Knox Box of Miscellany

Dawn Knox – A rearranger of words into something hopefully meaningful…

24th June 2020
by Dawnknox

Desert Islands I Have Known – Part 2

Desert Island Maldives
Desert Island Maldives

Desert Islands I Have Known – Part 2
Have you ever dreamed of being castaway on a desert island? Perhaps at this time of pandemic with all its accompanying restrictions, for many, the idea of such solitude would be quite alarming. It would certainly be the ultimate lockdown.

In my last post I wrote about a desert island on which I’d been castaway for several hours in the middle of the Red Sea. You can read about it here.

That particular island was memorable not because of its lush, tropical vegetation and pristine beaches but because it was the complete opposite – barren and featureless. But once I’d started thinking about desert islands, I remembered another one I’d visited in the Maldives.

Again, my husband and I were on a diving boat and strictly speaking, I wasn’t exactly cast away because a group of us were escorted to an uninhabited island by the dive guide, Chris. But this island lived up to my expectations, with its beaches and waving palm trees. What I hadn’t expected to find, was the reason why Chris took us there.

On each diving trip, he stopped off on the island with a group of that week’s divers and two black plastic rubbish sacks and he carried out a litter pick along one of the beaches. And each week, sadly, he filled two sacks easily. There was no more room to store rubbish on the dive boat and therefore he couldn’t take more than two sacks per week although that meant a lot of the rubbish on the beach was left behind. But each time he visited, unfortunately, more debris had been washed up to litter the sand.

Rubbish found on desert island
Rubbish found on the beach of a desert island

As you might expect, there were remnants of fisherman’s nets and line and other marine paraphernalia as well as assorted flip-flops but there were also more surprising items such as an old television and a fluorescent tube. If you want to see more photos of that litter pick, you can see them here.

It was so sad to see what had been washed up on the tide line and to know that if Chris hadn’t been so conscientious, what should have been pristine beaches, would have been rubbish tips.

So, this desert island memory was bitter sweet with the beauty of nature and the diligence of Chris, alongside the obvious contempt of some people towards the environment.

And as my mind moved on, I wondered what it would really be like to be washed up on a desert island and have to wait to be rescued. With BBC Radio 4’s programme Desert Island Discs in mind, I wondered what luxury item I would want with me. And that, of course, led to me wondering which book and songs I’d want to accompany me but that’s a topic for another post…

20th June 2020
by Dawnknox

Desert Islands I Have Known Part 1…

Island in the Red Sea
Desert Island in the Red Sea

Desert Islands I Have Known Part 1

Isn’t it amazing how thoughts can wander, starting in one place and ending up somewhere completely different? I was thinking about desert islands yesterday – not because I was going stir-crazy and wanted a change of scenery – I was actually quite content where I was – but because I spotted a weed. I was actually in my garden, where, during lockdown I’ve been taking my exercise each morning. It’s been such a pleasure to look at the plants every day and to watch them as the flowers open and then gradually fade. And of course, it’s helping me to keep fit as well!

But yesterday, I spotted a weed where a weed shouldn’t have been – in a tiny gap between the path and the wall and I marvelled at its tenacity and cheek before yanking it out of its stronghold! Isn’t it strange that whatever weed-proofing methods you use there is always one hardy specimen which manages to push through the tiniest crack into the sunlight? It was that single weed which reminded me of the time I was cast away on one particular deserted shore.

But it wasn’t the usual sort of desert island with dazzling white beaches fringed with beautiful palms, – it was more like a barren piece of rock which jutted out of the Red Sea.

Desert Island in the Red Sea
Desert Island in the Red Sea

When I say ‘cast away’, that’s definitely an overstatement because I was only there on my own for a few hours before I was rescued. Oh, okay, you’ve got me again – I was picked up as arranged, not exactly ‘rescued’!

It was about ten years ago and my husband and I were on a liveaboard boat with other divers in the Red Sea and one afternoon while they were all diving, the crew dropped me off on the desert island.

When someone suggested that I go to my own island for a few hours, I was rather excited but it wasn’t quite what I’d expected because other than the two structures which you can see in the photos and one seabird which might or might not be an Osprey, (I’m not very good at identifying birds), there was nothing else there. And when I say ‘nothing’, there really was nothing there. It was astonishingly barren and stark with not one tree, bush, blade of grass or even one of those ubiquitous weeds which usually manage to grow everywhere else. And that’s why the wayward weed in my garden prompted me to remember the time when I simply couldn’t believe that not one single seedling was sprouting.

I wandered around the shore and meandered over the hills, then spent the rest of my time taking photographs of the bird of prey. As I walked around its perch trying to take photos from different angles, it eyed me warily or perhaps hungrily and I wondered if I was too large to be considered prey and how desperate it was for a meal, until the crew brought the others who’d finished their dive to join me on my arid island so they could explore. Then, there were safety in numbers! There are some more photos here, if you’d like to see.

Bird of Prey, possibly and Osprey, the only inhabitant of the Desert Island

And as my mind is in the habit of doing during my lockdown walks, it wandered to another desert island on which I’ve been cast away, but I’ll post about that another day.

Have you ever been cast away on a desert island? Can you identify my bird? Why no let me know!

15th May 2020
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on Last Survivors – Uncover the Truth

Last Survivors – Uncover the Truth

If during this lockdown period, you’d like to do something different one evening (or any other time of day, of course!), why not try the Last Survivors – Uncover the Truth online experience. Check out the trailer on YouTube, here to find out more.

The Last Survivors
The Last Survivors – Online Experience

You can read more about the experience and book your session on the Last Survivors website here. Here’s some information from the site:
Can you Uncover The Truth? From the creative team behind The Last Survivors comes our first online experience. You will help an agent from the I.R.F (an agency dedicated to bringing down corrupt private companies) explore the underground bunker and testing facility of the C.I.D.C.
The immersive experience will have you solving puzzles and communicating with the agent through audio and video footage through an online interface. The experience should take around an hour to complete. The entire event is set inside a real Government Nuclear Bunker with everything shot on location.
You will need to use a laptop for the best experience. This can be played with Zoom Screen Share.

Once you’ve paid the fee (it’s half price at the time of publishing this post) you’ll receive an email with a unique code and directions to get to The C.I.D.C website. Your game begins there!

We played our session as a family and I wondered if we’d perhaps get stuck and not be able to move on but there were plenty of clues and it isn’t time-limited like the escape rooms I’ve been to, so we had time to make a cuppa and get back to helping the agent out!

It’s a brilliant way of passing an evening with plenty of excitement and problem-solving but not so difficult that it’s completely baffling and frustrating. I’d give it five out of five for creativity and ingenuity! Definitely worth a play!

8th May 2020
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on Video Conferencing with Zoom, FaceTime, Jitsi…

Video Conferencing with Zoom, FaceTime, Jitsi…

Video Conferencing with Zoom, FaceTime, Jitsi, Messenger, Skype and more…

Video conferencing in action with my virtual background.
My Zoom Virtual Background

During the COVID-19 pandemic, those of us who live in countries which have imposed a lockdown, may have been cut off from family and friends. If this has happened to you and you’re a natural loner, it may not worry you as much as it would those who are more gregarious. But, however much you enjoy your own company, it’s always lovely to see the faces of family and friends and those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to the Internet will probably have been making good use of the various video conferencing services such as Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Messenger and Jitsi – to name but a few.

Although I’d used FaceTime, Skype and Messenger before the outbreak of the virus, I must admit I’d not used Zoom or Jitsi before. But since the lockdown, I’ve used all of them to link up with different friends.

My most unusual video meeting was via Jitsi, when I was asked to join a book club meeting in Kapolei, Hawaii a short while ago. The members had been reading my book ‘THE BASILWADE CHRONICLES’ and I was invited to answer questions about the stories and characters. Fortunately for me, they met at 9am local time which was 8pm for me, so I didn’t have to get up during the night to take part. It was very interesting to hear the suggestions for another book, based on some of the characters and if you’ve read ‘THE BASILWADE CHRONICLES’, you may remember Hettie Forbes-Snell, the vicar’s sister. It was suggested I might explain what happened to her. As a result of linking up with the Hawaiian Book Club, I was invited to join, so for the foreseeable future, while we are locked down, I hope to meet with them via video conferencing each month.

If you want to read more about ‘THE BASILWADE CHRONICLES’, you can see it here on Amazon or on my books page, here

I also now regularly link up with members of a Face Book group for pocket novelists each week as well as my school friends and various family members and friends who I don’t often see.

My favourite platform is Zoom because I like to change the virtual background to something new and I have loaded a photo taken in the desert as well as one in a Roman bath at Pompeii. The photo above shows the front cover of ‘THE BASILWADE CHRONICLES’, painted by Neill C. Woods.

Have you just discovered video conferencing? Which is your favourite? Why not let me know. And if you’re new to it, you can find out more information here:

Zoom Video Tutorials
FaceTime Tutorials
Skype Getting Started
Jitsi FAQs

20th March 2020
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on A Magnet Book for Readers and Writers

A Magnet Book for Readers and Writers

Magnetism - a magnet book of short stories
‘Magnetism’ – A Collection of Short Stories

A Magnet Book for Readers and Writers – And it’s free!

Not a book about magnetism, but a magnet book to show what the authors of Chapeltown and Bridge House Publishing can do. It is a collection of short stories written by some of Publisher, Gill James’, regular authors such as Allison Symes, Paula R C Readman, Gail Aldwin, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, Jim Bates, Hannah Retallick to name but a few. Oh, and I have a story in there too!

It has been edited and compiled by Gill James to be given away free to anyone who subscribes to her Books Books Books mailing list which you can find by clicking here. The list goes out every Friday with offers on Gill’s back list as well as introductions to new books.

Several months ago, Gill asked her authors to submit a story which they thought best represented their style of writing to give readers an idea of the sort of stories they might find in any of the Chapeltown or Bridge House books. In addition, it also illustrates the house style, to writers who are interested in submitting a piece of writing to Gill.

The story which I submitted to be included in the Magnet Book is ‘Timothy and Pandora’s Box’ which appeared in the 2018 anthology, ‘Crackers’. It can be found here in Kindle and paperback on Amazon. It’s written in a similar style to the stories in ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’. You can read about how that book came into being here which you might find interesting if you intend to submit a story to Gill for publication. if you’d like to buy a copy of ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ you’ll find it here on Amazon.

You won’t find the magnet book ‘Magnetism’ on sale anywhere, it’s simply available for download free when you subscribe to Gill’s mailing list, so why not hop over to the form which you can find here.

And once you’ve read it, why not let me know what you think!

8th March 2020
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on ‘Touched by Two Wars’ – A Historical Romance

‘Touched by Two Wars’ – A Historical Romance

‘Touched by Two Wars’ – A Historical Romance

Touched by Two Wars - A historical romance
Touched by Two Wars

When I started writing the historical romance, ‘Welcome to Plotlands’, I only intended to write a short story to submit to a magazine. The Plotlands at Dunton in Essex and its history had fascinated me for many years and I wanted to try my hand at a romance set in that area, in the 1930s. I soon realised that ‘Welcome to Plotlands was not going to be a short story because I was having too much fun with the main character, Joanna Marshall!

By the time I’d finished, the story was long enough to submit to My Weekly Pocket Novels which I did and to my surprise and delight, it was accepted by editor, Maggie Swinburne. The Pocket Novel came out in May 2017 and was available for two weeks, after which, the rights reverted to me and on the recommendation of a fellow author, Roberta Grieve, I submitted to Ulverscroft Publishing, who accepted it and published as a large print paperback.

Welcome to Plotlands book cover
Welcome to Plotlands

I’d enjoyed writing about my character, Joanna, so much, I followed that with another story involving her and the Plotlands, entitled ‘A Touch of the Exotic’ which you can read about here.

A Touch of the Exotic book cover
A Touch of the Exotic

And that led to yet another romance that involves Joanna and is set in both Northern France and the Plotlands. It’s entitled ‘Touched by Two Wars’ which has just come out as a large print paperback, published by Ulverscroft Publishing.

Here’s what the blurb says: France, 1914: Isabelle and her mother are pleased to take in British soldiers as they pass through the countryside on their way to the front. But Isabelle’s attempt to comfort a distressed soldier leaves her with an illegitimate yet dearly beloved daughter, Madeleine. As Isabelle and her own mother struggle with the upkeep of Chateau Bellevais, another soldier, James, comes into her life – and out again. During the ensuing chaos of yet another war, Isabelle flees to England. Is it possible that she and James could find each other once more?

It’s now available on Amazon as a large print paperback which you can find here. Or why not support your local library and borrow it from there? You’ll find all three books amongst the large print romance books.

And if you read them, please leave a review on Amazon, thanks!

3rd March 2020
by Dawnknox

What’s Afoot in London?

What’s Afoot in London?
It doesn’t matter how many times I go to London and visit the same places, I always see something I’ve never noticed before and I learn something new.

pair of discarded shoes
What’s afoot here?

Today was no different. I went to the area known as EC3 with my sister-in-law – and revisited many of the places I’ve been to before. We started by looking at St Botolph’s Hall which was originally an infants school, with its two stone figures of a schoolboy and girl in early nineteenth century costumes. It was shortly after that I spotted the stiletto shoes which someone had either lost or discarded. A strange sight in a churchyard.

We stopped at St Dunstan’s in the East, the church which I’ve visited before and you can see some photos here. The church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The only part of his design that still exists today is the tower. The remainder of the church was built in 1817 but it was destroyed by enemy action in 1941. However, rather than flattening what was left and building something else on the site, a garden was created in and around the walls which gets busy at midday as office workers eat their lunch in this peaceful haven.

Model posing
Model posing in St Dunstan’s in the East

There was obviously a modelling photoshoot going on with a scantily-clad lad who shuffled into position wearing towelling slippers which didn’t really go with his outfit. However, he soon slipped them off and very gamely posed barefoot. As it was very early March, the ground must have been freezing but he ignored the cold and did his best to tie himself in knots as the photographer requested.

Next, we made our way to St Margaret Pattens where, on previous visits, I’d seen a display of pattens (a type of undershoe consisting of a wooden sole fitted with leather straps and mounted on a large metal ring to raise the wearer above the mud and detritus which littered the roads.) However, when we arrived at the church, the glass case was empty and the exhibits had all been placed in boxes. Luckily, the beadle of the Pattenmakers Guild passed by and offered to get a few examples out of storage for us to see. The first ones he showed us had once belonged to a child.

Child's pattens for wearing over shoes
A child’s pattens
Child's pattens for wearing over shoes
A child’s pattens

As the beadle pointed out, it was probably very difficult for a child to balance on those metal rings whilst walking on cobbles.

The next pattens he showed us belonged to a woman and a very small child.

Woman's and child's pattens for wearing over shoes
Woman’s patten with a tiny child’s patten on the top

If you want to know more about pattens and their history, click here to go to the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers’ website

So, what’s afoot in London? Well, apparently, all sorts of things, if you know where to look!

25th February 2020
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on Leap Day 2020

Leap Day 2020

Leap Day 2020
What are you going to do with your extra day this year? I must admit, I’d never really thought about it before. For me, 29th February has always been just another day. But as I get older, I find I’m valuing time a great deal more than I used to. After all, I don’t have so much of it left. And I’ve come to realise an extra day every four years should be savoured.

So what will I do? Well, I’ll have a look through my new writing prompts book and see if anything tickles my fancy, then I’ll write a ‘Leap Story’. The book was compiled by Gill James and the suggestions are from many of the authors who regularly write for her. I have a few writing prompts in there too and I was surprised to see fellow author, Allison Symes, having used one to come up with a story which was published on the CafeLit site here. I’d forgotten I’d submitted that particular prompt!

If you would like to check out the book of prompts, click here for the Kindle version

Writing Prompts 2020

Here’s the description:
There are 366 writing prompts here – one for each day of the year in 2020. Some are short and pithy, others are inspired by obscure days e.g. 16 February Do a Grouch a Favour Day, and some go into more detail on an aspect of writing craft. There are series that go over a number of days, e.g. creative writing in other languages, working with postcards, writing for children and writing historical fiction. A few prompts are about works in progress and several give you the choice of working with a text you have already created, creating something new or even editing a completed piece of work. There are also invitations to read. But every prompt gives you the opportunity to write something as well. 

These prompts were put together by writers published by the Bridge House, CafeLit and Chapeltown imprints, and their friends. 
Happy writing in 2020!

So, if you fancy doing something different on Leap Day 2020, why not write a story and if you’re lacking inspiration, buy the book and you’ll have ideas for the rest of the year!

6th December 2019
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on The Basilwade Chronicles

The Basilwade Chronicles

cover art for The Basilwade Chronicles
The Basilwade Chronicles

The Basilwade Chronicles – Several years ago, I wrote a short story to read out at the Basildon Writers’ Group which meets each month. My story involved a socially inept, rather tactless man called Derek Carruthers who decided to go speed dating. At that event, he met a woman called Mary Wilson whose mother had insisted she try speed dating to find a husband. Mary wasn’t keen but went to keep the peace. Unfortunately, Derek and Mary didn’t exactly hit it off!

I enjoyed the two characters so much, I wrote another story about them and since I’d introduced a next door neighbour, Florrie Fanshawe, my third story, was about her and her Knit and Natter Club. Each month I took at least one character from the previous story and wrote them a new tale until the final chapter which you can see from the cover art involved a wedding – but not Derek Carruthers and Mary Wilson’s!

Gill James of CafeLit, Bridge House and Chapeltown Books published one story per month, concluding with ‘The Perfect Wedding’ on her CafeLit site. Links to the previous stories appear at the end. Eventually, once I’d finished, Gill agreed to publish the collection as a Kindle version and a paperback – THE BASILWADE CHRONICLES was born! As I write this, it’s only available as a Kindle book which you can see here on UK Amazon and US Amazon but the paperback will be available shortly.

The artwork was created by artist Neill C Woods, who read the manuscript and superbly interpreted many of the characters who appeared in the stories. I approached Neill to find out if he would be interested after seeing the cover art of ‘The Oui Trip’ written by another member of the Basildon Writers’ Group, David O’Neill which I thought was fantastic. Happily, Neill agreed to work on my story.

If you’re interesting in seeing my other books, you can see here or go to my author’s page on Amazon, here

15th November 2019
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair
The Empty Chair – a gift from Heiligenhaus to Basildon.

Several people have asked me after my last post which you can see here, what was the significance of the large, wooden chair which was positioned in front of the stage during the performance of ‘The Other Side of Peace’.

Although I’ve referred to this as ‘the’ Empty Chair, it is in fact one of three which have been carved by the head forester of Heiligenhaus, Hannes Johannsen. In 2018, one of the Empty Chairs was taken to Lochnagar Crater Ovillers-la Boisselle, between the town of Albert and the village of Pozières on the Somme, France. There was a ceremony at its installation which included the deputy mayors of Heiligenhaus and Meaux and the mayor of Basildon as well as members of the Forget Never Project, from all three towns.

The Empty Chair
Three languages explaining the Empty Chair

The following is the text on the sign at Lochnagar Crater which explains Hannes Johanssen’s original idea.

“The Empty Chair symbolises the void left in so many homes across the world following the immeasurable loss of life during the Great War. It is a poignant reminder to us of the countless lives lost and the suffering of those they left behind.

“The idea for the sculpture was conceived by Head Forester, Hannes Johannsen, from Heiligenhaus, Germany who carved it from the trunk of an oak which fell during a storm in 2016. The tree would have been 20 years old at the start of the war and since it stood close to the road which led to the railway station, many young men would have travelled past it on their way to war – and home again if they returned.

“The Empty Chair is part of the Heritage Lottery-funded Forget Never Project which is a joint initiative between twin towns in England, France and Germany. The chair is located here at the Lochnagar Crater with the kind permission of Richard Dunning MBE.”

Each year, the Forget Never Project will clean and maintain the installation of the Empty Chair and gather around it to remember. In 2019, the date of the ceremony is Sunday November 17 and if you’re anywhere near, why not drop by and see it for yourself and meet some of our team?

Lochnagar Crater was created by a large mine placed beneath the German front lines on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, it was one of 19 mines that were placed beneath the German lines from the British section of the Somme front, to assist the infantry advance at the start of the battle.

The British named the mine after ‘Lochnagar Street’, a British trench where the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers dug a shaft down about 90 feet deep into the chalk; then excavated some 300 yards towards the German lines to place 60,000 lbs (27 tons) of ammonal explosive in two large adjacent underground chambers 60 feet apart. Its aim was to destroy a formidable strongpoint called ‘Schwaben Höhe’ (Swabian Heights) in the German front line, south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département. (Information taken from the Lochnagar Crater website which you can see here)

The second Empty Chair was installed in the Musée de la Grande Guerre in Meaux in 2018 and the chair which was photographed above, in front of the stage in the Aula Immanuel-Kant-Gymnasium, Heiligenhaus, during the performance of ‘The Other Side of Peace’, was a gift from the people of Heiligenhaus to the people of Basildon.