Saturday, August 29, 2015

To Everything There is a Season

I love Autumn-everything about it. The warm days and cool nights. The changing leaves-from green to yellow to orange and red. Sitting by the fire pit under a star-filled sky. Huddling under a blanket on the back patio.

However, I have to be careful not to let the anticipation of winter interfere with my love of fall. Here in northern New England, winter can come early and suddenly. Some years it seems we barely finish summer before we're shoveling out from under piles of snow. This year the locals are already speculating what this winter will bring and when it will arrive. (Most folks are convinced we're in for a “humdinger.”
Overhearing those conversations sometimes makes it hard to live in the moment.
To enjoy the last few balmy days of summer and the glorious, golden days of fall. Sometimes I struggle to live in the moment in other areas of my life because of the anticipation of something. I have to remember that God is in control, and that “to everything there is a season.”

Are you going through a particularly difficult season right now? God is there for you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Talk Show Thursday: A Day in the Life...

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Hello! Ruth Brown here. Main character in Linda's trilogy about me during my days as a War Correspondent. She's asked me to share a bit about my initial reactions to London. I landed here in 1942 when I followed clues about my sister's disappearance.

First of all, it was a LOT different than anything I ever experienced. I was born and raised in a village on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. London is estimated to have had nearly nine million inhabitants in 1939. My tiny hometown has never had more than twenty five hundred citizens. The number of buildings, people, trains, cars and trucks (despite gas rationing-or petrol as the Brits called it) was overwhelming.

I don't have a good sense of direction, so the lack of signage created a big challenge. There was grave concern the Germans could cross the Channel and invade at anytime, so street signs were removed to prevent them from finding their way around the country. I got lost on a regular basis!

Because of all the damage caused during the Blitz, many of the Tube stations were out of commission. Schedules were hit and miss because of continuing air raids. The buses were the best way to go, but were often so crowded you had to wait for the next one. I put a lot of miles on my shoes. Good thing I brought two pair of sturdy oxfords with me, since replacements were tough to find and used a lot of ration points.
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What impressed me the most was the citizens' ability to carry on during the war.
Shortages of food and supplies, and the constant uncertainty was wearing. Yet, they soldiered on-going to work, managing their families and their gardens, with their ever-present gas mask at their side.

I'll never be the same having lived side by side with these courageous people.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Battle of Darwin

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Battle of Britain. Battle of Midway. Battle of the Bulge. I've heard of those. Haven't you?

Battle of Darwin. What?

Despite all my reading about WWII and its various campaigns, I never heard of the Battle of Darwin. I stumbled upon it while researching where to write about for Traveling Tuesdays. I was curious as to whether Australian soil was involved in any of the WWII skirmishes.

As it turns out, the continent of Australia was quite involved, primarily due to the its strategic location as a refueling station. The country suffered nearly 100 air raids by the Japanese, and both Japanese and German submarines operated in Australian waters during most of the war. According to one report I found, a small Japanese reconnaissance party briefly landing in Western Australia during January 1944.

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The Battle of Darwin occurred on February 19, 1942, and was the first and largest single attack made by a foreign power on Australia. Damage to the airfields and the harbor impacted the ability of the military to support war efforts in Java and the Philippines. Twenty seven allied ships and thirty aircraft were destroyed, and several hundred people were injured or killed.

The air raids caused considerable damage to essential services including water and electricity. The attack at Darwin has often been compared to the one at Pearl Harbor. It was similar in that it was an aerial attack, and came as a great surprise. It was different in that Australia and Japan were at war, and the loss of life was not as heavy as at Pearl Harbor. 
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I found conflicting reports about the government's response to the attack. Some said there were “cover ups,” and the government downplayed the damage in an effort to keep up morale. Other reports indicated the newspapers of the day included quotes from the Prime Minister saying: “Damage to property was considerable, but reports so far to hand do not give precise particulars about the loss of life. The Government regards the attacks as most grave, and makes it quite clear that a severe blow has been struck on Australian soil.”

Were you aware of this battle? Of Australia's part in the war? More on the brave citizens and Anzac soldiers to come.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Forensic Friday: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

In my early college days, I aspired to be a medical technologist. Dr. Pinkerton’s Organic Chemistry class, and the thought of spending hours on end squinting into the eye piece of a microscope sent me running across campus to the Psychology department where I happily stayed until I received my bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

Having said that, I find the forensics aspect of crime solving absolutely fascinating. So much so, that I follow forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray on Facebook and own her two Great Courses on forensics. Not to mention several forensic textbooks. After reading them I no longer look at my hair and clothes the same way.

During the investigation of a crime, hair and fiber are collected at varying points throughout the process, but most notably at the scene of the crime and at the autopsy stage. This can be for the purposes of eliminating individuals from police enquiries as well as to help narrow down the list of suspects. These samples are collected through meticulous and painstaking processes, which are carried out by Crime Scene Investigators who themselves are dressed in protective clothing so that their own clothing and hair do not contaminate any evidence which may pre-exist.

The fibers are then taken back to a lab to be analyzed. It is a time consuming job, and doesn’t happen as quickly as shown on television, but has been crucial in solving many high profile cases including the Lindbergh kidnapping in 1936. Science has come a long way since then, but sometimes it is still the simple details of a single fiber that clinches a conviction.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wartime Wednesday: Carrot and Potato Mash

Meat was at a premium during World War II, and even when available was strictly rationed. People began to get creative in their search for inexpensive, filling meals. Potatoes were popular because they were plentiful, cheap and substantial.

Here is a simple recipe that can be made quickly and easily:

Carrot and Potato Mash
  • 2 medium/large potatoes per person
  • 1 medium/large carrot per person
  • 1/2 ounce butter or margarine per person
  • salt and pepper to taste
The original recipe called for boiling the potatoes and carrots. Much of the flavor leeches into the water that is drained away before mashing, so I recommend cooking them in the microwave.

Chop potatoes into small pieces and cook.
Grate carrots and cook.
Combine and add butter or margarine and mash.
Add salt and pepper and mash to till potatoes are smooth.

Leftovers are very yummy when formed into pancakes and fried.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Mystery Mondays: Meet author Charlotte MacLeod

A Canadian native, Charlotte MacLeod moved to New England with her family in 1923 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1951. She attended the Art Institute in Boston, and upon graduation became a copy editor for Stop and Shop Supermarkets. Several years later, she went to work for advertising company H.L. Miller and Company from which she retired in 1982. She moved to Maine in 1985 and remained there until her death in 2005.

Like most writers, Charlotte started her fiction career at night and on weekends. Highly successful, she published over thirty “cozy” mysteries both in the U.S and Canada (where she wrote until the name Alisa Craig). The Corpse in Oozark Pond was awarded a Nero Wolfe award and was nominated for an Edgar. She also won five American Mystery awards. Active in the world of fiction, she was co-founder and past president of the American Crime Writers League.

I was totally unfamiliar with Charlotte MacLeod until I searched the internet for a list of women mystery writers from the 1930s and 1940s. Despite not fitting the "search string" Charlotte showed up on the list. Described as a “lady” and apparently never out without wearing a hat and white gloves, Charlotte often said she so enjoyed writing her books that she would continue even if nobody read them. In 1994 she said, "I always loved to write. I love words. I can get ecstatic over a semicolon."

You’ve got to read a writer like that, don’t you?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Forensic Friday: What do Mining, Fireflies and CSI have in Common?

Crime scene investigation is predicated on the theory that no crime can be committed without leaving some sort of evidence behind. Even the tiniest trace. That’s where the chemical Luminol comes in. When mixed with an appropriate oxidizing agent, Luminol exhibits a soft, blue glow. This reaction is known as chemiluminescence, and it’s the same phenomenon that makes fireflies glow.

In crime solving situations, the oxidizing agent is the iron found in
hemoglobin (blood). During testing, the room is darkened, and the CSI technician sprays the chemical evenly across the suspected area. If blood is present, whether fresh or dried, the area will glow for about thirty seconds, and the effect can be documented by a long-exposure photograph. The intensity of the glow does not indicate the original amount present, but indicates only the distribution of trace amounts of substance left behind. Most people don’t realize that tiny particles of blood will cling to most surfaces for years.

Other substances do cause Luminol to glow, so additional tests are required for verification of the results. And because the chemical reaction can destroy other evidence, Luminol may be used only after pursuing other investigative options. It is not used as readily as shown on many television programs.

I was surprised to discover the chemical was originally designed in the 1920s for the German copper mining industry to reveal new sources of ore. It was not until 1937 that German forensic scientist Walter Specht made extensive studies of applying Luminol to crime scenes. Further study was done in 1939 in San Francisco that helped convince law enforcement officers of Luminol’s importance as a crime solving tool.

What other industries have contributed to crime solving?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wartime Wednesday: Put Out That Light!

“I stood on the footway of Hungerford bridge across the Thames watching the lights of London go out. The whole great town was lit up like a fairyland, in a dazzle into the sky then one by one, as a switch was pulled, each area went dark, the dazzle becoming a patchwork of lights being snuffed out here and there until a last one remained, and it too went out. What was left us was more than just a wartime blackout, it was a fearful portent of what war was to be. We had not thought that we would have to fight in darkness, or that light would be our enemy.”
So said Daily Herald journalist Mea Allan 1939 when she witnessed Britain's blackout on September 1st, two days before the outbreak of WWII.
Total darkness overtook the country. The Blackout was absolute, down to the smallest glow of a cigarette. Breaking the blackout brought fines and jail time. Without the aid of lights, nighttime became confusing, frightening, and even dangerous. The number of car accidents spiked, and pedestrians bumped into each other as well as street lamps, telephone booths, and mailboxes. They also fell off curbs into the street or off bridges into rivers or ponds. Sometimes they drowned. Sales of walking sticks, flashlights and batteries shot up.
The British government ensured there was enough Blackout material for everyone-even the poorest folks. By all reports, hanging the material was difficult and time consuming. Many of the window frames were stone or metal, so it was not a simple matter of pinning the material to a wooden frame.
The Blackout was “policed” by the more than 300,000 citizens who volunteered to be trained as Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Wardens. They patrolled the streets, and notified homeowners of any light seepage. It was not uncommon to hear a knock on the door followed by a shout of “Put out that light!”
I live in a small village in New Hampshire where we choose darkness. It is not mandated such as was London’s Blackout. And we have a few streetlamps, just enough to light our way. What a difference that makes. Recently we lost power for several hours. It was a moonless night, and the town was pitch black. We couldn’t see the garage that sits fifty feet from the house, let alone anything down the street. It gave me a bit more understanding of the hardships of the British during the war.
What memories do you have of a dark night or blackout?


Monday, August 3, 2015

Patricia Wentworth: A Life of Mystery

In Mussoorie, India, located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Patricia Wentworth was born Dora Amy Elles in 1878-a year during which Thomas Edison made electricity available for household use, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” premiered in London, and the first attempt at motion pictures was made. Her father, Lt. General Sir Edmond Roche Elles, sent Dora and her two brothers back to London for schooling. After graduation, she returned to India where she met and married Colonel George Dillon in 1906. Unfortunately he died soon thereafter leaving her with a daughter and three stepsons.
What I find fascinating is that in order for Dora to provide for her family, she moved back to England and established a successful writing career. Her first novel, A Marriage Under Terror, was published in 1910 and awarded the Melrose Prize which came with a purse of $400-a significant amount of money in those days.
An author of seventy mystery novels, she led a private life about which little is known. That makes me wonder about “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. Why did she think she could earn a living as an author? Did she already have contacts in the publishing world? Did she live with family until her books sold? As many yet-to-be published authors will tell you, nowadays the road to publication can be a long one.
In 1920, Dora married for a second time, again to an Army officer, Lt. George Oliver Turnbull, who by all indications was a strong supporter of her career. She continued to write and publish mystery stories, thirty two of which featured Miss Maud Silver about which Dora wrote: “Miss Silver who knits her way through one mystery after another and flavours detection with moral maxims is quite unlike anyone else in this field and has become a favourite.”

I must say I agree.

Have you read any Patricia Wentworth stories? What do you think?