Thursday, 20 November 2014

In A Foreign Field

I went to another funeral last week. The third this year. It was my Great Aunt Ivy's. She was ninety-six and had an eventful life, part of which was full of fun and adventures. She visited relatives in Rhodesia and got up close and personal with lions. She travelled quite extensively in Europe and when at home regularly got tipsy on her home-brewed sherry and wine. She didn't put milk in her coffee, but Bailey's Irish Cream instead. She also loved barley wine and said to my uncle once that she wanted her coffin to be full of it. Her grandsons did the next best thing and after taking it in turns to talk about her life, toasted her with cans of Gold Label. It was a lovely service last Friday, all planned by Ivy twenty years previously. There was lots of her favourite music and the crematorium was one of the nicest I've ever been to (Sandwell Valley). During the service a lone magpie strutted around on the grass outside, soon joined by its mate. They sat in a tree with copper leaves for a while and as the curtains closed around the coffin, off they flew together. I liked to think it was Ivy and her late husband, Jack. Ivy had a tough life at times. She had five children in five years during the war and survived cancer twice, going through very crude radiotherapy treatment many years before it became more commonplace.

Great Aunt Ivy isn't in the photo above, as she wasn't yet born, but my grandmother, Edna, Ivy's sister is sitting on their mother's knee. Gertie is sitting on the left with their brother, Frank behind and Ada in the middle. Their father, William Francis Page stands behind his family, dressed in his First World War uniform. He volunteered in 1916 at the age of 31. He was a slaughterman by profession. He was at The Battle of The Somme, was gassed and invalided out of the army. Apparently, he suffered poor health from his damaged lungs for the rest of his life and never really worked again.

At Great Aunt Ivy's funeral in West Bromwich, I met several family members I hadn't met before, including Ivy's son, Brian who is also tracing our family tree. A few days later Brian emailed me a copy of Great Grandad Page's sign up papers for World War One. I was able to print off a copy as well as a copy of the photo above and Megan took them to school to show her History teacher, as they're currently studying World War One. They are now part of the classroom display and Megan got a Merit!

Talking of World War 1, did anyone see the wonderful programme about the poets of the Somme last week? Our English teacher made us study them for 'O' Level and I was so glad he did. The programme has made me want to revisit the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves, as well as acquainting myself with other poets of the time like David Jones and W N Hodgson.

In other news... I entered the first 3000 words of my novel and synopsis in the ITV This Morning Novel Competition last week. There will be thousands of entries so I'm not holding my breath. I also sent the first fifty pages and synopsis to another agent. I entered three stories in the HE Bates Competition, one in Write Invite's 1000 word competition and one in the monthly Greenacre Writers Competition. I entered a flash story in the Writers' Bureau Competition, too. Now I have to work on some new stuff for the competitions closing at the end of this month. I submitted a new story to one of the womags last week as well, but was told they have a backlog, so I'll have to be patient.

Finally, a writer friend and I thought it would be an excellent idea if short story competition organisers mentioned how many entries they received when they publish the shortlist. It's one thing being one of ten shortlisted out of 300 or 3000 entries, but quite a different thing when they were only twenty entries in total. What do you think?


  1. What an interesting blog, Jo, and what a fabulous character your Great Aunty Ivy sounds to have been.

    So many returning from the war never had good health again did they, mental and physical.. They endured so much and yet had no outlet when they returned to enable them to release the terrible sights they had seen and what they had endured.

    Sounds a good idea to mention how many entries had been received

    Wow - good luck in all your projects.

  2. I so agree about the story competitions. I love the old picture - such a sad time in our history. Your blog is fascinating, I shall follow with interest!

  3. Thank you, Sue and Pat. I hope to update my blog tomorrow.