Tag Archives: Travel

The Sides of Heaven by Hazel Barker

sides of heaven_front

The sequel of Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child will be out shortly.

Set in a turbulent period of history, the story continues to unfold the struggles and sufferings of mother and children until death steals another three more of them.

Join the family in their journey to faith and freedom from the land of pagodas to the world of koalas and kangaroos.

To be released within the next few weeks by Armour Books.


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Interview by Nene Davies, author

heaven tempers the wind coverInterview by Nene Davies on 5th August 2016. Reproduced by kind permission of the author.

See http://www.nenedavies.com – NeneDaviesBlogs


Congratulations Hazel, on the recent publication of your memoir. Tell us a little about it!

My idyllic childhood is torn apart by the bombing of Rangoon, just prior to Christmas 1941. Mum convinces me I’m off on a marvellous holiday as we flee the city – leaving my precious dolls behind.

The Japanese armies overrun Burma, forcing us to flee from one refuge to another. My father has worked for the British government and initially relies on the official refugee policy. My mother fears for us – especially my older brothers who take daring opportunities to harass the Japanese.

The story tells of our travails during the darkest days of enemy occupation. Threaded with light, shot through with hope, it recounts my hard-won passage from innocence to maturity.


I know you to be a lover of history. What is it about stories from the past that fascinates you?

My love of stories from the past originated from an early age. My mother often spoke to us of her life as a child. She was a great story teller and it all seemed a very long time ago to me. At school, English and History were my two favourite subjects. I loved studying about kings and battles fought and won. Later on, at the university, I majored in history.

I think the old adage that history repeats itself is quite true. We should learn from past mistakes. When we know a person’s or a country’s past, we begin to understand them better. To understand is to forgive. Then perhaps we can forgive others, learn to tolerate differences in others and live in peace with them.


What would be your advice for new authors who want to write a memoir?

My advice to new writers who want to write a memoir is: ask questions about your past. Question your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Write notes on all they say – their happiest days and their saddest ones. Gather as much information as you can from them before they pass away. Look at old family photos to trigger your memory. Finally, read books on memoir writing before your start.

I regret not having read ‘how to write’ books before I commenced. One of the most useful books to read is Kathy Stewart’s Writing Memoir. Tips from an Editor on writing life stories. Had I read this book previous to writing my memoir, it would have saved me hours of hard work.


What are you favourite types of books to read?

My favourite genres are memoirs and historical novels, especially books set in World War Two. Perhaps because I was a little child during the war and like to compare my life to others. Some fared even worse than I did, while others didn’t even realise that a war was on. To most children who grew up during the war, it proved an unforgettable time and left its mark on them.


Do you enjoy the research aspect of writing about people and events from the past?

I find research an enjoyable and exciting part of writing. It is thrilling to discover something new on the subject of my research. Some authors delegate the researching to others, but I neither have the money nor the inclination to do so.


What’s next?

My next move is to polish Book Two of my memoirs and my historical novel The Soprano. Meanwhile, I’m awaiting publication of my historical novel. Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie, which is due to be published in September.

My book, Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child may be bought on line or better still, signed copies may be obtained at my book launch on the 9th of September.


For more information, please visit my blog on: https://hazelmbarker.wordpress.com/









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Holiday in England, Scotland and Wales

dunrobin-castleWarwick CastleWe took the train via the Conway Valley to Snowdon National Park in Wales, alighting at Holyhead. The hills and pine forests with snow-capped mountains in the distance enchanted us. As it snowed heavily, the weather prevented us from hiking up the mountain.
The sun showed its face at Conway Castle and the Peak District, smiling at us as we rambled among the ruined ramparts, climbed the parapets and looked down at the countryside. We’ve always been attracted to ruins, and I recalled the old haunted house in Portland, where Colin played with his childhood mates.
At Edale, the start of the Pennine Way, we set out for a long hike. Chased by a snowstorm, we hurried back after a short walk by the canal. Before departing from the Peak district, we went to Bakewell, home of the famous Bakewell puddings. The aroma of freshly baked cakes lured us into the shop. The delicious cake melted in our mouths.
We dropped in at Eyam where, in 1665, the villagers chose to isolate themselves at home rather than travel and take the plague to surrounding villages. I leaned forward to read about the courage of the people and my pulse raced at the thought of their concern for the safety of others, marvelling at the ancient village, which thrived long before white settlement in Australia and still survives in its original setting.
Warwick Castle at Easter presented the days of yore. Knights, knaves and kitchen maids went about their chores, seemingly oblivious of wide-eyed tourists. A sea of colourful tents lent an air of authenticity to the atmosphere. A procession of knights in armour filed past. A mock battle followed. My heart beat fast to see how people lived during those times.
From Chester, the train passed through wild country on its way to Carlisle. I was enchanted by the beautiful Royal Doulton plates decorated with fairies, which covered the walls of the bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
The train travelled to Haltwhistle, where we took a taxi to Hadrian’s Wall, which had been built by the Romans to keep out the Scots. From the ruins of a Roman garrison, we looked down from the ramparts on to the verdant pastures. Cattle grazed tranquilly. Had the Roman guards had enjoyed the peace and quiet too, or did they have to be always on the alert against the enemy?
Peter Rabbit and other characters came to life at Beatrix Potter’s World in Bowness at the Lakes District. We boarded a double-decker bus and alighted at Ambleside and had a pleasant walk in the village.
Grassmere and Windermere were overflowing with tourists. We rambled in the same pristine places that inspired Wordsworth. The scenery was exquisite, leaving us longing for more.
A scenic rail trip took us past snow-capped mountains to Inverness, where on a tour of Loch Ness, we hoped to catch a glimpse of the elusive monster. We wandered along the banks of the river as far as the Ness Islands.
Passing clear lakes and snowy mountains dotted with pines, we arrived at Kyle of Lochlalsh, but we missed an opportunity to visit Skye, made famous by the Skye Boat song which I’d learned as a child from my music teacher.
From Inverness we travelled to Golspie and hiked on the path by the sea to Dunrobin Castle, home of Lord and Lady Sutherland. Our childhood dreams of fairy tales came alive at our first glimpse of the stronghold perched on the hills. The furnishings were splendid, the gardens charming. Hazel and I wandered around, calling to mind another garden in Adelaide, where we had rambled together, lost to everything else when we fell in love.
We chose to return to Golspie via the woods, then by train back to Inverness, charmed by the hospitality of the Highlanders, the beauty of the land and the fine weather.
Across the border, Nottingham welcomed us with a shower of rain. My cousin Paul was at the station to greet us. Uncle Clarence was waiting for us at Paul’s home. He was thin and tall with snowy, white hair and clear blue eyes suffused with kindness. Our fondness for him grew each time we met. We had a family gathering, getting to know the other cousins June and Geoffrey.
On our previous trip, Clarence had taken us to Orlando Drive where Mum was born. Now he drove us to Sherwood Forest. The great oak, beneath which Robin Hood bled to death, still stood, its large horizontal branches propped up by beams like the crutches of an aged man. The tree is reputed to be over one thousand four hundred years old.
From London we visited Dover Castle, where we entered the secret wartime tunnels and learned how they were used during hostilities.
We spent our last days in London at the Portobello markets and Petticoat Lane. Here Hazel threw up her hands with delight at the sight of the souvenirs. She bought three teapots with Shakespearean themes painted on them, besides other curios.


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Book Review: Past Imperfect by Winfreda Donald

Publisher: FeedARead.com.Publishing

Author’s Overview
Freya is the middle child and odd-one-out in the close but dislocated Dunbar family in Australia. When Freya meets soul mate Alexander Marcou at High School in 1976 her thwarted efforts to forge an identity amid secrets and gaps in the family history lose their urgency. Fate intervenes and the pair are suddenly oceans apart – Freya helping Gramma in Scotland. They make the best of a lengthening separation by studying to prepare for their travel adventures around nursing, teaching and flying. But destiny hasn’t finished with them. Malevolent forces swirl under their radar to part them permanently. Bewildered and betrayed, both grieve deeply in disbelief. Eventually Alexander marries. Scarred by her experience with Alexander, Freya shies clear of commitments. Superficially serene, the questions simmer and identity issues trouble her again. Immersion in work is a forlorn but effective way to suppress dreams of a lost future. In the 1990s while undertaking nursing research, Freya meets Reg Prentiss an Australian IT expert. After their professional friendship transforms to a whirlwind courtship, they marry and head for a new life DownUnder. Determined to set the past aside, Freya commits to this marriage and the children she and Reg plan to have.

Review by Hazel Barker
Past Imperfect is the first book in the Long Shadows Series. It is a brilliantly conceived plot, which lets the action unfold, and culminates in an unexpected climax.

The author intersperses action with dialogue, and every now and then waxes into a lyrical style. Although written with clarity, the book tends to have too much detail at times, and pace slows down a bit.

The warm and wonderful letters between the two parted lovers are a delight to read. Like Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, romance lovers will be kept biting their nails, wondering when the twain will meet.

I recommend Past Imperfect to all who are anxious to follow the characters and witness the mystery and suspense unfold with each successive book.

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