Knox Box of Miscellany

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

15th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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Tell Me A Story…

140607Dad2

“Tell me a story about when you were young, Daddy.”

When I was very young, I loved to hear about my dad’s childhood and teenage years in the East End of London. I’d sit on his lap while he told me about his schooldays, describing Stepney and other parts of London, bringing them to life. He didn’t come from a wealthy family but by working hard and persevering, he built up a successful electrical contracting business with his twin brother.

One thing’s for sure, he provided everything I needed to follow my dreams. And I don’t just mean material things. He and Mum taught me by example to value people and be a responsible, caring human being.

I hope I never let you both down.

You are very precious to me, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

14th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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Another Day… Another Monk

Agnes Monk - lady chimney sweep with her family around her

Agnes Monk – lady chimney sweep with her family around her

Well, believe it or not, I’ve found another monk who is connected to St. Nicholas Church – Agnes Emily Monk, who is buried in the churchyard.

And what’s her claim to fame? Well, she was a lady chimney sweep. And I’m guessing there haven’t been too many of those.

Agnes Emily Clulow was born in Bethnal Green, London in 1871. She went into service as a housemaid, married in 1894 and then married again in 1904, to John Thomas Monk.

A chimney sweep by trade, John Monk was conscripted in 1915, despite being blind in one eye and while he was away, Agnes took over the business, becoming a lady chimney sweep.

Eventually, after she had been widowed, Agnes and her family moved to Laindon. A year later, in 1933, the family moved to a four-bedroomed bungalow in New Century Road and she died in 1952 at the age of 83 not 80 as shown on her head stone which can still be seen in the churchyard.

This is one bit of family history I really like:

On the 15th November 1940 at approximately 1.30pm, a Messerschmitt on a bombing raid was shot down after combat with a Hurricane of the 605 Squadron. The aircraft crashed 300 yards west of Black Bush corner, Horndon on the Hill. The pilot Otto Jaros baled out, landing on a shed in the back garden of a house called ‘San Joy’ in Worthing Road, one street away from New Century Road. An irate ex-East Londoner was “Goin’ to carve his bleedin’ guts out,”  but Agnes stepped in pushing the woman away, until the police arrived, saying that he was only doing his job and he had a Mum worrying about him.

It doesn’t look like she let anything stand in her way.

Go Agnes Monk!

(Thanks Ken Porter for the photo and info)

13th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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The Mysterious Grey Monk

church at nightHaving mentioned the Grey Monk yesterday, it reminded me of something that happened at St. Nicholas Church, at Halloween about nine years ago.

There is a legend that if you go round the church three times at midnight, the Grey Monk will appear. Who the Grey Monk is, I’m not sure and no one else seems to know either (although if you know different, please let tell me!). I’ve no idea, why he would want to appear when someone goes round the church three times or what he’s likely to do once he’s materialised, but that didn’t get in the way of me making some details up for ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’!

I can’t remember anyone mentioning him during the last few years, so perhaps he’s faded from memory. But during the Halloween I referred to above, the legend was still alive. A group of us gathered in the church to make sure that nothing untoward took place in the grounds and to have a bit of a get together. Suddenly, there was quite a commotion outside the church and as the door flew open, a very flustered member of our congregation rushed in, looking very shaken. Apparently, he’d been walking up the stairs to the church in the fog that had enveloped the whole hill, when he’d seen some teenage girls in the graveyard. When they saw him, they started screaming about the Grey Monk and fled.

We could see at once, why the girls had been so afraid. Our friend, a rather tall chap, was wearing a grey duffel coat, with the hood up and as he materialised out of the mist, he must have looked as though he’d stepped out of another time!

If you’d like to find out the story I made up about the Grey Monk, you will be able to find it here Or if you fancy checking out the legend, please mind your step, it’s very dark up there at midnight and the ground is very uneven!

12th June 2014
by Dawnknox
12 Comments

A Talented Charlie

Daffodil and the Thin Place 333x500

I must admit, the part of the book-publishing process I was most looking forward to, (beside the finished book, of course) was seeing the cover art. Muse It Up Publishing assigned the cover artist, Charlie Volnek, to me and after filling in a form with details about the main character, setting, era and other relevant information, I waited with bated breath.

And I wasn’t disappointed! The only change I requested was that the monk’s habit was changed from the usual brown to grey to reflect the fact that he is known in the book as the ‘Grey Monk’. But other than that, I was thrilled. It really seemed to bring the whole book to life. I particularly liked the way she used a photo of St. Nicholas Church, giving it a hint of realism.

I looked up Charlie’s website and found some other fantastic cover art. Why not check out some of her designs here ?

And she’s an author too! How clever is that!

Daffodil and the Thin Place can be found here

11th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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The Oscars (Dogs, not Academy Awards)

Oscar Plummer

Oscar Plummer

Does anyone have a dog named ‘Rover’? Or ‘Rex’?

They seem to be dog’s names that have gone out of fashion and the most popular name for dogs now, seems to be ‘Oscar’ if the number of friends who have ‘Oscars’ (dogs, not Academy Awards) is anything to go by. In fact, I even know someone with a cat named ‘Oscar’.

So, I did a search on Google to find out exactly where the name ‘Oscar’, came in the top dog names list and it came… nowhere.

I couldn’t believe it. Apparently, the most popular name is ‘Max’. But I don’t know anyone with a dog called Max.

Interestingly, ‘Rex’ came in at number 54 although ‘Rover’ didn’t make an appearance. The name ‘Bear’ was number 19, which surprised me. Imagine saying to someone, “Hi, here’s my dog, Bear.” That could cause confusion.

So, I’m calling for a recount and I bet once the numbers are added, ‘Oscar’ will be up there at the top.

Please let me know if you know of a dog named ‘Oscar’… or ‘Bear’.

While I was looking for ‘Oscar’, I looked for the name ‘Nelson’ and that wasn’t there either. Why ‘Nelson’? Well, there’s a dog in ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’ and I called him Nelson – for a good reason. If you want to know why, you can find out here soon

10th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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The Sovereignty Trials

What would you do if you were king and you knew your eldest son and heir was unfit to rule after you? And what about if his two brothers were just as useless? You might devise the ‘Sovereignty Trials’…

The following story was written in response to a pictorial prompt from my writers’ club, which showed a blue, scaly egg in a decorative, leather box with a clasp. The only rules were that it should have fewer than 2,000 words.

If you have any views on the story, why not let me know? Hope you enjoy it…

The Sovereignty Trials

By

Dawn Knox

Word Count = 1,985

“Such a comely wench,” said Prince Jeffrit, glancing back longingly over his shoulder.

“Yes, Sire, she is indeed comely, but now, we really need to hasten. The king will be furious if we’re late.” And with that, Benjamo slapped the flanks of the prince’s horse.

“I’ll be back, my lovely,” shouted Jeffrit, “wait for me!”

Benjamo urged his horse on before the prince spotted any other ‘comely wenches’ and decided to stop. They were due at King Willial’s court in two days, ready for the Sovereignty Trials but with only a few more miles to go there was still plenty of time for Jeffrit to become distracted. Especially if the female population of Jeffrit’s principality in Northlandaria, were conspicuous during the journey. Benjamo could do nothing about random wenches but he had a plan for the next test of his ingenuity, the Bold Pig Inn.

The king demanded punctuality and Benjamo was determined the prince would arrive on time. Jeffrit’s future depended on it and so therefore, did Benjamo’s and he was determined to leave nothing to chance. His mother had arranged for him to go into service in the prince’s house and Benjamo was not going to let her down.

Benjamo arrived shortly before the prince and his retinue, by which time, he’d alerted the innkeeper that the royal company would be lodging overnight, bribed him to hide all females except his wife and also ordered roast hog with all the trimmings.

All he had to do now, was to keep Jeffrit away from the ladies and hope that by the time he’d eaten his fill and drunk the strong mead the inn offered, he’d be ready for bed – on his own.

***

Jeffrit, the youngest son of King Willial had come of age last month and was therefore eligible to take the crown of Northlandaria, when Willial died.

Normally, the eldest son, Prince Rodner, would be heir to the throne with Prince Timothod second in line. As the youngest, Jeffrit’s chances of ever ruling were slim. But knowing his sons well, Willial recognised that the gluttonous Rodner, the avid hunter, Timothod and the lascivious Jeffrit were completely unsuitable candidates for his throne.

He’d therefore devised a new method of selection, the Sovereignty Trials, a series of tests designed to determine the most able prince. Surely eventually, one of his sons would take the prospect of ruling seriously and demonstrate this, by passing all the tests.

But he doubted it.

And if none of the princes passed the tests before he died, then it wouldn’t be his fault if there was no heir. No, he wouldn’t go down in history as having made the decision to leave the kingdom to a fool.

King Willial sat long into the night, with his head in his hands, awaiting his sons.

***

Meanwhile, a mere ten miles away in the Bold Pig Inn, Jeffrit was safely tucked up in bed.

Everything had gone according to plan. The innkeeper’s wife had done a fine job of serving the meal. True, her body odour took the breath away and it rapidly became clear she was incapable of speaking without sending a fine – and sometimes not so fine – spray of saliva over the food. But she’d brought dish after dish, which for the most part was edible and despite several trips to the privy, Jeffrit was unable to find any other female company. He’d retired early and was soon snoring loudly.

To Benjamo’s relief, they arrived at the king’s palace in plenty of time. Timothod, however, almost missed the first test as he’d taken a detour to hunt a rather splendid stag.

Benjamo delivered the multiple choice test parchment to Jeffrit’s apartment, as instructed, and upturned the hourglass as soon as the prince turned the parchment over. Then he busied himself tidying the apartment.

There was a small heap of sand still waiting to trickle through the hourglass when Benjamo enquired how the sighing prince was getting on.

“I can’t answer any of these,” wailed Jeffrit, “Look, number one, what is the area of the capital of Northlandaria? How would I know?”

“Well, you’ve only got two choices, A or B,” said Benjamo, “A is about the size of a small village and B is much larger…”

“A?” suggested Jeffrit.

“Umm…” said Benjamo looking pained.

“B?” said Jeffrit doubtfully.

“Tick the box,” said Benjamo decisively before Jeffrit could get confused. “Now, what answer have you got for number two?” he asked, looking at the parchment.

“A?” asked Jeffrit.

“Umm…”

“B?”

“Tick the box,” said Benjamo.

The last grain of sand was mid air when the king’s emissary knocked for the completed test parchment.

Other tests followed. During the wrestling, the hefty Rodner’s technique of collapsing on his opponent and burying him under pounds of quivering flesh proved to be a shrewd strategy, winding Timothod and almost killing wiry Jeffrit. Despite his crushed ribs, Timothod was triumphant in the hunt while Jeffrit’s epic poem impressed all the royal advisors – although it turned out he needn’t have put so much effort into it as his brothers both failed to produce even a rhyming couplet.

After all the scores were added together, the princes were equal and the success of the Sovereignty Trials would rest on the final test the following day.

Benjamo roused Jeffrit early the next morning and escorted him to the king’s dragon house.

Willial and his dragon master were waiting, and for once, all three princes appeared on time.

“The egg, please, Master Trubshaw,” said the king.

The dragon master, wearing protective leather clothes, opened the door to the dragon house and disappeared inside. Flames shot out of the door and after a short scuffle, Master Trubshaw appeared, steaming gently and clutching a small, leather, tooled box, which he handed to the king.

Willial flipped the clasp with his thumb and opened the box, revealing a large, blue egg.

“It’s an egg! I win!” shouted Rodner.

Willial shook his head. “We all know it’s an egg…” he said witheringly “What I want to know, is what’s inside the egg. There is a riddle to help you.”

He handed each prince a parchment scroll. “You have three hours and in the meantime, just in case any of you think you might take a peek…Don’t!” He snapped the lid shut, swivelled the clasp into place and handed it back to the still-steaming Master Trubshaw, who sighed deeply and limped back into the dragon house.

Back in his quarters, Jeffrit read the parchment.

He read it again.

Unusually, bearing in mind his short attention span, he read it once more.

“Dragon,” he finally said.

“You think there’s a dragon in there?” asked Benjamo.

“Well not a full grown one, of course. Probably a baby dragon. It’s obvious. The dragon master brought it out of the dragon house and dragons lay eggs.”

“But they don’t lay them in leather boxes. And anyway, dragon’s eggs are never blue.”

“Well, it fits the clues on the parchment,” said Jeffrit defensively and handed it to Benjamo, who read,

“I will reveal the greatest threat,

This noble kingdom ‘ere has met,

Look no further than this place,

If you wish to see its face.

Princes, three, avert your eyes,

To avoid our kingdom’s sad demise.”

“See,” said Jeffrit, “’the greatest threat to the kingdom’, wild dragons are a threat. Then it says to look in the egg to see its face so it’s something that’s got a face – like a dragon. And then it says Rodner, Timothod and I have to look away to avoid the demise of the kingdom. I’m not quite sure what that’s got to do with dragons but I’m sure it must…”

“With the greatest respect, I don’t think so, Sire…”

“That Master Benjamo, is why you are a servant whereas I am a prince…”

Everybody in the palace gathered in the Great Hall to find out who, if anyone, would be named the king’s heir or if they’d all be gathering for Sovereignty Trials the following year.

Willial sat on his throne at one end of the raised dais, facing the three princes. Rodner’s royal bottom overspilled the velvet-covered chair and he mopped his sweaty brow. As the eldest, he was dreading losing to a younger brother. Fiercely competitive Timothod was also desperate to win. Jeffrit’s gaze alighted on the incomparable Lady Alizia. He blew her a kiss.

Willial stood up, the leather box in his hands.

“Prince Rodner’s answer is ‘dragon’.” Rodner bit his nail nervously. “What led you to that conclusion?” the king asked.

Taking this as a favourable sign, Rodner smiled, “Well, it was found in the dragon house…”

The king turned to Timothod

“Prince Timothod’s answer is ‘large chick’. What pray, was your reasoning?”

“It obviously wasn’t a dragon because their eggs aren’t blue…”

“What part of the riddle led you to believe it was a bird?” asked the king.

“Riddle?” asked Timothod.

The king sighed and shook his head sadly.

Finally, he turned to Jeffrit and cleared his throat to attract the prince’s attention away from Lady Alizia.

“Prince Jeffrit’s answer is…correct although it was rather hard to read.”

Jeffrit looked triumphantly at Benjamo.

“The answer is, of course, ‘a mirror’. And as Prince Jeffrit has worked out the answer, he is my heir.”

Willial opened the box, removed the blue egg and with a twist, pulled the two halves apart, revealing a small mirror.

It was hard to say if the audience appreciated the solution to the riddle and were laughing at the princes’ expense or if they were genuinely pleased Jeffrit had been selected, but in the uproar that ensued, Jeffrit’s protests that his answer hadn’t been ‘mirror’, which in his opinion, made no sense at all, went unheard.

“I give you, Prince Jeffrit, the heir to Northlandaria,” said Willial, beckoning his baffled son and embracing him, “Let the carousing begin…”

 ***

Three days later, Benjamo was summoned to the king’s chamber. Convinced the king had discovered he’d crossed out ‘dragon’ and had replaced Jeffrit’s answer with ‘mirror’, he rehearsed what he’d say to his mother when he was dishonourably discharged from the prince’s service. She’d always protected him and taken the place of the father he’d never had. But even she wouldn’t be able to get him reinstated after this. He nervously fingered the half coin she’d given him, which hung on a chain round his neck.

“And how is your mother, Master Benjamo?” asked Willial.

Was this some kind of magic? How did the king know Benjamo was thinking of his mother?

“’Tis many years since I’ve see her,” the king continued, “I trust she is well?”

Benjamo nodded, afraid to speak.

“But I didn’t summon you here to discuss your mother. I’d like to ask you whether you think Jeffrit is fit to rule the kingdom.”

Benjamo’s jaw dropped. What kind of a question was that? Not one he could truthfully answer, that was for sure.

“I can see by your hesitation you are a loyal servant, Master Benjamo, and also, one who is perceptive. I have watched you closely and I know that when Jeffrit is devoting his time to the fairer sex, as I have no doubt he will, you will be at the helm, taking care of the prince’s duties, which in time, of course, will be ruling the kingdom.”

“Your Majesty, I wouldn’t presume…”

“But you must presume, Master Benjamo. I need a son to rule my kingdom but sadly none of my three legitimate sons is suitable.”

King Willial withdrew a half coin from his doublet and held it up, allowing it to spin on the end of its chain.

Benjamo gasped. “The other half of your coin belonged to your father,” his mother had said as she’d given it to him.

Willial tucked the coin away in his pocket.

“I think we understand each other, my son,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

9th June 2014
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on Hmm, Let Me Think…

Hmm, Let Me Think…

Monkey thinking

One of the things I’m often asked is where do I get the inspiration for my stories. Often, I can’t remember – it could be a random thought, an overheard conversation or something that makes me ask ‘What if something hadn’t happened like that?’.

For ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place,’ there are lots of things that prompted me to put the story together, such as learning the concept of ‘thin places’ and finding out the history of St. Nicholas Church. But something I do remember, is a visit to an elderly relative.

The maiden aunt was convinced her next door neighbour was eavesdropping through the wall and urged us all to speak quietly in case our conversation was overheard. Of course we all obliged, not wanting to upset the aunt but when my stomach started rumbling, I began to wonder if the next door neighbour could hear it. An absurd notion but it started to amuse me. I wondered if the neighbour could hear the grumbles, what did she think my stomach was saying? And then I began to ask myself whether my stomach actually ever said anything. Which led to, do stomachs hold conversations and if so, what do they chat about?

I’m none the wiser but it did give me the opening to the book! Find out more here

8th June 2014
by Dawnknox
Comments Off on A Tribute to All Teachers, Everywhere

A Tribute to All Teachers, Everywhere

4S Mrs Sillis

My class at Beal Grammar School for Girls, Ley Street, Ilford, Essex. Not a photo of Miss Joynes! 4S with Mrs Sillis.

At this time of year, students in the UK are nervously sitting exams. It’s a worrying time of year for their teachers too, who spend most of the academic year getting to know their students and trying to provide them with everything they need develop into well informed, independent-thinking, model citizens. And that’s a pretty tall order! Now all the teaching and support staff can do, is to watch and wait, with fingers crossed. But despite the odds, so many teachers seem to perform miracles and I wonder if sometimes, in the flurry to leave school after exams and relax over the summer, students don’t always acknowledge their teachers’ efforts during the previous months.

I’ve worked with many fine teachers and support staff and I would like to take this opportunity to salute them and many others who have had a positive influence on young minds.

And after writing about Mr. Hornsby, the last school master of the St. Nicholas Church School, here, I began to think of my  own school days. Coincidentally, I have just joined a Facebook group of people who grew up in Ilford, Essex and the surrounding areas in the 1960s and 1970s, which prompted me to search for some old school photos, (see above) and to remember my teachers.

And then, the topic for the Sunday Musings blog on the Muse It Up Publishing website, was… drum  roll… Your Favourite Teacher.

So, my thoughts have been very much with school and teachers for a few days.

In fact, I don’t think I had a favourite teacher but the one I probably remember most (other than a really scary maths teacher) was my English mistress, Miss Joynes, who later became Mrs. Hasler, when she married my Physics master. If you fancy reading what I wrote about her and what the other Musers wrote about their teachers, you can find it here

7th June 2014
by Dawnknox
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My Own Normandy Invasion

war cemetery

Crosses as far as the eye can see at the war cemetery in Nomandy

US jeep

From left to right, Georges, Me, Claudine with Antoinette in front and Rose in the abandoned US military jeep in the farmyard

When I was fourteen years old, I went on a French exchange. Antoinette, the girl I was paired with,  lived on a farm in a small hamlet in Normandy, called Ste. Croix sur Mer. I had a wonderful time in France and got on very well with Antoinette, her sister, Claudine and their parents. In fact, we repeated the exchange for several years and I am still in contact with them.

One of the places they took me, was the war cemetery at Arromanches. Of course, I’d heard of the D-Day Landings but my knowledge of the events was sketchy to say the least and I was completely overwhelmed by the rows of pristine, white crosses. It made a big impression on the dizzy fourteen-year old me.

The other thing I remember was the US military jeep that was used on the farm as a run around car. I even remember Antoinette allowing me to drive it on the fields, going up and down the ruts – it wasn’t allowed on the roads and especially, not in the hands of a fourteen-year old!

It wasn’t until I went back to visit the family with my husband, son and parents about twenty years ago that I realised what a large part the family had played in the D-Day Landings. Apparently, there was a temporary air strip set up on their land and I understand that the celebrated British ace “Johnnie” Johnson, who served with the RCAF 144th Wing landed there.

I wish I’d known more about the war and what happened in Normandy when I was staying there. I wish I’d been able to appreciate the history and to have recognised the landmarks and understood the significance of the farm or even to have spoken to Antoinette’s father about his experiences of occupied and liberated Normandy.

I hope to go back one day to visit Antoinette’s family again and to find out more.

I wonder if they still have the jeep?

 

6th June 2014
by Dawnknox
3 Comments

Utmost Respect and Gratitude to Those Who Served…

One of the Military Graves in St. Nicholas Churchyard

One of the Military Graves in St. Nicholas Churchyard

June 6th 1944 D-Day

Who can fail to be moved by the heroism and bravery of those who took part in the D-Day landings, seventy years ago today?

The words ‘heroism’ and ‘bravery’ don’t even begin to do justice to the troops who landed on the Normandy beaches and liberated northern France  – or to those who died in the attempt.

How can mere words even begin the thank and honour all those who were involved in such an amazing endeavour?

How can you fully describe the determination and sacrifice or convey the terror and desperation of the battles or even the elation of victory?

The truth lives only in the memories of those veterans who were there and will continue to do so until they join the comrades, whose faces are forever young in their thoughts.

The only tribute I can offer everyone who was involved – from conception to liberation – is to REMEMBER, in the hope that men and women are never called on again to lay down their lives to win freedom, justice and peace from oppressors.

I WILL REMEMBER.

Will you?