Journey

Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and it's getting harder. But then sometimes it happens in unexpected ways and suddenly, we are living the dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important so much as the journey along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

janineharrington53@gmail.com







Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

Copyright: Janine Harrington

I am on a journey, taking the road less travelled.

It began as I left to attend the RAF 100 Group Association Reunion. It is the one weekend in the year when veterans of this secret wartime Group gather with family and friends in Norfolk, surrounded by airfields on which they served now achingly abandoned, empty, as if still holding their breath seventy years on for those who did not return.

We remember them. We speak their names aloud. Veterans become nineteen and twenty years old again as they recall some happening of which only they are aware. They laugh among themselves, following an operation through, their arms going through the motions, their bodies moving and swaying in time to the beat of a Merlin engine, taking their positions as they once did, back in the aircraft, soaring like birds through the skies. Then misty-eyed, they stop to stare off into a bygone age, recalling faces which remain forever young. It is an absolute joy and privilege to be among these people, to be accepted by them as one of their own, joining in the chatter, learning from them, catching glimpses of the young boys they were who grew up before their time to become men, experienced beyond their years.

This year, I stayed on to give a talk in Norwich at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library. Stuart Borlase travelled all the way from Western Australia to share the Reunion weekend and accompanied me to film the event. He is working on a Documentary Film which complements my book: RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits, published by Austin Macauley, December 2015; using a different medium to portray veterans sharing wartime experiences, interspersed with past and present photographs of Norfolk and its airfields now turned back into fields of rape seed and corn, stretching like a patchwork quilt across the county, hiding forever the secrets of a war they brought to an early conclusion, and yet today remain 'forgotten heroes' with no recognition, no reward in the form of a medal to call their own, despite the dangerous work they undertook ... identifying and jamming enemy Radar deep in the heart of Germany, working alongside the Resistance, SOE, SOD, and Bletchley Park and so much more. Many of their secrets remain under a 100 Year Rule and will not be known in their lifetime.

Stan Forsyth, 192 Sqdn who received the DFC for identifying The Tirpitz
with fellow veteran John 'Paddy' Gilpin, 214 Squadron
Courtesy: Stuart Borlase

It was an honour to talk and share their stories and those of Americans who served with them on operations, enlightening people who knew nothing about them. Familiar images of my mother Nina as a WAAF, her wartime fiance Navigator/Special Operator Flt/Lt Vic Vinnell and Canadian Pilot Flt/Lt Jack Fisher who flew Mosquito DK292 ... believed to have landed on a mined beach on the coast of France ... flashed up on a large screen as if sharing these moments with me. I steered the Talk around the pictures, living Vic and Jack's last fateful journey, answering questions, plugging the emotion as best I could. And yet, those times when it leaked out it added something poignant and passionate which otherwise would have been missing. I felt the empathy, compassion and support of the audience as I drew them into past times.

Vic Vinnell (Mum's fiance), behind me, remains forever young,
Courtesy: Stuart Borlase

It was during the week that followed as Stuart and I stayed on in Norfolk to explore the various pathways leading back into the past that I became more and more aware that something was shifting ... altering ... changing within me. It is only now, back home, that I can begin to put feelings into words enough to make some kind of sense of what was happening to me and the unexpected journey on which I find myself.

There is an old Zen Parable about a boy sitting on the hillside, watching over his father's cattle. One strays from the rest, and the boy goes on foot in search of the one which is lost. He sees the surrounding countryside suddenly from a new perspective. His footsteps take him into new horizons shifting and shaping before him. When he finds the cow, he rides home on its back, and again, it is different, another view of his world he hasn't seen before. I feel like that boy today. For a year and more now my life has been on hold. I have plummeted the depths within, gone to places I thought I had left far behind in my abusive past. Memories have been stark. Nightmares real. Tablets nor Counsellor nor Mental Health Nurse can compensate or eliminate the pain, abandonment, betrayal I have been experiencing. It would be so easy to curl up like a baby in the womb, remain at home, never go out again, become a hermit, safe in the confines, and yet at the same time imprisoned. The boundaries of my world shrunk when Tony left me, not to mention being without transport after he wrote off my car.

Yet here I was, suddenly on a road less travelled.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) in 1920 put into words more eloquently than I ever could:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Perhaps he had a similar experience, who knows. Yet it wasn't I who deliberately chose to divert away from the path I was already on. Somehow, something happened within me, rather than without. And I feel it shifted and changed a part of me deep down inside. It's difficult to explain, but I feel I need to share this moment which stretches into days, a week, and more. It's so much more than just a feeling because it goes deeper to the extent that other people are recognising that something extraordinary has happened and are openly asking and commenting on it to me.

On Mondays I attend a Lunch Club, the only 'home-cooked' hot meal of my week. It is an absolute pleasure to be among people on a table, and while we eat, we talk about everyday things. But this week, they suggested there was a glow around me as I entered. It was as if I had had the same experience as Paul on the road to Emaus ... some kind of life-changing event. But there was nothing to hang this on.  Neighbours have said the same. I guess I've looked ill and grey for so long, and yet they say they've never seen me looking so radiant and well! Even the Counsellor couldn't believe it was the same person she'd seen the week before. I was different 'inside out'. After the session, I actually went to a cafe overlooking the sea halfway down the cliff, sat in the sunshine soaking up its rays, musing on this strange phenomenon.

And I never go for coffee on my own ... never mind actually settle for lunch!!!!!

It is as if I have an 'altered state'. I believe it is about having had the opportunity to see beyond the hill which has for so long been blocking my horizons, giving me in turn the ability to create new dreams, to see the world through new and clearer eyes ... eyes wide open ... with the freedom to know somehow I am accepted just the way I am. I don't have to try to fit into anyone else's mould and become their jelly!! I'm good enough 'just the way I am'

It's a major leap forward for Womankind!

There was the Reunion, and yes, the Talk which followed which brought unexpected positive feedback. They wished there had been time to talk for longer, to understand RAF 100 Group's activities, to hear more stories. But then, I've written a definitive book which contains so many voices of veterans, like echoes from past times, sharing often for the first and only time. Then again, maybe it was the company, driving down an open road, the colour of the fields, the birdsong, just being away from what had become a 'step-by-step existence' as I enjoyed the views, the countryside, a different way of life, eating out, the wide open spaces ... and simply TO BE!

No one thing happened to bring about this very positive change. It came more from within. As if something shifted deep within me, altering my perception, my view of the world and the life I have lived. Like the boy returning to the hillside with his father's lost cow, I return home, yet I'm no longer in the same place at all. I feel so different, so filled with life ... so much so that I have to say all things are possible. Any experience on offer, including a ride in a small aircraft which may be feasible, will be welcomed with open arms. Nothing is out of reach. Yet previously I would have been the tortoise withdrawing rapidly back inside his shell. I used to read Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and other books written by Richard Bach ... now I feel like that seagull in the making, reaching for far horizons which before I didn't even realise were there.

Using a different analogy, it feels like a flower lying dormant beneath the ground in eternal hibernation, accustomed to that way, when suddenly, the rays of the sun reach in through the shadows, awakening something vital and extraordinary. The plant is now finding new life, new ways of growing, of living ... budding, blooming, beginning to blossom in a way like never before in a variety of colours so rich and fragranced it defies belief.

Yes, as a Wordsmith I could go on and on. The world is filled with a plethora of analogies which fit this scenario. Perhaps someone out there knows the experience. Perhaps they can explain it in other ways. But right now, I'm just enjoying the ride, wondering where it might take me, willing to follow the road less travelled, opening my mind to possibilities yet to be discovered. Already it is proving to be a most remarkable journey.

It truly is as if I am on a different path, a road leading me I know not where. I am different in myself in ways I can't even begin to describe. All I know is that it is a very positive place to be right now and I'm loathe for it to end any time soon. I don't know quite where this journey is taking me, but wherever it is, it is a journey meant to be ... and at this particular time.

Bring it on ...


Copyright: Janine Harrington







































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