A Little Bit Of Spring Romance

On the 23rd March 1952 my parents married in Twickenham. It had taken them eight years from their first date to reach that point. But their meeting has always struck me as the most romantic thing about them and as a sort of memory here’s a post I did about that moment which, at least to me, bears repeating (originally I put this up in 2014 – how time passes)

In 1944, my father, Desmond Le Pard, was seventeen, my mother, Barbara Francis nearly a year older. Dad, like many young men wanted to join up; but he hankered to fly and the RAF were being picky. The MoD needed ground troops – cannon fodder as Dad saw it. So, having matriculated (sort of the GCSEs of their day) from Caterham School (he would proudly tell you it was on a  full scholarship – the son of a tailor living in a council house, he had no silver spoon) he went to work at County Hall until he could join the ‘Few’. There he found his immediate boss was a woman and a glamorous one, too.

Was he intimidated? You bet he was. She had poise, class and a certain aloofness that kept the young buck at bay. He needed a stroke of luck – Serendipity if you like – for a purely business acquaintance to blossom into something more.

So, enter stage right a V1 bomb. More accurately it came from the south, from France, phutt-putting its way towards the Houses of Parliament. Back then, young people like my parents were a trifle blasé about such things. They had seen or heard about so much carnage that another bomb, one they could see, gave them a certain frisson of excitement. On that hot summer day, the youngsters in the office crowded to the window on hearing that familiar rattling drone. No doubt they wanted to see it crash – not really thinking about the likely death that followed. They weren’t indifferent to it so much as inured.
To have a better view my five foot five mother climbed on a table by the open window with a couple of others and the chatter grew as they waited. Perhaps it was that chatter that distracted them from the fact that the V1’s motor had stopped. By that time everyone knew that a few seconds after that echoing silence, the bomb would explode. Dad heard, though. He knew. He grabbed the nearest woman and hauled her to the ground, moments before the explosion sent glass flying everywhere.

Maybe there was some exaggeration in that first rough physical introduction. What’s not in doubt is it gave Dad the necessary courage and prevented Mum from rebuffing her suitor. And possibly the gods were still smiling when, on their first date and due to overcrowding and some paternal incompetence, Dad lost Mum at Leicester Square tube station. My sense of Dad back then was an tough little sod, one with several little chips about his person concerning who he was and how he was perceived. But the one thing he always had was the ability to mock himself, to send himself up. That trait would endear him to Mum more than any other. That facet of his character helped bind them together and the laughter that ensued from another example of Desmond’s cock ups kept them together until Dad’s death in 2005.

This is a nice story but why tell it here, beyond a certain filial pride? Well shortly after that first date Mum joined the ATS to drive trucks and tanks and heaven knows what, leaving Dad behind to stew in London, feeling guilty that he was missing the ‘Show’ and anxious at what was happening to his new girlfriend. So he wrote letters.

Once, twice a week from the end of August 1944 until his own demobilisation in 1948. I knew nothing of these letters until the Archaeologist and I were clearing out Mum’s bungalow after her death in 2010. In a shoe box, at the back of a wardrobe I found them, neatly preserved in their original envelopes. Mum’s hoarding was a thing of family legend.

‘You never know when it might come in useful’ was her answer to Dad’s exasperation at the impossibility of getting into the loft/shed/back-bedroom and something blocked his passage. When we moved her to the bungalow in 2006, she had tins of fruit from before sell-by dates were introduced to cans in the 1970s.

Those letters, one sided though they are – Dad was never the sort to keep Mum’s replies, at least not back then – give a fascinating insight into the lives of two young people as they struggled with the challenge of falling and staying in love despite the distance caused by war and its aftermath. Somehow they kept it going, mostly by these letters. They tell of their sometimes mundane lives as well as reporting on the many incidents as the war in Europe began to turn the Allies’ way. You discover a man discovering himself. Politically angry – he would have been a communist if his father wouldn’t have killed him for it – full of bluff and bluster and the coarseness of the young male schooled in a tough environment, the young romantic had his darling Barbara to thank for keeping him sane. You follow him to Palestine as part of the British forces trying to hold the warring Jewish and Arab factions at bay pending Partition.

It gave him an outlet for his poetry too; a lot of it is rough and ready but some, like the one he wrote just before his first ever parachute jump, is spine-tinglingly poignant.

I transcribed some letters and scanned others and you will find them under the tabs above I hope you enjoy them. For me, well they still make me smile and cry at the same time.

Posted in family, miscellany | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

On Such Misunderstandings, Religions Are Made #writephoto #shortstory

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto this week is

From time immemorial this monumental vessel has been known as ‘The Oracle of Doom’. No one knows why but modern archaeologists say it is carved by hand. Some think it represents the birthing pool, with an older meaning of ‘doom’ being intended. Others think it must have involved sacrifice, perhaps  multiple victims had their blood drained here.  Most see it as having a religious significance. Those who visit talk of a sense of foreboding, of fear in the air. ‘Death sits, cupped in the land’, wrote one over-exuberant Victorian scholar.

What is also known is that this is the most sacred place for the Druids of Aberlaw, whose existence and continued devotions are a direct result of the presence of the curious bowl that sits on the side of a rather moth-eaten hill near Lampeter.

Chief Druid, Brian the Unrepentant is the current custodian of The Fall, an oral history of this Chalice, which is handed on, in the throes of death to whoever is the anointed successor.

Brian, whose one regret in life was his mother’s fixation with that sodding snail off The Magic Roundabout and his resultant name  – a chief Druid needs a name like Gwindor or Cathgranote not that bequeathed by a drug-addled mollusc – learnt the secret from Bellagiant the Unrepentant (all chiefs are, by dint of their position, unrepentant), his Great aunt.

His role wasn’t complicated: ensure the Fall is properly celebrated every year by filling the Doom with water on the holy day and keep morons from scratching ‘Darren xx Megan’ on the outside. It might be the presence of scowling white-tuniced pognophiles near the bowl that created that feeling of intimidation in other visitors.

Brian had fulfilled his role assiduously but now was the time for him to handover to his successor, Grantham Pople. Brian knew his time was close – all Chiefs became attuned to their mortality on their hearing the Fall for the first time. Normally this was a happy time for the outgoing Chief, having fulfilled his purpose, but today, there was a problem, and a major one at that.  Grantham was on the 2.37 out of Paddington and signalling problems near Little Walltrollope, coupled with an unfortunate spillage of sliced mangoes (which in time became a top five favourite excuse for Network Rail’s tardy performance) meant he may well not make it.

Only once before had this happened and that had been a disaster. Some fourteen centuries ago, Margopolon the Unrepentant had trusted the Fall to a shepherd boy. He had emphasised the importance of telling his successor exactly what he had said but the shepherd boy wasn’t local – he was visiting an uncle from Bristol – and made one crucial mistake, one that was now included in the telling of the Fall and which all chiefs feared might happen to them.

Brian’s problem was much the same as Margopolon’s. He knew he would be dead in two hours. But his was a modern version of the fate. Rather than a shepherd boy it was an attendant at the Shell petrol station on the A407 north of Bergeris. And he too wasn’t local; rather than Bristol the attendant’s home was Bucharest.

Brian sighed. Vladimir’s seemed nice enough and his English was passable. But he knew the Fall would take some explaining.

‘Bordoron angered the gods, see…’

Vladimir nodded. He liked this intense man with pleading eyes. You wanted to help him and if listening to his story was what he needed while they waited for an ambulance then he’d do his bit. It was a good story too.

‘… and his punishment, if he didn’t accept their rule was to be drowned… that’s the Fall see…’

Another nod. So far so good, thought Brian. But this next bit… tricky. Damned tricky.

‘… he refused, crying he would never agree and nor would those who came after. They followed the rhythms of nature and were unrepentant…’

‘What happened?’ Vladimir prompted when Brian fell silent.

‘They put him in his boat and sent him to his Doom. And that’s where he is today… or at least his spirit.’

Vladimir whistled. ‘His boat is still around?’

‘Yes, it’s now a rock.’

‘A rock boat?’

‘A coracle, actually.’

‘An oracle?’

Brian felt his heart lurch; surely history wasn’t about to repeat with death so close? ‘No, this is important. Please tell Grantham it should be The Coracle of Doom…’

Posted in #writephoto, prompt, short story | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

When In The Sights Of An Assassin, It’s Not Only Stray Bullets That Are A Danger

The successful assassin in the second decade of the twenty-first century doesn’t need to be fit, nor have a deadly aim, nor a psychopath’s indifference to human suffering.  What he or she needs above all else is intelligence – cunning, if you like.

Dryden O’Spall had bad breath, a knee that collapsed without warning and a pie-eating habit that would probably kill him long before he made his first (and last) mistake.

Some clients wanted spectaculars – ‘warning shots’ as they were known in the trade – where the victim was to serve as an encouragement to others. Dryden refused these commissions. He specialized in stealth, in death by deceit. He was always on the look out for a tangential way to a nice icing.

‘Venice’ the message said. ‘Thursday, no later than noon’. A profile was attached. ‘42, white, rich, indolent and well-guarded.’

Dryden tapped at his keyboard – ‘Telemachus’, his hacker was quick, filling out the details. The medical records caught Dryden’s gaze.

The flight was on time; the pension clean and anonymous. The target’s itinerary had a visit to the glass factory, leaving from a supposedly secret location. Dryden spent an hour finding what he needed; his furry Passepartout resisted a little but the treats quietened him.

The chosen gondola was waiting. The target slipped into his seat and set off, unaware of his fellow traveler.  Dryden sat in the café and watched the boat glide by, marvelling at how the vulnerable rich wanted solitude above all else. He could see the struggles under the canopy;  the target’s severe allergic reaction to cat hair beginning to suffocate him. He lined up his stick – a modern version of the blowpipe – and when the barely breathing target sprung up, he loosed off one small dart.

Job done.

This week’s microcosm prompt gave us; Assassin; Venice; thriller

Don’t forget to buy your ticket for The Bloggers Bash on May 19th, 2018. Click here for full details.

Posted in flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Last Chance To Enter The Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition

Last final ultimate chance of glory…. Go on. You know you want to

Hugh's Views & News

You could be the lucky winner of a £100 Amazon Gift Card and a winner’s trophy in the Bloggers Bash Blog Post competition. Not only that, but you and your winning entry will get massive publicity throughout the worlds of blogging and social media.

Click here for full details on how to enter the competition.

Blog Post Competition

Want to get some inspiration for your winning entry? Click here and here to read the entries from Geoff Le Pard and me. Unfortunately,  as committee members of the Bloggers Bash, our entries cannot be passed on to the judges, so you’re in with a better chance of winning that £100 Amazon Gift Card and winner’s trophy.

The deadline for entries is 23:59 (GMT) TODAY (Thursday 22nd March). 

Remember, ‘you got to be in it to win it.’

Good luck.

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The Ifit

A little nonsense of a guest blog over at the recipe hunter. Go and see if you have an ifit in your repertoire via The Ifit

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Of Marriage, Making decisions and Marginal Gains

This year’s Bloggers Bash takes place on 19th May. Some people have noted there is a Royal Wedding and the FA Cup final that day, but it also has another claim to fame and one of which attendees need to be cognisant:

My 34th Wedding Anniversary 

(apparently you give gifts made of freshly baked grins, sprinkled with cardamon-scented sniggers)

In celebration of this confluence of confabulatory congratulations, I take you back to that rather big day in the life of this particular Le Pard

In mid 1983, I lived in a flat in Tooting, South London. For those in love with the absurdity of British place names, to live somewhere called Tooting makes everything seem just that little bit more jolly. Had I been a  resident of Dull, or worse, Bored I wonder if what happened next would in fact have slipped past in a cloud of ennui and apathy.

I proposed.

Even that’s up for dispute. We’d bought the flat, learnt to drive and bought the car, holidayed ‘abroad’ and we’d even acquired a food mixer. In those Yuppie Years when materiality was a lifestyle choice not a prioritisation of options, we’d bought ourselves the trappings of any ambitious young couple so what was left?

We were, from memory, sitting on the new carpet in the sitting room – the sofa was on order but back then it took some nine weeks to come – having a break from putting together a bedside cabinet, which, as seems still to be the case, had instructions translated by a left-brained moron from the original Swahili, via Basque – when the subject of holidays came up.

‘What about next year?’

‘Europe? Maybe a city break?’

‘Vienna? Venice?’

‘Maybe we should get married, make it a honeymoon?’

Who uttered those words? Me? I can’t be sure. But somewhere we both found ourselves in a conversation which appeared to have developed around us, with the ‘marriage’ question having been posed, answered and already become received wisdom.

I think we were both a little stunned that we’d finally agreed to do what had taken us seven years. Most people have an itch at year seven. We had Wedlock Impetigo to scratch.

It turned out that was, in fact, the easy bit. After that the difficulties arose like fresh outbreaks of scrofulous:

  • the date: all important parties had to be consulted and big important occasions – viz the Lord’s Test and the Quilt Show weekend – avoided
  • the venue: custom suggests you go to the Bride’s home but I had two ancient grandmas for whom travelling was a chore so we ended up in Hampshire
  • the reception and, specifically who was going to pay – neither of a our parents were flush with readies and both of us liked the idea of controlling the event by paying for it… if only we had a little spare of our own
  • the guest list: now call me mean spirited but my mother and I had the, ‘mother’ of run ins over this aspect – one advantage that my mother in law’s ability to fall out with all her family at various times brought us was a sparse list of persona grata from her side, but my mother was in a different class, to whit…

(me reading a list Mum gave me) ‘Who’s Marjorie, Mum?’

‘Your father’s great aunt; independent and smells of beetroot.’

‘Do I know her?’

‘No darling, she’s rather lacking in the graces but she likes a good do. You’ll like her.’

‘And Joan? And Vernon?’

‘Your father’s second cousin and his second wife. They hid your father in 1943 when he had been caught poaching with Sid…’

‘Sid? Who’s Sid?’

‘The poacher darling, Sid Seeley. He taught your father to tickle trout though Edgar thought him uncouth because he tied sisal round his trousers – to stop the rats.’

‘Edgar? Wasn’t he dad’s uncle?’

‘That’s right. Married your great Aunt Vera after the Marmalade Embarrassment of 1923…’

‘Are you planning on inviting them? They’re not on this list.’

‘Hardly, dear. They died long since.’

‘Mum why do we have to invite these strangers to my wedding?’

‘They’re not strangers. They’re family.’

‘But I’ve never met them. I’ve not even heard of them.’

‘But that’s why people have weddings, so you can meet your relatives.’

‘No Mum. If you’ve not thought fit to introduce me to these people in my 28 years, you’re not about to fill up the pews of the Church with a random selection of strangers…’

‘But darling…’

‘No, Mum, and that’s final.’

Yeah sure, it was. We compromised and allowed anyone who I’d seen within the last fifteen years to come plus three free selections of Mum’s choosing. Of course they were lovely and when, finally, Mum and Dad celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and I met met a lot of them, they were all charming and interesting and interested. But at least I didn’t have the added stress of making small talk with a roomful of wandering ne’er-do-wells…

There was a lot of planning; in my memory I took a full part in that process. In practice I think I nodded a lot. By this time in my relationship with the Textiliste we had developed the Trio-Pick Protocol for all big decisions, which, in essence goes like this:

Her: ‘We need a so-and-so (viz: wallpaper, washing machine, small tool for extracting egregious stones/glass/neighbours/threatening letters from a foot/finger/window/letterbox)’

Me: ‘Erm…’

Her: ‘I’ll do some research and then we can decide.’

Me: ‘Great.’

[a week/day/unconscionably short period later]

Her: ‘I’ve whittled it down to these three…’ [Note: it is critical that the list is no longer than three but to avoid MEM (male ego meltdown) there must be three]

Me: (girding loins and other girdable accoutrements) ‘I think A…’

Her: ‘Really? You don’t think it’s too pink?’

Me: (quickly) ‘I meant B… didn’t I?’

Her: ‘Too French?’

Me: (nervy laughter) ‘Did I say B? Of course, C.’

Her: ‘C? Are you sure? I mean, it was my preference but…’

Me: ‘Definitely C.’

Somehow we got there. Perhaps the biggest challenge were the rings. Hers. I have, had this thing about rings, stemming, as did so much, from my father’s prejudices. At some point, some years before I’d come across this gold ring in a  box with a small thread tied round it. When I asked Mum what it was she smiled indulgently. ‘It’s your father’s wedding ring. He’s never liked wearing it.’

I don’t remember her explaining why, probably because she didn’t need to. It was implied. Rings were for girls.

So when I was asked if I was getting a ring, I dissembled, shuffled my feet and generally looked anywhere but at those two questioning blue eyes. When I did look, she too had an indulgent smile.

Similar to my mother’s but with a twist; a twist that said, ‘This will cost you, Buster.’

I should perhaps note here, given the rather gauche proposal, that I hadn’t obtained an engagement ring in advance. This wasn’t because I had doubts we would become as one but rather for the reasons explained above. It was inconceivable that I would go off on my own and buy something as deeply personal, so redolent of beauty and art as an engagement ring without her choosing it. I mean, really?

I might be getting  married, but that didn’t mean I’d not suddenly discovered good taste…

Next time: The Big Day

Don’t forget to buy your ticket for The Bloggers Bash on May 19th, 2018. Click here for full details.

Posted in family, humour | Tagged , , , | 36 Comments




We are delighted to introduce you to our two guest speakers for the 2018 Annual Bloggers Bash. Details of the final agenda will be released soon so keep an eye out for future posts.


Our first speaker is well known and loved in blogging circles and was the proud winner of Best Overall Blog at last year’s event.


Meet Ritu from But I Smile Anyway


Ritu will be sharing her top tips from a working mother on how to keep your blog running smoothly and giving it plenty of attention without abandoning your family and real life too!


Connect with Ritu via:






Our second speaker is another well known blogger and author as well as being the Boss Lady/Captain/List Writer Extraordinaire/Chief Whip Cracker of the Bloggers Bash Awards.


Meet Sacha from Sacha Black


Sacha will be talking about the importance of mailing lists and how we can utilise them as bloggers and writers to the greatest advantage for our blogging stats and book sales.


Connect with Sacha via:






There will be a chance to ask Ritu and Sacha a few questions after their talks.


Don’t miss out on this informative and fun day – BUY your ticket today.




If you’ve never attended a Blogger Bash event before then you’re in for a treat. Created by Sacha Black and aided by her intrepid committee of eight bloggers, the Bash is open to any blogger, regardless of age or niche. Previous events have included speakers, competitions, a panel, and attendees from all over the UK, Europe, the US, and Canada.


There will be an opportunity to network, eat cake, and meet some amazing online friends in person! The event takes place in a single day, and you’ll be guaranteed a fantastic time and a sore face from all of the smiling that you’ll do!


Timings and the exact breakdown of the day will be available closer to the event, but it will start mid-morning and end in the evening. We will also announce the winners of the Bloggers Bash Awards, which you, the blogging public, vote for. You can see last year’s winners here.


This year, the awards are being sponsored by Greenstory – a fantastic eco-friendly company who are awarding each of the winners with a STONE notebook… Yes, a notebook actually made of stone. For more details, check out Suzie’s review of the notebook here or their website here.



Join Sacha and the committee on our Facebook Group


You can also join us for our Twitter Hour on the first Sunday of the month from 7pm-8pm using the hashtag #BlogBashChat or join in the conversation on Twitter by using the #BloggersBash hashtag.


There’s still time to enter our Bloggers Bash Competition and be in with a chance to win £100 in Amazon vouchers. Find out more here.




There’s still time to nominate your fave bloggers so they’re in with a chance of winning a bloggers bash award. You can nominate here.

Posted in #bloggersbash, miscellany | 12 Comments