War Diary October 1915 – Edith Cavell

It is almost one hundred years since the execution of Edith Cavell, a brave nurse from Norfolk who served in Belgium during World War One, and I am reblogging a War Diary in her honour. Scant information is given here, and the matter of fact statement about her death does nothing to give us a picture of how she must have suffered – no matter how brave she appeared – as she wrote letters to her colleagues giving instructions about domestic matters as she waited in her cell for her final moments to arrive. During her trial, Edith revealed that she had helped 200 allied soldiers to escape capture by the Germans, in the full knowledge that in doing so she ran the risk of being court-martialed and executed by firing squad which, indeed, she was at 7.00am on 12th October 1915. It is her bravery, together with that of all the other nurses and medical personnel who served in The Great War which inspired my novel A Nightingale in Winter, and I am proud to live in the same county she was born in. I shall be attending the displays and memorial activities that are to take place here in Norwich this month with great interest and a sense of pride.

ANiW Final Cover

Norfolk in World War One

War Norfolk
German aircraft deployed on the Western Front

The German Fokker comes into service on the Western Front, able to fire forward through the propeller German air superiority is achieved.

Music Hall in Norwich

High Class Vaudeville entertainment comes to the Theatre Royal in Norwich as it changes name to ‘The Empire Music Hall’.

Execution of Edith Cavell

Norfolk-born nurse Edith Cavell is executed by the Germans in Brussels as a spy and for aiding escaped Allied prisoners.

New Social Housing

The master of the rolls declared open for occupation a block of residential flats in Recorder Road, Norwich. Built by Miss Ethel M. Colman and Miss Helen C. Colman, in memory of the Right Honourable James Stuart, they were built as social housing with low rents.

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A Winter Ghost Walk and a Call to Action

The other evening I went on a ghost walk in the old part of Norwich with friends. It had seemed like a good idea when I was invited to go – Manin Black, who leads the walks, is a well known character in the city with his black coat and top hat, and to have him and his evocative tales all to ourselves for an exclusive tour would be a fun way to start February.

manin black

Ah, February. A part of me had forgotten that February evenings can be a teensie bit on the cold side, to say the least. We stoked up beforehand on ale and cake in the Adam and Eve, the oldest pub in Norwich, and at least it had stopped sleeting when we left its cosy quaintness to start our walk with Manin. 

adam and eve

The Adam and Eve, by the way, is haunted by the ghost of Lord Sheffield, who had his neck partially severed by an irate butcher with a cleaver during Robert Kett’s Rebellion in 1549. Mortally wounded, he was taken to the Adam and Eve, and here he died. These days he spends his time causing the beer tankards to dance on their hooks, tapping people on the shoulder and running fingers through their hair. He’s also known to remove personal items and return them again the following day. I’m quite glad I didn’t know about any of this while we were having our pre-walk drink.
before the #ghost walk - getting #confidenceDid I encounter any ghosts on my walk? Did my hair stand on end with terror? To find out, and to read the rest of this blog post, please go to:

http://www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk/blog/a-winter-ghost-walk-in-norwich

In future, I will mostly be blogging from there, since it seemed to make more sense to blog directly from my website. I do hope you will continue to follow my blog if you already do so, or start following if you’re a newcomer! I really appreciate your support and interest, and it would be good to keep in touch! Just click on Subscribe once you’ve opened the link.

Thank you so much!

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Singing Her Way to Success

As you may know, many of my novels are about women being courageous as they face change in their lives – women who overcome their fears in order to achieve their dreams. Naomi Alexander, the new lead singer of the Norfolk band Parkhouse, has done exactly that in her life, and I’m delighted to welcome her to my blog today to tell us all about it.

MJ: Welcome, Naomi! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! 

NA: Thanks for the invitation; it’s nice to be asked!

Naomi Alexander Lead singer of Parkhouse

 

MJ: So, jumping straight in, did you always enjoy singing?

NA: Yes, from about the age of 7, I would spend hours in my room trying to sing like the big powerhouses like Mariah Carey and Celine Dion (cringe!)

MJ: Were your family supportive of your singing?

NA: I never felt very encouraged – in fact, one of my family members said I sounded like a drowning cat!

MJ: that’s a shame. What effect did that have on you?

NA: It made me feel too shy to sing in front of other people, and it wasn’t until my late teens/early twenties that I decided to try going to singing lessons. I didn’t feel very confident about it though, so I only went to one lesson. The lesson took place in a corridor of a junior school (the tutor hired it out for her lessons) and there was a dance class going on in the main room next door.  She asked me what I would like to sing and I chose Lovefool by the Cardigans. At the time I didn’t feel comfortable projecting my voice and, as the song is sung in a high key, when I started to sing, it sounded so weak. I was also very aware that someone could come out of the dance class at any time and hear me! The tutor asked me if I’d like to stop singing that song to which I said ‘yes please’! She then asked me to sing along with Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’ – I’m not quite sure why she chose that, and again, it didn’t sound great because I was too scared to project my voice. Also, Whitney Houston had, in my opinion, one of the most powerful voices in the world!  There was no way on earth I would have felt comfortable ‘trying’ to sing one of her massive hit songs!

MJ: How many years went by until you decided to try again?

NA: In November of 2013 (so about 10 years later) I was looking at singing schools online, inspired by a friend who has also had lessons and now created their own music. I saw a free half an hour session was being held at a local school, so I went along. The tutor was amazing and really helped me with my confidence, so I booked more lessons. When she asked whether I’d thought of joining a band, I thought yes, but I’d never be able to do it; the thought terrifies me too much! But my tutor kept on bringing the subject up, so I decided to take the plunge and joined a website called www.joinmyband.co.uk.  My ad read something along the lines of ‘I’m here because of my singing tutor! Looking to join a band, either as a backing or lead singer’ so you can see why I never expected to hear anything.  When I applied, I was half-thinking, God, I hope no-one wants me as I don’t think I’m anywhere near good enough!

MJ: What happened next?

NA: Well, amazingly, I heard back within a few hours from a band looking for a lead singer! I couldn’t believe it – I really hadn’t expected to hear from anyone. I sent them a recording of me singing which I’d made on the singing course, and honestly, I was wincing as I pressed send  – I thought they’d think I was awful. But the drummer got in touch and said mine was the best recording they’d heard to date, and they’d heard a few!

Myself and another lady auditioned a couple of weeks later, and they chose me (even though she had years & years of experience in performing)! I couldn’t believe it!

MJ: Brilliant! So how long was it until your first performance with them?

NA: Only a few weeks. I practiced with them a lot to learn the songs and listened to them over an over in my car.  Parkhouse play covers like Valerie by Amy Winehouse, Mark Cohn, Walking in Memphis, Adele, Rolling in the Deep. Finally, I was ready. Or as ready as I was ever going to be! On the night of my first gig, I was so nervous. I arrived before the guys, and deep down I hoped the gig had been cancelled. I was tempted to turn around and go home! But I didn’t, and all my friends came along to support me – and even though I had a dry mouth almost all the time, I only messed up a little (nobody even noticed I messed up). It was incredible! I was absolutely buzzing & felt an overwhelming sense of achievement. I couldn’t believe how quickly the night went!

naomi-profile

MJ: So, how do those family members who knocked your confidence when you were a child feel about your achievement? 

NA: They are very proud of me and so pleased that I went for it. They certainly don’t say those horrible things anymore!

MJ: I should hope not! So, what’s next for you, singing wise?

NA:  I’d really like to have a go at something bluesy or jazzy too; maybe for a band who produce their own songs.  My friends keep saying I should go on The Voice.  I’m not so sure I want the fame though!

MJ: Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story with us, Naomi. It just goes to show, you should never give up on your dream!!

You can find out more about Naomi and Parkhouse here. The link to Parkhouse on Facebook is here.

What do readers want to know about writers?

I’m just starting to work towards creating a website. Feeling excited about it, if a bit daunted. I’ve got lots of ideas about what I want to have on it including a fun quiz, and some fun pictures. One of the pictures will involve me locating a fig tree to try to get a fig leaf. I think I know where there is one not far away. Will have to take the dog past that house when I take him out. The trouble is, I don’t know if fig trees are evergreens. Can’t wait until the spring if not… If the branches are bare, I will have to make one out of paper. If you want to know why I need a fig leaf so urgently, you will just have to wait until the website is live! Shouldn’t be too long, hopefully.

Anyway, I have started writing material for the site, and this morning wrote a bit about myself. It got me wondering what readers want to know about writers. I wanted to give a flavour of myself as a person, rather than just a dry list of achievements. Here is what I’ve written.

I was born in Hertfordshire in the UK, but have also lived in Brighton, London, Nottingham, Ely and now Norwich. Why so many places? Well, sometimes I needed a clean slate, to re-invent myself. Sometimes I fell in love with someone from another city. And sometimes love broke up. Stuff tends to happen if you move somewhere where you don’t know anybody. Good stuff and bad stuff, but it’s all material for a writer. And a good distraction for a broken heart. Travel’s also a good distraction, and broken relationships have spurred me to go to exciting countries likes Belize and Cuba on my own. Thank you, you dumpers! You know who you are!

So, having spent much of my life amassing material for my writing, I’m settled now, in Norwich. Norwich is great place – a beautiful city, but not too big, with lots of green space and countryside and the sea all nearby. It’s the perfect combination of bustle and calm, and a great backdrop for me to write my books and to be a mother and partner. Yes, a family. It took me a long time to acquire one, and now I count my blessings every day. And it’s also a whole new way to go about amassing material for writing…

I love to laugh and to make people laugh, and there is humour in most of the things I write. Since it’s a while since I’ve given myself a challenge, I’m shortly going to be doing some stand-up comedy training… Everyone keeps telling me I’m very brave. Whether I’m a hit or a flop, you can be sure it’s going to end up in a book…

What do you think?