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







Saturday, 31 December 2016

A NEW DAWN


When I was a child, one of my favourite pastimes, apart from writing and discovering the infinite beauty of words; was gazing through the small hole of a long gaily-coloured metal tube, entranced by a myriad of bright vivid colours shimmering in the light. It was called a 'kaleidoscope', made up of fragments which came together in the most wonderful way to form a unique pattern. Gently turning the lower half of the metal tube made the coloured fragments within shift and shape, subtly altering the pattern into something entirely different.

There is nothing really magical about the object I held in my small hands. But it was enough to capture the imagination a thousand times over. Technically, it was a tube containing mirrors and pieces of coloured glass or paper, where reflections produced a constant changing pattern or sequence of elements when the bottom half of the tube was rotated. The effect was produced using a prism of mirrors to generate symmetric patterns of light and colour from asymmetric objects. The joy that comes when looking into a kaleidoscope can come from the simple amazement of changing colours and patterns. In later years, it can come in discovering symmetry in objects where none is expected. However, for me, the true wonder and magic came in the fact that, in looking through the eye-hole, the pattern was never exactly the same. Ever. No matter how many times I twisted the lower end, another pattern would form completely different to any which had gone before.

It was the Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, who created the kaleidoscope in 1815 when conducting experiments on light polarization. He came up with the name 'kaleidoscope' by combining several Greek words meaning: 'observer of beautiful forms'. Something so simple, yet effective, still offers today a complex pattern of constantly changing colours and shapes, providing countless hours of stimulating, vibrant, visionary, exciting fun to pique any child or adult's imagination.

How easily we discard childhood things, when even in adulthood they could bring back simple wonder and joy in a world where buttons now do it all for us! 

It occurs to me that the true joy and wonder comes in the way a child views the world ... at least those not already caught up in technology who have retained the gift of imagination. It's not about wanting to know how something works, but instead focuses on the magic of the moment. Those of us in adulthood still in touch with our Child within, can always return to that point when the world was new, filled with hidden beauty we can only realise as we reach out to touch the purity and innocence of being Child again.

If only the world could remain that beautiful, with shifting changing fragments of texture and colour freely moving around to form their own unique concept of multiple reflections!

Life is a network of invisible threads, and if those threads were to be seen, perhaps we would see those same shapes and colours drawing us in. Like the kaleidoscope, I wish our world today could be just as beautiful, untarnished, clean, without any hint of shadow smearing this wonderful scene ... shadows made up of fear, confusion, jealousy, envy, hate, all those dark negatives which cut through beauty and change forever, in one fleeting moment, what was once perfection reaching outside and in. Perhaps it is in viewing the world as a kaleidoscope that we realise just how fragile those threads truly are ... threads of faith and hope, threads of relationships which once we believed would last a lifetime, because we thought that love could never die. 

I share these musings as, standing on the threshold of a new dawn, looking back on all that has been over the past year, not knowing what is yet to come; I realise that NOW is a moment caught between Past and Future.

It is in this moment, Here and Now, that God is holding us, giving us what we need to grow.

Not everyone shares my faith. There are those who mock and scorn, who have not experienced their own very personal relationship with God. Being brought up in faith, I now know, was like standing on the threshold. It was only as I came to know intimately the miracles God was performing through my life, that a deep lasting personal relationship came into being.

Born disabled, I was taught to accept my limitations. I was never supposed to work, to drive a car, to walk properly or far. The list of 'could be's but can't' was endless. Yet, in faith, I learned instead to explore outside the box. I was told I could never have children because of damage from past abuse. Yet again, in faith, I 'saw' my daughter before she was born, not once or twice or in dreams, but a few times standing right there by the side of my bed. Not even her father could explain the fact I was talking to someone he couldn't see, but I knew once again, medical science was wrong. Just before Christmas 1980, I gave birth to the same child who grew to the image of the little girl who a few years before had been standing beside me in her nightdress one dark depressing night when all hope of being a mother was gone. No logic can explain or define what happened. But it is through such 'happenings' that, for me, God became more than a name in the Bible, more than an image hanging on the wall of my parents' home, more than 'One' unseen we spoke prayers to at night. God became a firm thick rope reaching back through the years to the moment of my birth, when I spent twenty minutes and more in the birth canal, as if sensing both the physical and emotional pain waiting for me in Life, wanting to go back from whence I came. While God drew me on into the oxygen tent, holding me secure, living with me through the pain, the trauma, bringing me to the place I am today. That rope, I realise, is the light of His everlasting Love ... an unconditional Love which can never fail. I'm not perfect by any means. As Christians, we make mistakes. After all, He gave Man free choice, to make our own choices and decisions, otherwise we would live in a controlling world. Instead, we become the authors of our own life and destiny ... although personally I believe there is rhyme and reason to everything that happens, steering us in faith on the path we were always meant to be, as long as we are ready to listen and learn.

However, for every action, there is always a reaction. Sometimes, the pain we cause another is just too great, and there is no way back. We don't always see or understand the consequences of what we have done, but remain confused, unable to understand why suddenly the thread of a relationship becomes fragile, breaking under the weight of emotion, in turn shifting and changing the overall pattern of what could otherwise have been forever. As with the kaleidoscope when turning the lower half of the metal tube, the effect has an impact on every other thread. The pattern shifts and changes. It will always be different.

I doubt I am alone when I say, in looking back over 2016, I see my life speckled with trails of darkness, growing bigger, darker, like a murmuration of starlings taking on its own unique shape and form, slowly blocking out my world.

Murmuration of Gretna Starlings
Some lives become more marred than others, depending on the severity of what is happening to them. Dark brooding thoughts born out of confusion about what to do for the best, can produce an abyss, a tunnel of helplessness and despair, growing deeper, blacker, when compounded by a host of further negative occurrences. Sometimes things happen which are just too much to bear on an already heavily-laden soul. Life can feel as if we are wrapped in a blanket of doom, filled with layers of fear and dread, with moments when we don't want to go on. In turn, it shreds our confidence, our self-esteem, our ability to think and feel freely, impacting on our physical and mental well-being. It's a complicated network of emotion, impossible to explain. Only those who know it as their own experience will ever truly understand. Testing times. Times when we need to know we are not alone. We need someone to care. To reach out and draw us close, keeping us safe, unafraid to touch our inner turmoil and pain.

It is in the light of recent events which have devastated me and had a huge impact on my health, that I feel the need to include here a plea for people to listen with hearts wide open when someone tries to share in whatever way that comes. Truths can prove unpalatable. People walk away. They don't want to get involved. They don't need that uncomfortability in their lives. Then again, especially where there is a past trauma, despite years of therapy, unexpectedly survivors can be triggered back into their past by words or action. Emotion leaks out instead of words. There's no time to put measures in place to stop the flow. Suddenly, totally unprepared, they become overwhelmed, feeling as if they are living past events over again, triggered by the words of another ... and that person's next actions are crucial as to what happens next.

Post Traumatic Stress is associated today more with those who have served in the Forces and seen firsthand the horrors of war. However, it can happen to those surviving a car accident. Any kind of trauma. And as increasing numbers of victims come forward with historic sexual abuse as part of their experience, PTSD as it is known, will already be part of their everyday life ... as it is mine.

Children and adults shouldn't keep historic sexual abuse a secret. Otherwise, you suffer in silence. And there will be a large part of you that no-one will understand or know. You need to find someone you trust and tell them what has been going on in your life. Together, you can then seek the kind of help and support you need. But even therapy cannot block out the past. Nothing can destroy what happened. You need to learn surviving mechanisms, ways of confronting your fears, rather than pushing them in a black box in your mind, hoping the lid will stay tight shut.

Sharing is a powerful force for good. It creates a bridge. Sharing your own experiences more widely is a way of reaching others with like-experiences, helping them feel less isolated and alone, letting them know someone truly cares. Out of sharing bad experiences can come compassion and insight for those who have never suffered in the same way, as well as understanding and truths, which sometimes are difficult to understand simply because they don't know and have never felt the tangle of emotions involved. 

Sharing starts by learning not to feel ashamed of your experience or the person you have become because of it. I was alone with my terrible secret as a child. No-one supported me through. I know now that those close to me judged me by what they saw. They painted a completely different picture of me to what was really going on. It wasn't until years later, I started to share. Giving birth to my daughter, unwittingly started the process of giving birth to my memories ... up until that time, I had amnesia, which I now know enabled me to survive. But it was only through sharing, that for the first time, I discovered with surprise I wasn't alone. 

Too many accept people at face value, knowing someone from the outside, seeing what they want to see, accepting that judgement ... instead of reaching for the source. Often experiences are difficult to talk about because there are no words for emotion; too devastating to share. But then, that's when we need to share the most. To find someone. To talk. To reach out, and create that bridge towards understanding. Otherwise, how is anyone going to know? To have that chance to understand what is going on? Sometimes we trust the wrong person. We can know someone and unwittingly share what we're feeling, while they in turn respond by hastily backing away. They can't cope. It's too much for them. But in walking away, a line is drawn. And as the drama unfolds, we discover that, instead of openness, friendship, compassion, understanding and care, what we're left with is an impenetrable barrier through which neither side can pass.

My past year has been about living on the edge of reason.

In turn, my kaleidoscope has become tarnished, filled with deepening shadows, blocking out colour, until that point when life takes on the appearance of the old-style black and white TV, a growing murmuration shape blotting out all colour and light.

It is the reason why, in this NOW moment, on the threshold of a new dawn, I look back on past months, seeking God's Love in the stitches which hold the fragments of my life together.

His Blessings.


BOOKS

RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits
Voices of RAF & USAAF on secret Norfolk airfields during World War Two, Published by Austin Macauley
 
After a long seemingly endless battle with publishers, the voices of RAF 100 Group veterans were finally shared at the beginning of the year, together with those who flew in partnership with them, the U.S. Eighth Air Force's 36th Bomb Squadron, based in Norfolk. It remains my passion to preserve both their history and stories for the future, and to give recognition to fifteen Squadrons of RAF 100 Group who gave so much serving under Bomber Command that we might have the freedom we have today.


RAF 100 Group - The Birth of Electronic Warfare, 
Published by Fonthill Media

This book is only recently published. Originally, it was part of a 3-part series of books spanning 1939 through to 1945, and it should be noted that the cover title which appears on Amazon is wrong! The actual book has the title as noted here. Of particular interest is the fact that George Stewart DFC seen sitting astride the aircraft on the cover of the previous book, has written the Foreword. 1944 Operations are followed, and in-depth discussion is included, evidencing why RAF 100 Group were neither recognised nor rewarded for their actions.


Another Trip to Flak Alley
The Story of B-24 Tail Gunner S/Sgt Jack Hope U.S. 36th Bomb Squadron, 8th Air Force 

I have spent past months bringing together the writings of Jack Hope, and the above book should be published shortly by FeedARead. Jack was an extraordinary man, and the book follows his life from being born on an airfield, through the Depression in America, his wartime experiences in a range of different roles, to present day.

I also have a collection of 12 booklets, each on a different airfield on which RAF 100 Group were based in wartime, including the history of the airfield and Squadrons for which they became 'Home'.

Writing continues to save my life.


TALKS, BOOK SIGNING, EXHIBITIONS, ARTICLES

Talks and book signing events stimulated by interest from these books and previous included:

2nd Air Division Memorial Library, Norwich
A lively audience culminated in discussion and questions, with book photos larger than life on the screen behind me, generating further thought about stories of the people involved in RAF 100 Group.


Lighthouse Cafe, Filey, North Yorkshire
Another lively affair, with people coming and going, while giving thought to the display set up inside the cafe. Paul, the owner, was wonderful in his attention to detail, and in joining me for the photograph taken outside by John Slater, Bijou Productions.


Filey Bay Today Booklet, November 2016


Bridlington (Filey, Humanby) Echo also produced a feature article about the book.

Vale Radio broadcast an interview with me about my writing, my work with RAF 100 Group veterans and their families, and the book: RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits.

The Dementia Support Group of which I am a Dementia One-to-One volunteer, recently hosted a talk about how and why I became an author and where that journey has led me. It became a powerful emotionally-charged afternoon, a gateway to others sharing their own wartime experiences.


RAF 100 GROUP ASSOCIATION REUNION & FILMING

Saying goodbye at The Mission Hall, Horsham St Faith
Living out of a suitcase was the least of my worries, as I embraced the chance to meet veterans I'd been in contact with for over twenty years. First came our annual May Reunion weekend held in Norfolk, for which I'd spent the past twelve months planning. Always an emotive affair, always special, it brings veterans and their families from around the world as a collective to Norfolk, where suddenly time drops away, and once again they become the beaming, scally-wag nineteen and twenty-year-olds they were in wartime. It is easy still to see their passion for flying, eyes opening wide, roaring with laughter as another story is shared about daring-do. It is wonderful to be a part of it all as kindred spirits gather, and always it is the highlight of my year where each and every soul becomes an intrinsic part of the all-embracing love, accepted just the way we are. The wonder, the fascination, the learning, truths shared, experience gained, it drops away the ocean of loneliness and sadness as we mix in friendship and love.

However, this year was different.

This year, I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime!

Stuart Borlase travelled from Australia, where he has his company Living History Films, and whenGreat Expectations'!! As such, it was everything we hoped for and so much more ... spending our days driving hundreds of miles around the south of England, seeing RAF 100 Group veterans in their own homes. What a thrill to hear them climb back into their experiences, to see their faces light up with memories, and to share in the joy, and the sorrow, they experienced so many years ago. At every home we visited, we were treated like Royalty, with the whole family gathered, hosting such a feast of delights I was sure to pile on the pounds! But then, the idea of creating a documentary film at the end of it kept us going further and further as we ventured into the past, seeking out places in Norfolk undisturbed by Time.
invited to join him, visiting and filming veterans, I jumped at the chance. For me, this was my first real chance of a holiday. The planning had been in the making ever since the previous Reunion, and our journeying could have been entitled: 'Episode Two of 'Great Expectations' came the end of September/beginning of October, when we repeated the exercise. We found favourite places to return to and eat of an evening after a busy day, while we went back over our adventures, recalling and reliving them, moving on to plan more.

We aim to continue our forage into the past next year, beginning in May following the Reunion, when once again we will take to the road, visiting and filming veterans we haven't yet met in person.

On behalf of Stuart and I, a heartfelt THANK YOU to all veterans and their families who took part!

As a way of celebrating our 'Great Expectations' journey, I came up with the idea of designing a Special Edition RAF 100 Group Calendar which, I'm happy to say, veterans and their families are delighted with:




BECOMING AN ADHERENT IN THE SALVATION ARMY

Finally, this year's events ended with my public declaration of faith, thanking God with an open heart for His Blessings through this year.

It is always a rocky road for me. Life is filled with highs and lows ... higher and higher, lower and lower .. yet always, the ever-constant flow of God's Love is boundless. It has no end.

My thanks goes out to so many people who, this year particularly, have supported and helped in emotional and practical ways, seeing me through the bad times, sharing the good. There are, of course, my kindred spirits who write and ring every single day, letting me know they are thinking of me, holding me in their hearts - my Family of RAF 100 Group. They have shared so much joy, too much pain. Stuart and his endless energy, everlasting hope, eternal optimism and prayers. Tracey and David at Prontaprint who print the Association magazines. All volunteers and workers at the Dementia Support Group, where there is always mutual support. And Filey Salvation Army of which I am a member and who continue to share in God's Grace and Love.

My thanks also to readers of my books who write about what they have read, and aspiring authors asking advice about contracts and writing.

As a Collective, you give me the Will to go on, accepting me just the way I am, with Hope ... forging a pathway through my fears ... putting my confidence back on track ... leading me on with purpose and vision.



I WISH YOU ALL
HAPPINESS 
BLESSINGS

FOR 2017






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