Angels Lament/Mj Pettengill

One of my fascinations has always been history.  When I grew up for five years of my life in England, my family and I had our own smorgasbord of history.  From the great Norman castle of Arundel Castle to Longleet House with it’s incredible animal preserves.  In school, I excelled in history and was fortunate enough to have Gary Millen as my history teacher at Kennett High School.  He taught history like it was an event.  It was and he showed us how history binds us all.   

            When I started to read the series Etched in Granite, I was taken back to post civil war New Hampshire, and interesting to note that history was in my own back yard.  This was a history I never knew.  In the first book in Mj Pettengill’s historical fiction novel Etched in Granite I learned about the many poorhouses in Carroll County.  This one concentrated on Ossipee’s County Farm.  It wasn’t until I was speaking to the chair of the Tamworth History Center, that I discovered a poorhouse just up the road from me in my own home town of Tamworth New Hamsphire.  Reading Mj’s first book, I learned about the hardships the poor went through to keep the family farm and some circumstances that occurred that brought many to those poorhouses.  The poor were treated inhumanely back in those times.  After they died in those they were buried in unmarked graves.  At the end of the first book, Mj honors those people in those unmarked graves by giving them their dignity back and providing the numbered graves with the names of those people who died at the Ossipee County Farm.  You come away from the first book thinking that no matter a person’s circumstance in life, we are all living on this same planet and must treat the less unfortunate as we would want to be treated.  Give each person a humanity and we are all happy.

            I find Mj’s series is important.  These are stories that need to be told so that we can learn from our past and not make the same mistakes.  

Book two, Angels Lament, follows the other part of the Hodgdon family.  We are given a look into the life of Abigail Hodgdon’s sister Sarah.  She has a musical talent.  Her cornet is her lifeblood.  She dreams of a better life for herself out of Ossipee.  The farming life is not the life she wants.  She moves down to Fall River Mass, where she finds the life of the big city is not what she had envisioned.  She gets herself a job at the Mill and we learn that life at these Mills is just as harsh as landing up at a poorhouse.  Her cornet is her only salvation.

            I found as I was reading Sarah’s story that I was learning about a world, that was not too dissimilar to anything that Charles Dickens would write.  The poor is once again our main focal point here.  Once again Mj, weaves these new characters into one another.  Each chapter as in her first book, is a day in the life of these characters.  With each heading of the Chapter providing you with a date.  

I was most struck by August Wood and his friend Finn, who he calls his brother, because he saw good in him and wanted to help.  These two characters give you the flavor of a Dickens novel.  They come from poor backgrounds. August lived in the Five Points of New York.  I’ve read a little and have seen the movie The Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese.  That was a harsh world.  August is taken in by a man named Smitty and is forced to beg for.  Smitty is our Fagen from Oliver so to speak.  

            The story of how August and Sarah meet and what happens to them along the way takes us into a world where you are forced to survive by any means possible.   Mj, paints a picture, of a stark realism of the times.  As I did with Abigail and Silas Putnam in Etched in Granite, you pull for these characters.  They are good hearted people and you want to see them succeed.  It doesn’t always work out that way.  

There is a subplot which merges into the Sarah and August’s story.  We are brought into the world of the wealthy.  Bess Adams is the woman’s name.   The Father doesn’t say much and is one of the benefactors of the mill.  He doesn’t care about what happens to the people that work for him, only the bottom line.  

The Mother has a contentious relationship with Bess.  She is always worried about etiquette and keeping up good appearances so that Bess will attract the right sort of wealthy suitor.    There are many parts of Bess’ mother I found strikingly familiar.   In one chapter, Bess talks about how her mother was a stickler on letter writing.  Everything had to be perfect, otherwise, the letter was thrown in the fire and Bess had to start again.  The Mother encourages one of Bess’s passions and that is her piano.  Her mother uses Bess’s talent as a way to showcase her to wealthy families.  This portion of Bess’s life becomes the merging point with Sarah and August.            If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend this read, by Mj Pettengill.  A gifted, intuitive writer who senses and sees light when others have lost hope.  An Angels Lament can be purchased at her website mjpettengill.com.  I would also be remiss if I did not send her to her website.  There is far more than a writer here. Her blog posts will 

Letters From England/The Tank On The way

I have been away for the last two weeks dealing with some priorities to Pigeons By Charles. Hopefully I will have some news on that soon. However, I am back. Look to this space for Episode Seven of the First season of Letters From England. It is called the Tank. This episode concerns our first car in England. Currently, I have been working through Act two today. I am hoping when I am done with this episode and you take the time to read it, you will be in stitches. My aim is to make you laugh with that. Other episodes are on the way. First Day Jitters and yes the long-awaited episode I have teased called Free Wheeling Frank. My mom will be very prominent in that.

I shall talk to you soon.

Letters From England/Mental Illness

Eileen Livingston based on my mom.

            I am sitting here on this rainy day and reflecting about the last blog I wrote, which dealt with how writing is Cathartic with me.  I realized that I had more to say on this topic and decided a part two was in order. Part two is called mental illness.

            I don’t often use my blog to discuss my personal life.  By allowing you to read Letters From England, episode by episode, I have made my past an open book.  Ned Livingston is based on me, but he’s an older me and many aspects me.  It is more or less a composite of myself.  The same can be said of Ned’s family.  Some of the stories are me and of my family.  

            When you write a television series, you write the pilot and hope the pilot moves you through to the next process.  I’ve gone about this differently.  I had the whole arc in my head early.  I could have written the spec script and pushed to sell and let Hollywood come up with the arc.  Nope, I needed to write the series on my own.  Why?  Two reasons.  I wanted to delve into the history of my life so I can bring some healing to my family that has been so touched by mental illness.  Secondly, I wanted this series to be a way to talk about mental illness.   My mom had mental illness.  She had five nervous breakdowns in her life.  The first one was with electric shock therapy when that was a common treatment for the issue.  After years of not understanding it, or not being able cope with the mood swings, I healed myself with therapy.  What got me to therapy was a book my mother gave me one Christmas, called the Temple of Gold.  The lead character is a young boy named Ray Trevitt.  As we watch Ray grow up from a small kid into adolescence and then into a man, we watch him change.  Each time there is a tragedy in his life his emotional stability tears little by little until finally he has a nervous breakdown at the end of the book. 

            The first time I read this book, I absolutely loved this.  This book remains my favorite book of all time.  William Goldman, the famous Hollywood screenwriter responsible for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, wrote this.  I am not sure why it has never been made into a movie.  I have been dying to write the script.  I think I can do this justice.   

            The first time I read this book, I had no idea why my mother thought I would like this.  She had never given me a book about adolescence.  Although my Mom was a voracious reader, she never was prone to buying a book for me for Christmas.  That Christmas she did.  

            I lost the book in high school when I lent it to someone I worked with at the Tamworth Inn.  I kept reminding her to she had it and I would like the book back.  Imagine my surprise when I found it on sale at the Cook Memorial Library.  I was with my mother at the time.  The person must have given it to the library to sell.  I snapped it up and took it back to Vermont.  I had to read it again.  

            The second time I read Temple of Gold, I found my mother’s hidden message in the book.  The message arrives when Ray dates this interesting girl in College.   She hums after they make love and doesn’t talk much.  She puts demands on Ray that are difficult for him.  One is to end a friendship with a girl he met at college.  Ray becomes infatuated with her, even though his friends are telling him, he should stay away.  This girl ends up cheating on him with a college professor and the breakup is horrible.  What happens to this girl and what Ray does is horrible, in the end Ray feels horribly guilty about what he does.  When I read this portion of the book my mother was trying to relate what mental illness was like for her.  My mother was trying to tell me she related to this girl.  She wanted me to see inside her and realize this is the way she was.  It wasn’t her fault and that if she acted irrationally towards me, that part of her was not the real woman, who cared about her son so deeply.  She was crying for me to understand her.  I got the message.  

The second read of Temple of Gold, brought me to therapy.  I needed to understand her, so I could heal and understand what other family members were going through.  It affected them just as badly, particularly my sister.  I began to empathize with my mom, who although strong, had to fight to get through every day of her life.   Most people don’t understand when someone is mentally ill.  They think that if they can’t handle life and have a mental breakdown that person is weak.  No not at all.  My mother had five nervous breakdowns and each and every time she came back better than she was before.  My mother was so strong and both my sister and I received our strength, by watching how she handled her mental illness.  She still acted, she still enjoyed her gardening and stamps.  She remained involved in the community of Tamworth, whether it be Cook Memorial library, or her Onway club.  When others suffered the same affliction she did, my mother gave back in a selfless way.  

I have a story in my head about how she helped others with mental illness.  The real story has changed in my head.  The real story involves an NEC student who lived in the apartment at Nyton Cottage.  She was a friendly girl and my sister and I would visit her from time to time.  We did not realize what was going on with her.  She burned incense in her living room and the lights were always dimly lit.  She had a huge picture of Jesus Christ before her and was praying a lot.  That seemed normal to us, little did we know that this girl wasn’t dealing with life well.   As I became interested in Psychology, I realized she had the symptoms of bipolar disorder.   

One night the damn broke for this girl in our house.  My Dad called the college who informed her parents.  She had to be taken for treatment in Chichester England.  I don’t remember how long she was there.  My mother had walked in her shoes and reached out almost every day, she was in the sanitarium.  She was there to let her know, she was going to be all right.  

Another time, we had a good friend of the family.  She was in the latter stages of her life and she was going through depression.  My mom loved this woman, she reached out to her and was there to be that ear.  That was the type of woman my mother was.  Another story is a lifelong Barnstormer actor’s brother died during the season.  My family and his were very close.  When it happened, my mom looked at me and said, we need to be with Dan tonight.  I readily agreed.  We spent that evening with Dan and we listened to him talk about his brother and what he meant to him.   Despite my mother’s frailties of mind, this is who my mother was.  I learned many of those skills from watching her.  

            In Letters from England, my mother’s storyline will reflect this mental illness.  I need to write this for myself and to speak out.  Sure, medical science has come a long way in this area.  We no longer give lobotomies like they did in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  The drugs have gotten better, but these drugs cost far too much for people to take, leaving many people to suffer and be put out on the street.  I won’t get into the political debate over this health issue, but it has been deeply affected by politics.  

            My purpose for my mother’s story line is to give a voice to the mentally ill, so that people will understand what they go through.  I am sure there are many more families like mine, who have kept mental illness in the closet.  I no longer am silent about this.  It’s time to for this country to understand it and how it affects society.  It’s time be much more compassionate and open minded.  My mother didn’t have that voice, now I am speaking for her even though she passed away in 2015. I owe that gift to my mother.  As I sit here writing this, I feel her presence over my shoulder watching as I tell her story.  I feel her pride, her warm touch upon my shoulder.  I see that smile(Which for the most part was not there.)  

            You may think that living with a parent who had mental illness was a living hell.  Actually it was not.  It became difficult, when a breakdown was imminent.   If I had known then what I know now, I would have been better prepared for it.  I reflect upon my life with my mother and more often than not, there are more good times than bad.  

These are the times I remember.  The time when we went to my dentist in Boston.  After a good orthodontia checkup  she treated me to the King Tut exhibit at the Boston Museum of art.  Afterwards we were caught in the rain trying to make the bus, the two of us laughing our heads off.  That was my mother at her best.   The time when I came to my mother about something pretty deep.  We were watching the miniseries the Holocaust with Meryl Streep and James Woods.  The series had me asking questions.  I brought them to my mother. I wanted to know why Nazi Germany hated the Jews, because it didn’t seem right how one group of people dehumanized another.  I thought aren’t we supposed to love everyone in this world.  I couldn’t fathom how one man bred hate into an entire country.  However, he did, but to understand Hitler you must look inside the mental illness that ravaged him.  My mother understood that man’s illness, because she had mental illness.  The difference was how the two handled the disease.  My mother and I talked for hours about the Holocaust.  It was the most fascinating intense conversation I ever had with my mom and one I will never forget, because through her I learned so much.   She then provided me with some books to read in our very own library.  

I remember the time when my mom and I rented John Hughes Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy.  My mother rarely laughed, but this movie sent her into convulsions of laughter and seeing that from her brought me to laughter and such joy.  When I did my top 100 movie list of all time, it made the list, just because it was such an experience to watch that with my mother. 

Those are the moments I remember and reflect upon with my mom that I treasure.  In life, you have to take the bad with the good.  In my case with my mother, there was a lot more good than bad.  Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of and scared of.  I want to reflect that with my mom’s story arc.  Was my mom frightened when it happened, hell yes, but she was strong and faced it head-on.   She dealt with it, took the blows, and got back up to her feet like a prizefighter would.  As I continue to write my mother’s story arc, I don’t seek pity upon Eileen Livingston, god knows my mother would never ask for it.  All I want you to do is understand that mental illness is a disease like any other and it needs to be understood and society needs to open their mind, reach out, and show some compassion.  That’s all my mother was asking.  

Writing is Cathartic/Let Go of the Past

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  I am slowly learning never to question when something doesn’t go my own way or when something needs to change.  Within the last few days I am listening to what’s going on around me.  I have come out of the dark and into the light.   I am also a firm believer that the cup is always have full and never half empty.  Sometimes I look at it as being full and the possibilities are endless.  

One of the reasons I write is because it is a cathartic exercise.  I have a tendency to use things in my life.  I don’t do that deliberately, but if I need to strengthen a story it has always served me well to find something from my past.  This is where I believe acting and writing are two similar disciplines.  Actors often use things in their lives to reach an emotional moment or to achieve that emotional moment on stage to make it real.  Writers do the same for different reasons.

For many years I’ve been holding onto something.  Like a hoarder I always felt I needed this part of my past.  I wasn’t sure why, but it was hard to let this go.  Sometimes I stuffed it away and never looked at it.  Then it would magically pop out of the box and I wanted to be near it again, because the memories from it were strong.  One day I realized I should let this thing go.  From an emotional level, I didn’t.  I kept it in a box and didn’t look at it for seventeen years.  I never wanted to, examine why it was there because this part of my past was too painful.  

The last few years have been a slow journey to examine my past.    I needed to look at it, because I needed to explore the past and understand why it was not important to me anymore.  This part of my life was holding me back.  It was stuck to me like glue and I could not find a way of becoming unstuck.  

As I said writing can be cathartic.  I held onto a piece of my writing very much like part of my past.  The message from this work was powerful.  For years I had chopped and changed this show to find out where it was going.  As this writing evolved I began to recognize what this was.  I had no idea why two characters seemed so familiar to me.  They certainly weren’t anyone I knew.  However the story was very recognizable.  The first half of it was true.  The second half was what I had hoped it might have become.  It didn’t turn out the way my play ended.  The message suddenly became clear.  Everything happens for a reason.  Why this play at this time?  Why the need to work on this again?  I was not done with this yet.  I reached out to this part of my life.  That part of my life did not respond, but I found I was okay with that.  I needed to learn a lesson and I needed to start a new chapter in my life, which had been evolving slowly for some time.  I liked the pace of this new chapter.  It wasn’t moving at the speed of light.  This new chapter has been gentle.  I have nurtured it and let it grow.  Now this chapter has come to a new stage.  I am not forcing myself to look at the ending, I just want to enjoy the possibilities and where this chapter could lead.  Everything happens for a reason and this new chapter  I’ve started is leading me somewhere.  I am unaware of it’s travelogue.  At this moment in my life, that’s okay, what will be will be.  

Not all my writing is cathartic.  Not all of it is taken from my past.  Not every character is based on people I know, or did know, but this piece was and I came back to it, to let that part of my past go.    

Never Fall in Love with Your Idea

I have an admission to make, I make mistakes while writing. I fall into the trap of falling in love with an idea I think is great. Sure, the idea seems great at the time, but it doesn’t always work out and that’s when I need to accept a change that needs to be made. I have run into this issue with Pigeons by the Charles. In my case, it came from not having enough confidence in my ideas. In the past, if I had to change what I thought was a great idea, I would hem and haw about it. In the back of my head, I was thinking, damn what am I going to do here now. I believed that ditching the idea, killed the plot, or a scene, or ruins a character. I have learned that is not the case.

For Pigeons by The Charles, the challenge was to get rid of all the extraneous settings and create one location, rather than more than five. My fear was it would hurt the script. I accepted the challenge and with it, I now realized I can always come up with a new idea. In some cases the new idea actually has made the script better. That is what occurred with Pigeons By Charles.

In Pigeons, one of the scenes that was the most challenging was the date between Kurt and Julie. I set it at her apartment. Moving it to The Charles killed a lot of funny stage bits. I thought I needed a setting where Kurt could show how nervous he was. By moving this scene to Charles, I discovered new ideas. I was fortunate that I could keep much of the dialogue. I threw out stuff involving Julie’s Archeology roommate. Moving this scene to the Charles makes sense. When Kurt tries to leave, because he is so nervous, Julie asks him not to, because The Charles river is their spot. Why wouldn’t they stop there before Kurt takes Julie home? Moving it to the Charles didn’t change the tenor of the scene, but what it did calm it down a little. I was able to show Kurt’s nerves in a more subdued manner, so he was not all over the place. This deepened the scene. There is a moment when Kurt is too nervous and he just can’t get out of her presence fast enough. I had Julie calm him down by talking about a Coldplay concert they went to. She sings a lyric to The Scientist to him. He calms down by finishing the first verse. Then they talk about the concert. This portion was just a few gag lines I gave Kurt, but I expanded it to have Kurt talk about what happened to him. He took a tab of acid given to him by one of their friends and went on a bad acid trip, which landed him in the hospital. In the hospital, Julie is there by his side. In my mind, that concert was when Kurt fell in love with her. allow me to do was deepen the scene. In the previous setting, Kurt’s nerves were all over the place. The scene probably was a little too over the top.

Another scene I had trouble moving was the camping scene or the marriage proposal. This is a key scene and I could not ditch it. The original scene we see a horrible camping trip, where if anything can go wrong it does. Kurt’s proposal blows up in his face. I could have kept this scene at the camping spot, but something was gnawing at me to get this story to the Charles. Yesterday, as I was working cutting through act one, that scene came into my head. The dialogue came in drips and drabs and I began to hear a story about the camping trip. I heard the story from both perspectives. I wasn’t sure how to start this scene, then little ideas came into my head that brought it together. I had Kurt and Julie both come down to The Charles after a horrible weekend camping. I used the pigeons as a vehicle so Kurt’s and Julie’s could tell their sides of the story. . I made sure the two characters were unaware they were at the Charles together. On Kurt’s side were the male pigeons. On Julie’s side were the female pigeons,(The female pigeons are new as I didn’t have any before. Julius was the only male pigeon with Julie. As both stories play out, Julies leads Kurt over to Julie. Kurt finds Julie playing with his birthday gift, a telescope. This is a new twist in the script. I had an idea for it, but was never sure how to get Kurt’s birthday in. Moving this scene to the Charles allowed me to do that.

Reworking Pigeons by the Charles has taught me many lessons. The most important one is not to be wedded to your ideas, because you think they are funny. Be more confident in your ability to find a new idea. As a writer I have many. Throw out something that is holding the plot back. Get rid of a line if it’s not moving the script. Make speeches as short as you can make them. In general, playwriting has changed. The days of the long drawn out monologue are gone. Monologues tend to hold back the script. In today’s world of one minute attention span, no one is going to pay attention to a monologue if it doesn’t have a point, or move it along. These are lessons learned, which I will utilize in my writing this day forward. Lessons well learned and lived.

Pigeons By The Charles/Things Are Coming Along Nicely.

I used to think pigeons were an annoyance. In London, they were all over the place and you couldn’t get away from them. They would coo away or fly near any sort of food you had and of course, we all know, they go to the bathroom everywhere. We had a ton of them at the parking lot at my former employer. At that point, they didn’t bother me. You see I was embarking on writing a romantic comedy, where pigeons play a huge part. The more I chopped and changed this show, I realized that Pigeons are actually pretty cool birds. Yes, I know you are probably questioning whether I have lost my mind. In the process of writing this play, I have done a lot of research on pigeons and what I have learned I have put into the dialogue.

Pigeons by the Charles, moved one step closer today to the next phase, preparing the play for a staged reading.

Step one, find an Editor to read it and give feedback. Advice to any budding writers, make sure it is someone you have never met before because they can be more objective. The fact that she also has written some plays, directed and is involved with theatre from time to time also helps. Oh, and I did discover that we do have a connection, a former high school buddy.

Her feedback was awesome. Her first concern was I had too many locations for the play and it was hard to follow. If it has too many locations, she felt it would be hard for an audience to be invested in the characters. She was right, by condensing act one, to one location, I have made the play more readable and allowed the characters to shine on their own. The characters are truly what sell this script and if the characters are well developed the audience will be interested. It’s that old USA slogan I keep talking about, USA where character matters.

Tonight’s homework was simple, find those locales that could be moved to The Charles River. It didn’t take me long as I figured out ways to make the old scenes work better in the new locale. I managed to take two scenes completely out. One scene I merged entirely with another to make it one whole scene. The upshot was that I dropped about twenty pages off act one. Now the act is down to forty-two. Now I am ready to tackle act two. This becomes trickier. At this point, the audience will be invested. I can afford to play with one or two locations. Along with the change of scene location. I cut three characters out of the show. I may possible end up dropping one more at the end of the play and have the last scene take place in The Charles. The character would be a bartender in an airport. This would eventually leave me with six characters. Here is how these characters were dropped and why. I also managed to cut 3 characters completely out of the play. One character and English Dance Major named Felicity had one line and was heard offstage. She went when moved the opening scene from a frat house to The Charles River. I cut a bar scene, which meant I dropped the Married girl that Julie’s boyfriend Blaine cheats on Julie with. I took what happened and used it in a different scene and I changed the concept. This allowed me to play with Julie. She is wallowing in her own self pity while drinking a whole bottle of Baileys. I managed to make this scene funny. The third character that went was Julie’s best friend from high school. Julie talks Kurt into dating her, then she realizes Natalie is all wrong for Kurt, because she has him wrapped around her finger. I dropped the scene and talked about the date in a scene Julie had with Kurt. I changed the concept of this scene again. I took Kurt out of it and used Chet instead. It was here we find out about what happened on the date.

Step two will be to read the crap out of this show line by line to determine what lines are kept and what lines don’t move the story along. Those lines will be cut. Tonight’s homework allowed me to do some of that process tonight.

Step three, will move on to having my editor read the play again and see if the changes I made helped solve some confusion. She will also edited what I wrote and find things I might have missed.

Step four: Finding some actors to perform a staged reading and allowing an audience to hear the show being read. I also will allow some feedback from the audience.

Step five: Moving from that staged reading to workshopping the show and seeing what it looks like on stage. Believe me, workshopping this play is going to seem a whole lot easier now that I have changed scene locations to more or less one locale.

All in all, today’s zoom meeting with Stacy, had provided me with some excitement and hopefully a winning play to put on stage. Something that if we all cross our fingers might be seen soon.

Letters From England/The Tank

A Wolsey.

This is an English car built in the late ’50s into the early ’60s called a Wolsey. This is not the exact car that my Dad purchased from a former NEC teacher, but the colors are close. This is the car my sister dubbed The Tank. She called it the Tank because it rumbled. We often wondered whether this vehicle was going to get us from point a to point b without breaking down. Sometimes this car wouldn’t start and my Dad had to use this convenient hand crank to start it up. Then he would take it to some garage and have the problem fixed. The interior of this car was not the most comfortable. Sleeping on any sort of long trip would create aches and pains the likes you never felt. I thought I was going to like the little armrest that came down in the middle in the back seat. It seemed the perfect pillow for my head to rest on, but alas, unlike my Grandfather Lowell’s Cadillac, it was not to give me any comfort. There were a few things to like about the Wolsey. Unlike the VW bug we had in the states, the Wolsey was roomy. We could fit a dog and two people in the back. You could fit an aircraft carrier in the trunk. Popcorn often came on our trips and she was happy to sleep in the back. I think she liked the car. I know she always was eager for that morning trip down to the campus. Then again, all you had to say to her was do you wanna go for a ride in the car and she would be wagging that tail at a hundred miles an hour, her eyes would light up and she would pant happily.

This car was amazing. My sister and I may have been embarrassed about being seen in this old jalopy, but it did get us to where we needed to go. We took this car on many trips. One was to Dorset. We saw Corfe Castle. This car made the trip to Wales. It traveled to Warwick in the midlands. My parents took it all the way to the highlands in Scotland. I will admit one thing I did love about this car and I have often wondered whether my Dad did too. I loved the fins. Most of the cars over in England seemed to last forever. I am not sure why, but they did. I suppose one reason is that it rarely snowed in England. There were no rust spots on many of the English cars, so that kept important parts intact. I am not sure how difficult auto parts were to obtain for a lot of the older cars, but if a lot of them were still on the road. Looking at this car, one becomes nostalgic. It reminds me a place like Arnolds’ from Happy Days. You can picture yourself going to a drive-in movie theatre. I always wanted to live in the 1950s. It seemed like such a cool decade.

The next episode deals with this car. I couldn’t resist and I have had this episode in my head from the inception. The day my sister called it the tank. My father was not overly sensitive to that nickname, but he did sort of grouse about it. In later years the driver’s seat was held on by some coat hangers as some metal thing came apart in the back. My poor Dad couldn’t adjust the car the way he would have liked. I think one of the pedals went and he had to find some way of keeping that together so he could drive it. I have no idea how he managed to sell the car when we left for good, but he somehow did. It is interesting to note that my Dad was just looking for a beater, a car to get him from work and back, but this darned tank became so much more to us. It became our identity as a family.

My Dad would often check on the tour, driving out alone with his Wolsey. He became bored and started a travelogue with his tape recorder.(I have a future episode on that.) Dad’s travelogues were narrated by two travelogue reporters that he created. Interestingly enough, these characters also served as in-game status pro Baseball announcers when Dad and I played our tabletop Baseball game. Artie Skirmacorn, Cecil Sidney kept my Dad company. Artie had a high pitched voice while Cecil Sidney had a Texan drawl. We still have these tapes and even though I was not there, I picture my Dad in that Wolsey, driving up some country hill in Dorset, or the highlands of Scotland. I see him with that microphone to his lips and I hear those two lovely characters he created. I also see him on the M1, as he is passed by others. The drivers giving him long strange looks wondering what on earth this mad man is doing. If I were in the car, I would have simply said, he’s just passing the time, while driving to his job, somewhere in Reading, or maybe Stockton Upon Tees, enjoying his Wolsey. It’s a colorful picture. Dad and his sidekicks Artie Skirmacorn and Cecil Sidney painting their own pictures of what they see as they are driving down the road in the Tank. That Wolsey was a great car, I think about it often.

Letters From England/Episode Six

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American rock singer Janis Joplin (1943 – 1970) records a performance on the television show ‘This is Tom Jones’, 1969.

Episode Six of Letters From England is ready. It is an episode that focuses solely on Darcy Livingston. I decided that since this episode is all about Darcy, I changed the title from The First Date to Darcy Livingston Croons Like Joplin. The episode has also helped me determine an interesting place to take Darcy’s storyline. It will involve the promise of fame as she becomes the new lead singer for the band formerly known as Rippled Water. They are now called Darcy and The Misty Blues. I want to thank my sister Lowell N. Murray for being the inspiration behind this character and this episode. The brief musical portion of her life helped create this part of her storyline. As always, I leave a link for the episode for you to read along with the previous five.