in this travelogue. The country is big. The mountains and the lakes are big. Animals are bigger than our equivalents of them. People are big and they are also big-hearted. Following in this tradition, Port Edmonton is big too. You don’t know where it begins and where it ends. It just sits there in the windswept and open plains, which may be prairies, or may not be prairies at all, but they are vast, flat, blanketed with weather-beaten grasses and punctured with coniferous trees. So to me that equates prairies. Port Edmonton is sprawled in the middle of that vastness.

Whilst there, our wonderful hosts took us back in time to Port Edmonton of the yesteryear. You might think that there is no history to speak of in Canada and you might even be excused in thinking that any trip back in time will take you straight to the Stone Age. But you will be wrong. Take a look at this little gem of the Wild (Canadian) West:

The Grand Old Duke of York…

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It was time for crossing the North-South divide and following the grand old Duke of York to the top of that hill. We travelled to York ready for a frosty reception and the War of Roses. But it was a friendly and warm place, and it offered peace to the world on all fronts.

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For a few days we lived in the friendliest little B&B, run by a Viking-type character with red hair, plenty of tattoos and non-nonsense approach to hearty, protein and fats-packed breakfast, bless him! We dined on traditional Yorkist food, slowly becoming full-blooded troopers.

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For some diversity, we lounged in Turkish Baths: a whole evening dedicated to sweating, braising our bodies on full heat and then dipping them in an ice-cold pool. Something akin to making wrought-iron swords of ourselves. There was some hyperventilating on Husband’s part, but he recovered quickly and without grumbling.

On a cultural front, we visited York Theatre Royal to watch Agatha Christie’s murder mystery (nearly wrote mysery!). It was excellent, stylish and true to Miss Marple.

But the most satisfying was just loitering around York and inhaling its atmosphere. We scaled the walls and were nearly swept off them by the gales. We trotted to and fro in the Shambles, searching for ghosts of the past.

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York Cathedral took our breath away. It’s a living form, not a building. It sits on ancient foundations which outdate the Romans, and it rises all the way to heaven. One can just settle down in a pew and soak in the spirits that float there free and unobstructed by the twenty-first century.  Some of them have their heads immortalised in one of the chambers.

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Be my rock, a trip to Cornwall

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This is what I needed – Cornwall. I didn’t know that at the time of our departure. We had been offered this trip as part of some promotional programme, and I thought it was too good to be true. At first it seemed I was right – we were stuck in snail-paced traffic, desperate for a wee and envious of road-side kill (at least they didn’t care any more!).

Then there was the tortuous seminar, sweetened by an offering of high tea accompanied by a highly entertaining persona of a chap called Derek. The least we could do was to smile politely and listen (some of us did, others were still dying for a wee; too much high tea, you see.)

But it was all worth it! I’d gone there feeling low (for reasons of my own you don’t want to know), and re-evaluating my purpose in life; I came back feeling… alive in the very least. I found peace, fresh breeze, a horizon to drown myself in, and even a rocky companion that went exceptionally well with my t-shirt cacti.

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We’re good friends, the rock and I (and my t-shirt cacti).

Four days later, we had to be separated and it was time to face the real world, traffic, road-side kill and existential musings all inclusive. We waved goodbye to Cornwall. For those in the know I found Cornwall strikingly similar to New Zealand and French Brittany. Such a small world we live in – I fail to understand why some of us wish to slash it into yet smaller pieces and put barbwire fences between us, but I don’t want my musings to get in the way of universal beauty, so here is more of the good thing:

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