Sunday 31 May 2009

India ... Mum's story ... 1935 ...

India railways .. interestingly were being planned at much the same time as railways were being built in the UK. The Cornish tin and copper mining magnates were early adopters of the benefits of this new transport system in the early 1800s; as up until then shipping was the only realistic way of transporting heavy loads around the coasts and between countries.

In west Cornwall Hayle railway was opened in 1837, the local railways in Cornwall were built privately before the network system overcame the natural obstructions – rivers, steep hills, mountain ranges etc

The first railway in India opened in 1851 around the early (Bombay) Mumbai area .. supporting the need for construction materials required by the canal network: the canals and river systems in India originally played a huge role in moving goods around, as they had around the world since Roman times.

An elephant shunting a train on the Bengali - Nagpur Railway +/- 1880

Grish, who is a cleaner, in the Nursing Home comes from Ahmadabad one of the provinces of Gujurat, which borders Pakistan in the north and Mumbai in the south on the west coast of India; while the nurse on duty Jaitema comes from Kerala, I understand a beautiful state further south on the western shore of India. (Jaitema is wonderful - she's been at the Centre for six years .. so has been around all the time we've been there).

If someone comes into the room I like to explain to Mum what is happening, as she cannot find out for herself and she likes to know what is going on – and I’d never heard of Ahmadabad (I had heard of Gujurat), so was asking Grish about the area .. failing dismallywith his accent! .. hence the brief description here – I hate not knowing things!

Mum, aged 15, had travelled to India in 1935 and we were discussing this .. Grish was most interested, as I suspect not many people show an interest in foreign lands or their homelands and we always like to learn; I guess not too many people have travelled to or across India in the 1930s .. so I was asking Mum what she could remember.

She said she and her brothers (17 and 13) travelled out, almost certainly, in a P & O (Peninsular and Oriental Steam and Navigation Company) steamer from Southampton via the Suez Canal (opened 1869) to Mumbai.

By 1864, the East India Railways had arrived in Delhi although it was not until 1871 that the Bombay-Calcutta route was completed when the Great Indian Peninsular Railway reached Juppulpore. This route went to the north and was considerably longer.

The more southerly Mumbai to Kolkata (Calcutta) narrow gauge railway was finally tied up in 1900 with a bridge over one of the main tributaries in the Calcutta Delta – it is approximately 1,050 miles long (just out of interest! ... Los Angeles to New York = 3,000 miles; Perth – Sydney = 2,500 miles; Johannesburg to Cape Town = 870 miles; and of course! London – Penzance, Cornwall = 300 miles).
The P&O Sailing brochure 1937

My mother couldn’t remember the duration of the passenger ship journey or much about it, (but it seems it would have lasted 12 days) perhaps she’ll recall more another day; she did say they travelled out during the Christmas holidays and had had to take extra time off to visit my grandmother and her 2nd husband at his job with the East India Railway company in Calcutta.

My mother also couldn’t remember how long the train journey took (and I can't! find out) .. but said they had a compartment – without a corridor – which the three of them shared. My grandmother’s ‘bearer’ had come to meet them in Mumbai and escorted them on the train (presumably he was in a 3rd class carriage) across the continent to Calcutta and later on back again.

We discussed the definition of ‘bearer’: a general factotum (fac totum = in latin means a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities: do (fac) everything (totum)); which my mother said sounds like the definition she designates to me: 'an emanuensis' (a scribe) - a dogsbody (a person who does all the menial duties): so I suppose I fall into the category of ‘bearer’ for my mother!

I asked what they did for food .. and she said the train stopped often, as they couldn’t keep food .. it would go off too quickly. Being me .. I asked .. did you have a ‘loo’ (toilet (ghastly word!)) in the compartment and she thought they must have done .. and just said ‘it was family’ and we got on with it! For them in the 1930s it must have been a great adventure.

I asked if she could remember much about Calcutta .. but for the moment it’s lost in the mists of time – perhaps it’ll come back, now we’ve started to talk about it. She couldn’t remember where they stayed .. an apartment, a hotel or a house? – immediately my mother answers .. no a bungalow!!
The term ‘bungalow’ is first found in English from 1696, describing "bungales or hovells" in India for English sailors of the East India Company, (a trading company) which do not sound very grand lodgings; later it became used for the spacious homes, or official lodgings, of officials of the British Raj – and is now used around the world, typically to describe one storey properties.

My mother had also prompted me with the name ‘Taj Mahal’, when I couldn’t remember its name or for that matter the geography of India – as it’s miles off the route: so you tell me what’s wrong with her brain!

She came out with one of her wonderful descriptions .. so apt .. that brought me to tears .. she had never thought very much of her step-father .. and after a brief discussion on the matter .. out comes “well he was a poor specimen of a man” ... it’s probably a good thing he’s long left this mortal planet!!! I hope you can now see why I laugh so often, and why I’ve enjoyed these last 27 months .. I never know what’s coming. I called Jaitema in .. and told her .. and her eyes were on stalks and she was laughing too!!

Gwalior and Jhansi were in the Princely State of Gwalior. The Maharaja of Gwalior was from the Scindia family ruled Gwalior until India's independence from the United Kingdom in 1947. He developed an extensive narrow two foot gauge network of Railways in his state. The banqueting table in his palace had a silver model train which delivered liquers and cigars to his guests (see below).

I expect we’ll hear more now her mind is triggered .. but as you’ll have gathered I do like to put things into context as best I can ... tie up loose ends .. and I’ll bring a little more history into the story. I learn too! I just enjoyed finding out more about the railways and how lands became explored and opened up in our exploration age .. since the Industrial Revolution when so much changed.

The staff are always grateful when we include them in discussions (Grish stopped and said hello today!) .. as we all learn .. and they’ve had some wonderful conversations with my mother when she’s been wide awake and talkative at times when I haven’t been around. It makes the wheels go round ....

Thank you Mr Postman .. we're grateful that you keep coming now that the weather is so wonderful .. I know this story started with a lot about the railway, but this Industrial Revolution engine opened so much of the world up, moving us from water onto the land, and I know my mother will be interested in this transition and obviously the family used this form of transport in both England and India ... and she will be interested to hear how I have written it up.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 30 May 2009

The Speaker, the start of Parliament ... and free speech part 2/2

There have been a couple of other interesting historical aspects regarding previous holders of the office of Speaker: In the 1600s the Speaker of the House was still appointed by the Crown, with Charles 1 appointing William Lenthall, who was described as ‘of a very timorous nature’ ... and treated with little respect ... however in 1642 he showed his true mettle, and who he considered his true masters were:

King Charles I entered the House of Commons to seize five Members of Parliament, whom he considered to be disruptive Members and, having taken the Speaker’s Chair himself, turned to Lenthall and demanded of him whether any of the Members he wished to arrest were in the House.
King Charles 1 - Portrait by Anthony van Dyck 1636
Lenthall behaving with great prudence and dignity fell on his knees and replied:
May it please your Majesty, I have neither the eyes to see, nor the tongue to
speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I
am here
Lenthall during his parliamentary life of 20 years (despite those early misgivings) displayed a great deal of fortitude and ability to vary his roles, change allegiances, yet retain his position, and regain it when it was seemingly lost forever.

William Lenthall in 1652 - he looks careworn doesn't he? I included this picture .. as it shows his dress, and his goatee presumably the fashion of the day .. (another interesting fact is that Anthony van Dyck, who painted the portrait of King Charles 1 above .. is used as the example of a goatee beard!)

This is the era of the Civil War when Charles 1 was beheaded, Oliver Cromwell and Parliament ruled, subsequently the monarchy was restored when Charles 11 became King in 1660 and parliamentary life in England was never quite the same. This era has been described as the 'Commonwealth of England ruled by a republican government' during the years 1649 – 1660.

Betty Boothroyd, became known as ‘Madam Speaker’ during her tenure 1992 - 2000... in an earlier life she had been a member of the Tiller Girls, a dance troupe. Baroness Boothroyd soon left the Tiller Girls entering politics and had two years in Washington D.C. witnessing the Kennedy campaign and subsequently working as a legislative assistant to Republican Congressman, Silvio Conte, between 1960 and 1962.

Madam Speaker: Betty Boothroyd, MP

She gained ‘celebrity status’, breaking with over seven centuries of tradition, as the first elected woman Speaker, with her no-nonsense approach to style and substance. When the proceedings of the Commons were first broadcast in 1975 the Speaker of the day George Thomas was heard to cry “Order! Order!” to quell the murmurings of the members of Parliament. Madam Speaker instead of saying “Order! Order!” liked to bring proceedings to a halt with the brisk announcement, “Right!, time’s up” – true to her northern roots.

The Crowned Portcullis: the House of Commons logo -
the House of Commons has green leather benches, as is the Speaker's chair, seen above

She won a place in history as a holder of that coveted position “the Speaker”, and who has been one of the most successful upholders of standards in the Commons and has been known for her impartiality, toughness, sharp tongue and wit. Let’s hope that the next Speaker appointed brings these qualities back and we can regain some of the honour and belief in our parliamentary system that in recent years with Speaker Martin have been lost.

To continue on with the theme on freedom to speak .. Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, London has become a traditional site for public speeches and debate as well as the main site of protest and assembly in Britain.

Public riots broke out in the Park in 1855 in protest over the Sunday Trading Bill which forbade buying and selling on a Sunday, the only day working people had off. The riots were described by Karl Marx as the beginning of the English revolution.

Hyde Park in the 1800s and 1900s continued to be the point of assembly for workers’ protests establishing free speech for most working class men in 1867, and these riots and agitation for democratic reform encouraged some to force issue of the "right to speak" in Hyde Park.

Nowadays, many of its regular speakers are non-mainstream, Speakers' Corner was frequented by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell, and William Morris (textile designer - as well as socialist). Its existence is frequently upheld as a demonstration of free speech, as anyone can turn up unannounced (with their soap box) and talk on almost any subject, though they are likely to be heckled by regulars and the crowd.
That was a very brief tour covering some of the aspects showing how we got to where we are now relative to the start of our parliamentary system and freedom of speech; explaining Magna Carta and its “Great Charter of Freedoms”, of the development of Parliament, the right of the people over the Crown starting to be established, the part the printing press played in the opening up of the free press, the rights of workers being upheld, and on to today whereby the Speaker of Parliament is expected to be impartial and allow our elected representatives to express our views, though we may still have free speech and express our personal views at Speakers’ Corner, if we so wish ....

Thank you Mr Postman .. I expect my mother will laugh with me and remember Betty Boothroyd and her cry "Right! time's up"; as you say - it is quite an interesting "fly by .." on a tiny part of our history .. reminding us of how far we've come ... especially in these recent years .. til tomorrow then ..
She loves these stories and hearing some recent stimulating news for her to be able to take in; In July she remembered that I had written about the Speaker .. so you tell me what is wrong with her brain?! She does continually amaze the staff and I ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 29 May 2009

The Speaker, the start of Parliament ... and free speech - part 1/2

In the United Kingdom, the Speaker, Michael Martin, is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, and is seen historically as the First Commoner of the Land. The incumbent does not take a leadership role, but is responsible for procedural and administrative functions relative to the House of Commons, the Sovereign, the Palace of Westminster (the ‘home’ of the House of Lords and the House of Commons).

Speaker, Michael Martin, in the House of Commons
Whereas the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is the third in the succession stakes – and plays a leadership role in the majority party and actively works to set that party’s legislative agenda, together with administrative and procedural functions; she does not however preside over debates, delegating those duties.

The Speaker is meant to chair the House of Commons’ debates impartially, which means that they are expected to read the mood of the Members of Parliament (MPs) accurately and to give each Member the chance to be heard – forsaking party loyalty and remaining strictly impartial at all times.

Speaker Martin forgot that obligation recently when he came to the Commons to deliver a statement on MPs' expenses; while previously he had fought tooth and nail to prevent MPs’ expenses being made public or to allow due consideration to reforming Parliament’s outmoded practices.

Due to a clamour by MPs that they had no confidence in the Speaker, Michael Martin became the first Speaker of the House of Commons for more than 300 years to be forced from office, due on 21 June 2009. The last time this happened in 1695, Parliament voted not to renew the Licensing of the Press Act, which had censored “seditious, treasonable and unlicensed Bookes and Pamphlets”, thus freeing up the press, which we retain and value so highly today.

Moveable metal type and composition stick descended from Gutenberg's press.
Parliament came into being in the 13th century – the word “parliament” derived from the French word ‘parler’ to talk .. and means parleying, a discussion, a conference. Magna Carta that “Great Charter of Freedoms” was originally signed by King John and issued in 1215.

In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period mostly did not limit the power of Kings; but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law.
John of England signs the Magna Carta -
illustration from Cassel's History of England (1902)

Magna Carta had limited the ability of the monarch to raise taxation and this could now only be achieved by summoning a Parliament. Edward I called the first ‘Model’ Parliament on 13 November 1295, so called the Model Parliament because it was from this meeting that all future parliaments were based.

Two knights of each shire, two citizens from the cities and two burgesses from the boroughs were elected to attend court at Westminster along with the bishops, barons and noblemen.

The additional burden of taxation would fall on these persons but factions and groups soon emerged. By 1332, the knights, citizens and burgesses had grouped together to form the Commons, while the nobles and bishops had come together to represent the interests of the Lords.

In 1341, the Commons and Lords meet separately and the future architectural development of the Palace of Westminster was therefore inextricably bound up with its role as the meeting place of both Parliament and the Courts of Law.

So during the establishment of this parleying .. the nobility and the peoples started to get their right to have some say over the Crown, the raising of taxes, and the rule of law – this continued as the centuries passed, and at times resulted in momentous or significant changes to our governance.

I know I've been gone a day or two .. things have been happening .. however the good news is that Mum and I had a really good day on Tuesday .. and we laughed, joked, chatted and generally had fun together - something that hasn't happened since February: so it has been wonderful. There've been some momentous happenings in our Parliament recently and I thought my mother would be interested .. so I've written a two part letter .. simplifying recent events and bringing some history to bear ...
Thank you Mr Postman for delivering this first letter ... I'll send the second tomorrow .. - it's an interesting time in our parliamentary history .. I wonder what the future will hold ...
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 23 May 2009

Chelsea, Perfume and Prince Charles?

Dear Mr Postman not the most obvious of connections perhaps .. but this week, as you'll know, Summer really has arrived for the English .. the start of the cricket season .. the gentle echo of leather on wood, and the Chelsea Flower Show setting the standard for future gardens ..

Anemones - my mother's favourite flower is Chelsea's 2009 brand
The Victoria Medal of Honour is awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society to horticulturists whom they consider to be highly deserving. There can only ever be 63 at any given time - the number of years that Queen Victoria reigned -when the first one was issued in 1897 (together with fifty nine others! - two of whom I recognise .. Gertrude Jekyll (the influential British garden designer, writer and artist) and Lionel Walter Rothschild (banker and zoologist). The RHS this year awarded their highest accolade to HRH The Prince of Wales for 'his passion for plants, sustainable gardening and the environment'.

The Cancer Garden - the People's Choice at Chelsea 2009

Should I have started with royalty? - I don't know .. but it leads me towards the others .. The Queen presented her son with his medal .. & I guess perhaps he said "thank you, Mummy" .. at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. Years ago the Prince famously admitted that he talked to plants during a tv interview in 1986 .. as you'd expect 20+ years ago that earned him much derision .. but he said his gardening practice and philosophy was to 'come and talk to the plants .. they seem to respond'. His reasoning .. appears to be correct - though no-one knows quite why! Any ideas?

Chelsea this year has been hit by the recession .. only 13 show gardens instead of the usual 20+ and a number of smaller gardens being created with a credit crunch theme .. watering and environmental tips, raised beds, fruit or vegetables everywhere .. so we save food miles and have a healthier diet. I saw hanging tomatoes when I was out in the States .. now those I haven't seen here .. yet. Presumably they'd work just as well for strawberries?

The Perfume Garden at Chelsea has been designed as a sensory experience .. and though you cannot receive scent via the net .. you can have a look at an excellent 5 minute video made by the BBC on this garden - it's well worth a look.

This comes from English Heritage's Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle.

I believe the designers have been involved in the Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle that's been restored (see more at the English Heritage site) using advances in garden achaeology and which has been described in some detail from a letter dated 1575 (available for reading on the English Heritate site) .. whereby they've managed to create the sight, scent and sounds that would have greeted Queen Elizabeth I when she first walked the gardens.

In the ancient world plant perfumes were enjoyed and used as necessary accoutrements .. perfume balls like the later pomanders, pot pourri, nosegays etc all became essential to ward off the smells of life, when no sanitation existed. Scented flowers, herbs, leaves, bulbs and rhyzomes were all used appropriately for their beneficial oils or scents. It's been said that the mortar used in the building of some of the ancient temples was partly mixed with musk, and for many years the walls continued to give out a powerful scent.

Jars of perfume more than 4,000 years old have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs in Cyprus, together with stills, the utensils for a huge factory; the making of perfume is not easy and even though we have the technological advances today .. we still need a huge of amount of flowers: it is estimated that it takes one hectare of roses to produce a single kilo of the essential essence attar of roses, first discovered in Persia.

Perfume waters are easier to make using the distillation process - and rose water was brought to Europe by the knights returning from the Crusades .. the alchemists of the medieval ages started to weave their magic bringing new and pleasant scents to the rulers of the time .. encouraging the herbalists, plantsmen to develop new waters, syrups, pomanders, pot pourris from the local plants. Before that perfumes were made by boiling plants in fat to make a fragrant ointment.

Early Medieval recipes for the making of perfume, ointments and pomanders consisting of lavender, elderflower, lily waters have been found, together with violet and rose syrups, dried leaves and petal mixes for bags to hang on chairs, take to bed or use in the house to ward off unpleasant smells.

Fortunately today we have sanitation, we smell sweet - mostly! .. we can make ourselves smell sweeter and as our learning continues we are embracing the ancients' knowledge as to the many benefits of a sensory garden and its uses. We are learning to be extremely grateful for those explorers, scientists, experimenters, recorders and plantsmen of the past centuries, without whom we would we would all be so much poorer as far as our gardens are concerned - we are finally truly embracing our roots and the benefit of our lands.

Chelsea this year had so much to offer - plants and gardens of course, knots, embroidery, quilts, pillboxes, east meeting west, toys ..... what a mix - tales to tell.

Mr Postman thank you for bringing us these tales .. my mother will enjoy the story and we have our first summer scents in her room - I found some wonderful large stocks .. purple, lilac and white .. they are wafting their perfume towards her. I'm grateful to you for keeping an eye on her while I was away .. this year hasn't been very kind to her .. and she will never truly get over the trials - which considering she actually hasn't been ill .. seem somewhat unfair - but we live on and I will keep her as happy as I can. We will talk about our visits to the Chelsea Flower Show and the amazing gardens she has created.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Friday 22 May 2009

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun .. our English take on life ..

Dear Mr Postman .. isn't it wonderful .. we're into those lazy hazy days of summer .. when we can spend the day with friends - picnicking or bar-b-queing perhaps? with a pint of beer, soft drink or a glass of wine, lolling in the sun watching the clouds in the soft blue sky, listening to the birds sing and insects buzz .. with the thunder of men pounding the turf, swaggering as they make a catch, or hit a four or even a six .. the odd phrase or word 'catch', 'now', 'how about that?' ... floating across the field .. the kids playing outside the boundary ropes .. everyone basking in the warmth of the summer, while a gentle banter pervades occasionally permeating ones own subsconscious, when necessary ... blissful days -

W G Grace "taking guard" in 1883. His pads and bat look very
similar to those used today. The gloves have evolved somewhat. Many modern
players utilise more defensive equipment than was available to Grace, notably
helmets and arm guards.

My father was very keen on cricket .. possibly the beer too! .. and we loved our days being at cricket games with nothing to fill our time .. but listen to bat and ball (willow and leather) and play with our friends at the boundary's edge, or read spread eagled on our rugs, or just ... being ... gosh those were the days ...

Cricket the game that starts at 11.30 am going through til 6.30 pm or so and lasts for 5 days - well that is the Test Game .. is that a test? Now we have 20 20 a limited over one day game .. and variations on a theme .. and the pub game played out on the local village green .. we're lucky in England to have so many of these where the village grew up around the common land.

Have I lost you already .. ? Oh well .. wait til you've read the next few paragraphs and then .. I await your comments!
Melbourne, Australia - a limited overs match

To give you a little background before the incredibly enlightening explanation of 'how to play cricket' .. Cricket probably comes from old english cric, cryec, for a staff or stick. Cricket probably seamlessly transitioned from the older simpler games of club-ball, stool ball (a Sussex game revived and played today), or rounders .. played with a stick, ball and/or a stool .. these probably morphed into the American baseball .. but quite honestly cricket is enough for today!!

Back in 1598 (good thing we kept records!) John Derrick stated that as a boy at school in Guildford (being then aged 59) "hee and several of his fellowes did runne and play there at Crickett and other plaies"; Hambledon Cricket Club in Hampshire used to play matches against Dartford in Kent .. but Hambledon's home ground of Broad HalfPenny Down laid the foundations for the game's future, before its move to London and the establishment in 1787 of the Marylebone Cricket Club, as the governing body, with its present Lord's Cricket Ground opening in 1814.

"It's not cricket" is an old saying, which means .. It's not done in a fair and sportsmanlike way - we could do with more of this today ..
A bowler bowling to a batsman. The paler strip is the cricket pitch. The two sets of three wooden stumps on the pitch are the wickets. The two
white lines are the creases.
Here's how you play this game .....!!??!!

I think it starts "The side that go out are in..."
It's called:-
CRICKET: AS EXPLAINED TO A FOREIGNER... please read very carefully?!

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.

Simple! Need a drink? or a sit down? ... well you could have a read from the Wikepedia site on cricket .. and see more .. and perhaps move into chains, pitches, stumps, fields .. No? - oh I'm surprised!

Perhaps the pretty picture that I couldn't resist .. explains the batsmens' strokes ..

and this is our National Game! We do definitely go out in the midday sun .. but not with mad dogs .. just with sunstroke and a muddled head .. cutting, driving, pulling, leg glancing with a stick and a bit of leather .. it takes all sorts??!!

Thank you Mr Postman for delivering this letter .. I think my mother will understand and have a laugh and smile .. who else other than us English .. could possibly get our heads round it & we've needed over 400 years to master it and in that time to spread our mad and crazy games around the world .. oh well - good, you also enjoy the day lazing around onthe grass .. me too ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Thursday 21 May 2009

Minnie Mouse, Pomeranians, Bats and travel ..

Dear Mr Postman .. this is another letter for my mother on my travels and the connections that I make with aspects of life ...

Flying through Philadelphia .. and wandering 'lost' through the airport's myriad of cross sections .. I had plenty of time .. and certainly walked around. Finally deciding that I was going to see if a tip regarding jet lag would work for my trip home .. so I settled at some take away for a fairly disgusting spaghetti and meat balls .. as I needed something to sustain me
for the next 9 hours.

When I travelled out .. a couple of guys on the train up to Gatwick had suggested that to counter jet lag, if Ihad just water during the last flight and once at my destination settled into the normal meal regime of the day .. I'd feel fine. I thought I'd try it - it certainly seemed to work for the Charlotte - San Diego leg going out.

As I'm settling in to this 'meal' .. up come a mother, Maude, and her daughter, Lauren (aged 12) to share the table .. and what an interesting half hour we had. Lauren is a special child and was so lovely and willing to share her stories re her dogs .. so this is for her:

Dear Lauren .. it was a pleasure to meet you - and I'm so pleased that your special 'Minnie' can travel with you, whenever you take a flight .. it must make the journey and the waiting around so much more pleasant for you? You can talk to her, sing to her - I guess? and walk her around in her special carrier .. showing her the shops - though I know you like to be in position and ready to go at the airline gate .. not window shopping like the rest of us?!

I hope you had a safe journey home .. and are now reunited with Sophie - your family dog, whom I know you were missing. Have a good rest of the term and enjoy your holiday time - lucky you .. wish I had that!

Minnie doesn't look like Micky Mouse's "Minnie" .. though she is small, but not as small as Minnie mouse! Your Mum said that Minnie is a 'Pom Shih' .. but I can only find Pomeranians .. I'm sure she's a special Pomeranian. Would you mind if I shared some information with my readers on Poms, and also on bats .. Mum's suggestion that Minnie looks like a wingless fruit bat .. is a bit unfair, I think .. though I know you both laugh - but I thought I'd look up some information for us all: I hope that's ok? Here goes ...

Minnie seems true to form .. as Poms are friendly and playful, while being protective of their owners; it seems that they are very easily house trained. Did you know that pictures of Poms can be found on stone or bronze sculptures dating back to the Egyptian age .. over 4,000 years ago! They are named Pomeranian after the slavic word 'Pommorze' or 'Pommen', which means "along the sea" .. by the Baltic Sea on Poland's north coast.

Poms have had notable owners .. for instance Michelangelo had a Pom who would sit and watch him paint the Sistine Chapel; Sir Isaac Newton had a Pomeranian who once upset a candle on his important papers, which contained more than 20 years of research. Queen Victoria is said to have made them stylish throughout Europe. These Poms were not as small as those of today (now 3 - 4 pounds) .. where they've been bred for their diminutive size, ease of care and general demeanour .. being loved by children such as Lauren!

Bats ... I found this story .. and I'd love to share it ..

For the Love of Bats:
A boy's fascination becomes a family affair . . .
Bert Grantges' room in Arlington, Texas, looks like that of any other typical 14-year-old, but for the sign on the door: "Knock. Bats are in my room." Another sign taped to the refrigerator, "Feed bats!," gives any visitor a further clue that this is not a typical household.

... it goes on: To feed them, Bert has a standing mail order for 1,000 meal worms that arrive every three weeks. The fruit bats consume a total of about 28 apples, oranges, and bananas in a week, along with heaping servings of cottage cheese, monkey chow, molasses, and Jell-O. How does Bert's mother cope with her son's unusual pets? "I suppose it's not much different than a frog in his pocket," Carol says. "Except they eat more."

Golden crowned-flying fox bat

I don't want to disappoint you .. but Bert has now to be in his 30s I'd guess .. but the story is well worth reading .. or for passing on to children or grandchildren .. Bert was from a tot absolutely determined to look after bats!

There are different sorts of bats .. the most prolific (70%) are the insect eating bats, the fruit bats make up 20%, while the carnivorous - I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear - make up less than 10%. The insect eating bats use echolocation .. and Giovanna of Imperfect Action did a wonderful post a while ago entitled "See Without Eyes" on Ben Underwood, 14, who can do amazing things .. please look! .. by using echolocation himself = unheard of in humans.
"Chiroptera" (bats) from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur,
In America bats have become a tourist attraction .. in Austin Texas. The Congress Avenue Bridge is the summer home to North America's largest urban bat colony, an estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. 100,000 tourists per year visit the bridge at twilight to watch the bats leave the roost .. to eat an estimated 10,000 - 30,000 pounds of insects each night.
I hope you enjoyed all these links .. all these subjects - don't seem to mix do they? .. but here they do ..

Thank you Mr Postman for delivering this letter .. and could you please make sure that Lauren reads it .. I'd like her to know I've kept my word and have done a 'story' for her .. my mother will also be pleased to hear about Lauren and my travels .. Do you think Minnie, the Pom, looks like a wingless fruit bat?!
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Dylan, Dylan and Dylan .. who are they?

Dear Mr Postman .. on my travels to San Diego and back .. I bought Time Magazine to provide some light reading, which I thought might get my creative juices flowing .. & yes it did - thank you. I had an excellent trip .. and it is so good to see you again and to know that our letters are delivered safely.

Dylan, Dylan and Dylan .. I can hear you thinking .. all will be revealed .. the Time special publication regarding the World's most influential people is very interesting .. containing relatively short articles on 100 people .. and as Joel Stern, the contributor & LA Times columnist, confirms .. he didn't know half of them either. The 2009 Time 100: The World's Most Influential People.

Bob Dylan also has a feature under the Time Music section - with an article entitled "Bringing It All Back Home". The lyrics of his song ..: "The Times They Are A-Changin': Come gather 'round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown ..." is so resonate of today (albeit for a different reason) .. the times are changing .. however there are always links back to the past. If you feel like a little nostalgia for the song .. go here!

Dylan (born 1941) began life as a folksinger, accompanying himself on the guitar and harmonica in coffee houses as a student in Minnesota; He was influenced by Woody Guthrie, the folk balladeer, and after visiting his idol in hospital in New York he stayed on.

He has admitted that he was influenced by the work of Dylan Thomas, whose name he appropriated, while his lyrics have been published and are admired for their poetry and wit: he was also formally nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997.

Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953) (via Wikipedia) was a Welsh poet, who wrote exclusively in English; in addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself. He was well known for being a versatile and dynamic speaker, best known for his poetry readings, his powerful voice with its subtle Welsh lilt would captivate American audiences during his speaking tours in the early 1950s.

He made over 200 broadcasts for the BBC. Often considered his greatest single work is the "play for voices" Under Milk Wood, a radio play featuring the characters of Llareggub, a fictional Welsh fishing village (humorously named; note that 'Llareggub' is 'Bugger All' backwards, implying that there is absolutely nothing to do there).

Richard Burton, the iconic Welsh actor, starred in the first BBC broadcast (1954) of the play, which fortunately materialised as Thomas had to be dragged out of the pub back up to the BBC offices to finish the work; while for the film made in 1972 Burton was joined by Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole.

Dylan Thomas died in New York on 9 November 1953. He was already ill when he arrived in New York on 20 October to take part in Under Milk Wood at the City’s prestigious Poetry Center (so prestigious .. that I can't find a reference to it now .. anyone know?!).

The third Dylan is somewhat younger .. a mere one year old .. and who is the quite delightful son of Giovanna Garcia, whose home I had the privilege of staying in last weekend, while I had some Imperfect Action training ... Giovanna's blog is brilliant and well worth a read ..

To my surprise his bedroom is full of African animals and African prints .. elephants, zebra, a lion, leopard prints on the walls and curtains, and inlcudes a special 'person' Geoffrey the giraffe = Dylan's favourite ..
.. and as you will have gathered my last few posts have been mainly on Africa, elephants and other animals - as the present I'd brought Dylan is a copy of the "Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling .. including "The Elephant's Child". Kipling didn't write a story on how the Giraffe got his Neck .. perhaps I should one day? I'm sure Geoffrey would like to know .. and I'm certain Dylan will .. later on ...
So that dear Readers is how these three Dylans became linked together ..

Thank you Mr Postman for delivering this .. did you like the links - oh good .. My mother will also be pleased to have her regular daily letter again .. Yes - she is 'fine' .. this latest episode has really knocked her for six .. but she was also still spunky yesterday .. even briefly ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Saturday 16 May 2009

Travelling light .. next few days ..flu 1892, elephant's child

Dear Mr Postman .. I'm travelling light .. and will 'cheat' a little and just copy things out that I know my mother will like to hear ..things from her childhood and ours ..

Elephant crossing the Limpopo

.. the Limpopo in the dry season .. showing the ribbon of river separating South Africa and Zimbabwe

Rudyard Kipling wrote wonderful stories and poems for children .. and you'll know some of them as Disney films .. Jungle Book, Mowgli (2nd Jungle book) .. or other earlier films .. his life is really interesting as he was born in 1865 in India travelling between there and England .. he was the son of an art teacher and nephew of two of the greatest late Victorian painters - Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Sir Edward Poynter ; however he started life as a journalist at 17 back in India.
He turned his hand to writing poetry and short stories and was published in both areas. By 1889, when he gave up his job to go back to the UK, his reputation was such that he could become a full time writer.

He married the sister of his American publicity agent, Carrie Balestier, on 18 January 1892, in London, (per Wikipedia) in the "thick of an influenza epidemic, when the undertakers had run out of black horses and the dead had to be content with brown ones." They travelled extensively .. USA, Japan, England, South Africa, India .. and as you would expect from me - I've just seen so many other interesting facets about him, when I'm home and in due course I'll do some other posts.

Today as I promised in my journey of surprises post is the story of The Elephant's Child, which starts ...

In the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn't pick up things with it. But there was one Elephant--a new Elephant--an Elephant's Child--who was full of 'satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions.

And he lived in Africa, and he filled all Africa with his 'satiable curtiosities. He asked his tall aunt, the Ostrich, why her tail-feathers grew just so, and his tall aunt the Ostrich spanked him with her hard, hard claw. He asked his tall uncle, the Giraffe, what made his skin spotty, and his tall uncle, the Giraffe, spanked him with his hard, hard hoof. And still he was full of 'satiable curtiosity!

He asked his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, why her eyes were red, and his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, spanked him with her broad, broad hoof; and he asked his hairy uncle, the Baboon, why melons tasted just so, and his hairy uncle, the Baboon, spanked him with his hairy, hairy paw. And still he was full of 'satiable curtiosity! He asked questions about everything that he saw, or heard, or felt, or smelt, or touched, and all his uncles and his aunts spanked him. And still he was full of 'satiable curtiosity!

Please see the rest of the story here - I loved these stories as a child .. and now re-reading them .. one can evoke the feeling and emotion of the extraordinariness of them, but how true .. and fabled they have become .. (the elephant's child reaching for bananas - woodcut illustration is above)

In my earlier post .. there's a woodcut illustration of the elephant child's trunk being pulled .. with Kipling's artistic description thus.. it is just so (how appropriate Just So Stories) accurate and his illustrations are superb:

THIS is the Elephant's Child having his nose pulled by the Crocodile. He is much surprised and astonished and hurt, and he is talking through his nose and saying, 'Led go! You are hurtig be!' He is pulling very hard, and so is the Crocodile: but the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake is hurrying through the water to help the Elephant's Child. All that black stuff is the banks of the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River (but I am not allowed to paint these pictures), and the bottly-tree with the twisty roots and the eight leaves is one of the fever-trees that grow there.

Underneath the truly picture are shadows of African animals walking into an African ark. There are two lions, two ostriches, two oxen, two camels, two sheep, and two other things that look like rats, but I think they are rock-rabbits. They don't mean anything. I put them in because I thought they looked pretty. They would look very fine if I were allowed to paint them.

Thank you for being around for us while I travel Mr Postman .. it's being a good trip .. lots to learn and lovely people to meet ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters

Friday 15 May 2009

Pythons,elephants cont. .. and today's technology ...

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for holding another letter for us ... Mum and I can chat happily about Zimbabwe and the days gone by .. she was able to visit a few times .. as her younger brother had a tobacco farm out there .. sadly he was killed by terrorists in 1976 - for being in the wrong place at the wrong time on his farm - he didn't usually go out to that part of the lands in the middle of the day - difficult times for her .. she's been through a lot .. however she doesn't dwell and even now remains positive - I don't bring negative into my conversations .. I always look on the bright side with her ..

Okavango Delta ........

Sunrise in Zimbabwe, African bush

To continue our elephant saga and an eye opening fun tale .. we were very lucky that another car drove along, as there's a curfew for being out late in Game Parks; they stopped, we hooked up to their little white van .. and off we set: only to encounter a herd of elephant near the road .. so we stopped .. the kids and I weren't at all happy - we'd been through this once before .. but not attached to another vehicle with no mobility of our own! The couple and their friend in the white van were having a right old time .. laughing away with the van rocking on its axles .. and I definitely was getting a whiter shade of white. Fortunately the elephants decided we weren't a threat and we carried on our way ..

Maleme Park Zimbabwe, Game Reserve Camp

.. through the Park Gates and on to Bulawayo .. now we were on the tarred road and could bowl along quite happily .. not many feet from the white van in front. Near the outskirts of Bulawayo we saw a police car .. the white van waved happily to him, they obviously knew him socially .. and he was waving back, then started to wave more frantically at us - telling us to stop!! Well you can imagine we couldn't do much except watch in slow motion as we went by.

Rhodes Matopos National Park

We weren't travelling that fast .. the white van wasn't very powerful, had three fairly heavy people in it and was towing us lot in a BMW behind (I know not a proper vehicle for the Okavango .. the land rover had broken down in Johannesburg .. and we'd come up in the BMW, Mike had gone a separate route .. and I'd been fortunate enough to experience the safari journey through the Okavango Delta in one of the other 4 wheel drive vehicles .. brilliant trip). Back to the BMW .. this poor policeman frantically waving us down, kept his arm motion going faster and faster .. then sort of realised that it wasn't working and as we passed him, we could see his eyes open wider and wider in shock that we were ignoring him .. and I'm sure if we could have seen his face properly .. his jaw was rapidly descending to the ground in open mouthed objection .. what did those South Africans think they were doing ignoring him?! I guess - he found out later on the full story .. we safely made it back to Johannesburg, after getting a mechanic to sort us out.

I hardly saw any snakes during my time in Africa... probably a good thing, as I'm not that keen on them .. though they are incredible animals and are absolutely beautiful .. I'd been put off as a kid .. tales of adders, grass snakes another day. I did encounter an African Rock Python one day on a gravel road in a Game Reserve in Natal .. it was just lying there warming itself .. and eventually slithered away = that's the closest I got ..

This recent story appearing in the Independent Newspaper .. which perhaps you've seen amused me and I'm sure will my mother .. though I'm sure Ben Nyaumbe wasn't so happy about it .. Man Bites Python in Kenya:
A Kenyan man bit a python who wrapped him in its coils and hauled him up a tree in a struggle that lasted hours, local media said today.
Farm manager Ben Nyaumbe was working at the weekend when the serpent, apparently hunting for livestock, struck in the Malindi area of Kenya's Indian Ocean coast.
"I stepped on a spongy thing on the ground and suddenly my leg was entangled with the body of a huge python," he told the Daily Nation newspaper.
When the snake coiled itself round his upper body, Nyaumbe resorted to desperate measures: "I had to bite it."
The python dragged him up a tree, but when it eased its grip, Nyaumbe said he was able to take a mobile phone out of his pocket and phone for help.
When his supervisor came with a policeman, Nyaumbe smothered the snake's head with his shirt, while the rescuers tied it with a rope and pulled.
"We both came down, landing with a thud," said Nyaumbe, who survived with damaged lips and bruising.
The snake escaped from the three sacks it was bundled into.

Safari route through Tsavo Game Park Kenya

This story just amazes me for a couple of reasons - to think that a python could drag a man up into a tree - that thought just makes my brain coil in horror .. especially as it'd probably be a thorn tree (acacia) .. and then the fact that Nyaumbe had a mobile phone (and it worked) .. and was able to use it .. where has this world got to today .. well it certainly provided Mr Nyaumbe with a life line!! After that little episode I think the snake deserved to escape .. so it could tell its story to the snake world?!
Thank you Mr Postman for holding our stories .. I know my mother will love these memories and I can describe the pictures to her (as she can't read properly - due to left sided neglect) and we can remember the dirt and earth smell of Africa, as well as all the other wonderful sights and emotions of Africa's pull ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Elephants, pythons, Zimbabwe .. and more .. to be continued ...

Dear Mr Postman ... another letter for you to hold for my mother .. some reminiscences of times in or of Africa ...
This is an Indian polo elephant playing?! .. a car pushover ....

I now feel bad .. I should have asked Twumwaa for more of her stories .. but I felt there was so much to tell and so much to hear about .. and more importantly so much to take in - that I definitely wouldn't have been such a brilliant listener .. and I so much want to hear her life story - it'll be so interesting. The other thing I didn't mention is that she studied political science in Montreal .. so has spent time in Canada .. and I suspect (to my chagrin) can speak French passably well!

Anyway we had enough interaction to keep us laughing happily while we both reminisced about Africa .. and I learnt microscopically little of the Ghanaian way of life - but something!! We talked about her name and where it had come from .. and why .. I understand her parents named her after her great grandmother on her father's side. Then we moved on to her brothers' names .. also Ghanaian ... however they were both born on Wednesday .. and so have similar names to tie in with the lore of the "The Ghanaian Day Name".

This information is provided by the Traditional Ghanaian Names site: "The Ghanaian Name Day is the name assigned to the child born on a specific day of the week which also includes characteristics of the child born on the specific day of the week. This day name also called the Kradin name, is carried on throughout the life of the child, and amazingly accurate as horoscopes in the western world. " The same site provided the following information ..

Male names for Wednesday are: "Kuuku, Kwaku, Kweku - and mean Mischievious, vicarious, vigilant and daring"; one of her brothers is called Kwaku, the other Kweku .. -it would muddle me ... but I'm only an English lady called Hilary, which means 'happy' .. so perhaps there's logic here too in our lore ......while Twumwaa was born on Saturday and her family name is "Ama" which means ... "Possesses the medicine for snakes bite, able to reverse crisis, thorough and painstakingly scrupulous, Saturday is also God's Day".

We've had brushes with elephants .. and in Botswana I've been separated in a convoy of 4 vehicles by a herd of elephants .. headed by the matriarch = they are the controllers in the elephant world! They say elephants don't forget .. ok I can vouch for their short term memory! .. the march of the elephants continued and we couldn't break it - which meant in the days before mobile phones we really were cut off & we had someone else's children with us?! Well we sat & waited .. but to no avail they were simply not letting us through - & obviously we can't go across the bush ....eventually a space occurred and we went .. but the matriarch followed us bellowing away, ears flapping ... I can't say I was too happy, on the other hand I'm here to tell the tale.

This story was reported the other day .. these are great pictures by Barcroft Media - so appropriately titled by them .. so please have a look at the others! ...The Daily Mail: Elephants march through hotel lobby after it was built on their migration trail

Let the porter grab your trunk: An elephant wanders through Mfuwe Lodge, in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

The animals came in two-by-two: Hotel staff and visitors have got used to the elephants' impromptu strolls through reception

It is not every day that guests in a hotel would expect to share the foyer with an elephant, or even a herd of elephants. However, Will and Guy have learned that in the Mfuwe Lodge in the 9,500 sq km South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, it is a common occurrence. The herd, numbering ten, is led to the lodge each day by the matriarch, Wonky Tusk.
The hotel was unwittingly built on the route to the herd's favourite mango trees and the elephants have seen no reason to change the path trodden by generations before them.

Migration route: The hotel was built directly in the path of the elephants' route to one of their favourite foods - mangos

Andy Hogg, 44, director at Mfuwe Lodge, said the herd appears every November as the mangoes ripen, 'This is a totally natural phenomenon, the elephants come here of their own accord and it is certainly a rare but magnificent sight.'

After this we went from the Okavango Delta, via the Chobe river and the pan handle into Zimbabwe and Wankie game reserve, now called Hwange .. this time I'd switched vehicles and the kids were with us again .. and we broke down!! Their parents and friends were ahead ... they'd got fed up of Mike bird-watching every 20 feet .. and had decided to head for the camp in Bulawayo for the night - it was some distance still. We could have been stuck there ..
I suddenly remembered this story .. so included it .. as I thought it was so great when I heard about it .. tomorrow I'll finish my journey with our Hwange rescue .. and bring in the python tale too .. I did manage to bring snakes in .. as Twumwaa possesses the medicine for snake bites .. except pythons do bite, but don't poison .. oh well the connection is near enough - when you're in sunny San Diego away from the home front ..
Thank you Mr Postman for keeping this letter safe for us .. I haven't told my mother about the elephants' migration route yet - and that will amuse her ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Thursday 14 May 2009

A journey of surprises ...

Dear Mr Postman's good to know you hold letters while I'm travellin' .. my mother will love this story .. as it resonates about Africa .. and will cheer her and bring back happy memories .. - ' yes, thank you .. she seems to be ok and Janice, our healer, has been in to see her .. and thank goodness hasn't been sent back to the hospital again .. enough is enough .. she just hates the journey and the constant pricks and jabs .. necessary I suppose .. I hope she can rest up while I'm away'

Travelling is always interesting .. and something I've learnt to take in my stride, not get stressed about, just do it .. and arrive safely!! It's pretty grotty .. tiring and dirty, lots of hanging around .. but people can make it interesting .. and I had that kind of trip ...

I was up at 3.30 am... pretty weak and weary .. to be confronted by my 'FB daughter' who said you're up late .. no, no .. I replied .. just got up .. to travel on!! I had to have my wake up coffee and brief laptop stint, before final packing (well rather a lot of disorganised packing) .. after the day in the hospital on Monday, and getting Mum back to the Nursing Centre on Tuesday, and visiting my uncle, who had a friend (my age) of theirs visiting .. Jackie lives in New Zealand .. so it was good to catch up with her .. only briefly as you might expect .. and leave my uncle with copies of my last posts - which he seems to get caught up in .. and gives him another side to life!

I caught the 5.45 train, which goes direct to Gatwick .. and I can walk (5 mins) from my house to the train .. I live between the terminus and the sea .. so it's a good convenient place: bang in the middle of town. The train couldn't go further south in the 1800s .. as the sea groynes, sea defences and embankments weren't in place then so the sea encroached, when it felt the whim!! & the trains would have sunk in ...
I chatted, as is my nature, to a couple of the guys, who travel regularly up to town .. and one of them, a podiatrist, advised me on the return journey to avoid jet lag, which was terrible in January, to just drink water on the last leg .. ie for me to have something to eat in Philadelphia and nothing on the flight back, then have my normal meal on my return = breakfast. I may try it .. I tried that coming on the 2nd leg here from Charlotte .. and actually feel so refreshed today brain feels clear .. the first time for a while .. so perhaps I've cleared the clutter and ditched into the Sargasso Sea on the way over?!

Stories .. stories .. I hear you say .. what amazing luck we have .. and how everything seems to slot into place .. my seat companion was a young lady of 28 .. absolutely delightful .. and quite quickly we established rather more connections than we both expected it was great and we'll be seeing each other again & being in touch.

Twumwaa (!! yes I know too ... pronounced Chumwaa (almost like choomwaa) .. her parents didn't give her 'an English' name .. both her parents have English names - her Dad is Charles!! Twumwaa is Ghanian and speaks impeccable English .. I find the Africans' English is so often better than my own - I'm ashamed to say.

Twumwaa .. was, to my amazement, brought up in Zimbabwe .. and obviously we got on to where are her parents now? (well I did .. as I'm terribly quizzy by nature and garner as much information as I can .. however even for me I had to leave the door open for further chapters .. which I'm so looking forward to) .. well - they are still there .. my eyes opened .. and I sort of asked 'why'?

Well .. her father started a Heart Foundation and they have a clinic, which her mother runs, and which continues to this day. I was staggered to hear this .. and asked how, why etc .. - the Zimbabwe story is so, so sad - perhaps that's an understatement .. as it was such an amazing country. The Heart Clinic caters for anyone who can afford?! and from what she was saying there are plenty of people who can afford its treatment, when it is required. Obviously it will cater for the 'wealthy' .. and the diplomats, while at the same time with links to South Africa and the British heart foundations and hospitals a great many charitable treatments are carried out .. and there is a base in Harare for heart ailments.

I'm really looking forward to hearing more .. I've just been in contact with a friend from Zimbabwe, whose father was a general surgeon in Bulawayo when I visited in the late 1970s, to ask for her help .. with some insurance info .. re Australia, where she now lives. This insurance info is for the young (21) American friend we were in the Acute Brain Injury unit with 23 months ago ...

The amazing connection is that Twumwaa works in the National Health Service here in the UK and deals with contracts .. and said she could provide the English side of the story .. talk about small world ...
.. and there's another connection .. her uncle??!! .. tells stories professionally in London!! He's a professor of English ... and teaches English as a foreign language .. while his stories are from the Middle East mainly .. & around the world .. based on folk lore .. telling moral fables .. - they should be so interesting .. so guess where I'm going soon (to get some tips) .. to his next reading!

Must go .. but more stories on - elephants, pythons, Zimbabwe .. wonderful ..

Thank you for holding our letter til I get back to the UK and then delivering it to my mother .. she loves her stories and wished me a good trip .. saying it'll be a change for me .. she's so wonderful ..

PS: the picture of the Just So stories, by Rudyard Kipling is not there for fun .. there's a story attached .. a child ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters