Thursday Thought: A story

N.R. Phillips

N.R. Phillips

I just have to share with you another story from the delightful Cornish author N.R. Phillips. This is A Sweetheart Remembered from his collection of stories and poems Rainbow in the Spray. It is a charming tale—and I bet you will be surprised by the ending.

Link to it here: http://wp.me/P4LySx-L


Thursday Thought: Cornish Humor!

N.R. Phillips

N.R. Phillips (Photo by    Tom Tregenza)

Last summer I met Cornish author N.R. Phillips while I was speaking about The Miner & the Viscount at the Penzance Literary Festival in Cornwall. We chatted a while and he kindly gave me an autographed copy of his book Rainbows in the Spray. Since then we have corresponded and Roy has given me permission to share some of his delightful stories and poems with you.

To introduce you to this entertaining writer, here is his hilarious dialect story Coleus.

Do you keep house plants? This is about an indoor gardener whose enthusiasm got away from her!


Cresmass comes but once a year. The trouble is, the way they’re going, they’ll soon last ’leven months. They’ll have us hangin’ up our stockin’s on Good Fridays d’reckly. Mark my words, we shain’t know whether they’re full of chocolate eggs or shiny balls. Mind you, it d’ take that long to decide what present to buy some for people. And the closer you are to people, the more difficult it is. Somebody up country, they that you hardly ever see, you can send them a voucher for a book, or something to heave in the bath, or smother on their chacks, and that’s that.

The Cresmass before last, I honestly did not know what to get her. . . Some have green fingers, what they d’ call, and some don’t, and I’d never gov her a plant before. It might have meant the end of a beautiful relationship, like they d’ say. Well, I tell ‘ee what… she was delighted. Said she’d never seen anything like it in her life. Over the moon, she was. We put ‘n in the kitchen winda and it was like a thing grawed there. 

Read the rest of the story here.


Thursday Thought: Fag!


My recent article about Oliver Sacks http://wp.me/p4LySx-jM took me back to my days at Oxford, and that took me further back to my days at boarding school. The result? A “Memoir While memory Lasts” about amazing experiences.

What was the point of the weird traditions, the regimentation, the hierarchies, the pettifogging rules, the code of privilege and punishment? We certainly enjoyed a magnificent education that enriched our lives to an extraordinary degree. But beyond the scholars and the academics and the scientists, the great public schools set out to train leaders, rulers of empire, explorers, statesmen, military officers, public servants, business executives, entertainers, sportsmen, community leaders. Before we became leaders we were taught to become followers and to serve; when we became leaders we had already learned to exercise authority with responsibility.

Read more on my blog: http://wp.me/P4LySx-lW


Thursday Thought: Cornish Dialect

It doesn’t take a Professor Higgins of Eliza Doolittle fame to tell where you are in Britain with your eyes shut. Just use your ears. Every region has its own distinctive dialect. Even natives find it hard to understand each other!


Being a good socialist, George Bernard Shaw saw class differences too.

Here’s Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady:

Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse,

Hear a Cornishman converse.
I’d rather hear a choir singing flat.

An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him.
The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.

In my historical novel The Miner & the Viscount Catherine Eliot is the gracious lady of the manor. She takes under her wing Mary, the former serving maid now married to the rascally Willy Bunt, and recruits her to help in her grand project of starting a village school. But first Mary must improve her English grammar and manner of speech.  Catherine promises to teach her.

In this passage from Chapter 46 I read the amusing conversation between them.

Would you like to know the rest of the story in Chapter 46? Read more here.


Thursday Thought: Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, the extraordinary neurologist who became famous through his detailed narrative writing about odd case histories for a lay audience, published an autobiography On the Move shortly before he died in August 2015. His best known book was Awakenings that was made into a movie with Robin Williams and Robert de Niro.

Oliver Sacks (Wikipedia)

Oliver Sacks

I knew him when we lived in neighboring rooms at Oxford. He left his home in London to live in America.

I have been invited to join a panel of physicians for a discussion on Dr. Sacks’ life and work.

It is at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, February 13, 2016, at the Cincinnati Center For Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis, 3001 Highland Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45219-2315.


Thursday Thought: Rabbiting

Questions that always come up when I talk to book groups are where did you get your stories and why did you put them in?

Before I started writing historical fiction I wrote stories about my own life in Cornwall. I called them Memoirs While Memory Lasts. This stimulated remembering so many experiences and these stories have been a rich source of material for my novel writing.

I don’t want to give away too much if you are still looking forward to reading The Miner & the Viscount, but anyway you would quickly learn that the Honorable James Trenance is a bit of a rotter. In my early drafts the feedback from my writing group was that I needed to set up the psychological cause of his nasty nature and to explain his conflict with the miner. So I used a story of my own childhood.

In Our Gang and other Warfare I told about life as a boy in World War II. 15e169There were food shortages and stringent rationing. Proteins were in short supply. Each week we were allowed 4 ozs. of bacon or ham, about 8ozs. of other meat, one fresh egg and one packet of dried eggs. In Cornwall we were fortunate to get fresh fish and could also hunt wild game. I went into the fields to catch a rabbit or two to feed my family. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a successful hunter.

However, I had a story to tell that I used in my book in Chapter 9, entitled VillainyGo to The Story Behind the Story to read it. And here is an extract from my memoir  that tells of the real life experience that I drew on for the story that enriches the character of James Trenance. (If you would like to read the whole story, read more here.

Our Gang and Other Warfare

I did have quite an adventure with Raymond Hocking. He was allowed to go even beyond the fourth field, and he had a pet ferret that he had trained and carried in a burlap sack. He could ride a bicycle, and he knew lots of swear words. He took me rabbiting. We used to eat quite a lot of wild rabbit, because with all the rationing there were only about eight ounces of meat a week, and that didn’t go very far. Rabbit pie with parsley and pastry was my favorite. Once I made a pair of mittens with fur I had skinned off two rabbits, nailing them stretched out on a board and rubbing alum on them to cure them and olive oil to make them soft. I had meant to make fur gloves, but they were too difficult, and actually my mother had to help me finish making the mittens.

Anyway, I went off rabbiting with Raymond Hocking. He said that you had to find a rabbit burrow and put a snare or a net at all the holes except one. The snares were like a lasso made of thin flexible wire with a noose. The nets had pegs to fasten them around the openings to the burrows. Then you put the ferret into the remaining hole, and it would chase the rabbits into the snares or nets. Raymond tied a piece of string around the ferret’s muzzle in case it decided to eat the rabbit itself. Pretty soon we would have rabbit pie! Or several!

When most of the holes had snares or nets over them, he put the ferret into the remaining open hole. It quickly disappeared and we waited. We waited, and we waited. No rabbit. Actually, no ferret. Raymond Hocking began to look a bit anxious. He said he had spent a lot of time training that ferret and it was the only one he had. He didn’t know if his father would buy him another.

We went on waiting. Still no rabbit. Still no ferret. At least it meant we didn’t have to kill the rabbits that we caught. After a long while, probably at least five or six minutes, we gave up and walked home rather dejected. Raymond Hocking never took me rabbiting again.