31 December 2019

Happy New Years the Scottish Way

Ever heard of Hogmanay?  Well, it is Scotland's New Years celebration.  The celebrating runs longer and has many traditions that find their roots in ancient times.  They echo back to the Twelve Days of Christmas, where you held Christmas Eve, Christmas and Boxing Day, and celebrated through Twelfth Night.

My family kept Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for family only.  On Boxing Day, we would get out the sleighs (used to be more snow back then!) and go visiting.  We took gifts to neighbors and friends.  I thought this day more fun.  Riding in the old-fashioned sleighs, and being welcomed into homes for eggnog or warmed cider to shake off the chill, were such wonderful memories.  Sadly, the sleighs haven’t been used for years, as we see fewer and fewer White Christmases.  Also, the family has scattered and finds it harder to come together like we used to.

With the end of Christmas, the celebrations in America basically slow.  Decorations are taken down and stored for another year.  On the other side of the Pond, amazing Hogmanay parties in Scotland are just getting underway, and in some instances lasting over several days.

The Hogmanay name first showed in written records around the early 1600s, but many of the traditions come from a time much older.  Some suggest the name stems from be old Norman French of hoguinan (New Years gift).  Since the Auld Alliance saw France and Scotland sharing trade and cultures it seems reasonable.  A more likely explanation is it could be a variation of Scots Gaelic og maidne (young morning).  Still, the Flemish hoog min dag (great love day) might also be the source.  Whichever, it shows perhaps several cultures developed the holiday along the same lines, and that it wasn't just confined to Scotland.  One has no stronger provable claim to the name than another.
There are many celebrations or simple street festivals, but also you can discover the great, awe-inspiring fire-festivals—of interest to people who love history, but also eye-opening to those unfamiliar with the ancient traditions.  These festivals still practice rites and rituals that go back to Pagan times, maybe thousands of years.  It’s not hard to find concerts, parties, fireworks and balefires, as well offer a wide range of Scottish fare to satisfy your culinary tastes.

First Footing is one of the customs I always enjoyed.  It was considered very unlucky for a redheaded man or women to cross the threshold after the final stroke of midnight.  Not wanting to start the year off on the wrong foot, it was hoped a tall, black-haired, handsome man would arrive at the stroke of twelve.  This leads to a wee bit of mischief, such as picking a likely lad who fits the bill, handing him a bottle of Single Malt, and sticking him outside, to cross back over at the appointed time.  After all, who wouldn't want a tall, handsome, black-haired man to come a calling on the stroke of New Years?

Redding the House is a tradition of a “clean sweep”.  It is easy to understand where this one aims—sweeping the house clear of influence of the departing year, and giving you a fresh start.  You sweep out the house and clean the fireplaces.  Taking out the ashes can see the practice of a scrying skill of Reading the Ashes, foretelling the future much in the manner of reading tea leaves.  You are sweeping away all the negative influences that have held sway through the departing year.  Once that is done, all brooms and brushes are taken outside and burnt.  Keeping old ones invites the negative back in, so you start the year with new hair bushes, mops, small sweeps and brooms.  Once that is done, you use lavender, cedar and juniper branches to purify the house, dragging these over windows and doors to protect the house and seal it away from evil spirits.  Then, you burn them in the fireplace, the final step to purify the chimney.  Thus, you start the New Years all anew.

The bonfires and fire-festival are rooted in Pagan Pictish, Celtic or Norse origins.  As reflected in the burning of the lavender, cedar and juniper clearing the air of negative influences, these fire-festivals are a purifying of the land.  When the fires died and the ashes cooled, they were spread on farmland.  In truth, this potash a fertilizer that helps keep the land arable, promoting good root growth and higher crop production.  As with many ancient Pagan traditions, there is a rite, but also a logical purpose behind it.  A newer celebration, but gaining more and more attention worldwide—is Up Helly Aa in the Shetland Isles.  What an amazing festival!  There is nothing like it!  However, you can still find fire festivals at Stonehaven, Comrie and Biggar, and even Edinburgh has added this element in their Hogmanay celebrations.

Do you sing Auld Lang Syne at New Years without truly understanding the tradition is Scottish?  All over the world every year people sing Robert Burns’ version of the traditional Scottish Air In Edinburg’s Hogmanay, people join hands for what is reputed to be the world's biggest Auld Lang Syne singing.

Another odd tradition is the Saining of the House.  You find this mostly in rural areas, a tradition that involved blessing the house and livestock with holy water from a local stream.  After nearly dying out, you are seeing a revival in recent years.  Not surprising since Annis, the goddess of wells and streams is one of the oldest Pagan deities in Scotland.  You still see her Clootie Wells dotting the landscape, wells dedicated to her honor (where wishing wells come from).  After the house, land and stock are blessed, the females of the house, once more, perform a purifying ritual, of carrying burning juniper branches inside to fill the house with the cleansing smoke.  Notice, the commonality with the Redding the House?  Once the house was filled with smoke, driving out the evil influences, the windows were opened and whisky would be passed around.

These festivals grew in popularity after the banning of Christmas  in the 16th and 17th centuries. Under Oliver Cromwell, Parliament banned Christmas celebrations in 1647.  The ban was lifted after Cromwell's downfall in 1660.  However, in Scotland, the stricter Scottish Presbyterian Church had been discouraging Christmas celebrations  as having no basis in the Bible, from as early as 1583.  Thus, even after the Cromwellian ban was lifted elsewhere, Christmas festivities continued to be discouraged in Scotland.  In fact, Christmas remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958 and Boxing Day did not become a National Holiday until much later.  Slowly, people began to go back to memories of olden days to find ways to make merry and celebrate.  Thus, Hogmanay became a mid-winter celebration to chase away the darkness and welcome the light.

On a personal note, I hope the coming 2019 is bright and full of blessings for us all.  My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer and he is undergoing Chemo now, and will for the coming month.  Him, most of all, I wish a miracle.

I cannot feel sorry for 2019 fading away.  It was a horrible year, begining with my husband going through chemo, only to die in March from Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer.  After I came home from the hospital, I fell and broke my jaw.  That trauma lead to a massive ameloblastoma forming inside my jaw and eating away at the bone.  I went through surgery last month to remove it, and I am still healing, and face the possibility of three more surgeries if things don't go right.  My friend Candy sprained her hip and couldn't walk well for months; there was a broke furnace, Candy's water heater had to be replaced,  car repairs; I had to go to court and have The Tenant From Hell evicted (thank you to my lawyer Barry Baxter); and gutter guards installed on three houses since I won't be able to clean gutters....lol.  My kitty Boots died two weeks before my husband, and Loki nearly died on a trip to the vet a month after.

It was not a good year.  I am wishing everyone a peaceful 2020 where all is bright and hopeful, where this nation can learn to heal.

Especially sending prayers for Jon Paul, the wonderful artist,
 as he is dealing with health issues.

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr

24 December 2019

Merry Christmas Eve to all

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Candy and I went out to celebrate this wonderfully quaint holiday
Bowcock's Eve in Cornwall, England

Tom Bawcock's Eve is an annual festival, held on 23 December, in Mousehole, Cornwall,  England.
The festival is held in celebration and memorial of the efforts of legendary Mousehole resident Tom Bawcock to lift a famine from the village by going out to fish in a severe storm. During this festival Stargazy pie (a mixed fish, egg and potato pie with protruding fish heads) is eaten and depending on the year of celebration a lantern procession takes place.

2 1⁄4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. mustard powder
12 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 tbsp. ice-cold water

6 slices bacon, cut into one inch pieces
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1⁄2 cup chicken stock
1⁄3 cup crème fraîche
2 tbsp. English mustard
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper, to taste|
8 fresh sardines, cleaned, heads attached
3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and sliced

Crust: Whisk flour, mustard, and salt in a bowl. Using blend butter into flour mixture, forming pea-size crumbles. Add water.  Work dough until smooth but with visible flecks of butter. Divide dough in half and flatten into disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour before using.
Filling: Heat bacon in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook until slightly crisp, 5–7 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add butter and onion to pan.  Cook until golden, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in stock, crème fraîche, mustard, parsley, lemon juice, half the egg, and salt; set aside.

Heat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 disk of dough into a 12” round. Fit into a 9” pie plate; trim edges, leaving 1” dough overhanging edge of plate. Arrange sardines in a clocklike pattern with heads resting along edge of crust. Pour filling over sardines; top with reserved bacon, the hard-boiled eggs, salt, and pepper. Roll remaining disk of dough into a 12” round; cut eight 1” slits in dough about 2” from the edge. Place over top of pie and pull sardine heads through slits. Pinch top and bottom edges together and fold under; crimp edges. Brush with remaining egg and cut three 1”-long slits in top of pie; bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 35–40 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Happy Bowcock's Eve!!!

28 November 2019

Surgery is behind me...mostly

Judith D Collins, Online Marketing Consultant

well, I am up.  Second day after the operation.  My mouth is a sore, and swollen, but not bad. I need to thank the wonderful horde of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and assist staff at University of Louisville. They made the whole process very easy. I couldn't have been in better hands - Dr. Kushner and Dr. Oppenheim.  They are tops!

They removed the tumor/cyst.  Ameloblastoma.  The thing is sort of a pilar cyst/keloid caused by the trauma of me breaking my jaw in March after my husband's death. The removed bone material inside the jaw to protect it from trying to come back. This sort of growth was born of trauma to the jaw, and since surgery is trauma they wanted to be careful too do everything to prevent it happening again. They removed the teeth were the roots are been eaten away by the growth, and removed three others that were feared invaded to prevent them from harboring tumor material in the roots. They left several on the left side, so I can chew, though that isn't option for a couple months.  Full liquids, which I had been preparing for, so that is no biggie. If it goes into a blender, it can go into me...lol. They will address the issue of replacing the teeth once things are headed, but that won't be for a while.

It's not done, yet. They had it "dry packed" inside the jaw. I go in once a week for 4-6 weeks, and they will remove the packing and put in a new smaller step down size packing. They did not put in a steel plate. The surgeons felt there was enough lower bone left to - for now -- permit the bone to heal. However at 2-4 weeks there is danger the jaw will break. If that happens, it will be back to surgery for the plate to be insert. Knock wood that doesn't happen...lol. No bone graft, though that could be down the road from 6 months to two years. Again, I will try to skip at that.

Swelling is going down fast. I have pain pills, infection pills, but no real pain. He said he wanted me to return to my daily walking schedule today, that walking prevents blood clots from forming.

They made the whole procedure easy.  It was the nightmare week before that was so hard on me. Blood Pressure stayed 120 over 74 whole time, sugar was normal, temperature was 97.4 whole time, so guessing no infection. No nerve damage, as the tumor didn't touch any nerves and they didn't hurt them in the removal process. So all in all, I think I came out the best that can be expected.

So think everything came out better than they could hope.  The doctors were smiling and quite happy with the results. Good Beans, Wellington!

Wishing everyone a thanksgiving.  We thankful for the small miracles of good doctors and nurses, who will be serving this day, helping saved loved ones and aiding others into healing.

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06 November 2019

Grow Old With me....

(ignore the feet...lol)

The other night as I was drifting off to sleep, old memories were floating through my mind. I had a house fire 9 years ago, nearly died in it, lost both my cat Foutchie, and Dawn Thompson's Mizz Fuzz. When Dawn was dying, I told her I would take Mizz Fuzz, an elderly kitty. Fuzz traveled from New York to Kentucky, and ultimately made a place in our hearts and home. It hurt so much to lose the two cats, that I was numb for a long time. I forgot in that grief - losing the cats, losing everything, losing the whole-- for you will grieve for that loss too, I forgot that my husband had given me a sundial for our anniversary over 20 years before. I walked off from that mess and never looked back-- and left the sundial. I was in crippling pain, for it has "Grow old with me the best is yet to be". SOMETHING that I could have held onto from "that life", something from him. Well, I howled like a baby, but then I got mad at myself -- for being so careless, though not without cause, and for something lost I treasured. Howled for the treasured memento lost.

Instead of letting that take hold, I got online and bought me an "anniversary" present from him to me....again. I found the same sundial. Yes, it isn't the one he gave me. He is not here to grow old with me. But I can grow old for us both, I suppose.

22 October 2019

updating my coming surgery

Last week, I met with the oral surgeon, who said the only thing to do was radical surgery. It entailed taking about 75% of my jaw out, all but two lower teeth, remove the lesions, then bone graft from one in lower leg and metal plate. The second stage of the surgery was the bone graft/and or metal plate and plastic surgery, for they would cut me cross my neck jaw-to-jaw and place the metal/bone graft in through there. 1 week in ICU 3-4 weeks in regular hospital, then six month recovery.
However, when I met with the second stage (bone graft/steel plate) surgeon he was strongly against this. He said it not cancer. It will never move elsewhere, and prefered a second treatment--remove the lesions, then do a bone grind, which is grinding away of only 1/4 inch of the affected bone, which leave my jaw alone, so no need for cosmetic surgery. I would only have to stay in recovery overnight and could go home in the morning and after a few days I would be back to normal.
After they presented the two option, both said if they were facing this, they would go for the moderate surgery...and I totally agree. So that is what I elected. I am much more at peace with this option. They said it will not move anywhere else in my body, it's just there and will continue to be a problem unless removed. So we remove, but this way the quality of life will not be impacted.
Call me happy camper.

15 October 2019

Good News....mostly

When the kids have all grown and left... this makes me sad.

Doctor appointment today to get the result of the biopsy. Great news—it is not malignant, and the tumor is In Situ—meaning it does not metastatic, migrate to other organs or bones. I go back in a week to meet with all the surgeons—one removes the tumor, one will do either a bone graphic/and/or metal plate, and one puts humpty dumpty back together again. They will do the surgery in about a month. They will remove about 75% of the lower jaw and all but 2-4 of lower teeth. So won’t be fun by any longshot, but it is something I can handle. I have a month to make sure I am a bit stronger. The waiting for news really wore me down. I think the doctor was surprised when I was grinning as he told me what he and the other doctors would have me do. He didn’t know the no cancer was such a RELIEF!! I felt almost giddy.  He remarked that I healed from the biopsy exceptionally well, so is part of the battle with the surgeries.  The tumor is "invasive ameloblastoma", which is what my super dentist, Winnie Bowing thought it would be.

 My Cats by Dream Jeannie 

12 October 2019

News comes Monday

Inviting candle, good book and the rain OUTSIDE the window.

It's been some long nights...but the two weeks also feels like it is going fast.
Monday, I shall learn what sort of lesion is devouring my jaw and teeth.  Naturally, I have been reading on WedMD about similar tumors.  The majority was non-malignant.  So, I am hoping that will be the case for me.  I have dealt with health issues--bad heart, bad knees, but never someone cutting into my body, removing things, putting things in so this is new adventure.  Staying positive.  Three day from now I shall be sitting here with the results.  Then, I will face what removing the lesions entails, metal jaw insert, and finally facial surgery to put it all back to right.  Im not sure if that will be three things done at once, or separate surgeries for each.  I guess I will learn that on Monday as well.   The biggest questions in my life and I don't have my husband to turn to and to have his reassurance things will be all right.  I must travel this path on my own.

So wish me luck. 

Fall magic

06 October 2019

Driving Miz Candy...

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When Candy moved here in autumn of 2010 - she was a state certified driver's license instructor in New York.  I guess after over thirty years of teaching she was ready to retire.  She didn't have a car and my hubby and I took her wherever she needed to go.  With me now facing jaw surgery, there is a problem if I have to stay more than a night in the hospital.  Who would feed my kitties?  So we decided she would need her driver's license again.  It is simply too far from my house to hers to consider her not using the car.  Plus there would be the matter of dropping me off and picking me up for surgery.

So last Monday, after my biopsy, I took Candy to take her written test.  Of course she passed with 100%.  Everyone was having a giggle about Miz Candy, 72 year old, in the mix of teens getting their first permit.  It was all in good humor, and even one worked said the state police were hiring new driver inspectors, to test people coming in for the driving test.  She smiled and passed on that.

Today, I put short stuff in my Escalade and set her loose on the roads.  She did well -- like a bicycle you never forget.  She tooled around town, then we rode down to get a shaved ice.  She did very well.

So look out, the little old lady from Pasadena...hmmm...La Grange is on the roads.

01 October 2019

Facing Dragons

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Today I went in for a biopsy on my jawbone.  Not easy.  Not too bad.  Add in the emotional side of being in the hospital -- same hospital where my husband died just six months ago to the day.  But I faced all the dragons and came through on the other side.  The procedure went well.  They gave me pain pills, but don't really need them.  Dr. Mark Oppenheimer did the procedure.  Of course they send off the tissue growing inside the bone, around a couple teeth and fluid, but it appears to look like non-malignant tumor.  Ameloblastoma is what my dentist, Dr. Winnie Bowling and Dr. Oppenheimer are leaning toward.  If that is the case, then I am lucky.

I will still have to have the tumor removed, a plate put in the jaw, and some plastic surgery, but I feel positive.  And that is a good way to feel.

So knock wood.  Results come back in two weeks, and then they were set up the operations.

29 September 2019

life has a way of grabbing you when you least expect it.

Rainy days I would love to stay home but I have to... - #Days #Home #love #rain #rainy #stay

I posted the blog about moving on, letting my friends and reader know I was dealing with the grief of losing my husband, and handling pretty well, I thought.  Never announce your plans or you will hear the gods laugh?  Well, barely two days after that I went to dentist for routine check up.  I missed last year because with nursing my husband during his cancer, cleaning teeth little mattered.

They were going to do whole head x ray, just to update changes.  I could tell when they didn't move on to cleaning, something was wrong.  My regular dentist was off for the day, so I was going to see her new associated.  They kept looking at me with sad worried eyes and saying the dentist would be there to see me in just a few minutes.  Well, my regular dentist came rushing in, still in her gym clothes.  They called her in to break to the news to me.  I have a 8 centimeters lesion inside the front of my jaw.  If I bit down wrong, I would shatter my jawbone.  She personally drove me to the University hospital and stayed with me for 5 hours, why they got all doctors on board and ran the tests.   The doctors kept looking at me and her, like how did I rate my personal dentist holding my hand through all this?  She is just that kind of true lady. (a shout to to Dr. Winnie Boling--you won't find one better!)   I finally sent her home at 5pm to feed the kids and make sure they were fine with the babysitter.  Now how is that for a caring dentist?  She came back and picked me up at 9pm, when all the tests were done.

They will do a biopsy on the lesion Monday.  Two week wait as we wait for results to get back.  Then, I will need the lesion removed, and the jaw rebuilt, as the lesion has destroyed most of my jaw, and about 7 roots of my teeth.  So cut it out, rebuilt my jaw with metal plate and then finally facial reconstruction.  Eazy peazy, eh?

Wish me luck....

24 September 2019

thoughts and reflections on life and moving on

I haven't been posting too much on the blog since my husband died in March.

This Saturday is the big 6 months bugbear. Still hard to believe he is gone six months. The world seems a little bit paler without his presence to fill it.
Part of me, keeps thinking he is just away and will come in and knock on the door frame to alert me he is there. He always walked as soft as a cat, so at times he scared the bejesus out of me because I didn't know I wasn't alone. He knew I would often be wrapped up in writing, so he would alert me of his presence. I just keep anticipating that knock. I recall when he was trying to prepare me for things I would need to know--and I was not listening. I didn't want to calmly go over things I would handle went he would be absent. He kept pressing, and I broke down crying...and laughing...saying it wouldn't matter because I wouldn't last six months without him. Not being dramatic in saying that, but I figured everything would be just too much for me. Knock wood, I am going to breeze past that goal. Not easy --we all know. But I am moving ahead, discovering the limits and boundaries of my new life. It's not a life I envisioned. Being the widow was not one of the hats I anticipated wearing. But life often isn't as you wish it would be. Rather, we must find the moments that tells you life is worth living. Today I had my hair trimmed--last time was just before he grew ill. And I got to go for a walk on the square, first time since they called and said he needed to get into the Cancer treatment asap. Did a half mile; not a bad start. And I paused to enjoy the first day of Autumn. So, in keeping with getting my feet under me, I am going to the dentist Thursday to deal with the teeth I cracked when I fell after he died. I made eye appointment. Go in for yearly blood work the following week, and after that the yearly health check with Dr. Abby. And, fun fun, got a new laptop to get back to writing. I worry too much, but then I always did. But I am surviving. Six months and counting...

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21 June 2019

A welcome to the first day of Summer!

Asha’s grip on Jago’s waist tightened as the voice filled her brain.  Not now, she prayed.  

Before, when she’d been assailed with the memories of Laura Valmont at the pool and the drive-in, she had totally zoned out.  At the pool Jago had been there; he would've caught her if she’d fallen.  In the car, she had faced no physical danger, but here, losing consciousness, and slipping into a past that happened over four decades ago, could be costly.  She might fall from the bike, or cause Jago to lose control.  The prospect was scary.  She gritted her teeth and tried to fight the images.  

Oh, please not now.  Her mind tore in two.  Part of her was on the back of the motorcycle with Jago.  Another part was channeling images from Laura and the 1960s.

Tommy, I’m scared.

Asha was scared, too.  She faintly shook her head as if she could dispel the overpowering recollections of Laura, but the insular feel of the helmet made it harder to fight the flashes.  The narrow, winding road Jago had taken seemed familiar, so familiar, though she’d never been on it before.  However, Laura Valmont had, in a fire engine red Ford Mustang.

Pulling back from the past sucking at her, she grew aware Jago had picked up speed.  The sense of everything zooming by in a blur was dizzying.  Her arms tightened about him and held on for dear life.  Please, stop!  Oh, bloody hell, please stop!  She wasn't sure if the thoughts were hers or Laura’s.  

She tried not to squeeze Jago too tightly, yet it was hard to judge.  Instead of bringing the motorcycle to a halt, he gunned the engine.  The bike almost jerked on the back wheel.  She gasped as the Harley roared down the road.  They were nearing the cliffs.  Have mercy, Jago surely wouldn't take the old abandoned road?  Glancing up, Asha caught sight of the reflection in the review mirror; she then risked turning her head to see.  A dark truck bore down on them, keeping pace with the motorcycle’s flat out speed.  As the pickup gained on them, Jago again goosed the Harley, nearly causing the back wheel to spin out on the wet pavement.  The monster leapt forward, keeping them out of harm’s way.

Asha held her breath as the truck inched closer and closer.  Her heart racing like the motorcycle engine, the sound of the tires on the wet pavement, the rumble of the Harley―all blended into part of the nightmare from the past.  She swallowed her own panic.  It doubled as she tasted the terror of Laura Valmont.

A scream ripped through her brain as she struggled for the last vestiges of reality.  She could not lose consciousness at this high velocity.  She would die.  Jago would die.

We’re together.  We’ll always be together.  Just like the song, our love will never die.
Never die…Never die…Never die…

Just as Asha opened her mouth to let her scream meld with Laura’s, Jago cut the bike to the left and shot down a narrow side road, barreling down the dilapidated lane.  The truck thundered on past.  Jago skillfully spun the bike in a 180-degree turn, so that he sat, legs braced, facing the mouth of the small road.  He waited, gunning the Harley, clearly fearful the idiot driver might come back.

 Shocked by the experience, and still being drawn into the past, Asha climbed off the bike, barely aware of what she was doing.  Some part of her mind recognized Jago’s concern; even so she couldn't stop as her steps carried her toward a strange, deserted building at the back of the nearby lot.  It called to her.  Without knowing why, she had to go to it―was compelled to go to it.  Strange, the structure being out here in the middle of nowhere...similar in fashion to The Windmill.

The damp weeds of the field were up to her thighs.  Most were dead, except for the creeping honeysuckle and wild rose briar on either side of a faint path, some patches nearly over her head.  Several long canes reached out, almost snatching at her; she dodged as her steps carried her on.  Broom Sage, Queen Anne’s Lace―all dead, long dead, and not just from this past summer, but the summer before that and likely several summers long ago.  Judging by the looks of the derelict land, it hadn't been cleared this decade, possibly a decade or more before that.  Who knew when the last time it was used? 

The building wasn't cared for, only half-heartedly secured against vandals.  As if no one ever came here; no one cared if they did.  So weathered, the wood of the plank siding was a colorless grey.  Plywood had been nailed across the front of the place, covering the windows and doorway.  Someone had spray painted a peace sign and the words Hell no! We won’t go! in red on one warping board.  The Vietnam era?  The paint was fading away.  

Asha paused at the bottom of the steps, contemplating if the porch was safe, but then decided to go around to the back instead.

Behind her, she heard Jago calling, but his words were carried away on the waves of memories fighting to surface within her.  As she circled around the side, she heard a flapping noise.  Her steps slowed as she neared.

The sound came from an odd addition to the building.  Originally, she’d judged, the structure was a simple L-shaped house.  Possibly someone had lived here once.  At some later date, the extension― what looked like a small pavilion―had been grafted onto the back.  There were no walls to this part of the structure, just sheets of unpainted plywood covering the two open sides.  One wooden panel had been pulled half down, hanging diagonally by a single nail.  Behind the boards was a heavy circus tent quality canvas, gray from age and ripped in a couple places.  The wind caused the end to flutter, the metal grommets of the rings knocking against the wooden post.

Asha hesitated for a moment, uncertain if she wanted to pull back the sailcloth and see what lay beyond.  Just as she worked up enough nerve, Jago touched her arm.  Her mind snapped back.

“Asha, are you all right?”  He reached out and brushed the back of his hand to her cheek.
She offered Jago a fleeting smile, trying to reassure him, only her attention remained divided.  The clanking of the metal grommets against the poplar wood post was a siren’s song, calling her.  

  In a sad voice, she told him, “It seems so small now.”

“What’s small?”

She heard his words―ignored them.  Moving forward, she grasped the canvas and lifted it back.  In a flash, everything about her surroundings shifted, changed―as they had by the pool.  Instead of the dingy, forlorn pavilion, the white canvases were rolled up to the roof and tied back, leaving everything open to the night air.  Colored Christmas lights were tacked along the poplar wood rail that ran along the outer edge of the small skating rink.  Eydie Gormé’s Blame It On The Bossa Nova played over the speakers hung on the walls.  The skaters could rock to the music while going around and around.  Laura loved the dizzying sensation, loved the spinning colorful lights, similar to the feeling of being on a merry-go-round. 

 No, no, the bossa nova…

Then she saw him, standing by the post, watching her.  Tommy.  So handsome.  And she loved him more than she loved life.

“Asha, damn it.”  Jago jerked her around by the arm to face him.  “What the hell is wrong with you?  And don’t bother telling me you need a soda.”

With a faint shudder, Asha’s mind returned to the present.  She glanced about the dingy building.  No Christmas lights.  The hardwood floor was ruined by the decades of the lack of care and intruding rain.  No music.  No skaters.  No Tommy and Laura.  However, Tommy Grant and Laura Valmont had once stood here on a hot summer night over four decades ago.  For some strange reason she was being shown their young lives, their special passionate love.  

Though all about her was now back to normal, an oppressive air of sorrow lingered; it pushed against her mind to where a tear came to her eye.  She wasn't sure why seeing a beautiful memory like the one she had just experienced should leave her so profoundly shaken.  The couple’s love was so clear, so beautiful.  Laura and Tommy were extraordinary people.  Though these flashbacks left her rattled, she felt Laura was giving her a gift.  That gift should bring joy, happiness.  Instead, she was overcome with a poignant, heartbreaking sadness.

Silent tears streaming down her face, she smiled at Jago, trying desperately to hang on.  Just hang on.  “I wish I had known them.”

Poor man, he stared at her, totally confused, fearful.  “Who?”

“You’re now sorry you went to bed with me, eh, Jago?  You’re scared I’m crazy as a loon.”  She reached up and touched his beautiful face, cupped his cheek.  “I’m not sure I can explain, since I don’t really understand myself.”  Dropping her hand, she walked in a small circle.  “This used to be a skate rink.  They came here on summer nights.  Played music.  Mostly the girls skated.  The guys just watched them in their tight Pedal Pushers.  They decorated with strands of Christmas lights, made it festive.  Others would park their cars out here, and would sit on the hoods observing, too.  The nights would flicker, alive with lightning bugs, turning everything magical.  It was a gentle time.  A happy time.”

As she talked the images grew so strong, the music filtered around her.  “’I wonder what went wrong, with our love, a love that was so strong,’” ― she sang the lyrics to the tune she could hear.

“Del Shannon’s Runaway,” Jago identified.

Asha’s head whipped back to him, almost hopeful.  “You hear it?” 

  If he could hear it, too, maybe she wasn’t going insane.  She gave him credit.  He listened for a minute, but then shook his head no.

“You’re hearing Del Shannon?” he asked solemnly.

She chuckled, trying to make light of the bizarre situation.  “Actually, no.  You’ll think I’m totally nuts.  I’m now hearing Alley Oop.”

“Alley Oop?”  Jago huffed a small laugh, but concern filled hid dark green eyes.  “Sorry, I missed that one.”

“I’m sure it’s on the jukebox at The Windmill.  I’ll play it for you when we get back.”  She smiled, fighting the tears.  Her tone sobered.  “I’m not crazy, Jago.”

“You just go around hearing Alley Oop?”  He shoved his hands in his back pockets and looked at her, guarded.  “I read once about a guy, his tooth was turning his mouth into a radio.  Somehow, he was receiving music through his filling.  Maybe you need to have your fillings checked.”

She shrugged.  Walking to the rail, she put her hands on it and gazed out at the abandoned property.  “It might account for the music.  Only, it doesn’t cover Tommy and Laura.”

“Tommy and Laura?”  he echoed, his disbelief rising.  “The lovers from that song on the demented Wurlitzer?”

“Yeah, Tell Laura I Love Her by Ray Peterson.  It was very popular in the early ‘60s.”

“Maybe you’re fixing on that song for some reason?”

“Tommy Grant and Laura Valmont.  They used to come here.  They were very much in love.”

“Used to?  Were?” he challenged.

A flock of birds were suddenly flushed from the stand of trees, the crows’ caws filling the late afternoon sky.  Jago took her elbow.  “Come on, we can figure out Tommy and Laura later.  We need to get out of here.  Now.  The sun is already starting to go down and I don’t want to be out on the bike after dark.  Do you know anyone with a black pickup truck?  A Ford.  Not a new one.”

“Around here?  Half the farmers, most likely.  There are some trucks that are from 1940s still in use.”

“I think we were being followed.”

“That nut in the truck?”

“Yeah.  This morning I noticed a black truck in the drive-in, parked in that corner where it could look down on the bungalows.”  Jago encouraged Asha to sit in front of him this time, clearly not trusting her to safely hang on behind him. 

“I wouldn’t worry about that.  Colin drives an old Ford truck.  It’s black.  That was likely him cleaning up the trash left from the night before.”

“Any reason to think Colin might mean you harm?” he asked as he handed her the helmet.

She shook her head.  “Sorry, you’re barking up the wrong tree there, Jago.  Colin would never hurt me.  There isn't anything he wouldn't do for me.”

He shrugged, unwilling to let go of his doubts.  “Colin is in love with you.  Maybe he resents you letting me into your life.”

He gunned the engine and set the Harley wheeling down the road.

14 May 2019

A perfect Summer read....

Original 1950s postcard for The Windmill 

Where Inspiration is Found or How to Summon Thunder
Deborah Macgillivray

I leave pieces of myself in my contemporary paranormal romances. In The Invasion of Falgannon Isle and now Riding the Thunder I draw heavily on memories of growing up, of places and people that touched me in some form. Most of these people and many spots are now long gone, though they still live in those shining memories dear to me. In The Invasion of Falgannon Isle, it was the Scots and their wonderful humor, the ability to accept there’s more to this world than just what we see, their ability to laugh at any situation. Not just at, but with. I took those wonderful memories and spun a fantasy that created an imaginary isle with 213 bachelors and with only three unmarried women―two were gay and the remaining one was a woman the males couldn't court because of an ancient curse! It’s a Brigadoonish romp that came straight from my heart.

When I moved to the second book in the series, I wanted to do something fresh, not a carbon copy of the first book, so I looked to the other half of my roots―Kentucky. One reader who recently read Riding the Thunder said she loved the book so much she wished there really was a place called The Windmill. Well, in truth there was. There actually was once upon a time a small restaurant with that name on Lexington Pike, that was about halfway between Lexington and Nicholasville. Long ago, the suburban sprawl of Lexington saw the distance between the massive college town and the small southern community fade. My parents were separated, then later divorced; Father lived in Britain, while my mum lived in Kentucky. I stayed with her during the school year, but holidays and summers I spent in England and Scotland. Sadly, my parents still cared about each other, so it was too painful for them to face each other when they ‘handed me over’, so for a week or two I was sent to stay with Mum’s step-sister, until I was collected by the other parent. I always enjoyed those stays.

I got to see the beautiful horse farms in the bluegrass area. I enjoyed the small town pace, where everyone knew each other, where eccentrics and oddballs were relished, much in the same manner the Scots did. These out of way places have their own pace, and it touched my imagination. So, yes, the Windmill did exist. A horse farm was across the road from it. It had a Wurlitzer that tended to play the wrong tunes at times. There was a swim club, a motel and a Drive-in. And there was even a young man nicknamed Oo-it!

Over the years, I visited the area less and less. It hurt to see the city sprawl, the giant Lexington pushing closer and closer, until finally consuming the tiny town of Nicholasville. All its special flavor, its quirkiness was lost. Only those images, those seeds lived in my mind. I wanted to capture that timeless feeling, so thus my stage was set for Jago Mershan and Asha Montgomerie.

My stories always evolve with the questions of who and why. I see a scene in my head, such as the opening of Chapter One. I saw Jago sitting at the bar, waiting, and drinking a beer.
Who is he? Why is he there? Whom is he waiting for? Why is he waiting? He’s waiting for Asha naturally. Then when Asha enters, it’s more questions. Where did she just come from? I knew who she was basically, since she was the little sister of the heroine in the first book in the series, but the questions then moved me to defining Asha and her quirky world.

Cats seem to wander into my stories, so I wasn't surprised the nameless cat appeared and took up with Jago. I kept trying to name the black cat, only he defied being named, so that became a part of the story as well.

As for the tune Tell Laura I Love Her―the song was very popular when I was a child and it seemed play endlessly on the Jukebox at the real Windmill Restaurant. Everything is so sharp in my mind. I recall the beautiful Wurlitzer, the wallet changers on the walls by each booth, the way the sun came through the plate glass windows that ran across the front. The Drive-in showing Vincent Price movies, the scent of baby oil and chlorine from the swim club, the smells, the diner’s chatter, the Kentucky River, Lock 8, all of these elements created vivid memories within me that lived and were nurtured within my heart.

The one day, Riding the Thunder was born.

Available in Tradesize Print and Kindle

#ParanomalRomance #KentuckyRomance #ContemporaryRomance #TheWIndmillKY #BobbyBorisPickett

If you wish to order a print copy it is $8 for first edition Dorchester mass market size, or you can order Montlake Romance size $11.  Bookmarks are included.  This is flat amount which covers the shipping.  Just send me a message and I can bill you through paypal.  romance.writer.uk@gmail.com