Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year Bucket List

I’m not going to make any New Year’s Resolutions for 2014, instead I’m going to make a ‘New Year Bucket List’ of things I’d like to achieve during the year.

Top of my list is ‘Friendships’

I intend to cultivate those that mean most to me, the people who take time to be in my life and whose encouragement and loving support motivate me.  But I shall once again cut out those who keep letting me down.  There have been several of those lately and my motto is: “Three Strikes and you’re out!”  I’m all for giving people second chances but not third and fourth ones.

Other things I’d like to achieve are:

** To keep writing and submitting my novels and short stories

** Finish the third book of my trilogy for Knox Robinson Publishing in the ‘Winds of Change’ series, entitled ‘Blue Skies’

** To promote my published work and myself as an author more

** To take up any challenges offered to me, it’s good to get shaken out of our comfort zones now and again!

** Embrace change.  Although it’s a scary thing, change can be positive

** Let go of things I have no control over and change those things that need changing

** Fear can be a positive emotion.  I’m going to try to do something that scares me every now and again

** Walk away from any people or situations that cause me grief

** Take each new day as it comes…

** Maintain my sense of self and my inner peace


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Using the Skeletons from My Family History to Plot a Novel [Part Two]

William Harman

William Harman, one of my ancestors,  led an interesting life becoming one of the first pioneer Mormons in Merthyr Tydfil, my home town.

Dan Jones

He emigrated to Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States in 1871 where he took a second wife, Jane Davies, who was also a native of Merthyr Tydfil.  He had emigrated to the crucible of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

[Mormon Church].  Preachers like Dan Jones who made many converts in Merthyr often encouraged people to move to Utah.  The Church was keen to utilise the mining skills of the Welsh Brethren in Salt Lake City.
Jane Davies and children

As this was William's second marriage, I wondered what had become of his first wife?  Who was she and where was she?

By searching at the Mormon Church web site, which is excellent, by the way.  I was able to locate an ancestral file of the Harman family.

It was recorded that William had indeed married twice:

1.  Ann Jones from Cardigan Wales.  The marriage took place in
Merthyr Tydfil on September, 9th 1843.

2.  Jane Davies.  The marriage took place in Salt Lake City Utah on
21st of October, 1876.

So William had married 2 women, 33  years apart. He was 23 years old when he married Ann Jones and 56 when he married Jane.

Was his second marriage as I had suspected a bigamist marriage?  It looks as if he remarried without divorcing his first wife. This was confirmed by Eira Smith a relative from the same Lewis Harman line as myself.

I found this web site which says he came to Utah without his first wife when she refused to join the LDS church.  There's a photograph of him here too:

William's wife, Jane [Note, she is named here as 'Martha Jane']:

On 31st July, 1879, eight years after emigrating, William and Jane had a daughter called Gwendolyn.  See here:

The couple went on to have two other children besides Gwendolyn, Richard and Mary Annie.

Richard Harman

William Harman died of pneumonia on December the 31st 1900 aged 80
in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had come a long way from his native
South Wales, and took, what I think was a brave decision to leave the town of his birth and his family behind.  He put his faith before finance as he could have been very wealthy indeed if he had taken his rich uncle’s request to be his sole heir if he’d given up the Mormon faith but his faith was far more important to him.

Before I started to research my family tree, I had no  idea there
were any Mormon connections, despite there being a church in our
town.  Eira Smith, who is sadly now deceased, told me that a lot of our family are still living
in Salt Lake City and Staten Island, New York.

One thing I have discovered about the Harman family is that they were a hardy bunch.  Many of them lived well into their 80's.  My great grandmother, Mary Harman was 87 years old when she died in 1978.

Useful Links:

1.  How Green Was My Valley? -- The Welsh: Surnames and

Peoples of Utah
By Frederick S. Buchanan

3.  The Contribution of Wales to the United States of America

** Note, the surname Harman is written as Harmon on certain links.  I believe the correct family spelling of the name was Harman.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Using the Skeletons from My Family History to Plot a Novel [Part One]

I never realised when I started out tracing my family tree back in 1998 where it might lead to.  I hardly expected to find branches of my family in the US or that my genealogical research would turn into a fictional historical novel entitled, 'Black Diamonds'.

It all began with a chat to a friend who had started to trace her family tree.  I went along to the local library and met the librarian/historian there, Carolyn Jacob, who when I told her I was tracing the ‘Harman Line’, got very excited and told me there was an elderly lady at the Merthyr branch of the Glamorgan Family History Society, who had been tracing the same line for years.

It turned out after a quick phone call that this lady was belonging to me and we were from the same branch of the tree.  I ended up leaving the library with a photocopy of my family tree the lady had left there [with her permission] and a couple of photo copied chapters of local history books that contained information about my ancestors.  One was a chapter about Mormonism in Merthyr Tydfil and the other, a chapter about a very wealthy and prominent member of the community.

The site of the old Three Salmons Inn
The one in particular which was of interest to me at the time was,  Edmund Harman, who was classed as ‘A Gentleman of the Town, living off his own means’.  He was my 4 X great grandfather's brother who owned many properties in the area, including, The Three Salmons Inn, The Globe Inn, The Cross Keys Inn, The White Hart Inn in Cardiff several properties on Gillar Street,  shares in the Gas Works and the Taff Vale Railway to name but a few.  He regularly went hunting with the gentleman of the Court House which later became part of, The Merthyr Labour Club.

Edmund Harman who drowned in canal
With all my research, information given to me and attendance at various historical lectures, I was able to paint a vivid picture in my mind of what life was like during the 1800s in my home town.
There is a massive connection with my family and Mormonism, though I am not a Mormon myself.  I recently discovered that my 3 x great grandfather, Lewis Harman was excommunicated from the Church due to drunkenness.  This is something that seems to have passed down the line as his son, [also Edmund Harman] fell into the Glamorganshire Canal and drowned after getting drunk.

William Harman Mormon Pioneer
Other skeletons in the family closet have included, the bigamous marriage of William Harman, Lewis’s brother.  He was a pioneer in Merthyr Tydfil preaching about his faith on the streets.  He emigrated to Great Salt Lake, leaving his wife behind in Merthyr, as she refused to convert.  He remarried whilst out there and established a new family.

He was also involved in the building of the beautiful Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake.
Mormon Tabernacle Church
I come from a mining background, both my grandfathers were miners and so were a lot of my ancestors. My novel, ‘Black Diamonds’, contains elements of people living and working in that environment and emigration from Merthyr Tydfil to Utah during the 19th century.

An interesting fact is that rich Edmund Harman offered to leave all his money to his nephew William but William refused saying his Mormon faith was more important than any money! The S.S. Nevada, the ship that William sailed on from Liverpool to New York in 1871 to begin a new life in Utah...

Read part two here:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Granddaddies of Rock Storm Glastonbury 2013

Well I have to say the oldies stormed Glastonbury this year.  The Rolling Stones were amazing last night, not bad for a bunch of men, average age of seventy.

It was an energetic performance from Jagger and Co.  Tracks included: Miss You, Brown Sugar, You Can't Always Get What You Want and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.

Bearing in mind these are men that due to their hard partying and drug taking could have been dead years ago and yet, here they were blasting out the amps with their front man jumping up and down like an Eskimo dancing over hot coals!

Apparently they amassed the largest crowd at Glastonbury, ever.

If that wasn't enough, Kenny Rogers, who is seventy five years old, had the crowd eating out of his hand this afternoon as he sang, Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town, Islands in the Stream, Lucille and Lady.

It goes to show that age is no barrier to enjoyment.  What really counts is passion, persistence and performance from the artists!

Keep on rocking!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book Launch!

Well, the launch for my book, IT HAPPENED ONE SUMMER, took place at Cyfarthfa Castle, yesterday. I'm pleased to say that following a bout of pre-performance anxiety on Sunday, it all went like a dream.

When I arrived at the castle, all my family were waiting there. Some I hadn't seen for seven years, so it was wonderful. Members of my old writing group had turned up[see bottom pic], along with my colleagues at the cancer charity.

We were led into a room [that used to be part of my sixth form common room when I attended the Castle School]. The buffet was already laid out and everyone trooped in.

The mayor read out my biography and then it was my turn to take the floor. I decided to stand behind the table as I thought this would be best in case I got a bad attack of nerves and needed something to hang on to!

I needn't have worried. I don't know where my voice came from, but it was strong and focused. I remembered to look up from time to time at the crowd and ad libbed at certain points.

The first part of my speech was about my colleagues and what sort of an organisation we are and why we so badly need a purpose-built building.

The second part of my speech was about my writing and the book itself. I mentioned in my speech how as a fifteen-year-old my English teacher had read my stories out to the class and how I could never have imagined some thirty years later that I would be attending my own book launch in the very same building!

It was a very emotional speech and my mother told me that a lot of people were wiping away tears. Crumbs, it wasn't that bad was it? LOL.

Then we had the book signing. I am so glad that I brought a cold bottle of Evian water along as I didn't have time to get up from the table. I only managed to have a cup of tea and a little bit of food right at the very end.

All the books sold out! I didn't even have one left for the Mayor and his wife! So, I've promised him the first book when the next delivery arrives.

Afterwards, my daughter suggested we went on to Pentrebach House for a drink. It was a lovely evening and we sat under the umbrella in the sun, just chilling.

One of the highlights of the day for me was people coming on to me and telling me how proud they were of me and how they hadn't realised how much I had achieved with my writing. And most of all my own children hugging me and saying the same thing.

Another thing that made my day was the fact that the members of the writing group could remember so much about the stories I had read out to them some six years ago. I hadn't realised that my writing had left such an impression on them!

The book launch will be in this week's edition of The Merthyr Express. I really hope that people will keep buying the book to help the charity, we need as much publicity as we can get.

I think yesterday will be one of those days I will remember all of my life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One of the Most Controversial Endings to a TV Show, Ever....The Sopranos Final Scene

** Do not read if you are still waiting to see the ending of this show! **

If you're an avid Sopranos fan like me [I have the full box set] and estimate I have watched the series several times over [and always see something new in it], then what did you think of the ending?

The final show aired in June, seven years ago. People still talk about it to this day, where the screen faded to black after Tony and his family were due to eat at the diner. A suspicious looking man heads for the rest room [reminiscent of a murder scene from The Godfather]. Was he about to pick up a gun hidden in the toilet cistern or was he just an average diner off to take a dump before his burger and fries arrived?

In my mind, I decided, Tony Soprano would always be left looking over his shoulder and life carried on off screen same as it ever was with: dirty dealings, exchangeable, dispensable, goomahs, erotic writhings at the Bada Bing Club and Carmella's whinging and whinging getting placated by yet another expensive gift. Although there are others who say, if you look at all the clues from previous episodes and from the last show, that Tony Soprano was sent to meet his maker that night...

So, what do you think happened at the end of what must be one of the most controversial endings ever shown on television?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Going ‘Cold Turkey’ from Facebook

I’ve been on Facebook for about the last five years or so.  And over those years my usage of the social networking media has increased.  I decided yesterday to close down my account.
Why?  You might ask. 

Because my name’s Lynette and I’m a Facebook Addict...

It all started innocently enough.  I can remember a time when university students used it a lot, actually it was intended for those people.  My daughter had a boyfriend at the time and he’d say, “I’m popping on Facebook...” and I’d wonder what on earth it was.

Later I found out but never really thought that much about it.  As a writer, I noticed that several writer friends had started social networking accounts to increase their online profiles.  I tried Bebo for a while but never really took to it.  I think I only ever once updated my status there.  

Eventually, I closed that account down and started a Facebook one which I never really used and also a Myspace account where my only friend was some person called, ‘Tom’.  Tom seemed to be everyone’s friend!

Anyhow I had this Facebook account where I hadn’t even uploaded a photograph and some strange man, who I didn’t recognise and wasn’t ‘Tom’, had added me as a friend.  I thought no more of it.  A few months later, a writer friend of mine added me as a friend on Facebook, I don’t know how she even knew it was me for sure, but after that I got lots of friend requests from other writers and people living in my home town and I ended up with around 350 friends.

Soon I became very active on Facebook.  I enjoyed all the banter and networking with other writers and old friends.  I even set up a couple of Facebook groups.  One, was a local group which became so popular it ended up with around 1,500 members.  We met once a month at a local pub.

That group is still going but I no longer run it.  It was very successful but I put my heart and soul into it.  A few people tried to cause trouble for me and we ended up falling out, something I think which might not have happened had it not been for Facebook.

People will say things to you, they haven’t got the guts to do in real life, but it’s a fast track way to find out who your real friends are.  The trouble makers were never my real friends to begin with. 
So, as a result of Facebook I’ve lost four ‘friends’ who showed their true colours.  One kept inboxing me abusive emails and finally said, ‘I’m blocking you because you haven’t replied’.  The reason I hadn’t replied was that I was in work while she was spending her day on Facebook!

I used to post a lot of music from You Tube on my Facebook wall and had a little bit of a following, almost as a Facebook DJ.  I found this quite amusing.  Especially when people would put in requests for songs.

'Can’t they go to You Tube and post their own songs?'  My son would ask, highly amused that I had all these followers like a flock of sheep.

The truth was I enjoyed it, we’d entered discussions about songs which brought back some great memories for me.   Sometimes I’d discover new songs that I’d buried away in the darkest recesses of my mind.

The problem was Facebook is counterproductive for me as hours can be spent doing mind numbing things.  

I ran a writing group there, which I enjoyed and got good feedback from, but it became more of a reading group rather than a writing group in the end as only two of us were regularly posting.

The truth was...dare I say it...I became bored by Facebook.

Bored with some of the inane comments and people liking this that and the other.  Really?  You like the fact that something awful happened to me today?  People seem to like just about everything from  something really nice to going to a pop concert to someone really awful such as someone ending up in hospital with their arm hanging off!  Okay, that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean!

Well, I’ve been away from Facebook for about 14 hours and 46 minutes and still counting...
Hoping I can go cold turkey and get back in the real world, doing all the things I used to love doing before Facebook.  Like writing in this blog, reading other blogs, tracing my family tree and writing way more of my new novel!

I shall keep you posted how I get on...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day Tripper

* Picture: Me circa 1970 Porthcawl [I was about 9 or 10]

"Day Tripper"

I've been thinking about summer/bank holiday outings as a child to places like Barry Island and Porthcawl in South Wales. There were often outings run by the local Sunday School or places like The Merthyr Labour Club. Your mother would save up for months for the outing, paying a little every week, usually a couple of shillings.

There was usually a fleet of coaches put on for such an occasion. It seemed a big adventure at the time, yet those seaside towns weren't that far away, you'd swear we were all off to Florida or something the fuss that was made. Often you'd hardly sleep the night before, from the excitement of it all!

Usually you'd take some sort of picnic along with you, maybe cheese and tomato sandwiches, crisps and fruit, possibly a bottle of Corona pop [which was warm by the time you got there!]. The grown ups would buy a pot of tea from a nearby stall/cafe to drink on the sands or maybe bring a flask. There was something about eating your food outside, we didn't do it that often but for some reason when going to the seaside it was positively mandatory!

The first thing you'd want to do as a kid was run towards the sea, no matter how far the tide was out and dip your toes in it. Also quite difficult later on, when you changed under a towel into your bathing costume and actually went in the sea, was to find your family in amongst a sea of faces! I think I got lost several times when the beach was packed!

There was always a visit to the fun fair. The Big Dipper [which I seem to remember had a sign on it in Barry Island saying something like, "If all the components of this Big Dipper were laid end to end, they would stretch all the way to New York!"] I also loved the Caterpillar, which was a sort of wagon on rails which started going, got faster and faster as the green hood slowly covered everyone, making it look like its name to spectators. People seemed to scream underneath that cover or maybe that was just me!

The Water Chute in Porthcawl was another I used to enjoy, day trippers stood at the bottom and got splashed.

At the promenade in Barry Island I remember there was a "What the Butler Saw" machine. I used to get a penny and queue up to watch it as black and white photographs flipped as slow or as fast as you liked as you turned the handle. I seem to remember something about a maid but nothing ever really happened, she didn't even get laid. I think the butler kept his beady eye on her though!

There were Donkey rides on the sands and sometimes competitions to dig to find lucky treasure. I remember my brother winning tickets for the fairground at Porthcawl and he chose to go on a real dangerous looking ride. It was like two rocket capsules either end of a connecting pole that spun upside down. I think he was only nine, don't know how he was allowed on that!

Then there was the Hall of Mirrors, where you could see yourself thin or fat, distorted and blob like. There was also a maze made of glass that used to really frustrate me when I tried to get out as I'd often bump into the clear glass.

I also loved the Ghost Train and would scream as a cobweb hit me in the face as the train careered through the darkness, often some sort of ghoul would pop up or scare the hell out of you or there'd be a earth shattering screech from the bowels of the abyss. It's a wonder we didn't need a change of underwear after going in there.

Walking around the fairground there were certain things that were mandatory like a large stick of candy floss that would begin to melt in your mouth but stick on your teeth! Or a stripy stick of seaside rock with a photograph of that particular resort stuck inside the wrapper, equally bad for your teeth!

There was also nothing like eating fish and chips at the seaside that were wrapped in newspaper. Even to this day, I still think they taste best eaten outside either on a bench over looking the sea or on the beach itself, if you can avoid any sand getting into the wrapper that is.

By the time we'd go back to the fleet of buses, we'd be worn out and sleepy with sand between our toes and usually some sort of mementos: shells we'd collected, buckets and spades, those little cute badges with our names on, rock or candy floss.

The buses would be lined up and you'd have to search for ages to find which one you'd arrived on. They'd take an age to pull away as usually there were so many from all over the country and beyond. Then darkness would begin to descend as shapes became silhouettes against the night sky as we approached home.

Back then the sun always seemed to shine and we seemed quite content with what we had. Or was that just me?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bullying and Harassment in the Work Place

I’ve worked for a couple of organisations where I’ve witnessed some degree of bullying and harassment in the workplace, but it was so insidious and devious that it would have been hard to bring a case against the people concerned as they covered their backs and spun a web of lies.

One organisation had quite a high turnover of staff as if anyone dared to voice an opinion or say things were wrong, then some way was found to oust them.  One lovely lady, who I shall call Jane, worked there in an administrative role.  She was really good at her job but because she wanted to change her hours, the manager and her side kick wore her down, piling on the work and highlighting any mistakes she might have made.  The woman was a professional who knew her job well, but the knives were out.

She was told when she was eventually forced to resign, not to tell any of the other staff.  The manager and her sidekick didn’t speak to her for days.  I knew she was leaving, so I bought her a present.  We were all informed by memo the following Monday that she’d left, and even afterwards, I was interrogated by the manager’s sidekick, who many nick named, ‘The Rottweiler’, if I had known Jane was leaving.

Of course, I feigned innocence.

Guess who got her job?  A close relative of the manager!

Over a series of months I saw many come and go, dismissed for trivial reasons, until eventually, I was forced into a corner to resign myself, even though I was good at my job and popular and had done a tremendous amount for this organisation and the manager herself.  I won’t say what I did, but it was above and beyond the call of duty.

So, I resigned and glad I got the hell out of there, currently this manager now has other family members working with her.  How the heck that’s allowed, I’ll never know.

Nepotism of the highest order.... 

At the moment, this person concerned, seems untouchable.  If anyone complains she gets shot of them, and/or someone to back her up.

Surely one day this 'house of cards' will topple over?

Another organisation I worked for also had a high turnover of staff.  My line manager couldn’t do her job properly, so piled all the work on to me and was forever nit picking.  I almost left there and then, but she talked me into staying after I swore at her in front of a packed office.
The truth was, she was ringing me about petty things on my days off and even texting me at midnight, sometimes with things she wanted done the following day if she was off work.  At this place we were made to do courses in our spare time and I’d even been rostered into working in two places at the same time!  I know I’m a hard worker and some say quite clever, but not that bleeding clever!

Another thing about that place, although we worked six hour days, we weren't allowed a break.  We were informed that if you work six hours, you aren't entitled to a break.  We had to eat and drink while we were at work and at times it could be stressful with the type of job it was.  

It all came to a head for me one day when I had to stay and help someone who had a crisis after work had finished and I was on my way home.  I looked after the person concerned, took them for a coffee to calm them down and made sure they had taxi fare to get home as they were in distress.  I could have walked on by as it was out of work hours, but I didn't.  The manager promised me an hour off in lieu of this, but when I asked the next day [towards the end of my shift and my work was up to speed], she became petty saying I couldn’t possibly take the hour there and then.  This and something else combined, where I wasn’t even allowed recognition for something I had written for this organisation, made me see red.  I resigned there and then and never went back.

I’ve never regretted it.

I've heard since then more than eleven members of staff have left, probably even more since.
You’ll know there’s bullying in the work place if:

*  There’s a high turnover of staff
*  You’re often singled out and reprimanded in front of other members of staff
*  You’re belitted
*  You’re overloaded with work
*  Your manager/or some other person working there keeps bothering you on your days off
*  The night before work and the following day you feel anxious before work
*  You feel stressed out most of the time
*  Your work often gets criticized, particularly in front of other members of staff
*  Your manager/boss tends to keep staff in the dark about what is going on
*  You feel you have no voice or say in anything
*  You aren’t allowed adequate breaks and/or leave
*  You are verbally and/or physically abused
*  You are made to work overtime with no extra pay or inducement
*  If you face up to your bullying co-worker/manager you are accused of harassment
*  Your achievements go unrecognised by the organisation/your boss
*  You feel devalued and unappreciated as a member of staff
*  You constantly get overlooked for promotion even though it’s well known that you are the best 
person for the job

To be continued....