A haunting visit to Munich

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Bavaria, from the coach

Many years ago an old friend I worked with was studying German and decided to go to Germany to test her language skills. Rather than go on her own, she asked if I’d go with her. Having never been to Germany before I jumped at the chance. We packed rucksacks, booked our tickets and endured a twenty four hour coach journey from London to Munich. We eventually arrived after a ferry trip to France and a long drive through France, Belgium and Germany. We were tired and hungry and Munich was in the middle of a massive thunderstorm. In the dark we navigated the streets of Munich and made our way to the hostel where we booked in and got some sleep.

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Central Munich

Over the next week we spent our days exploring the city and its surroundings, we travelled the U Bahn and S Bahn, Munich’s equivalent of the underground, we ate and drank in the Hofbrauhaus a famous German drinking house, and explored the many sights including the beautiful Marienplatz, the Frauenkirche (Cathedral Church of our blessed lady), and the Olympic park where we climbed the tower to take in surrounding views.

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Olympic Park, Munich
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In the Hofbrauhaus with a small pint of german beer!
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Marienplatz, Munich

One day we took a train to the town of Dachau. My friend wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure it was something I really wanted to do, but rather than stay in Munich on my own I tagged along. In the town are the remains of Dachau concentration camp, one of the first camps created by the Nazi’s during the war. It’s a lonely, abandoned looking place with a hauntingly horrific past. With much trepidation, not knowing what to expect, we entered the camp remains and agreed to split up and meet up with each other a little later. The stories you hear of the silence and birds not singing in concentration camp sites is quite true and it’s also very unnerving. Alone, I walked abandoned pathways, past old barracks where camp prisoners would have lived and down the long tree lined Camp Road, that runs the length of the site. At the end, close to some chapels, was the crematorium area, which housed the gas chambers. They were rooms made to look like showers that were built with one purpose; cruel mass murder. Inside one of the shower rooms I stayed silent, trying to imagine what those poor people who had been forced to enter and never escaped had felt like, and I was at a loss. Some say the gas chambers at Dachau were never used, but an overheard tour guide told their tour group that they did indeed use them. The emotion I felt was very real. I was unable to understand how it had ever happened. I felt sadness for the thousands who had so cruelly lost their lives in Dachau, but also very angry, and was I glad that I was experiencing it alone.

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Dachau Camp, watchtower, fences and barracks in the background
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Camp Road, Dachau, The maintenance building at the far end

Wandering back down Camp Road to the former maintenance building that I had yet to visit, I stopped a moment to take in the place of death, that now stood silent as if nothing had ever happened. It was hard to believe that so much cruelty had taken place there. In front of the maintenance building was a lone metal statue – The International Monument – a tribute to those who had lost their lives in this place, and it seemed so little in comparison to the huge loss.

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The International Monument, Dachau
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The maintenance building and International Monument

The former maintenance building had been turned into a museum, and the walls inside were covered in black and white photos of some of those who had been prisoners. Some photos were plain, merely men women and children standing or sitting, a haunting sadness on their face as they endured their daily existence, others however were much more graphic. They showed inhumane experiments that had been conducted on unfortunate prisoners, executions and other things that don’t even bear thinking about. It was at this point that I’d had enough, and could no longer stay in the museum, but before I left I stopped to ask one of the staff a question:

“Why do you allow people to visit Dachau and keep these awful pictures on show?”

The response was: “We are not proud of what happened here, we want to remind people how terrible it was in the hope that it never happens again.”

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Entrance gate, Dachau

The rest of our trip to Munich continued with the usual sightseeing ad exploration after our visit to Dachau. We visited the Hofbrauhaus again, and it became a favourite place to eat and drink, we sunbathed in the English Garden and visited the Viktualienmarkt. But it was the visit to Dachau that stayed with us the most, and remained on my mind for a very long time, my friend and I never discussed it, but the stories we heard and the images we witnessed shocked us to the core and is something that will remain always. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget and in part I agree wholeheartedly with the museum staff. What happened during the war was truly terrible, we should never forget and it shouldn’t ever be allowed to happen again.

  • Have you ever been Munich? If so what was the favourite thing about it?

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Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

 

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Petra, the rose red city

Whilst visiting Eilat, in Israel (separate post about Eilat coming soon!) we border hopped into Jordan to visit the ancient city of Petra. It was a very early start and the coach trip up the Kings Highway took a few hours, but it was a trip that would prove to be worth it. Jordan is a great country, an expanse of dusty red/brown desert that rises and falls stretching on for endless miles. Mountains line the roadside, only punctuated by the occasional site of a Bedouin tent and its occupants.

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Close to the entrance of Petra National Park

Arriving in Wadi Musa, the small town where Petra is located, we joined our guide and followed him as we walked through the gates into Petra National Park. Nothing can prepare you for what you see as a visitor, neither can you truly describe to others how incredible Petra is. At first it doesn’t seem like much as you walk a dusty, open path with not much on either side, save for rocky inclines. After ten minutes or so however, you happen upon the Triclinium tomb and some Djinn blocks – ancient structures built by the original inhabitants the Nabataeans 2000 years previously – the first sign of what is to come. They are impressive, but you wonder if it was really worth the visit, but the trip doesn’t end there.

 

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Inside the gorge walking down to the main part of the city

The path continues steadily on, and suddenly it plunges down through a crack in a rock, between two large edifices of pink stone, once sliced open by an earthquake. Along this path you begin to catch remnants of ancient reliefs, carvings, cobbled flooring and an ancient water irrigation system, as you marvel at the incredible gorge that nature created.

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Catching site of “El Khasneh” at the end of the gorge
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“El Khasneh” (The Treasury)

Suddenly, without warning, the path ends and that’s when your visit to Petra really begins. At the end of this gorge stands the impressive El Khasneh (The Treasury), an ancient temple built by the Nabataeans. Turning to your right you suddenly discover that it’s just the first of many ancient sights, as your vision fills with the remnants of ancient tombs, temples and rock-cut houses.

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Some of the Royal Tombs
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Some of the Royal Tombs
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The Colonnaded street and other ruins
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The Roman Amphitheatre
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Rock-cut tombs/dwellings

Seeing and experiencing Petra was something I’ll never forget. Petra is a huge ancient city, albeit in a semi-ruinous state, that had belonged to the caravan people who had worked the old spice road, around 2000 years ago. Many of its buildings were carved directly into the rock face which meant they haven’t been destroyed by earthquakes, and are still visible. Sadly not all of the city survived though and the central part is fairly ruinous. Despite that, it’s an incredible place to explore, and just when you think you have finished seeing everything, you find another sight to marvel at. There are the Royal Tombs, Colonnaded Streets, a Roman Amphitheatre and The Monastery, the list is endless and there is so much to see and experience. The rich colourful rock, giving Petra it’s nickname of the Rose Red City, is so vibrant in places and marbled in texture, mixed through with hues of white and grey. You really do get a fascinating insight into the people who built the city and used to live there. No vehicles are allowed into the ancient city, and so most visitors make the trip down on foot, but there are horses, camels and horse drawn carriages for those who need transport.

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Me inside El Khasneh, a little overwhelmed by it all!

I love Petra, it’s in my top three of favourite places visited and I hope to be able to go again one day. Today the site is well looked after and protected, and sits on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It’s a place that many don’t know exists, a hidden historical gem in the Jordanian desert, and one that is definitely worth visiting and will welcome visitors with open arms.

  • Have you ever been to Petra? If so what did you like the most about it?

Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

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Back to beginnings…

I often get asked the same question in interviews; did you always know that you wanted to be a writer, or have you always written? The answer I always give is, yes, I did always want to write and have been doing so for a very long time. When I was at school I used to write lots of short stories and poems, and my school report cards repeatedly talked about how creative I was and how I never lacked imagination (although most of my teachers thought I should actually pay more attention to my academic subjects and put the stories away!), but I can never really remember much about what I actually wrote at the time.

In the last few months I have been reorganising my office, unpacking some very old boxes from moving house a few years ago. In one of the boxes I stumbled across something that I haven’t seen for about twenty years.

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I had completely forgotten that around the age of Eleven/Twelve years old, I sat down and wrote my first “book”; The French Mystery by Christina Curtis. It was what I recently rediscovered. I had a read of it (all 70 handwritten pages of A4!). Not only had I written a full story, I had also given it a title and created a cover for it (out of felt-tip pens, cut up paper and cardboard), given drawn pictures to go inside it.

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If I had to describe it, I would say that The French Mystery is an archaeological suspense. It’s about me and a handful of my school friends, who go camping on the old Roman hill fort that was in our village. Whilst camping on the old hill fort we discover that a group of French thieves are illegally digging on the site and hunting for artefacts. Imagine an archaeological version of the Famous Five if you will. Having re-read it thirty years on, I’m actually quite surprised at the well thought out storyline, and realise now that after spending decades searching for my niche/genre, it had been there all along and I had just forgotten about it.

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Thankfully, I eventually found my way back to my niche – historical suspense – and I’m still writing, and have now released five books. It’s been very interesting finding The French Mystery buried at the bottom of a box and seeing where it all started; the place where my writing journey really began, and at such a young age too. I am also glad that it survived three decades, several moves across the country and never got thrown out. It would have been a shame if I had lost it. Not only has it reaffirmed that I am doing what I was meant to do, but it was also fun reading all about my old village, the old Roman Hill fort and my old school friends.

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Dreams can stay with us a long time, sometimes decades, never give up, as you never know what may happen in the future!

  • Have you ever discovered something years later, that reaffirmed that you were on the right path in life?

Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

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Wind Across the Nile

Over the last two years I’ve been working hard on a book called Wind Across the Nile that will be released at the end of this year. I’m a year behind schedule and this has left me frustrated and made me put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel as though I’ve let my readers down, and even though I know they are still there patiently waiting, and will support me as soon as the book comes out, I wanted to take this opportunity to apologise and thank them for sticking with me. Sadly things haven’t gone as planned, life got in the way, including me being very unwell for a few months.

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View across the Nile in Luxor, Egypt

Now, things are back to normal (or as normal as life can get!), and I’m getting back on track and I can’t wait to release Wind Across the Nile at the end of this year. The love that I’ve always had for this book is still very much there and I’m so happy with the story, and just can’t wait to release it now. The editing is done, and all that needs to happen now is the proofreading and formatting, and we’re good to go.

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Sailing on a felucca on the Nile

I love the plot of this book, and have really enjoyed working on it, and using the knowledge gained from my Egyptology courses to craft it. I don’t want to give too much away, but the story will immerse the reader in Egypt, introducing them to the Egypt’s history, archaeology and other amazing sites it offers. There will be new characters to meet and learn about, and the story will take the reader on an exciting journey that spans over 100 years.

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Sunset view across Cairo, Egypt

I can’t wait to release Wind Across the Nile now, I’m so excited about getting it out to readers so they can hopefully enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Even more so, I can’t wait to be able to get on with the next book, so that I can get back on track. Thank you for sticking with me!

  • Have you been to Egypt? If so what are you most looking forward to about this book?

Wind Across the Nile

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Wind Across the Nile – Book Description

When Cora Thomas learns her parents and younger brother have died in tragic circumstances, her life crumbles.  As she struggles to come to terms with what has happened, she uncovers an old leather bound book in her parent’s attic. Unable to decipher it, she goes to Egypt in search of help from eminent Egyptologist, Professor Nick Foster.

Cora is captivated by Egypt, a country rich with culture, history and heritage.  Eventually finding the help she needs, Cora allows her painful grief to subside, but her happiness is short-lived.  As Cora uncovers the truth of her family history, she finds herself fighting for her very existence at the hands of people she thought were friends.

From the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands, to the ruinous sands of the Egyptian desert, Wind across the Nile is a story of unbreakable bonds, family secrets and self-protection.

 

Chrissie is an author who loves history, and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

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Tiverton Museum, Devon

Last week I decided to have a few hours out, so I visited a Museum in the town close to where I live, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

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Situated in the town of Tiverton in Mid Devon, is the Tiverton Museum. The Museum is a place to learn all about the life and local history of Tiverton and the surrounding area. It’s much bigger than I expected and I spent a good few hours wandering through the halls that are filled with lots of interesting exhibits.

Devon Agricultural life

There’s a large number of displays dedicated to agriculture and farming life in Devon, from cider presses, to farming implements. The displays give the visitor an incredible overview of life in the industry before mechanisation. Visitors can learn about sowing crops, ploughing and even milling. Some of the farming artefacts date back to the 1800’s and some of the cider press items are even older.

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Doomsday Book and Archaeology

My favourite part of the museum was the Britton Gallery, which houses some archaeological displays (and you know how much I love archaeology!). It includes information about archaeological ages, some hand axes reputed to be around 400,000 years old, and there is also information about the Bolham Roman Fort, The bit I liked the most was reading about the Doomsday Book. A number of villages surrounding Tiverton are mentioned in the Doomsday Book, and it was fascinating to read more, especially as the village I live in, is one of the places mentioned! It seems that the area of Tiverton is very steeped in history if you look hard enough.

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Heathcoat Gallery

Anyone who knows Tiverton well will know all about the Heathcoat family and their factory. Part of the museum is set aside to inform visitors about the Heathcoats and it highlight’s the history of the family, and the work undertaken at the factory, including some of the machinery that would have been used in the past. There’s also a board telling visitors about the use of lace made at the factory; including lace that went on to make Princess Diana’s wedding veil.

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Through the Ages

There are a number of galleries that show Tiverton and surrounding areas through the ages. These include Kitchen and Laundry, Cottage Parlour, and the Upper and Lower Amory Galleries. There are so many great things to see in these galleries, including a prison door, local trade artefacts and Civic Life. My favourite was the WW1 and WW2 section. It included a number of war items including rations books, warden/fire guard and home guard insignias, and even an Anderson shelter (complete with an operational air-raid siren!).

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The Courtyard

Outside in the Courtyard there are more pieces of agricultural equipment. In a side gallery there’s a fantastic Silverton Fire Engine thought to date from around 1837. A second gallery contains an extensive display of farm wagons that belonged to a local farming family from Netherexe Barton. It’s wonderful that this local heritage has been preserved for people to see and learn from.

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The Tivvy Bumper

The final gallery is home to the Tivvy Bumper, a sparkling green and black locomotive that used to operate on local railway lines. The Tivvy Bumper is surrounded by and extensive collection of railway items, such as signals, and railway signs. There is also a board that tells the history of the railways and various railway stations in the Tiverton area. Information on various road transport and of course the Grand Western Canal is also present in the gallery.

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As well as all of the exhibits mentioned above the museum also has a Tourist Information Service and a great shop full of books, postcards, keyrings, magnets and some lovely Tiverton themed gifts. The staff were so friendly and welcoming and I really enjoyed my visit to Tiverton Museum. It’s an interesting and inspiring place that provides so much information about the history of Tiverton and surrounding areas, and I shall definitely go back to visit it again soon.

For more Information about Tiverton Museum, including opening times and where to find them, go to their website.

  • Have you been to visit Tiverton Museum? If so what was your favourite artefact or gallery?

 

Chrissie is an author who loves history, and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

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A challenge from an author friend

I have been challenged by a fellow author to share ten interesting things about me that my readers may not know about me.  To be honest it’s quite hard coming up with five things, let alone ten and I don’t think of myself as that interesting, but I’m going to give it a go anyway.  So, here is list of what I hope is five interesting things for you.  If I can think of any more to boost the list to ten then I’ll update it in the future, but five will have to do for now!

So here we go…

Colourful: I love absolutely colour, the brighter the better.  My wardrobe is full of it.  I normally end up walking around looking like a rainbow has thrown up on me.  The most quirky part of my colour fascination is that I tend to wear mismatched socks and shoes.  My favourite shoes are my purple/red converse with the red/green laces.  I also have a habit of painting my nails different colours, at the moment they are red, green, orange, purple and yellow.

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Snakes and spiders: Most people I know have phobias that centre around snakes and spiders.  I can understand why, but personally I don’t mind them.  I have held a number of different snakes in the past and I do find them absolutely fascinating.  The last time I got up close and personal with one (other than seeing the grass snakes that live in my garden), was when I was in Florida.  I had been out on a catamaran snorkelling and on the way back I was given the opportunity to hold a beautiful brown python.  As for spiders, my house is full of them, and I refuse to kill them, so I normally end up rescuing them before I get into the shower so that they don’t end up going down the plughole.

Not what to do when drunk

Circus: Whilst studying my Acting and Stage Management diploma in the 1990’s (Ha! number six snuck in!) our drama building had to undergo urgent building work/repairs, so we ended up in a rented space at Bristol Circus School.  A few months later, many of us had learned to juggle and tightrope walk, as well as trying out uni-cycling and trapeze.  It was a lot of fun, if hard work, and telling people that “I went to circus school” is a fun talking point, even if it was only for a short period of time because we just happened to be onsite.  I still have my juggling balls, although I don’t use them as often as I used to.

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Tomboy: I’m a bit of a tomboy.  Actually, I’m a huge Tomboy.  I live in jeans and trainers (or boots in the winter), and you can often find me doing something random like climbing a tree just for the fun of it.  The one thing I absolutely hate is having to wear a dress or a skirt.  I literally have to be forced into them, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have worn either in the last ten years!  So, enjoy the below photo, it’s not something you’ll see often!

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And to balance it out – me up a tree.

There, that’s better!

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History: I’m a massive history and archaeology geek.  If there is a Castle, Museum or Historic building within a twenty mile radius I will find it.  It’s like I have a historical homing beacon.  I love nothing better than exploring and discovering more about the history of where I live, or where I am visiting.  A perfect holiday for me is one where I can be let loose to walk around tumbledown ruins for the day so that I can learn more.  I also read and collect history and archaeology books (I have over two hundred currently), and I have completed two Egyptology courses and an Archaeology course, with Exeter University.

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So, there you are, five things about me you may not have known, as challenged by my lovely author friend, who shall remain nameless! I hope you find them interesting.

  • Do you have any interesting quirks or facts that you would ever be willing to share if asked in a similar type of challenge?

 

Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

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The loss that keeps me writing

I’m lucky to have so much support as a writer. My readers are amazing and I appreciate every single one of them. My family and friends are wonderful too and always have my back, they understand how much I love writing, and I’m so grateful for their support. One regret I do have, is that the one person I wish could see and support me in all I do, is now no longer here.

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My Aunt Gerry was an incredible woman. She had a heart of gold, was funny and worked as a model. I was in complete awe of her as a child.

Gerry taught me to cook pasta with tomato sauce (and helped me cover up stains on a plush white carpet, after I spilt it, so that her boyfriend Pete didn’t see them). She snuck me into the cinema to watch films that weren’t of my age limit, meaning that she and Pete would have to sit with their hands over my ears or eyes dependant on what was happening on screen. She even bought me tortoise for my birthday once!

She was so much fun, and I loved spending time with her, she was glamorous and lead an incredible life.

But then suddenly one day, she was gone.

I was only eleven years old when Gerry died. She was only twenty-seven years old. The loss was a huge shock, and quite honestly I didn’t believe she was actually gone. Being so young I was unable to go to the funeral, so for many years I didn’t really understand what had happened. I thought she’d just gone away on one of her trips and hadn’t been able to contact us. The loss of my Aunt was the most traumatic event of my life and it affected me deeply. It took decades for me to finally come to terms with what had happened, but even today, it’s a loss that’s still hard to bear, and one that I’ll never quite get over.

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I wish Gerry was still here. I miss her greatly.

I wish she was here so that I could show her what I’ve achieved, to show her that I did believe in myself, and to show her that I’ve stayed true to myself and done what I wanted to do; write my stories. But sadly, Gerry isn’t here, she’s a mere memory, and I’ll never be able to make her proud, or show her how hard I worked to make it happen. For me, this is the hardest thing about writing. To know that I can’t ever share my joy, hard work and success with her, and I wish I could.  I know she would have loved every minute of my writing journey, and would have been so very proud of me and all that I’ve achieved.

I’m also grateful that I do have wonderful memories of my time with Gerry, and I treasure them. Despite her no longer being here with us, I’d like to think that she’s somehow looking down on me from wherever she may now be, giving me a big thumbs up, and pushing me to carry on, and because of that I keep writing and will always continue to do so.

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Geraldine Betts – 1957 to 1985

Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com

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