We take for granted every breath
Forget the gifts of life and death
The love that’s given every day
In changing sky of scudding grey
The rain which washes all things new
And sudden shafts of sun and blue
A buzzard’s sweep and mewling cry
The darting squirrels scrambling high
A neighbour’s greeting warms the heart
With carrot cake and lemon tart
The fact that shopping comes to me
Convenient delivery.
A time for books, to read, to write
To phone those friends now out of sight
A time to help grandkids on Zoom
Encourage those who feel it’s doom
Around the corner, when in fact
Our world does need us all to act,
Go slow, don’t fly, or drive or cruise
Just for a time. We’ve much to lose
Unless we make our earthly deeds
The Valentine our planet needs.

Well, that was worth it for the prize. Even if there were only six applicants.

A new treat for Jane Austen fans

Like many others I re-read Jane Austen often. Recently I read Persuasion again but found it rather annoying! However, for those who love Pride and Prejudice there is a treat in store. Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourn’ is written from the POV of the Bennett’s servants and there are brilliant surprises as well as some delicious writing.

The Road to Russia.

The Second World War Arctic Convoys

In World War 2, Roosevelt and Churchill desperately needed to prevent Russia from allying with Germany. If it did so, they knew the western allies would lose the war.

In return for Russia’s alliance with the West, Stalin demanded vast amounts of food and arms for his starving and ill-equipped people. Germany and its allies blocked the land routes, so the only way to get supplies to Russia was by sea. And the only ports available were within the Arctic Circle, Murmansk and Archangel—with all of Hitler’s sea and air power poised to prevent them from reaching Russia.

So how did Britain and the US get supplies to Russia?

Merchant ships gathered in a deep-water anchorage in the west of Scotland called Loch Ewe. Protected by escorts of heavily armed British warships they joined up with American and other allies merchant ships in Iceland, and headed, nervously, towards Russia’s only two northern open water ports.

On the way, the Luftwaffe, based in occupied Norway, would bomb the ships from the air, U Boat submarines lurking beneath the waves of the White Sea would attack with torpedoes and their fast and mighty warships could outgun the Western allies.

We think these days that communication is so simple! Hard to remember that there was no internet, no satellites, and radar was a new technology. Radio silence was kept, to obscure the convoy’s position. Ship to ship communication was by visual signal only.

The weather was a worse enemy. In summer there was 24-hour daylight—enemy aircraft, ships and submarines worked round the clock too. Summer convoys became so dangerous they had to be discontinued. In winter there was 24-hour darkness, the sea froze and the ice sheet grew rapidly from north to south. This meant that convoys had to sail much further south and were then squeezed between the ice and the land mass to the south.  Much easier for the Germans to find and attack them.

Winter storms were indescribable. The winter water temperature often dropped to minus 2 degrees Celsius, air temperature down to minus 22 degrees Celsius, without taking wind into account. Waves were sometimes 40 to 50 feet high, visibility was nil in driving snow and spray, ships came near the vertical both going up and coming down the waves, they crashed and bounced and wallowed and capsized. Capsizing was one of the greatest dangers due to the weight of ice which accumulated above decks from the water flooding the superstructure of ships. Ice accumulated on guns, turrets and shells; masts, rigging, funnels, pipes and guard rails; on containers, aircraft, tanks and munitions stacked on decks, the decks themselves were like ice rinks, doors sealed themselves, ropes, anchors, fenders became as hard as iron and as immovable. Clothes were inadequate—no ski jackets or cold weather gear as we know it. Crews had to spend hours on deck, tossed about like dolls, chipping at the ice and throwing it overboard, just so that the ship would not turn turtle. Fuel and oil coagulated in the low temperatures. Unimaginable conditions. Unimaginably brave men.

The convoys drained the British war effort. Every escorting warship was a ship which could have been fighting elsewhere on the war frontChurchill became extremely unpopular for supplying Russia.

In total, 104 Allied merchant ships and 22 warships were sunk on the Arctic convoys. 829 merchant mariners and 1,944 navy personnel were killed. Killed by guns, torpedoes, sinking, drowning, fire, hypothermia, inhalation of oil and Russian hospitals.

What happened when ships arrived in Russia?

Both Archangel in the White Sea and Murmansk in the Kola Inlet were very basic fishing ports. Wooden quays, virtually no lifting gear, wooden sheds, no hotels or shops of any kind. The officials were deeply suspicious of the capitalists bringing ships and goods into their country.  These ports were so far from central government that orders seldom got to them. There was no infrastructure or telephones and in winter, they were totally isolated. Murmansk was very close to German airfields in Norway and many ships were bombed lying alongside. Ships companies were not allowed ashore—there was nothing to go ashore for! They were not allowed to use their own boats, even to visit their own ships. Russian guards were posted at every gangplank, bureaucracy was rampant and corrupt, and few Russians were able to speak English or to read or write.

Goods were mainly unloaded by hand by what appeared to be slave labour—serfs—and seldom found their way to the right destination, food supplies for the starving citizens often lying rotting on the quays. Tanks, guns, crated aircraft, munitions—no-one seemed to know who or where they were destined for, nor did anyone seem to care. Many sailors arrived with terrible injuries after German attacks, but the ‘hospital’ was so basic, with no hygiene, facilities or medications, that many died needlessly in ghastly conditions. Western medical supplies were turned away. Many of the RAF planes which should have been protecting Murmansk and attacking German airfields were grounded, but the spare parts brought on the convoys were not allowed to be delivered and were impounded or stolen along with vast amounts of vital war supplies. The bureaucracy surrounding every movement of every man and every ship, every container and every item transported was such that sometimes it took weeks or months to offload vital supplies for the Russian front line, trapping the escorts in port. Ships were prevented from refuelling or taking on water or food supplies, their crews virtually starving, despite bringing hundreds of tons of foodstuffs into the country. Stalin might have been an official ally, but for the Arctic convoys, Russia certainly didn’t behave like one.

The story of The Road to Russia and the sacrifice and bravery of those seamen remained almost unknown under The Official Secrets Act. Until 1999 there was no memorial, and no medal was awarded until 2013.

How to haemorrhage money by writing a book

The latest pierced artery is a block of ten ISBNs. But the comfort is that they cost a bit less than two ISBNs which would have been £89 each. Ouch. And if I had been persuaded to buy the matching Bar Codes, that would have been another £120.

As I have published only one novel and am about to publish the second with no original intention of writing a third, ten ISBNs seems rather excessive. The husband was unhelpful and said I’d just have to keep on tightening the tourniquet.

What with the cover design, three structural edits, line and copy edits and formatting, to name but a few of the deep financial wounds, it is a wonder that any author makes money at all.

I know, I know. All you have to do is sell your book.

A Web of Intrigue

It’s quite alarming how the World Wide Web Works. This interview was recently requested out of the blue, and more eerily was sent to an old email address and domain which hasn’t existed for over a year.  It arrived in my normal inbox. A kind of ouija, message from The Beyond.  The Other Side (of the Atlantic).

Interview With Author Charlotte Milne

Book Titles

I was reading John Doppler’s (Alliance of Independent Authors) post on book titles this morning and realised I had never checked whether Come In From The Cold had been used before. Happily not, as the book cover has been designed and paid for!
Then checked my next book’s title which I think is just PERFECT. ‘Colour Blind’ which is about a girl going blind from Retinal Dystrophy who smells in colour (Associative Synesthesia) and whose career and business is to do with colour. I was in a complete panic! However, that appears not have been used either, but I now feel I’d better get on with both books before someone else has the same idea.

Relevant History Guest Post

Blank white book w/pathMy second novel, Come In From The Cold, is on its way. Slowly. I am quite a fast writer  now (only 3 years on this one, compared with 25 years for Dolphin Days.)

It’s the editing that takes the time …… and the husband, of course.

On March 26, 2019, I featured on Suzanne Adair’s Relevant History Guest Post.  The posts are all about the interesting pieces of history that you were never taught in history class. So to read horrific things about the Arctic Convoys to Russia in World War 2, visit her blog (

Here is a little synopsis for ‘Come In From The Cold’,  which is set mainly in Wester Ross in Scotland. Those of you who know that we have a cottage here will understand how the local history has intrigued and motivated me to discover more.

During World War 2, John Elliott, an RNR officer on convoys to Russia from Scotland, is billeted on nineteen-year-old Mhairi. After his children die in a bombing raid, John is killed on convoy, leaving his wife pregnant. Mhairi is also pregnant, but by John or by the rape of dangerous and manipulative Archie? Mhairi is suspected, but not convicted, of Archie’s murder.

After the birth of her son, the condemnation of the community and her violent father’s return from war combine to drive her to a new life and loveless marriage.

In 2012, Annie Devereux, divorced and humiliated as a barren wife, retreats to Scotland to research John Elliott, her step-grandfather. Meeting David, a widowed father, and grandson of Mhairi, friendship and attraction develop as they search for answers, including the answer to a death seventy years previous.  Past and present secrets combine to threaten them both.

Unexpected interview

I was recently interviewed about how I write, and although I didn’t expect to be quoted, let alone have my comments published in full, it was.  How flattering is that, except that I am rather ashamed to admit to my chaotic writing habits.

You can see the interview here

But this is the result of my odd writing habits.

CharlotteMilne-72dpi-1500x2000 (4)


No-one believes me

Out of the corner of my eye I see a rapidly moving furry object loping down the lawn (not a lawn, a large area of sphagnum moss). I hurl the laptop over, followed by the file and a spray of loose chapter paper, ungum myself from pillows, sheet, blankets and eiderdown (duvets are another subject) grab the tablet, find Camera, wait for focus.

Pine marten has obviously gone long since.

I shriek for husband, rush to sitting room, and there in the far distance is a dark speck loping up the track, then turning sharp left into the heather to disappear on the moor. Again.

I know that no-one is going to believe that we have our very own pine marten with a regular morning commute across our peat bog unless he is captured on camera. Even the husband looks doubtful.

‘Are you sure it wasn’t a cat?’ he says.  As if there was a cat within twenty miles of remote bothy.

‘I’ve heard pine martens have a habit of coming down chimneys and wreaking havoc inside.’ I say. ‘Are you sure there’s a cowl on the chimney?’

I catch him later standing in the bog in the snow and inspecting the chimney.

The Compleat Works

My lovely book group is full of poets.  As we nestle down in the pub, taking up large amounts of space and taking in large amounts of alcohol, I am aware that writing novels is not conducive to sharing production on a monthly basis, unlike those poets who wrote an entire oeuvre this morning.  And those oeuvres are sad, or hilarious, or clever or just plain dotty, but they are complete.

‘Where was I?’ I say, having lost the post-it note which said ‘Read (past, not present, tense) to book group up to here’. There is then a confused babble of inaccurate memory, and I am truly embarrassed at having to recap my love story to those who were not there last month, and to the ones who weren’t there two months ago.  Anyway, I can only read at most one quarter of a chapter if I am not to hog the time which must be divided between eleven aspiring scribblers.  Yes, poetry is the way forward.

I think I never did blog that my one and only oeuvre was published in December.  I’m supposed to market this thing, so it’s called


How many more sales will that bring me?  By the way, friends and family, thank you for buying or downloading. And thank you, thank you for reviewing. And thank you, thank you, thank you for 4 stars not 5.  5 stars for a debut novel? They can only be from faithful kind friends or family.