Moving Pictures

Moving pictures of both kinds to discuss. I met a TV company in London who are making a series to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2, to be aired in the autumn on C4. They asked me all about the Battle of Hong Kong and the FEPoW experience at Sham Shui Po camp, as well as Dad’s escape. The celebrity who is presenting this episode is being flown out to Hong Kong – without me! – and the company may or may not want to interview me to fill in the gaps. They like that I am female in a male dominated topic, but I guess it depends how the filming goes in HK.

I have just returned from Shropshire where my brother showed me some old family photos. I took them to the nursing home to show my mum, Betty, and she really connected with them. It prompted her to tell some stories from her youth and it was so moving to see her enjoy her memories and to hold a coherent thread. It is rare treat nowadays to see her rise from a sea of confusion for a brief moment in the light of reason. I told her I loved her, always mindful that it may be the last time that I can be confident that the message will reach its destination.

These portraits of my parents are by society photographer, Madame Yevonde of Berkeley Square.

John Monro 1952
John Monro 1952
EL Monro 1952
Betty Monro 1952, aged 25

There was also a couple of pictures of Dora; with her brother Howard on a cruise to Australia in the 1970s, perhaps after husband John died in 1975? And with John in the 1930s.

Dora Metcalf cruise
Dora Metcalf, Frances & Howard Greene, 1970s?
John & Dora Metcalf
Capt John & Dora Metcalf

Escape Anniversary


On the night of 1st February 1942, Dad escaped with two colleagues from Sham Shui Po PoW camp in Hong Kong. They took some supplies with them to see them through the next week as they walked at night across the New Territories towards the Chinese border:

8 Tins Bully Beef, 1 Tin Mutton, 2 Tins Carnation Milk, 1 Packet Army Biscuits, 2 Emergency Rations, 2 Pints of Sugar (half in a tin; half wrapped in a piece of gas cape), 1 Tin of Salt, 7 Oxo Cubes, 80 handful of Dry beans stored in containers made by tying up the ends of the sleeves of a gas cape, 1 Jar Virol (malt based health drink).

From the Medical Officer: Some Biozygen (vitamin supplement), Quinine Tablets, Aspirin, Iodine, Pot Permang Tablets, Chloride of Lime, a very small bottle of brandy.              

An oil Prismatic compass, 4 Field Dressings, H.K.$ 180 in cash, 50 Camel Cigarettes, a 1/250,000 map of the Country to Waichow.

Quite a comprehensive list considering the camp conditions, but not much given that they had no idea where, when or how they would resupply. It was a bold move to escape into the unknown, not knowing if they would be recaptured, killed by the Japanese or betrayed by the Chinese. Dad was 27 years old.

A TV production company from London called, asking if I would contribute to a show they are making about Sham Shui Po and the Battle of Hong Kong. Not sure what that will mean just yet but will keep you posted. Exciting!

Wiltshire News

Stranger In My Heart was in the news again last week, this time in the Wiltshire Times. Since I added a media kit to the website the level of accuracy in news reports has definitely increased! If only I had a background in marketing I would probably do these things automatically. Sigh.

I am now booked to speak to three Wiltshire WIs in June and July, following my slightly terrifying audition back in November. I am sure it will be much more fun when I have longer to speak and there is a more cosy atmosphere. Other than these speaking engagements I am winding down the promotional activities a bit to devote more time to my next book.

This one will be about my great aunt Dora, who earned her mathematics degree aged nineteen in 1911, set up her own business selling calculating machines aged 24 and built a computing business that supplied the bombe machines to the Bletchley Park codebreakers and created one of the world’s first electronic computers. It’s going to be quite feminist!

Dora Metcalf
Dora Metcalf 1935

Anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong

Battle of Hong Kong 1941

On 8 December 1941 began the battle of Hong Kong, now 77 years ago. Here is an extract from Dad’s diary of 10 December, recounting the first days of the Japanese invasion:

About 6:00am on Monday 8th I was woken up, called to the telephone and told that war was imminent with Japan.  By the time I got to H.Q. we were at war.  About 8:00am the first Japanese bombers came over.  They did a lot of damage at the Aerodrome, destroying 7 C.N.A.C. (Chinese National Aviation Corp) planes, The Clipper, most of the RAF planes and the two Walruses.  They were unopposed.  The volunteer A.A. (anti-aircraft) platoon had drawn no ammunition, I suppose because the day before was a Sunday.  The gunboat supposed to be in the seaplane anchorage was being used for something else.  The Japs made rapid progress down the Taipo Road, and by the evening we were back in Shatin.  H.Q. were gravely disappointed with the Stanley guns.  They have shot too big a line, boasted that they could get almost to Taipo, in actual fact they can only reach about 1500 yards beyond Shatin Station.  We were unable to answer several calls for fire as the targets have been out of range.

On Tuesday general skirmishing took place on the main approaches to the inner (Gin Drinkers) line, to which by nightfall all our forces had retired.  During the night Tuesday/Wednesday the Japs surprised and captured the Shing Mun Redoubt.  This is a severe loss.  Today there has been heavy fighting all along Smugglers Ridge and up towards Golden Hill.

The Allied forces had been on high alert for some time but, as each alarm turned out to be false, they became complacent and so weren’t fully prepared for the attack. When war did come, it was fierce and relentless, raging until Christmas Day when the Allies finally surrendered. For the people of Hong Kong, this year would always be known as Black Christmas.

It is hard for us to imagine what that must have been like, as we do our online shopping for Christmas presents, put on a load of laundry or take the dog for a walk. We must always remember what we owe this generation. Blessings for a peaceful Christmas 2018.

 

Shrewsbury Lit Fest

I had a great weekend at the Shrewsbury Lit Fest. The organisers had done a good job on the publicity front, with articles in the Shropshire Star and the Shropshire Magazine. The smart brochure for the festival had me on the same page as Manda Scott, one of my favourite writers, which I felt very excited about! We went to her event and she turned out to be every bit as interesting in person as she is in writing. Both of our events were at the Unitarian Church, where Charles Darwin was a regular worshipper.

Shrewsbury Lit Fest Brochure 2018

I enjoyed talking about Stranger In My Heart, especially as many in the audience were people who’d known Dad. It really strikes a chord with people when I speak about the ‘one sentence legend’ that we have about a parent or grandparent and what they did in the war. The silence of World War participants, especially combatants, seems almost universal. People recognise that the next generation down don’t even have the ‘one sentence legend’ and so will have no reason to enquire into the lives of individuals from the World War generations. My campaign to rescue these stories before they get lost forever is gathering pace as I am now an approved speaker for the WI, following my audition last week. I already have two bookings for next year!

Of course the best thing about the weekend was visiting family and catching up with old friends who’d come to the Festival. Sadly, my mum is no longer able to go to events but I showed her the various press articles about it. In the town Square there was a Peoples Vote stall, with an Emergency Poet in attendance. Love it!

Emergency Poet, Shrewsbury Square

Speaking Engagements

Gosh it’s been a busy couple of months! Lots to tell you about Stranger In My Heart, along with upcoming events. I also had lovely outings to Burghley Horse Trials and the Frida Kahlo exhibition, caught up with old friends from Australia and spent 10 days touring Portugal in wall-to-wall sunshine – heaven!

Novel Nights is a regular literary gathering, with events in Bath and Bristol. I was fortunate to be chosen to speak at their ‘telling other people’s stories’ evening, where I was interviewed about my book and then read a short extract. A discussion followed the main speaker (Xan Brooks) about how writers can speak for others  authentically – even if they are a different gender, race, ethnicity or species!

I also spoke at Bath University’s One World week, focusing on the Chinese history, culture and language aspects of my book. My talk was recorded and will be available for students/staff to view on the University’s intranet. The same week I joined a gang of Unbound authors at the Bristol Literary Festival to speak about crowdfunding and book marketing. It was great fun and I was proud to join such a talented, creative group of writers. We presented to an appreciative audience of about 40 at the Arnolfini’s Front Room. Lovely venue, great tech support (essential!).

unbound crowdfunding talk

Unbounders at Bristol Lit Fest 2018

There has been more press coverage of Stranger In My Heart in Family Tree Magazine (December 2018 – out now in newsagents) and a lovely review in the Journal of the Royal Artillery (Autumn 2018)

Family Tree books Stranger In My Heart

Family Tree Magazine (Dec 2018)

Journal Royal Artillery reviews Stranger In My Heart

Journal of Royal Artillery (Autumn 2018)

Next up is the Shrewsbury Lit Festival – do please come along if you can – and an audition with the WI!

 

News & Reviews

So far I have 25 customer reviews on Amazon. Can you help me make it 30? All you have to do is search Stranger In My Heart by Mary Monro and then scroll down to the button marked ‘write a customer review’. You don’t need to have bought the book from Amazon, but you must have spent £40 with them in the last year.

The launch party pictures appeared in issue 372 of Bath Life which you can find online here on page 14. It has proved very difficult to find a print copy and in the end Mr Mayor kindly provided me with one!

Stranger In My Heart launch party

There was an article about the book and my travels to China in Odynovo Tours’ latest newsletter. My dear friend Col Martin Lilley has written a brilliant review of my book for The Gunner magazine, which will reach the veterans of the Royal Artillery.

I am preparing some talks about the book for the autumn. I will be speaking at the University of Bath on 23 October, auditioning as a speaker for the WI on 22 November and speaking at the Shrewsbury Lit Fest on Saturday 24th November at 1pm. Please do come along!

Global Radio & Local Paper

If you missed the radio broadcast about Stranger In My Heart on the Ink & Quill show you can listen now – it’s about 20 minutes long. China Radio International is the world’s second biggest radio broadcaster after the BBC and reaches countries around the globe. At the other end of the media spectrum, we have local paper the Shropshire Star also featuring a story about the book, focusing on the Shropshire connections.

Ming Dynasty bowl with horse

Ming Dynasty bowl, Ashmolean Museum

There has been some discussion with the TV production company in LA about how the book might become a TV series but we haven’t progressed very far yet. The next step is for them to prepare a one page pitch to take to the networks (e.g. Discovery Channel, History Channel etc.) who will then decide whether they want to take it further. Unbound, the publisher, will handle any rights negotiations on my behalf. Phew!

Meanwhile, I have started researching my next book, which will be about my Great Aunt Dora (1892-1982). She was a pioneer of the computing industry, involved in Irish politics during WW1 and supplied computing machines to Bletchley in WW2. Her fiance was killed at Gallipoli in 1915 and I have numerous letters from him and from his father. To my delight I have traced his family and will be meeting them soon to show them these letters. They have some things to show me, including a photo of her from 1923, which I can’t wait to see!

Stranger in National News

Stranger In My Heart featured in the UK national press last week, with articles in the Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun. I’m guessing they think the target audience for the book is elderly as the piece appeared next to ads for hearing aids and Stay Dry Pants! The coverage seems to have caused an increase in sales and the book has now gone for its second print run.

I have just received a draft of the photos that will appear in the Society pages of Bath Life’s next issue. I’ll add a link once it actually appears. I will be doing a radio interview next week for China Radio International’s Ink & Quill show. They have sent me lots of searching questions to ponder, so it should be an interesting listen. The tour operator who guided me round China, Odynovo Tours, is also featuring a story about me and Stranger In My Heart in their next newsletter.

Um, so, in other news…a TV production company in LA has been in touch about making a series about the book! As far as I can tell I’m not dreaming, but I’m not getting too excited just yet. Watch this space…