Thursday, 30 September 2010

Yarm Writers Group

I have been a member of Yarm Writers Group (YWG) for just over 3 years.

 The group meets once a fortnight in the library at Yarm, in the North East of England. The group aims to be fun and I can vouch for the friendly atmosphere. It has been in existence for over 25 years

Doris Perley, who writes family and local history,chairs each meeting. Doris says we may not be the most talented writing group, we write because we enjoy it.

At each session a topic is set for members to write about and read  at the next meeting - it's not compulsory. Criticism is rarely harsh as the aim is to provide support and build confidence in what we write. If one person in the group enjoys the writing then that's a successful piece.

People visiting the library have been heard to say, "I go on a Thursday because of the laughter from the meeting room.

Each year there is an outing - my first visit was to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.Later  we visited Eden Camp which claims to be the only modern history theme museum of its type in the world covering WWII and military history of the 20th century. The camp held Italian and German POWs during the war.


I intend to post pieces I have written for presentation to the group so look out for them in future posts. There are around 75 so far. Hope you will like some of them. 

Thursday, 23 September 2010

North Yorkshire Village Dogs - Joe

Feisty is probably the best word to describe Joe, the nine-year-old Airedale Terrier. He is sure that he’s in charge. A pedigree puppy from Lancaster, he has a different character than Theo, his predecessor. Like all Airedales Joe is happy to work with you but never lets you think he’s working for you.

If you meet him on a walk you can see him assessing you as soon as you are in sight. He is not keen to be approached and will pull back from being stroked. He may even bark at you with that deep voice characteristic of his breed. He may even deign to take an offered treat – but it doesn’t always seem important enough for him to accept.

Joe has the run of the house and let’s anyone walking by, or visiting, know that this is his territory. There’s no chance of not hearing his deep-throated bark, once heard at close quarters you will always remember it. Make a sudden movement inside and off he goes again. Bonios will pacify him long enough until he has eaten them but if he doesn’t know you – well he starts again. 

Joe has his own chair in the lounge in which to curl up and look around. He has a duvet for his bed but will also sleep on the landing. Joe is fond of food, especially scones, cushions, mints and Fishermans Friends; he even eats bees. In fact he will suck almost anything and transport all sorts of items out into the garden in the summer.

[This is not Joe’s chair]

Airedales don’t moult a lot but their coat needs regular attention. Joe is clipped every five weeks. A skin condition means the special Malaseb shampoo is used every four weeks for his bath. Joe also takes Metacam anti-inflammatory tablets for his lumbosacral disease, not that you can easily tell he has a problem. 

Joe does not like being left alone for long; if he is he will cry and howl in protest. Surprisingly however he doesn’t like being cuddled unlike his predecessor.

On walks he is always kept on a lead. You get the impression that if he is let off then he would be away doing his own thing. Joe tolerates the other dogs he meets and gets along well with a Cocker Spaniel that occasionally comes to stay.

Although primarily a pet, his bark makes him the best burglar alarm of all. He guards the house so well that in the middle of the night he will bark to get you up - to dispose of any large spiders that appear. He will warn you of their presence, but job done it’s up to you to get rid of them.

If you didn’t know Joe that well you might think he is aggressive or bad tempered. However his bark is worse than his bite. Feisty may be the word for him. He is actually affectionate but on his own terms, and underneath all the feistiness he is a very sensitive soul.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Ghosts of Berry Pomeroy Castle

The castle near the village of Berry Pomeroy near Totnes in Devon is reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in the UK.

[Photo author: J Morley  Under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic  license]

The lands around the castle were presented to Ralph de Pomeroy by William the Conqueror in reward for his support in the Norman Invasion and in the Battle of Hastings. The castle was built in the early 12th century by Henry de Pomeroy and remained in the family until the lands were forfeited in the 1540s.

The Lord Protector, Sir Edward Seymour brother of Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII, commissioned the building of a mansion house inside the Norman castle. [Sir Edward was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1549, sentenced to death and executed in 1552]

The castle was occupied by the Seymours until the late 1680s; it was subsequently abandoned as an abode having been damaged during the Civil War and by fire in the 18th century. The Seymours have been guardians of the castle since that time although in the 1990s English Heritage took over its maintenance and restoration work.

An apparition known as the White Lady is believed to be that of Lady Margaret Pomeroy who was imprisoned by her jealous older sister Lady Eleanor, left in charge when Lord Pomeroy went on a crusade. Incarcerated in the dungeons for nearly two decades Margaret suffered a slow and painful death by starvation. The White Lady haunts the dungeons and rises from the St Margaret’s Tower to the castle ramparts. Those who see this figure report feelings of depression, fear and malevolence.

The ghost of a Blue Lady, reported as long ago as the 18th century, is dressed in a blue cape and hood. It is claimed she tries to lure men to their death by seeking help in unsafe areas of the castle. The daughter of a Norman lord she was raped by her father who subsequently strangled the resulting child. [Other accounts say she strangled the child herself.]

Regarded as a death portent to the Seymours she is seen wringing her hands in torment and at times the cries of the child can be heard in the castle.

A prominent doctor, Sir William Farquhar, saw the Blue Lady when attending the wife of one of the stewards of the castle. The steward explained that apparition was an omen of death; the steward’s wife died soon afterwards in spite of the doctor’s assurance that she as doing well.

A further story concerns the area below the castle ramparts known as the Pomeroy’s leap, an area where screams and dull thuds are sometimes heard. Two Pomeroy brothers besieged in the castle mounted their horses in full armour and rode off the top of the ramparts rather than face defeat.

Modern investigations at Berry Pomeroy Castle have reported apparitions, photographic failure and paranormal sounds. Anyone bold enough to take a small stone as a memento of their visit has returned them due the feeling of foreboding and evil that followed them afterwards.

Monday, 13 September 2010

50 Stories For Pakistan - Cover

Thanks to Getty Images the Pakistan anthology will have a spectacular cover. Check it out at:

The closing date for submission of stories is 19th September. Don't miss it if you want to have a chance of having your story included.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

50 Stories For Pakistan

Greg McQueen is at it again. Not content with 100 Stories for Haiti anthology Greg is now setting out to help people suffering in Pakistan.

So calling all writers. This is your chance to do something for nothing that means something for Pakistan.

Here's what's wanted:
50 Stories for Pakistan

Max 500 words
Any subject, any genre but no death, violence or destruction.

Paste your story in the body of an email.

Greg also needs your name, address and contact number. You can add a short bio if you wish, but the contact details are vital.

Send your email to:

You can also listen to Greg spelling it out by going to:

Don't delay. Greg aims to publish in a month!!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Dogs of Troy

An illustrated story where the photos are as important as the text. It was a bit of an experiment when I wrote it a couple of years ago.Please let me know what you think. It first appeared on a Writelink blog

Dogs of Troy

At the beginning we were just two of a litter of yellow Labrador puppies. In those days it was a case of ‘dog eat dog’ and ‘survival of the fittest’. We were the pick of the bunch!

We are brother and sister with the names of Sam and Max, or for those who prefer the softer option we will respond to Sammy and Maxie. Initially we were known as the yellow labs of Troy although our neighbours must have considered us to be descendants of The Plague Dogs; it was such fun living on an open housing development. Unfortunately this meant we were often tethered to a stake to stop us wandering off and chasing anything that moved in the vicinity. We were a handsome pair – far more so than Paris and Helen.

It was very difficult to say which was more comfortable; at least the grass was softer, but in the concrete jungle we were able to move around without the rope restricting where we could go.

Inside the house we each had a specially designed box and cage in which to sleep, and for play whenever our owners were out. This soon taught us not to mess upon the floor. It was great to try and get into the others cage and to resist being ousted by its owner. But why is someone else’s bed always softer and warmer than the cold linoleum floor?

Training to get fit and stronger was such fun, but our personal trainers often tired us out. That’s why after a workout we loved to sleep, on the carpet, in the sun watched over by our trainers.

Efforts were made to keep us in with doors blocked so effectively that we could not escape or so they thought.

But if you did it was lonely in that concrete jungle.

Together though once we were loose, we threatened any thing that moved, “Come closer and we pounce.”

We have been taken to all sorts of strange places just to socialise. We were not keen to be kept on leads. Even this could become a game in which we gave points to each other for how many times we could get entangled with legs, each other or pull our owners over. Roller skaters in the park did not like us and shrieked at us to get out of their way – anyone would think that they owned the paths. Apart from the blame we got if there was any damage. Honest, I didn't chew it.

Socialising had its ups and downs; there were even times when a reassuring pat was necessary to quell the fears that arose from other marauding dogs.

Maxi was not at all amused by those Canadian birds that refused to play, swam away or just ‘honked’ at us. However this was better than those big white birds with large flapping wings which didn’t honk but hissed most menacingly.

Consequently there were times when it was much better to stay at home and just snuggle up and dream about a pile of bones.

We went canoeing once and this was to be the start of Sam’s water phobia. He fell in and not knowing how to swim had to be rescued in a panic. We both believe that his fear of going into lakes and ponds, where the water comes above his knees, was started by this episode early in this thing they called socialising.
We were to learn there was not just one mad English woman – the one who looked after our needs and scolded us for our misdeeds. Every now and then the house would get an extra clean and we were warned to be on our best behaviour. The English from across the ‘big pond’ would arrive in one of those noisy machines that fly higher in the sky than any bird. They would take over playing with us; but how we wished ‘he’ wouldn’t sit in our favourite chair. We just had to fight him for it.

When it was hot it was better to spend some time in the shade,butSammy wished that Maxie would be more considerate in where she stuck her grass or did she forget the ‘gr…’?

With ‘her’ from England we had to take our turn in the sun or at ‘her’ knee – much more relaxing than fighting ‘him’!

When ‘he’ was digging in the garden where we weren’t allowed to bury bones, it wasn’t much fun just watching, so we didn't.

Anyway the smell from his gardening shoes was enough to make anyone fall asleep.

There wasn’t always sunny weather. At the time they called winter the ground became very hard and was covered with white stuff that came up to our bellies. And when it rained it rained bucketfuls that made us wet and we were meant to sit still while we were vigorously rubbed with a rough towel - which we were not meant to bite.

When him who was married to our mad English woman got involved in all sorts of projects that were called ‘do it yourself’ there was all sorts of upheaval.

You never knew what was going to happen next. They may have liked parquet flooring but you can’t even settle down to a decent siesta with ‘him’ from across the pond.

Once a year we were given special treats on our birthday. However we felt humiliated by what we had to do. What would they say if they were forced to wear balloons on theirs? We think the mad English woman gets away with it because she can’t find any clothes that match the ruddy things.

The time came when we heard that a move to somewhere in the country was being planned. It was most confusing; what was to happen to us we didn’t really know. Surely they couldn’t leave us here, could they? Now was the time to look appealing.

And just in case one of us had to learn to drive.

When the great day came and we were to leave to go to Oxford – that’s in Michigan and not the famous university across the pond in the country of ‘her’ and ‘him’ (that’s him who we had to fight for the chair) – to make sure we were not forgotten we nipped quickly inside the car as we didn’t think the trash cart would take us both. Anyway the cart driver only knew us as the ‘Yellow Labs of Troy’.

If you have liked our story, you have seen nothing yet! Wait till you get the chance to hear the tale of ‘The Deer Trail Hounds’!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

September Hauntings

Situated in the valley of the Yarrow River near Selkirk, Scotland Newark Castle is built on a mound. The 15th century stone tower house is five storeys high with a 16th century two storey caphouse above the wall walk and parapet. 15th century keyhole gun loops pierce the surrounding curtain wall which also incorporates a gatehouse.

On September 13th the sounds of slaughter of men women and children may be heard on the anniversary of a massacre in 1645.

Sherborne Old Castle in Dorset was built in the12th century and leased by Queen Elizabeth in 1592 to Sir Walter Raleigh. The castle contains a stone platform known as Raleigh’s Seat where it is held that each Michaelmas Eve at midnight Raleigh returns for a rest after walking round the grounds.

Sherborne Old Castle was a Royalist base in the Civil War only falling to Cromwell after a 16 day siege in 1645.

Photo by Adam Kocurek  -

Other sources say that Raleigh’s ghost wanders the gardens of the newer Sherborne Castle on 28th September and disappears in the harbour by the tree known as Raleigh’s Oak.