Memories and Memoirs

Memories are always selective, edited by our ongoing lives each hour, and then by the day, the week and year,

Writing a memoir is not like writing a novel, with a beginning, middle and end, a prescriptive number of words.

From a home of forty years there is much choice to trigger a memory, from bookshelves, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, drawers of papers, cupboards of mementos and now there is Google Earth

You can begin a memoir as an autobiography jotting down the key events, birth, education, marriage and you can fill it in from the resources mention above and what you choose to mention will be subjective. What you probably have less control over is where it will lead you.

Apart from key personal events there are bound to be major world events, political and environmental and over these you have no control.

Two events will have shaped our own lives without us being conscious that they have.

In January 1973 Britain joined the E.C, eight months after our first family foreign holiday, when we had chosen to visit the Greek island of Corfu, already confirmed in our Europeaness. But it took Street View on Google Earth to pull in the memories of how strong our feelings of belonging were. Just to zoom into the facade of the old crumbling Corfiot house, the rotting muddy-colured wooden doors of the olive press on the lower floor, the delicate green painted iron balcony with two single doors leading from the living quarters above where high ceilings and dark brown wooden floors flooded the memory. Better still Street View allowed you to turn the corner at the side of the old building and climb up the weed covered steps and take your imagination round to the back of the house where two very young children were playing, covered in cotton clothing and sun hats. Here Kyria Koula was podding young broad beans and dechoking artichokes, covering the vegetables with lashings of olive oil, mint leaves and water to make the most wonderful dish for our lunch, all on an outdoor gas ring. As we were educating the young children into ‘foreign’ food so we were experiencing Greek philoxenia, all of us influenced for life. We were certainly ready to join the European Economic Community and when it became the E.C (European Community) we were delighted. We felt part of something safe and stable.

In 2016, on the 23rd June Britain voted in a Referendum and voted to leave the single market, to leave the European Union.

Again we were in Greece. We were in Neapolis, at the southernmost point of Greece at the southern and eastern point of mainland Europe. The news that we had voted out came through on my iphone radio in the middel of the night. Turning the TV on in the hotel bedroom only confirmed our fears and with a huge ache in the pit of our stomachs we eventually made our way to breakfast. “What have you done?” ask the hotel owner as we made our way to shady courtyard where we toyed with a minimum breakfast. It was a question that we would be asked all day. Neapolis does not have many British visitors and the was no other Brits to glare at accusingly, instead we slunk guiltily back to the room, packed our cases and went down to the ferry port. Did we look so British? Why was everyone looking at us? The stevedore loading the cars looked at us, took pity on us and let us drive straight into the hold without negotiating the tricky ramp up to the upper deck.

We found three seats in the shade, facing aft, and then realising that once moving we would be directly into the sun changed to three other seats. The journey to Kythira seemed interminable. A passing dog crouched to pee about twenty feet from us. Glumly I watch the puddle expand and then form a narrow stream heading  very slowly the way of our bags. It signified the mood of the day. Once on land there was the normal scramble off the ship. Drivers pushing past old ladies and children to get first to the hold, laid-back holidaymakers giving space but not adverse to swinging round to give any Brit who had voted the UK out of the EU a nasty swipe with their backpack.

The day wasn’t going to improve. We drove to absolutely stunning Avlemonas, all white and blue and made a conscious decision over iced tea and chocolate cake this was an island we had sweated to reach and EU aside there was nothing we could do except try to enjoy this precious visit.

Once in Kapsali, our lodgings located we hung on to that thought, but in the roasting afternoon heat, carrying large cases up multiple very steep steps on an outside staircase that was only half in the shade, staying positive was not easy.

To quote a modern phrase: it is what it is. We were in beautiful Kapsali, our fourth trip in life time, but it was many years since we had last visited and were overjoyed that very little had changed excepting everything was better!




Wonderful blog from Jenny Kane – Opening Lines. …


Opening Lines: Cast a Horoscope by Suzi Stembridge

Thursday is here once more, which means more ‘Opening Lines,

This week I’m pleased to welcome Suzi Stembridge to my site. Let’s ‘Cast a Horoscope’…

Although this book is inspired by my four years as an air hostess in the early 1960s it is not autobiographical. CAST A HOROSCOPE has been awarded a Chill With A Book Readers’ Award in August 2018. It is volume One in the Quartet “Coming of Age” and the fifth volume for readers reading the whole JIGSAW series in chronological order. All books can be read independently of the others in the series but do combine as one long family saga. CAST A HOROSCOPE begins when Rosalind (Roz), the great-great-grand-daughter of the main protagonist in the first two volumes of “Greek Letters Quartet, starts her career as an air hostess full of excitement and hope. It continues into her life as a young woman in the seventies when the old Victorian mores of marriage and starting a family were still strong. This is an era when memories of WW2 are still fresh, when the pilots had either been World War 2 pilots or trained in the tradition of the RAF. There was a very different and much more casual attitude to training based on common-sense rather than formal examinations. Aircrew and passengers alike were living in a time before mass travel and enjoying a new sense of freedom. Shorthaul flights at this time were typically in Vickers Viking or Dakota aircraft with two pilots and a stewardess. It was unusual for an aircraft to travel say as far as Athens without a touch down to refuel at Lyons or Rome. Most holidaymakers travelled not just to lie on the beaches, but to see ancient sites and museums or absorb the culture of a country. People were happy to enjoy the new sense of peace but with traditional attitudes still prevailing life was not perhaps as liberating or as easy in the sixties and seventies as young people assumed.


Rosalind Peters, known as Roz, is an air-stewardess in the early 1960’s; in the days when they were called air-hostesses. With a one hour induction, a training flight to Paris and an afternoon swotting from her manual, she is embarking on her first flight at night and she is solely responsible for thirty-six passengers on a Viking aircraft. The chief pilot of the small Yorkshire-based charter airline is her captain and in these days of fledgling package holidays her passengers are businessmen going to Hamburg to play hockey. It doesn’t take long for the sardonic captain, ex RAF and Berlin airlift, and seeming to the youthful Roz as middle-aged and corpulent, to size up the rooky learner. But rather than suffering the agonies of initiation Roz is won over by the Captain’s winning smile and the joy of flying. The whole glamorous Mediterranean world is opened up to Roz. Greece: Athens when one could walk inside the Parthenon on the Acropolis, Lindos on Rhodes with pristine beaches, Crete when airplanes landed on grass airstrips, Cyprus: Kyrenia before its annexation to Turkey, Cairo: when you could touch the Sphinx and Jerusalem: when the airport was in the Jordanian quarter, not to mention Tangier: city of blackmail and torture, and all before the days of mass tourism. But Rosalind’s middleclass background is conditioned to preserve her virginity and allow her to make a good marriage; these are days when strict rules govern life outside marriage and young people are expected to abide by what is acceptable in respectable society. Do her Northern roots compete to draw her back from the heat and dust of a Europe fast recovering from, but still affected by, the horrors of two world wars? In an era when sex outside marriage, worse illegitimacy and adoption carry such stigma will Rosalind find true love and be able to resist the temptations and excitement on offer in this liberated life style? Will the consequences of her actions affect other lives?

First 500 words…

August 1960

With a buoyant step Roz Peters entered an aircraft for only the second time in her life. Uppermost in her mind was the knowledge that she, as the sole airhostess, would be entirely responsible for all the thirty-six passengers of a Vickers Viking aircraft. She had been told the night flight would be full. Once through the door in the tail she walked up towards the cockpit which was on stand-by lighting. She stopped where two small steps took her up over the wheel axle. Although there were passenger seats in the forward section before the cockpit door she felt inhibited to go further.

As the Ferryair Captain climbed on board, using the same and only entrance to the dark aircraft Roz was facing him. She welcomed him and introduced herself, lighting the entrance from the galley at the back with a standard issue torch. She had thought that if she switched on the cabin lights at night she would harm the aircraft, much as using the headlights in a stationary car flattens the battery. Roz was confident that her Captain would have been told that his regular hostess had gone sick and she was taking her ‘stand-by’ place, after completing only one training flight instead of the prescribed six.

However, without attempting to reply to the young hostess’ welcome or to reassure her, the stocky short Captain merely put down a switch marked ‘cabin lights’ and strode up to the cockpit.   ‘We are on ground power now,’ he snapped as he marched up the aisle, with the tall first officer silently following him. They then shut the forward door to the cockpit leaving Roz in the empty cabin nervously replacing the torch and awaiting the arrival of her passengers from the departure hall. A ground hostess led out the passengers, all men.

To her amazement, Roz found her nervousness quickly evaporating and she was able to remember the procedure she had been taught the previous day, particularly when it came to demonstrating the emergency procedures. She was glad she had spent all that afternoon swotting up from her manual, although the expression  ‘if the aircraft has to ditch it may float’ was reverberating through her head, but she was not going to alarm the passengers by telling them that. It was midnight and she didn’t feel ready for bed, just for work.

‘How long have you been in this job?’ one passenger asked her as she helped him fasten his seat belt.

She replied ‘half an hour!

He laughed, ‘that makes two of us…. I’ve never flown in a chartered plane before.’

Rosalind remembered sitting in the London flat, fed up after a hard day’s shorthand and typing, and that was little more than a month ago. On her application form she had given her full name, Pandora Rosalind Peters, and made a split second decision to be known henceforth as Rosalind or if pushed simply Roz. ‘This will be truly a new beginning,’ she said…


Buy links:  ebook Paperback

We live on the Pennine hills in West Yorkshire between Halifax and Huddersfield but my heart is often in Greece.

I write historical and contemporary fiction, most of which has a Greek bias, either being set or partly set in Greece, with other scenes in the UK, particularly Northern England and Wales. Many of my characters like to travel, so much of Europe has been covered in the whole series which I have called JIGSAW. Jigsaw comprises two Quartets, THE GREEK LETTERS QUARTET which starts towards the end of the Greek War of Independence in 1827 and finishes in the present decade around 2011, and a second Quartet THE COMING OF AGE with a time span from 1960 to the present decade. The protagonists in these Quartets make up a family saga, with Rosalind, her son and her great-great grandfather, who was a Philhellene, being the main characters.

Because these 8 books are actually one long family saga, seven generations from 1827 to the present day, I have had to keep my mind very well organised to remember who is related to who, keep the dates tidy, and it has been quite a challenge. Despite this massive link I have also had to work hard to keep each book as an independent and different read.

As the books developed I realised they captured an age, a time from the industrial revolution but before the digital age. I love planning out a book and particularly the research. It has been a passion to check the facts, making sure that they are accurate. Studying for my Open University degree taught me the importance of primary and secondary sources. If I say it was sunny on a certain date – it was! It is a great pleasure to work at my desk in Yorkshire with windows over-looking the hills or alternatively by the sea in Greece and have time to write.

More than 30 years in the Travel industry has introduced me to many wonderful places in the world, but our extensive travel around mainland Greece and its remote islands when we founded and ran our two travel companies for 25 years has taken us to remote and stunning areas of coastal and mountain Greece. In addition, we built a small house in the foothills of Mt. Parnon in the Peloponnese, overlooking the sea, where we learned to appreciate a lovely local community.

Social Media links: 

Twitter Name: WriterOfGreekNovels@zaritsi

Website Link:

Facebook links:

Facebook: Suzi Stembridge

Pennine Writers & Landscape Artists Capturing Greece


Jigsaw: Greek letters & Coming of Age – Two Quartets

Instagram: suzi.stembridge.writer



 Linkedin: Suzi Stembridge at Freelance Author and Writer


Many thanks for such a great blog, Suzi.

Come back next Thursday to read 500 words from Madeline Black.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Honestly if you can get your head around Microsoft Word and follow instructions you will probably find it a doddle to self-publish your work. Or will you?

Things to bear in mind:

1) You do need to know about spacing and basic formatting, but having got our yearly brochures print ready when we ran our travel business I thought this would be feasible.

2) It doesn’t cost you anything and you can say goodbye to all those fees that hybrid publishers charge – but there is no such thing as a free lunch, and if you are to make anything on the books sold, at least as much as an e-book sold, then your book will probably come in pretty expensive on the shelves.

3) If you are writing a childrens book with coloured illustrations it will cost even more.

4) Although nowadays even main stream publishers are expecting all authors to get involved in your marketing, with true self-publishing your will be on your own, although some do give advice, and Create Space will give you a plethora of marketing information once you press the magic button.

There are various options including Create Space (the original Amazon imprint) KDP another Amazon imprint which suddenly seems to have become more tied to Create Space and vice versa, and Ingram Spark.

I had have a good relationship over six years with a hybrid publisher and the quality of my six published books was extremely good. They were helpful and took the time to get to know their clients. If all you want to do is to get a manuscript, which you are confident is as good as it can be, turned into a professional looking book I would recommend them. They were not as expensive as many, and by some standards quite cheap, although their prices have now shot up by 25% which is one of the reasons I decided to look at Create Space and Amazon KDP. Another reason is that hybrid publishers can charge to keep your book on stream on an annual basis and if you have several books this is a pricey luxury. The other reason was they charged for ‘additional services’ some of which might seem attractive but when others such as uploading a kindle or ebook (seriously easy to do compared to formatting a paperback) and other marketing, very easy to do on-line, it makes the author suspicious. A pity because some services such as their ‘critque’ service were good value and great for increasing the author’s confidence.

The other thing I would say is unquantifable is time, and the fact that of the two books I am working on and one of which is now self published, excluding the children’s book, one book has taken me since January 2017 to 26th April 2017 to get from ‘finished’ to the shelves. OK, a lot of the delay on this first attempt is down to bad luck and circumstances beyond my control, and with the second book taking less that two weeks (well I hope!) it is as the title suggests It is – relatively – easy to self-publish.

Create Space have been helpful to the extent that when it seemed impossible to get the manuscript into a format acceptable at their end for printing, (you know the helpless feeling you get when your computer ‘says no’?) they actually rang me on my landline from America! twice! By this time I had tried to ring Microsoft, made an appointment with the local  Apple shop, and then Create Space suggested it might be something as simple as not using Safari as my browser with Apple Mac but rather using Firefox. It was.

That phone call solved the problem that Adobe Flash would not let me download the proof copy and even though I had looked at the PDF WHICH SEEMED FINE, the finished book I had ordered was in 7pt and virtually unreadable, when I had the copy in my hand. Rather than risk the ire of reviewers getting hold of a 7pt copy I then decided to buy up all the copies I could see (5 copies seem to be the sum total, but 5 useless full price copies in 7pt).

With the revised copy now ordered as a proof, the Interior  Reviewer having passed it, I waited and waited for my parcel from America. More communication to Create Space and more as the parcel never arriveds. First excuse was that Create Space were moving offices, that was on the website, but didn’t explain why also on the website it was showing that the proof copy had been dispatched and I had had an email telling me to expect its arrival. Second excuse was the parcel had been delivered but that I had refused to accept it and it had been returned to America! They refunded the amount I had paid for the proof copy and the postage and said that they had re-sent to original package. I waited and waited, and got no reply to three other communications. So now I had no proof copy and apparently no way of getting sight of the book, except to order it again through Amazon and trust that this copy is sound and readable.

Well THE SCORPION’S LAST TALE has arrived! It has taken since January 2017 to this week to hold a beautiful and perfect copy in my hands. Publishing this book as a paperback as well as on Kindle where it was first published in January 2012 is long overdue but now I hoping that it will get all the readers it deserves (although a caveat to this is a book that is set at the time of Colonels regime in the time of the Greek Junta in the 1970s is bound to contain some harrowing scenes.)

Soon I hope to give you details of its twin publication, BRIGHT DAFFODIL YELLOW.


Amazon link for Suzi Stembridge’s books:


Eleni, the young Greek bride’s first Christmas in Cheshire.


It was with this marriage and Christmas that the family and their new mother began to bond together.

Eleni Carr loved the tale, told by her husband, about how the carol ‘Silent Night’ came to be written. “When the organ in an Austrian church succumbed to rust following the heavy moisture level caused by the nearby river, a priest, Josef Mohr, became desperate not to let the parishioners down.” Samuel told the tale in Greek. “Walking on the mountain tops to clear his thoughts he was inspired to write the carol which was put to simple music with an accompaniment by a string instrument such as a guitar, and which went on to become a favourite throughout the world.”

“I thought it was mice who ate through the bellows on the organ?” prompted Bessie. The family laughed.

“Trust Bessie. Where does she get her knowledge from?” they chorused.

“Were the mountains in Austria as high as ours in the Peloponnese?” the Greek girl asked her husband.

“Oh! Much higher, and covered with much more snow,” he told her with a twinkle in his eye, and both were aware that Samuel had come to know those Greek mountains very well, but that Eleni herself had only seen their grey blue shapes across the bay from Nauplia.

“A great favourite with our family of girls is when Papa consents to a Magic Lantern Show or joins in with games of Charades,” Henrietta cajoled. “Now the family’s moved to Bowdon all these pastimes can take place in front of the organ that Papa’s installed in the music room.”

“Certain Charades would surface again and again,” said Bessie, “and when our new mother Eleni struggles to understand the English words with a similar Greek word we could present her with ‘catastrophe’ – easy in English as cat, as, and trophy – but impossible for our stepmother who can only split it up into cat – as and trough – as in the Greek pronunciation!”

“Another word is philosopher – fill, loss, oh fur, – which whilst easier still causes great consternation.”

These conversations always produced hopeless laughter and giggles from the younger girls.




Christmas in the Peloponnese just before the end of the Greek War of Independence.

An extract from BEFORE VOLUME 1 of the GREEK LETTERS QUARTET by Suzi Stembridge, available in paperback at Waterstones and independent booksellers and from Amazon, and e-book:

As the year of 1827 drew to a close … the Greek people also sensed the impending freedom, of a more patriotic nature. Christmas was anticipated with some pleasure, the first after the defeat of the Muslim navy in the Bay of Navarino.

After all the Greek Independent Nation had been proclaimed and Count Capodistrias was expected in Nauplia to head up the government at the beginning of January.

“We shall have our own celebrations in Corone,” said Soula proudly. “They’re to be in the small church, the one with the small stone tiled dome, outside the town and up the hill, on the 7th January.”

“You are observing the Julian calendar followed by the Orthodox Church in Central and Eastern Europe,” replied Susannah.

“The entire village will attend, that will include you, Miss Robson and Dr. Fairchild of course.” Panayiota was insistent.

The church building had been much ruined by Turkish forces and the occasion was to be marked by a service where the liturgy would be said in more of a whisper than a song, nothing would be sung. Part pride, part fear of disturbing the enemy. It seemed to all concerned like a return to normality but there were many months before that word could even be uttered, and indeed it would seem years to some.

A lifetime of travel (1)

I have been so fortunate to travel frequently and to get to know some areas of Europe in depth.  My first trip to Paris and the Loire valley on a school trip opened up the senses with that distinct smell of Gauloises, so prominent in those days, the curious bidets in tiny bathrooms, – what possible use other than a foot bath? – wine, with which as sixteen years old perhaps our French teacher should not have tempted us! I was smitten.

Then four years later a trip of a life-time, would the romance and excitement of a flight to Boston, Bermuda, Antigua, Trinidad and then New York where the United Nations building was the highlight or was it wandering alone down Fifth Avenue? What was extraordinary was I took in my stride, a ‘lost’ engine on that first flight, the BOAC flight into Boston, whatever that cryptic word ‘lost’ means in my diary, and then incredibly I do remember the fascination with the line-up of fire-engines on the runway as we landed in Bermuda: the landing gear light had failed to illuminate in the cockpit. I also recorded a fierce electrical storm as we landed in Port of Spain. It didn’t deter my wanderlust. We are talking about 1959 and to travel by air was romantic and thrilling.

I was twenty-one and even though I wasn’t engaged as an air-hostess by BOAC itself, to be taken on to train with a small charter company called Tradair, flying out of Southend was an feather in my cap, or rather my smart new forage cap! And it did feel glamorous! Small two-engined Vickers Viking planes only catered for 36 passengers and a crew of three and at 13000 feet (maximum) and rarely more than a three hour range, yes it was exciting. The airline was particularly proud of its two ex-Queen’s flight aircraft. Routes typically were to Rotterdam, Maastrict, Copenhagen, Palma Majorca, so frequent as to be almost scheduled, but mostly we were carrying pioneering tourists trying out new package holidays, but called air cruises!

Perhaps these air cruises were more exciting for an impressionable young air hostess as for the passengers! In the early days of charter aircraft flying at the beginning and end of the season it was too expensive to fly an empty aircraft back to base and so the solution was for the crew and aircraft to follow the passengers around… Athens, Rhodes, Crete was a plum rostering, but Rome, Athens. Rhodes, Beirut, Heraklion, Pisa hit the jackpot! If Nice, Catania, Naples or Munich, Berlin, Basle and Innsbruck felt run of the mill, Bordeaux, Biarritz and Gibraltar or Lisbon, Tenerife, Tangier not exciting enough then Berlin, Copenhagen, Malmo, Brindisi, Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, Nicosia, Brindisi, Munich, Malmo, Dusseldorf, Prestwick, Benbecula all in one trip before returning to base at Southend was the highlight, 16 touchdowns in 6 days was the highlight!

Literally it would be hard to come down to earth and when our little charter aircraft company went into liquidation it felt like the end of the world! I was only 24 years old and I had to find some thing in life to equal a life in the air. In those days we weren’t trolley dolls, or flying-waitresses. We were treated with respect, staying in the best of hotels, had time for night-stops and to explore the sites of Europe. These included the Acropolis in Athens, when we could walk unhindered inside the Parthenon, see the Sistine Chapel in Rome without undue queues, space to stand back and admire the leaning tower of Pisa, Knossos in Crete, the Sphinx and Pyramids of Egypt without crowds, likewise Karnak and the tomb of Tutankhamun, or to float on the Dead Sea and visit Jerusalem when half was in Jordan, and when we could only visit that side. Even Lindos  on Rhodes was a tiny white-washed village above completely empty beaches.

What could I do next?

But life can throw up some marvellous chances ….


Pennine writers and artists capturing Greece

cropped-all-winter-photos-045.jpgPhotograph © OPW Stembridge 2016 – Almscliff Crag

It has suddenly struck me that there are several authors living on or near the Pennines who are writing about Greece; novels, histories, poetry, biographies or stories set mainly in Greece. Then there are painters, poets, photographers all drawing influence from their roots, perhaps their desk sports views from their windows to those beautiful but often menacing hills.

I thought it might be interesting to collect all our names and pull us all together under a Facebook group? Hopefully, we will make a noticeable and colourful group. At the moment, I am not thinking beyond the obvious marketing opportunities but as with all groups I hope it will become a support forum.

The common denominators for the group are a) The Pennines, defined as the uplands between north Staffordshire, so for this purpose it does include the Peak District, as far north as the Scottish Border near Yetholm. b) Greece, defined as all areas of the Greek mainland, the Greek islands including Cyprus and those areas which have once been part of Magna Graecia and Turkey.

So far the authors and artists below are happy to put their talents forward and they also have Pennine connections, please let me know of any others you know, or if you feel the name should not be mentioned here!


Sara Alexi

Jennifer Barclay

Daphne Kapsali

Roula Pollard

Rose Robinson

Oliver Stembridge

Suzi Stembridge

Tim Taylor

Stephanie Wood

Anne Zouroudi