Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Passchendaele remembered

Recently I've been reading Glyn Harper's superb account of the New Zealand experience of Passchendaele. I've written here before about the Battle of Passchendaele and its horrific toll on New Zealanders.

This current reading came close to home—quite literally. At the back of the book is a list of names from the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot Cemetery. To quote Harper: "The memorial bears the names of 1,179 New Zealanders who fell in the Passchendaele battles and whose bodies were never recovered."

I was going through this list, noting ages and what I could glean of personal circumstances, when the address of a next-of-kin sprang off the page. It's a short walk from our little apartment in town, in an area with many surviving Victorian houses, and a place I've walked past hundreds of times.

This house was built in the 1880s, and its exterior looks to have survived relatively unchanged. In October 1917 a telegram arrived for the widow who lived here. It told her that her son had been killed on the other side of the world. He was one of the 17,000 New Zealanders killed in the Great War.

I'll think of that young man, and of his grieving mother, every time I walk past her house.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chivalry of the Ovine Kind

We have a flock of six sheep: five ewes and one wether. They're quite tame; even the most skittish (Scaredy) doesn't mind our presence, especially when we're handing out treats, and several will eat from our hands. Their purpose in life is to eat, and they're easily moved about from orchard to paddock, wherever the grass is longest.

The wether is the oldest of them. We're not sure how old he is, but he already looked fairly elderly when he came to live here several years ago. He still eats heartily, and is quite active, although he moves stiffly (hence his name, Limpy). We've had him checked out, and there's nothing obviously wrong with him. It's probably something in the nature of arthritis.

A few evenings ago I went outside to gather rosemary, and saw the sheep behaving as if something was up. The ewes were tightly bunched, as sheep like to be when threatened, but Limpy was several sheep lengths in front of them, standing firm and ready to face off whatever the threat was.

It proved to be the very small dog that belongs to our nearest neighbours, and which gives the impression it would have trouble injuring a teddy bear. I doubt if the sheep were really frightened, and they were certainly in no real danger. But Limpy takes his responsibilities seriously. He may not know quite what to do with his harem, but he does know he must look after them.

It's the thought that counts.

Here they are enjoying fresh pasture:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Amazon at Last

After much delay, my e-books are available in the Kindle Store. They got off to a good start on Amazon UK, where they've been bouncing in and out of the Top 100 of the Historical Fiction category, have a recommendation thread in the forums, and a five-star review by a Top 1000 reviewer. Things are going more quietly so far on, where I've yet to have any reviews, but it's early days still.

My Amazon pages: