The birds: who, where, when?


Evelyn Mary Ashford 1923-2013


Some time-travelling is definitely called for  to unravel the context of this photo. It was scanned from a tiny loose snap found inside in my Aunt Evelyn’s photo album. Frustratingly, there were no accompanying details. I am sure, though, that it is Evelyn. Also the girlish pose would suggest late teenage years. Since she lived in Cranleigh, Surrey, and nowhere near the sea, and as I’m assuming that working people did not go on holiday during war-time, my guess is that this photo was taken sometime before the summer of 1939.  There is no clue either as to location, or who the photographer might have been. There is only this frozen moment in time as Evelyn throws bread to the gulls, the paper it was wrapped  in pressed by the breeze across her knee.

Evelyn died this autumn at almost 90 and a half. She lived a good and creative life despite many set-backs. Somehow this striking shot of her amongst the wheeling birds captures much of her spirit.

For  more of Evelyn’s story see earlier posts:

Grand girl, great prospects…?

The Many Faces of Evelyn Mary Ashford

Eve trig 1

© 2013 Tish Farrell

For more birds:

Ailsa’s Travel Theme Birds


Zebra Designs and Destinations

Figments of a DuTchess

Postcards from home and away…

Edge of the Forest

Wind in the palms on Kenya’s coral shores


Tiwi Beach, South Mombasa


These leaning coconut palms and the photo of me holding on to my hat remind me that there is nearly always a breeze on Tiwi Beach. You need it too. In the hot season, around December to February, it makes the sticky tropical humidity bearable. It also keeps malarial mosquitoes at bay.


Don’t let go! Me, at Capricho Cove, too many years ago


But the tropical breeze is not so good for kite launching. The team leader never did get his kite airborne.; the wind endlessly beating it into the sand. No matter. I think we decided that kite flying was probably too active an activity, even at the day’s end. Much better to crack open a Tusker beer, one almost chilled in

Graham tries to fly his kite

Graham not flying his kite at Maweni Cove.


the beach cottage’s rackety  refrigerator.

Maweni cottage at sunset

Maweni Cottages built in the Swahili style.


In the holiday season, and especially at Christmas, these beach villages tend to be the haunt of expatriates (especially aid workers), and mixed race families who do not always receive the best of treatment in Kenya’s fancy beach hotels. The cottages are designed to keep out too much sun and let in maximum draught: coral rag walls, high makuti  thatch, glassless windows and shutters with moveable slats. This is of course a European take on indigenous Swahili architecture.

I have written in another post about Swahili culture and how it might be said to have been shaped by the monsoon winds: the north-easterly Kaskazi that for centuries brought Arab merchant ships down the coast of Africa; the south easterly Kusi that blew them away again after a windless sojourn during which sailing dhows were beached and repaired and liaisons with African communities forged.

From this age-old congress between Arab seafarers and Bantu farmer-traders, came a blending and melding of body, mind and spirit that evolved into the urban coastal people whom we know as the Swahili. Their language, KiSwahili, is also a fusion: of Arabic and Bantu vernaculars, and as such, presents a fascinating exemplar of multicultural integration that has forged a distinct identity of its own. That’s something to ponder on, isn’t it: how different races can create together; how it took the monsoon wind to bring them together?

Salamu (Greetings)


A Word A Week Photo Challenge: Wind: go here for more wind stories and see the ones below:


Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture (The Swahili)

Travel Theme: Beaches (Mombasa)

Yum Kaax to the rescue? Or how to hook reluctant readers…



Z Boston Harvard 11

Yum Kax (Yoom Kosh) the Mayan Corn God

Peabody Museum, Harvard University


I may have mentioned once or three times that I write ‘quick-read’ fiction for  young teens who are not too keen on reading. For those of us who cannot imagine ever being without a book, it is often hard to understand why some people struggle to ever pick one up.


The thickness can deter some doubtful readers. Pages dense with text also intimidate.  Ransom Publishing  thus produce slim readers with plenty of white space on the page.  More importantly, perhaps, for teen readers, they are now also published in various e-book formats including Amazon Kindle, and e-pub and pdf versions at Hive.


The stories in the Shades 2.0 series are aimed at twelve-year-olds with a reading age of 9-10 years. They are around six thousand words in length, i.e. short story sized. But, to create interest and momentum, they are divided into  several chapters  (with cliff hangers), and then spread  unthreateningly over 64 pages.  The aim is to build reading muscles by creating works that are small in scale but big enough in content; mini novels if  you like: do-able and hopefully un-put-downable.


Shades covers for REPRO Batch 3_Layout 1


The stories in the series cover many challenging themes and in all genres – from the trials of an apprentice apothecary escaping London during the Black Death of  1665  (Plague  by David Orme) to Jill Atkins’ Cry, Baby which tells what happens when schoolgirl, Charlie, finds she is pregnant. 


And where does Yum Kaax come in? Well he features  in my story Stone Robbers, putting in a surprising appearance when Rico, the angry young hero of the tale, stumbles into a robber trench in an ancient Mayan city. But that’s all I’m saying, except to add that the part he plays in the story was  inspired by the real and accidental discovery of a magnificent Mayan mural at San Bartolo, Guatemala back in 2001.

Stone Robbers, then, is both an adventure and a quest.  Rico has a score to settle with an old adversary, Enzo. Then he discovers that antiquities thieves have been looting the ruined city near his home. Between Enzo and the stone robbers, lies yet another conflict: Rico’s fury at his Mayan heritage, this in a Guatemala where Mayan people are still second-class citizens. Suddenly it all seems too much to handle, and then the Corn God puts in an appearance…


Available on Amazon Kindle and on Amazon in book format.

Shades covers for REPRO Batch 2_Layout 1

Also in the Shades 2.0 Series  Mantrap – a story about elephant poaching set in Zambia.



For more about Ransom and Shades 2.o series







See more bloggers’  YYY-stories at Frizz’s YYY-challenge 

Christmas on Lamu: views of a Swahili Community


Main street, Stone Town, Lamu. No cars only donkey transport.


I learned a great deal about community when I was living in Kenya where it meant not only an affirmation of cultural identity, but also an expression of hospitality; the call to an absolute stranger of  “karibu,” “come on in!”

And so it proved to be one Christmas, when we spent a few days on the Indian Ocean island of Lamu. I suppose, in amongst the excitement of organising our flight there from Nairobi, I had wondered what it might be like to spend a Christian festival within a strongly Muslim community. Or perhaps I had gone there expecting simply to forget it. I know I had thought about clothing, packing only things that would not cause offence by too much inappropriate exposure.


Christmas Day on Shela Beach, Lamu


But I had not expected to feel so  ‘gathered in’. From the moment we were picked up from the tiny Manda Island air field, and taken by dhow taxi to the Island Hotel in Shela Village we were quietly embraced by the locals.

Sensation was anyway heightened: it had just stopped raining as we stepped ashore and followed our guide up damp sandy paths. The sense of unobtrusive acceptance somehow fused with the scent of jasmine, the touch of steaming coral walls of deserted gardens and tumbled village houses, the warm salt breezes. 


At five a.m. on Christmas Day we woke to the call to prayer at the local mosque.  Allahu akbar  filled our room, and unavoidably so when the roof was only a thin layer of palm thatch and three of the walls were open to the elements. It seemed a transforming moment somehow. I lay in the little Lamu bed, and listened to the village stirring to life around us, hee-hawing donkeys, the clatter of kitchen pots and pans, radios quietly playing. It seemed a community well set in its ways, and for many generations. Yet later, when we set out to walk along the long strand to Stone Town, we were greeted from every side by smiling locals. “Happy Christmas!” they cried. “Happy Christmas!”


View from ‘the pent-house suite’, the Island Hotel, Shela



Stone Town, Lamu, now a World Heritage site



Christmas Day afternoon: a time for strolling, snoozing, chatting.



We went sailing with Uncle Lali: I see three ships…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

Daily Prompt: Memories of holidays past


Sleep (Lamu Dreaming)

Culture: the Swahili

© 2013 Tish Farrell


Xmas Greetings!

The heart of our home is our kitchen, and here it is last Christmas before the prosecco was opened and the cook had gone awry – i.e. postered not plastered. It is also  my Christmas card to all fellow bloggers and followers. It’s been wonderful getting to know you. I’ve learned so much, and enjoyed everyone’s splendid photos, insights and viewpoints. Thank you, too, for all your viewings of my blog and the many encouraging and heart-felt comments.

So here’s wishing you joy at the year’s end, and fine prospects for the year ahead, wherever you are on this wonderful planet.

Onwards and upwards, one and all. Keep sharing and caring on this our virtuous version of the world-wide web…

Tish x


Frizz’s X-Challenge: more Xs here and below

The Official Blog of Gathering Books: X for Xeric

Beyond the Brush: Xamining Xamples of the XXX Rating

Travel with Intent: X is for…Xenomania


Warrior Wind-Singer of Llyn


holiday 027


It is said that the Iron Man of Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd sings in the wind. I can believe it too: bold laments of long ago battles, a proud Celtic warrior fending off invading Roman governors and power-hungry English kings. Sadly, the cause was lost on both fronts, although at least these days Cymru,* Wales, has its own Welsh Parliament, and Cymraeg, the Welsh language, is nurtured, learned in schools and spoken widely with great pride. And so it should be. It is one of the world’s wonderful languages, the words formed from the rush of sea on rocks, the wind whistling down from the heights of Yr Wyddfa** (Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain). Under past times of English domination much was done to stamp out the Welsh culture altogether. It is what invaders do – belittle, ban, override  heartfelt expressions of a conquered people’s culture.

{*roughly pronounced Kumree and Ur Oithva}


Llyn Coast Path, Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd


Recently I have been writing much about preserving and respecting heritage (Valuing the Past…and also Is the Past past saving in The Heritage Journal) but I recognise, too, that nothing stays the same – at least not in the physical world. The Iron Man is a case in point.


The first man standing was a carved ship’s figurehead placed there in 1911 by Cardiff entrepreneur, Solomon Andrews.  Andrews had bought the nearby grand house of Plas Glyn-y-Weddw some twenty years earlier and turned it into a public art gallery, the first of its kind in Wales. Today the house is the home of the wonderful Oriel Gallery, run by a trust, and the place where Welsh creativity is celebrated.

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Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw from Llyn Coastal Path


The ship’s figurehead did not fare so well. In 1980, after it had been set on fire by vandals, local artist, Simon Van de Put replaced it with a figure of an ancient warrior made from recycled sheet steel. As had been envisaged, the warrior , exposed to the sea winds, weathered away until only his boots remained. But in 2002 reinforcements arrived, delivered to the headland by a helicopter and winch.

Today this new Iron Man surveys Cardigan Bay with the kind of stance that says  he means to stay. In fact I’m not altogether certain that he might not also be a woman. This warrior, then, is the work of local craftsmen Berwyn Jones and Huw Jones.

To me the rope-like ironwork  suggests sinew and muscle. It is thus simultaneously  symbolic of both decay and regeneration; a rare act to pull off.  The tilt of the head is dignified, but wistful too. I would like to feel I have the courage to stand up behind this guardian.

I am not Welsh of course. As far as I can tell my ancestors were Anglo Saxons and Normans. But if we do not celebrate the best of our culture, our own and other peoples’, then think how much is lost – all those things that make us  truly well nourished humans – the poem, the saga, the dance, the metaphor, the hymn, the riddle, the rune, the touching words, the art – all that makes us recollect and care, confers insight and wisdom, gives us heart and good heartedness. For now though I take joy in the knowledge that when the wind blows across Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd (The Headland), even though I am not there to hear it, the iron warrior sings.


The cliff top path to the Iron Warrior


© 2013 Tish Farrell


For more on Oriel Plas Gwyn-y-Weddw


Frizztext’s WWW Challenge

And also: Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Sky