The Dog Days

Learned something new today: the Latin word canicular, meaning “small dog”, originates in Canis, from which we get our word canine.

Sirius, the star that represents the hunter Orion’s hound in the constellation, was also called Canicula. Because we first see Sirius rise during summer, the hot sultry days from early July to early September came to be called dies caniculares, i.e. “the dog days.”

Isn’t it fun to discover all the ins and outs of our vocabulary? All of what I’ve written so far is to introduce more photos from our England trip. The first, from Bletchley Park, shows some women dishing up corned beef hash. They offered tastes, and sent the recipe home with all comers.

Note the authentic 40’s clothing, enamelware, and head gear. Now, picture British women like these sweating over a hot stove in a cramped flat with no air conditioning, not even a fan. In one of England’s industrial cities, with bombs being dropped night after night.

The hash wasn’t bad…exactly. Just very bland, but spices were hard to come by. That’s why the black market managed such a thriving business, despite severe reprisals if the seller were caught in the act.

Here are some items he (or she) would carry…I personally would have a TOUGH TIME if tea were rationed, and know some people who might be highly tempted to go black market for precious coffee!

The oppressive heat of dog days makes many of us crabby, but we can find a cool place to spell us through the worst. The citizens of England could not, but they KEPT CALM and CARRIED ON. And can you imagine how relieved they were when one by one, items became unrationed? Keep in mind, this took years AFTER the war…my hat is off to all who toughed it out!

As July Fourth Nears…

Summer is a-bustin’ out all over.

A father cardinal stays mighty close to his fledglings in their nest just outside our back door.

Yes, and flowers display their fragile glory everywhere we look:

And here come the begonias near our front porch–wish you could all come and sip a cup of tea out there.

Now, take a look at our granddaughter’s team last week, the night they won their sixth grade softball championship. One of those magical moments filled with gratitude. I’ll cherish these smiles marking the GOOD KIND of pride for years to come! (Can you tell which one she is?)

Last but not least, I’m still basking in memories of our trip to England, often recalling Winston Churchill’s grit in an almost impossible position. I know, I know, you may be getting sick of me mentioning him…can’t help it, though. I’m SO SO very grateful for how he played his role in history.

 

A happy Fourth of July to you, and a little publishing news. I submitted a new manuscript to a publisher last week, something from World War II, of course, but a little different…it’s Glenora Carson’s story: she was one of the women who got their hands greasy during the war years doing a man’s job. More to come on this novella, with the title Kiss Me Once Again.

Also, I submitted my next novel to an agent. You just never know what might happen …never a dull moment, though.

 

The Locket

Two weeks ago at a luncheon honoring women ninety and over (at the UM Church in Charles City, Iowa), I heard even more World War II stories. They fit right in with the red, white, and blue decor–patriotic and cheerful.

Some of the women brought a treasure from way back then, and one showed us her locket from childhood.

Her father left for the war before she was born, so inside are photos of him and her. The good news is, he returned, and she has many more good memories of their relationship.

On Father’s Day, we celebrated this vital familial connection. For those who missed out on knowing their fathers in a meaningful way, that can be a tough holiday.

That’s how it would have been for Kate, the heroine of A Purpose Truewho lost both father and mother in her early childhood–to World War I. But someone comes into her life offering his memories of her loved ones…can you imagine how much that would mean?

Perhaps you have a cherished treasure that belonged to a loved one…I have my mom’s simple graduation ring. The white onyx is almost worn through, but it’s good to take it from its safe place from time to time and remember.

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On

That’s a mouthful at times. I have a friend who’s facing surgery with extensive recuperation, plus two dreadful diseases in her close family.

Keep calm, you say?

With another friend, we have an ongoing discussion about how people make it through suffering, sorrow, illness, and loss. Sometimes I think it’s a combination of this “carry on” attitude plus faith, of course, and a good dose of everyday concerns that keep us going.

 

On our recent trip, Lance ordered bangers and mash, also known as sausages and mash, a traditional British and Irish dish combining sausages and mashed potatoes. The flavored sausages may be pork, lamb, or beef (often specifically Cumberland sausage. The dish is sometimes served with onion gravy, fried onions, or peas.

This dish, even when cooked at home, may be thought of as an example of pub grub, quick and easy to make in large quantities. I’ve read accounts of wartime children being sent to pick up the family’s order of this dish at a local restaurant, since both of their parents were working.

During World War II, I wonder if, in addition to seeking divine comfort, the necessary constant task of providing food for their families helped everyone make it through. Here in the states, women survived dire Depression-era poverty and went on to endure the wait for their loved ones to return from the second world war.

Maybe it’s no wonder that generation taught us to eat everything on our plates and placed high value on a good, solid meal followed by a lush dessert.

Some World War II ladies we met at Bletchley Park

Talk about authentic…take a look at these women – oh, so stylish! The one with the white hat has a Veronica Lake “victory roll,” prevalent during World War II. This hair-do kept women’s hair out of the way in such a busy time, and helped them avoid accidents with machinery at their jobs, as well.

 

One of these ladies might work in a factory, like her American counterpart, Rosie the Riveter, or as a secretary to someone in Winston Churchill’s underground war rooms.

These are the types Addie and Kate would have encountered in Charles Tenney’s office, or on the streets of London.

 

PHOTOS – Bletchley Park

Styles of the time…for some reason, the seams don’t show up on their hosiery.

 

But here’s the smuggler we met at Bletchley…isn’t he cool?

And behold some of his wares:

I wanted to buy everything…don’t you LOVE the look on his wife’s face?

Finding specific name brands was such a gift for my research…what a day, what an incredible day.

The United Kingdom – Favorites

First of all, a caveat: I’m one of those whose perfectionist tendencies used to keep me from producing much in the way of writing, so I’m plunging in regardless. There will probably be errors, and I apologize beforehand. An extremely tentative outline started going through my head in the shower this morning…let’s call it a list.

Although I have a strong inkling I won’t stick with it, I wrote the list for my own sake, so I can look back and remember where I thought I was going. (Kind of like life in general.)

Our grandson helped me with this by asking, “What was your favorite thing about England?”

Mind you, this was about an hour after we arrived home, and it was 2 a.m. UK time, so everything was a happy blur of memories. But I replied that Bletchley Park had to be right up there, vying for first place.

And then I told him about the nifty man dressed in a WWII suit standing next to his wife, with her perfectly elegant suit, WWII hairdo and hat. He crooked a finger at us when he saw me staring, and we walked over.

“If you need anything, I most likely have it here.” He tapped his small black cardboard suitcase. His eyebrows and surreptitious stance shouted BLACK MARKET.

“Could we see what’s in there?”

He nodded and cleverly turned the case toward himself, clicked open the latches, and drew us closer. Then he allowed us a peek. Silk stockings, sweets and other rationed items, all in their original packaging.

Ah…I’ll treasure this memory! We’d just stepped into one of the buildings at Bletchley Park, the highly secretive location where brilliant “nerdy” types were sent to break enemy codes during the war. In numbered “huts”, nearly 10,000 workers wracked their brains to untangle the German enigma machine codes, as well as ones used by the Japanese. Their work made an unfathomable difference in the outcome of the war.

We spent hours reading about these dedicated men and women who endured long, sometimes very cold, damp weeks and months laboring over intercepted messages. One tour guide said their mission was so top-secret that many never spoke of it again.

Decades after World War II ended, he started leading tours. When his elderly father heard that, he told him, “You can’t go up there…that’s top secret.”

On one of this guide’s tours, an older couple were listening to him introduce the particular work that had occurred in a certain hut. To the guide’s astonishment, the visitor ventured, “I worked there during the war, in hut ten.”

His wife turned to him and said, “You did? So did I. I was stationed in hut six.”

Can you imagine? They’d never even told each other what they did during the war. 

Tidbits like these stay with me, along with the “God wink” that the day we arbitrarily chose to visit this amazing place happened to be “dress-up day.” We had no idea, but seeing women wearing hosiery with seams running down the backs of their legs and prim hats soon let us know.

In the green expanse outside the huts and museum, re-enactors displayed field hospitals, SOE agents at work, WWII women making corned beef hash attractive to their families, medic tents, ammunition dumps, the list goes on and on.

I promise I’ll share some photos of them and that natty little fellow with the black case as soon as I figure out how to find them in the thousands of images Lance shot during our stay. I’ll probably say it several more times, but having him catalogue everything this way was a great relief–so much to take in, so impossible to recall it all.

Needless to say, if you plan a trip to the UK, I’d suggest setting aside a full day for Bletchley Park.

Changed Plans and Reminders

A promise is a promise. I said I would send photos from England and a continuous report of what we are doing over here. However, the photo part has to wait because my husband is at a camera shop right now seeing if his camera damage from the trip over the Atlantic can be fixed or if he needs to buy a new camera.

In the meantime, he has been taking what we hope are wonderful shots of everything we have seen so far. So here goes from Portsmouth where the D-Day Museum completely captured our attention and where I put my pinky in the very cold waters of the English Channel.

The Salty breeze from the channel made me very thankful for the coat our daughter found for me last week. We stayed minutes from the channel in the Easley guest house where Steve and Clare provided great breakfasts and loads of information about Portsmouth now and during World War II.

One of the highlights for me was meeting a couple of women on vacation during breakfast the first day. One of them grew up in a big brick house across the street and told us that along the line of houses, where we now could see a more modern one, that meant the original one had been bombed out during the blitz.

As usual meeting these women was a highlight for me. We also explored a bombed-out local Garrison church built long before Jamestown was founded.

We went to the Mary Rose museum. The Mary Rose was Henry the VIII’s pride and joy, his best warship. But he watched her sink from Portsmouth Harbor. Centuries later, she was partially brought to the surface and is now reconstructed underneath a huge glass enclosure. So many artifacts retrieved from the Mary Rose and it’s amazing they were still recognizable.

Today I am taking a break from concrete and cement for my poor aching feet, but ice is helping. We wanted to be on a tour today, but as often happens in life, had to change our plans. The same thing happened with being able to check my emails so if any of you have written me and not received a reply now you know why.

Still, it’s a gorgeous day in Oxford England. Yesterday we saw punters rowing their flat-bottomed boats—which they call “punts”—on the river beside the colleges. We ate dinner where C.S. Lewis and his buddies met every week. It’s a pub called The Bear and it was flooded with Americans. I sure hope Lance’s photos have turned out OK. He can’t tell at this point, but hopefully will be able to send some soon. For now, a few from our phone will have to do.

 

In the meantime, I’m reading The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis out in a beautiful back yard of our hotel and being reminded that even when our plans go awry the beauty around us reminds us of what really matters. Signing off for now.

Recalculating

For over a week I’ve been telling myself I must start blogging again, after quite a traumatic time of grief in our little church. This word recalculating keeps coming to mind – you know, the voice on the GPS that tells you to re-define your direction?

During times like this, support and encouragement arrive to cheer our hearts. Lance’s photography hobby stalled for a while, but this morning he captured this little wren singing her heart out in one of our lilac bushes.

Realizing how tragedies affect pastors, a friend sent us flowers. I’m drying the gorgeous yellow roses upside down to hoard something of this bouquet’s beauty, to remind me of his kindness.

It’s probably no coincidence that my sign Love deeply, be happy, and share the joy got included in this photo, albeit upside down. It’s a good reminder that loving deeply, though this kind of loss causes great pain, is worth the effort.

If you’re acquainted with Addie and Kate and Domingo from my books, you know how this concept applies. I’ll leave the analyzing to you this time, and share another cheerful birdie pic…

Such gloomy days here lately, but we had to smile when Iowa’s state bird paid us a visit.

There, I’ve written a blog again – thanks for waiting. I want to let you know, too, that Lance and I will be leaving this week for our fortieth anniversary journey to England. Lots of research ahead…soooo many WWII museums and airfields and STORIES – Oh MY!

I plan to send updates, so stay tuned. I imagine we’ll  be recalculating often during this trip! And thanks again for taking valuable time to read what I write and passing on the news.

 

April 18, A Winter’s Day in Iowa…

Well, it’s the third snowstorm since March 23. Just sayin’, and returning  from my indoor walk this morning, I still marveled at how light and huge the flakes are. A fall so thick we can barely see across the street.

And the birds are wild at the feeder…free food, why not?

While it lasts, they’re seizing the moment. Might as well embrace the unexpected or undesirable experiences that come our way. So they thought they’d be sitting on their eggs by now…not so much.

At the risk of redundancy, I have to say that during World War II, if you were deployed or doing clandestine work as a secret agent, this attitude would get you a long way.

NOTHING was expected–if you could predict an occurrence, something probably had gone wrong. Murphy’s law multiplied. 

Starting next week, I plan to make posts from actual locations where Lancasters took off with their precious cargo of agents like Kate Isaacs. Yes, and from the underground tunnels where Winston Churchill and military leaders made decisions that changed the world. And from Baker Street…and…

In the meantime, enjoy some more shots from our back room during this heavy snowstorm. An undesirable storm…but embraced.