Thursday, 30 December 2021

Alma Mahler


Alma Mahler – The Very Same Sadness Draft 001

Alma Mahler was very well known in her day. Her father was Emil Schindler the famous Viennese artist; and Alma Mahler's first husband was the well known composer and opera director Gustav Mahler. Alma Mahler's life was made up of highs and lows, interesting people, adventures, and stories of all different shades. And, I discovered the following anecdote whilst reading Alma Mahler's autobiography.

It was July 1919. Alma Mahler and Franz Werfel were at the Prater, Vienna's famous funfair. And, Alma Mahler had been there before with her friend, the Austrian artist Oskar Kokoshka. And, they had seen something uncanny. An attraction with a very sad aura.

On this unhappy stand were life sized mobile puppets. And, all with miserable cynical looks on their faces. And, these mobile puppets were moving from left to right, right to left. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast. Stopping and starting. Unpredictable. And, winning a prize wasn't easy. With only 3 wooden balls, one had to knock off the hats of the puppets. 3 hard wooden balls and lots of impossible fun. Not many prizes were won.

It was, however, the owner's son who had caught Alma Mahler's attention. Waiting until it was safe to do so, this little boy would run around collecting the balls between the still moving puppets. And, this little boy, just like the puppets, was not happy at all.

And, the sight of this little working boy touched the feelings of Oskar Kokoshka. He was moved. And, Oskar Kokoshka would not have been surprised if this little boy were to grow up to murder and kill. Violence day after day was this little boy's fate.

And now, all these years later, Alma Mahler and Franz Werfel were looking for this very same stand. They asked for directions. They were told to follow the crowd. Everyone else was going there, too. Something had happened. Something to see.

Alma Mahler was shocked. She couldn't believe it. The little boy who had since become a young man was being taken away. Arrested. He had just killed his father. One hit on the back of the head with a hoe. The father's death had been instant. And, Alma Mahler caught a glimpse of the young man's expression. The very same sadness she and Oskar Kokoshka had seen years before.

Alma Mahler thought of Oskar Kokoshka. He had known. But, how had he known? Alma Mahler said nothing for the rest of the evening.

Alma Mahler was born in Vienna in 1879. She died in New York in 1964.

Alma Mahler – The Very Same Sadness

Monday, 20 December 2021

A Top Secret Christmas Pulli


The idea arrived just as summer was ending. It was brilliant. A pullover. Brigitte would knit a pullover for Hannes. A happy Christmas pulli just fit for her husband. And so, with just over 3 months till Christmas, this top secret pulli began to take shape.

And, keeping this secret a secret was no problem at all. This pulli for Hannes became a lunch time and coffee break project. An office production. And, it worked. Brigitte finished her knitting 10 days before Christmas. Perfect. All that was left was the wrapping it up in fine Christmas paper and the taking it home to put under the tree. And, taking it home was no problem at all. Brigitte had 4 hands not 2!

Every day after school, Kiara, Brigitte's daughter would come to the office. Then, just after 5, they would go home together. Mother and daughter. And, the day before Christmas was no different at all. That is to say, the shopping was all that was different. There was more.

And, there was more because it was Christmas. Brigitte had been Christmas shopping. All very last minute and all very heavy. And so, two heavy bags for Brigitte to carry and one light one for Kiara. Pullovers don't weigh very much and Kiara was still only 10.

Brigitte and Kiara were happy as they walked home from the station. Christmas had finally come. They talked about things that still had to be done. The tree, the decorations, the Christmas bakery, the presents, and so on and so on. And Hannes, of course, would be thrilled with his pulli. 

The pulli! 

Where was the pulli?

Kiara went white in the face. She felt sick. She was speechless. She could neither laugh nor could she cry. Kiara and her mother just stared at each other. The pulli was still on the train. 


There was nothing they could do.

Anger was out of the question. Things happen. Very quickly, Brigtte knitted a new mini version of Hannes's pulli and put it on the tree. The message was clear. Next year. And, Hannes was happy. He understood. And, Brigitte was happy that Hannes was happy, and Kiara was happy as well. And, together, they all had a very happy Christmas.

And, the pulli? It arrived the following Christmas as the label had promised. But, the pulli was not on its own. It arrived with a scarf. A scarf Kiara had knitted. All's well that ends well. 

A very happy Christmas to you!

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

The Alabama


The Alabama 

British companies did very good business during the American Civil War. They legally delivered arms to both sides. The North and the South. Shipping, however, was different. There were two kinds of ships. Armed and unarmed. And, British companies were allowed to deliver both armed and unarmed ships to the North, but, only unarmed ships to the Confederate States of the South. The rules were strictly controlled. However, rules were made to be broken. Where there's a will there's a way.

Ships for the Confederate South left Britain unarmed. Then, after being armed along the way in foreign ports, arrived fully armed in the South.

The North didn't like this. These fully armed ships were dangerous. And, the Alabama was one of these ships.

Whilst nearing completion in a Birkenhead ship yard in Britain, the Alabama caught the eye of US authorities. The US authorities claimed the Alabama had been more fitted out than allowed and asked the British government to impound the ship. But, it was Friday. The British government was closed until Monday. However, the representative of the confederate states, Mr. James Bulloch was working. He had spies in the British government and had discovered the plans to impound the Alabama. Mr. Bulloch went into action.

The next day, The Alabama left port for sea trials. On board were the mayor and mayoress of Birkenhead, members of the Birkenhead council, and a small group of VIPs. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best. This was a festive occasion. But, the sea trials were shorter than expected. The Alabama put into Holyhead, a port in North Wales not far from Birkenhead. There was no time to lose. The guests were hurriedly put ashore and the Alabama sped back out to sea. Then, after evading the USS Tuscarra which had been sent to intercept her, set course for mid Atlantic. The Alabama was fitted out with heavy guns on the Azores.

Then she sailed into war.

In the course of her action packed life, The Alabama captured and destroyed 10 Union ships in Mid-Atlantic. She sank the USS Hatteras in an amazingly brief 13 minute encounter. And, on a round the world jaunt, captured 84 merchant ships. The Alabama then met her match.

In a spectacular sea fight, the Alabama was defeated and sunk just off the French coast near Cherbourg. The captain and crew were rescued by cheering spectators. But, this story had an expensive end.

The damages caused by the Alabama were enormous. In the end, the British had to pay more than 15 million dollars in compensation. An enormous price for weekend closing. But, the Alabama was not the only British built ship to cause damage. 15 million dollars was a high price to pay, but, in the long term, British ship building made very much money.

It's all how you see it. In those days, ship building provided many good jobs and made very much money. British war ships, after all, were the best in the world.

The Alabama. A ship built in Britain. A ship with a story.

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Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Lisl Fischer - The Day of the Jackal


The Day of the Jackal

Having a garden is a wonderful thing. And, gardens are not only great for the spirit, they are spots of creation as well. Wonderful team work. Man and nature working together.

And,  Lisl Fischer has a wonderful garden in Vienna. A corner of heaven on earth. And, it is here that nature comes calling. Trees, plants, and beauty come in on the wind, and, nocturnal guests include foxes, bats, badgers, and cats, and many more, too. But, the strangest of all came early one morning.

It was just after six. A fine summer's morning. Lisl was out in her garden. All of a sudden, Lisl felt something behind her. A presence. Very, very slowly, Lisl turned round. A jackal. And, it was looking at her. The jackal, a wonderful animal with its spots and light yellow stripes. And, Lisl and the jackal just stared at each other. Mesmerized. Neither moved. And then, in a flash, the jackal was gone. Lisl was very relieved. She had been just a little bit scared.

But, from where had the jackal arrived? Lisl phoned up the zoo. No jackals had escaped. But, what they told her was interesting. Because of the climate change, Jackals were now spreading out across Europe. Lisl can expect more jackals in future!

But, the real mystery remains. How had the jackal found Lisl's garden? Lisl's garden is in one of the busiest corners of town. Between Lisl's and the hills are not only two busy roads, but a railway as well. The jackal had been lucky and Lisl had been lucky as well!

Lisl's day of the jackal. A beautiful guest if only for just a short while.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

The Green Children of Woolpit

Click here to listen to story on YouTube with full text

The Green Children of Woolpit

In 1142, two very strange children were discovered in the English village of Woolpit. They were brother and sister. The children had unusual clothes and spoke an unknown language. But, the strangest of all, they were green. Two green little children. A mystery. No one knew who they were, and no one knew from where they had come.

Then, after being given a home by Richard de Calne, the children quickly learned English. And, after some time, their green colour gradually faded. They had become like everyone else. But, sady, after an illness, the little boy died leaving his sister alone. It was then the girl told what she knew.

The children had come from St. Martin's. A land where the sun never shone and the light was like twilight and everything and everyone was green. But, how had they come to Woolpit? The little girl had no idea. The only thing she remembered was looking after her father's cattle in St. Martin's. Nothing more.

The girl became known as Agnes and later married. But, the mystery remained. St. Martins, her very strange language, and green, the colour of her skin.

A true story and a mystery that has never been solved. The Green Children of Woolpit.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

An Unknown Destination

An Unknown Destination

Sometimes, the wherever it is we are going is different from that we expected.  And, whilst reading  Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, I discovered the following anecdote.

Nicholas Nickleby was involved in an accident. He was on his way from London to Yorkshire. The coach upon which he was travelling overturned and Nicholas Nickleby was thrown into a snow drift. Everyone survived. Then, whilst waiting in an inn, one of the passengers told the following story.

Once upon-a-time, there lived a German Baron. Baron Koeldwethout. He was a very happy man. He spent most of time hunting, getting drunk, and generally having lots of good fun. But, one day, he started getting fed up.  His life had become very boring. And so, to cut a long story short, the Baron got married.

But, 12 years later his thinking had changed. The Baron was sorely missing his former life of revelry and drunkenness.  He had foolishly sacrificed everything upon the altar of domestic happiness. His wife was always miserable and totally domineering.  And, he had13  horrible children to keep and to feed, 

Things were bad.  His money was spent. He was  depressed. The only way out, he believed, was the bringing about of a premature end to his life. Suicide.  And, so, there he was all alone in his room. All he had was a bottle of wine, a final pipe, and a knife to kill himself.  But, he was not all alone. The ghost of suicide was waiting for him!

The ghost of suicide was a  miserable apparition in a hurry. Many others were waiting for him. The next one on the list was a young man with too much money!  The Baron burst into laughter. How could someone kill himself because of  too much money?  Totally absurd!  The baron started thinking!

Was where he was  going better than where he was now?   Without any doubt at all, the ghost of suicide was not a very happy ghost. Was everyone else the same? The Baron changed his mind. He got his life back in order and became happy again.  He died many years later.

And, what about Nicholas Nickleby? He resumed his journey and became an assistant in the school which belonged to the notorious alcoholic and child hater Mr. Newman Noggs.

But, if you want to find out more, you must read the book.  Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

All Singing the Same Song


Last night, a story stepped out from the back of my mind. It was all about one of those amusing little corners of life.  It took place a long time ago. This is what happened.

My son, Maxi was at primary school in Vienna. And the school was holding its number 1 party.   Its carnival party. And, the best part of this party was the talent competition. 32 kids had signed up to take part. The prizes were very, very good.

The hall was packed.  Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and other good friends. Everyone there was excited.  Which little darling would win?  Who would go home with first prize?

Little Susie was first on the stage. Her song was as good as expected.  She performed it well in a well practiced little school girl way. Then came little Martin, then sweet little  Sarah, then, Marlene of 4a, and so-on and so-on. .And all of them sang the very same song!  

With ten songs to go, the mood of the audience was beginning to wither.  Every song was  the same.  All very boring.  Then came Christine.  She had  something different to sing. A sigh of relief could be heard. The audience stopped being bored.

But the dawn was only short lived.  After Christina had finished, the show went on as before! The very same song.  Again and again and again.  When would it finish?

But, everything comes to an end.  Every sweet little child was given a book as a prize.  Not Christina.  Her prize was special.  She took home two books for being original.

All in all, the kids were all happy. They had taken their chance to show off and had all done it well, Only one had been different. Christina. And that’s what talent shows are.  Moments in life that are not only painful, but also very good fun.  Your own flesh and blood is always the best, the others have no chance at all.

A talent show that came out of the past.

Monday, 27 September 2021

A Miraculous Encounter

I heard the following story a long time ago. It's a story of miracle, luck, and good chance. And, it's a story that moved me. And, it's something I've never forgotten.

It was Vienna. The summer of 1973. I was having tea with the Clarks. I was a family friend. And, the Clarks had 4 very nice children. Nicola and Roger who were 18 and 19, and Emily and Peter who were twins. And, Emily and Peter were still very young. In fact, only 6. And, the story I heard was all about Emily and Peter.

The Clarks had recently come up from Africa. Noel Clark, the father, had worked there as foreign correspondent and was now doing the same in Vienna. And, the story took place whilst the Clarks lived in Africa.

An old friend of the Clarks had dropped in for tea. A doctor from London. He was in town for a conference. And, then came the sandwiches. But, there was one person missing. Little Emily. She was up in her room not feeling well. And, then, when the doctor asked how little Emily was, it was Peter, Emily's twin, who spoke.

Little Emily cries very much, she's tired all the time, she never wants to play, and, she never eats supper. And, there's one other thing, my sister looks kind of blue”. The doctor stopped eating. He was taken to Emily.

The very next morning, Emily and her mother were on the plane back to London. And, it was all thanks to Peter. In his innocent way he had accurately described the symptoms of Emily's condition. A hole in the heart. And, there at the airport in London and waiting for them was an ambulance. There wasn't much time. Speed was important.

The operation took place that very same night. It lasted more than 6 hours. And, 3 days later Emily woke up. She had come through.

And, 6 other little children were treated for the same thing that week. Only 2 survived. Emily and one other child. Emily had been very, very lucky. She'd had a Guardian Angel. And, Emily's Angel was Peter her twin. It was Peter's innocent words that had saved Emily's life.

A doctor on holiday, little Peter's innocent remarks, and a plane that was leaving. Good chance, good luck, and very good timing. All three at the very same time. A story I've never forgotten. And, I often wonder what happened to Emily. It was all a long time ago. The afternoon we had tea in Vienna.

Click here to listen with full text on YouTube

Sunday, 5 September 2021

The 49er


The 49er is a small café in Vienna.  It's where the 49 tram goes back into town. And, this little 49er has stories to tell.

Last week, Liselotte Konrad, a regular 49er, told me the following story.  

It had just gone 11 when the old lady walked in. She wasn't alone. Behind her and slow was her very old dog. Could she  leave her dog in the café. Just for a while. Only 10 minutes. The waiter agreed. The old lady left her very old dog in a corner. It soon fell asleep.

The discussion that started was hot. A hot as the day. The regulars had all reached the age of knowing much better than everyone else. The old lady shouldn't be trusted. It was her trick to get rid of the dog. The old lady would never come back. And, just look at it. Filthy dirty old dog. Never been washed. And, it stinks! Disgusting. And, so the discussion continued.

Ten minutes later the old lady returned. There was silence. Lots of red faces. The old lady took a seat by the window.  The waiter soon brought the old lady her order. Chocolate cake, whipped cream, and a coffee. The waiter  told the old lady  her dog had been perfect. No trouble at all. In fact, a very nice dog. No one disagreed. Everyone smiled. All very friendly. 

The old lady paid with a generous tip. She then walked out of the café, over the tracks, got on the tram, and went back to town.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

John Meredith

John Meredith used to like playing jokes. Most of his pranks were good. Others not so. And, some of John's practical jokes even made people angry.

It was late afternoon. The phone rang. It was Linda. John was surprised. He hadn't seen Rudy and Linda for a very long time. Rudi and Linda were having a dinner. Would John like to come and bring someone with him?

Sue was pleased when John phoned. Dinner at Rudi's and Linda's was something she liked. Rudi and Linda were hosts who were famous. They were the talk of Vienna.

John explained. The dinner was a fancy dress dinner. Topic, the French Revolution. Sue was excited. An original idea.

Sue worked hard on her costume. Maria Antoinette was her choice. Doreen, Sues best friend, helped with the dress. Hannes and Gordon, friends with a theatre, lent Sue a suitable wig. And, Mavis, another good friend, helped Sue with her makeup.

John and his Queen took a cab to the party.

Linda led John and Sue into the living-room. Pre-dinner drinks, nuts and crisps, meaningless small talk, gentle laughter. All of a sudden, there was silence. People stopped talking mid-sentence. Looks of surprise. Looks of amazement. Marie Antoinette had arrived. What a wow! Everyone else was boringly normally dressed. Sue whispered to John. She was going to kill him. This wasn't funny. And, nobody laughed at John's practical joke.

The evening wasn't so bad. Everyone knew everyone else. And, despite being very wrongly dressed, Sue had a nice time. John was well known for his pranks. Everyone knew him. But, this time, John had gone over the top. This wouldn't happen again. After the party, Sue went home on her own. She was very insulted and very, very angry with John.

John understood. He felt sorry,  and at the same time relieved. It could have been worse. Sue could have come as a nun, or even a clown. Sue didn't speak to John for a very long time.

This was John's first and last fancy-dress prank. He had got it all wrong in a very serious way. Now, of course, things are OK. It was a long time ago. In fact, many years. Now it is funny. Something to laugh at. But, things were never the same. Never again did Sue go out with John. A very bad joke almost ruined a good friendship.

John Meredith enjoyed playing jokes. Most were good. Others not so. And, some of John's practical jokes even made people angry. Sue had been too much for John. A very hard lesson in life. A lesson John never forgot.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

A Young Man in Vienna

I was young in Vienna and living in a very small flat. Only one room. And, living next door was Niki. A truly great friend. She had often been of great help. And, very soon, Niki was to help me again. Only, this time in a very unusual way.

I was having a party. It was my birthday. And, my very small flat was jammed full of partying friends. And, of course, Niki as well. And, the noise my party was making was enormous. We were rejoicing.

Then, just before midnight came a buzz. The intercom. The police. I let them in. My flat was on the very top floor and the police would need at least 3 or 4 minutes to make it up to my floor.

Niki went into action! Amazing. She very quickly ushered everyone next door to her flat. Then, when the out-of-breath policemen finally made it up to my floor, I was ready. 

I opened the door in my dressing gown. Behind me was silence and darkness. I faked one or two yawns for good measure and pleasantries were exchanged as was normal. And, apologising, the police then went on their way.  

10 minutes later the party came back. And, although we tried very hard, we couldn't keep a lid on our noise. In fact, we got louder and louder and merrier and merrier.  

Then, came the banging on my door. Very loud and very sudden. The police had come back again. Caught red-handed, we fell into silence. The message was simple. Very big trouble if they came back a third time. Even arrests. The party stopped dead in its tracks. Everyone left.  And, that was the end of the party. But, not the end of the story.  

Six weeks later the summons arrived. I duly appeared as was ordered.  The court found the whole thing amusing. However, being let off with a warning was out of the question. I had committed two very serious offences. Making fun of the police and disturbing the peace. The fine was enormous.   

Niki took over again. She started a whip round. The money came in. Then, after paying the fine, I took Niki for lunch. It was the best I could do. Without Niki, I could have been locked up for life or even deported. But, I wasn't. All's well that ended well. And, that really was the end of the story.

Young in Vienna. A true story. Written and read by Nigel A. JAMES

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Poly Salzer


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Poly Salzer

Horse jumping is a sport that is mastered by few. And, those who succeed are hard working and disciplined. And, Poly Salzer, a German young lady, was one of the best in the world.

Poly Salzer was born into a horse loving family. It was 1961. Her parents were riders and her sister as well. But, Poly wanted more. She wanted to jump. And, jumping demands horses that stand out from the rest. One cannot get far on an average old farm horse.

And, Poly spent a very long time on the lookout. She would recognize her horse when she saw it. She had the eye. Then came the moment.

Poly was on her way home. Cycling hard. A storm was approaching at speed. Poly didn't want to get wet. Not far to go. Then, all of a sudden, Polly had to put on her brakes. A horse box was blocking the road. Poly didn't believe what she saw.

A white foal was being led into the box. It was beautiful. It was just right. Where was it going? This unwanted and unneeded foal was going to its death. The slaughter house!

Luckily, Poly and the farmer had been in the same class together. Could anything be done? A price was quickly agreed. The foal was now Poly's. Then the clouds opened and down came the rain. Storm Cloud was the name Poly chose.

Storm Cloud and Poly won many great prizes. And, the best one of all was in Atlanta, 2002. An Olympic Gold. Two very proud winners. Poly and Storm Cloud.

Poly Salzer had a good eye for horses. And, one day in a storm, her horse walked into her life and not onto plates as was planned. Poly's eye was the eye in the storm, and, together, Storm Cloud and Poly rode into the future.

Monday, 9 August 2021

Beam Me Down to Riverside

Riverside is a very small town in Iowa in the USA. And, Riverside has something very unusual. An unusual statue. A statue of someone who hasn't been born.

In 2018, the mayor of Riverside unveiled a statue of Captain James Kirk, the commander of Star Ship Enterprise of the TV series Star Treck. Here is the twist. Captain James Kirk will be born on the 22nd of March, 2228. A very long time in the future.

The future of Riverside started more than 50 years ago. Star Trek was first broadcast on the 8th of September 1966. Written by Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek became one of the world's most popular TV series. And, now, many Trekies still watch the original series on TV. Star Trek is a universal cult with millions of followers. And, this is perfect for Riverside.

Since this statue of someone who hasn't even been born was unveiled, Riverside has become a mecca for Trekies. Each year, thousands visit this town. Riverside is booming. New hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Riverside looked to the future and went to where no man has been. To the future. And, they can beam themselves back when ever they want. The best of both worlds. Captain James Kirk is definately coming. This everyone knows. But, no one knows when he's leaving. Let's wait and see!

Riverside. The trek begins here.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

A Duchess and a President

It was a very cold night a long time ago. The Duchess of Devonshire was entering her thoughts in her diary. She and her husband were in Washington as Guests of the Kennedy family.

It was the 20th of January, 1961. The occasion -Jack Kennedy's inauguration.

The Duchess had had a very full day. The swearing in at the capitol, the march-past at the White House, and, the ball in the evening. A day of surprises, minor shocks, and a front seat glimpse of a different society.

The first surprise turned out to be a small shock for the Duchess. It was at the actual swearing in at the White House. The Duchess was very put out. Many people completely ignored the prayers, preferring, Instead, to move around taking photos.

But, what happened during the march-past at the White House was almost too much.

Just as an air force unit was stiffly marching past, one of the airmen broke rank, stepped out of line - took a snap of the President then fell back into line and carried on marching!

And, there was more, and, it came from the top.

While all this was happening, President Kennedy was drinking coffee and eating chocolate biscuits. The president was trying to keep warm!

But, the ball in the evening was very much different.

The Duchess was very impressed by everyone's willingness to speak to the press. Journalists – in those days in America - were very respected people.

But, there was still one more lasting impression to come. The whole occasion had been a melting of rank. Whoever you were, you were important. This wasn't so in the Duchess's Britain.

Then, the Duchess stopped writing and turned off the light. She'd had a very long day. She had been there at the making of history; she had discovered great differences.

Everyone was in with a chance. That was America.

A Duchess and a President. Some interesting differences.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Hedi Pröller - Where there's a hammer - there is a way!

Hedi Pröller

Action speaks louder than words, and when Hedi Pröller suggested a door through from the kitchen and into the dining room she was met with a wall of rejection. Her husband's reaction was not very nice. The door was no good idea and should be forgotten. There was the mess, the cost and the house might even fall down whilst knocking a hole through one of its walls. In other words, an idea that no body needed.

But, Hedi not only needed this door, she wanted it, too, and she was determined to get it. And, so without asking her husband, Hedi went out and ordered a blue folding door. Where there's a will there's a way, and ways are mostly a question of time! And, time came quicker than expected.

Hedi's husband had to leave town. Perfect. Hedi and her sister and three of their friends went into action. First came the hole, then came the plaster, and last of all came the door. And, it not only looked great, but worked perfectly, too. And, Hedi's life suddenly changed. Serving hot meals was no longer a chore, in fact, it became very good fun.

And, Hedi's husband? He came home as expected, and, to Hedi's surprise, he didn't even notice the new folding door! And, then, when 3 days later the penny finally dropped, Hedi Pröller's husband's reaction was not as expected. He actually liked the new folding door. Hedi Pröller, her husband agreed, had been right once again. And, to say sorry, he took her to Sacher's for dinner!

And, the mess and the cost? There was none. And, the house was still even standing! Where there's a will there's a way – or - as Hedi Pröller would say - where there's a hammer there will be a door! Action speaks louder than words.

Hedi Pröller, a woman of action who simply just did it and never took no for an answer. If you have a hammer, you'll have a door!

Hedi Pröller – a woman of spirit.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Hermina Diwald


Hermina Diwald was 13 years old at the end of the Second War. The fighting had stopped and people were heading for home. Living was beginning again. But, not so for Hermina Diwald and her family. Home had stopped being home. They were never to see Werschetz again. They were German. The Banat, where Werschetz was had become east. Hermine, her sister, and family, and many more Donau Schwaben as well were interned.

Camp life was hard. There was Illness, hunger, and hardship. Families were seperated. All part of the misery. There was, however, a choice. Stay put in internment and end up in Russia - probably dead. Or, take your chances and run! And, so it was that Hermine, her family, and others, as well, stepped out after dark through a hole in the fence into freedom. Their flight to the west was dangerous and hard. Being barked at by dogs. Being hungry and cold. A journey of permanent risk. Sleeping by day and walking by night. But, they arrived. Happily exhausted. Soon afterwards, Hermine and family found a new home in Vienna.

But people don’t run away from places, it is from people they flee! Home will always be home. And home needed keeping alive.

In Vienna, Hermine and others busily wrote and produced the Werschetzer Zeitung, a journal of essential reading for those who never left Werschetz in heart. But bitterness was never part of its content. The Werschetzer Zeitung was interesting, factual, and entertaining as well. Yesterday was past and the then was the present. Werschetz would always be Werschetz and the Werschetzer Zeitung was there to connect.

Sadly, Hermina Diwald passed away a few years ago. But, as long as was able, Hermine Diwald kept keeping people together. Writing's a gift. Hermina Diwald used it for good.

Hermina Diwald. A lady who stepped through a hole into freedom.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

The Church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs


Felsöörs in Hungary lies in the Balaton uplands to the north of Lake Balaton. And, Felsöörs has an interesting church. The Church of Mary Magdalena. And, this beautiful church is not only Hungary's second oldest church, it is also a Romanesque gem.

The Church of Mary Magdalena goes back more than 500 years. In its time, this church of great beauty and strength has survived periods of war, periods of light, very dark times, invasions and even one or two fires. And, the Church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs has an interesting story as well.

A secret tunnel used to run from the church to an airfield in a clearing nearby. And, from there, resistance fighters were flown out to safety by the British in the Second World War. A wonderful story. But, sadly, no traces remain of this life saving tunnel that really did have a light at its end.

And, the church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs in the Balaton uplands has more than just stories. It has wonderful murals as well. Wall paintings of ancient importance with feelings of mystery and comfort. Mary Magdalena's a church to feel good in. 500 years of beauty and peace. Romanesque beauty.

The Church of Mary Magdalene is easy to find. When you're next in the Balaton Uplands, stop off at Felsöörs and go into the church. It's well worth a visit. And, if you're lucky, you may even catch one of the many fine concerts that are put on in this church. Its acoustics are great.

The Church of Mary Magdalena in Felsöörs. A picturesque church with feelings of peace that are set in the feelings of ancient belief.

Felsöörs - a picturesque village in the Balaton uplands.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Paris Maderna

 Click here to listen to Paris Maderna

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In those days, Paris Maderna was a young inventor - or reinventor of things that had already been invented. He was a colourful character. And, when I got to know him, he was busy reinventing the bike. And, one of his ideas was not only brilliant, but rather unusual as well.

Paris Maderna's new bike looked more like a bed with three wheels than a bike. And, to ride it, one had to lie in it, not sit on it, and the pedals were up at the front and coupled to the front single wheel. And, riding it, Paris Maderna promised, was not only simple, but comfortable, too. And, I remember quite clearly the day that I saw it in action.

To begin with, Paris Maderna explained how it worked. To steer to the right, one had to lean to the right, and vice-versa for left. There was no other way. The bike had neither steering wheel nor handlebars and to stop, one had to simply stop pedalling. It was all very simple. And, then with a smile and a grin Paris Maderna lowered himself into his bike and got ready for action.

And soon, Paris Maderna and his bike were moving at speed. And then, at just the right distance from the fast approaching concrete wall, Paris Maderna leaned to the right. Nothing. The bike kept on going. Paris Maderna then leaned to the left. Again nothing. And then, with one last desperate effort, Paris Maderna leaned again to the right. And, the bike started turning. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. But, the wall had been quicker than Paris Maderna, and the sound of the crash told it all. All we could do was help Paris Maderna out of the wreckage and take him next door for a beer.

But, of course, Paris Maderna didn't give up and soon he was back on the road. This time with steering and brakes. And now, all these years later, his range of products is not only exciting, but varied as well. The new age of cycling is here, and the hard work and peddling has been done by Paris Maderna! Persistence pays off and Paris Maderna peddled to the top in a painfully colourful way.
Paris Maderna – a colourful person with a range of colourful products.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

A. J. Cronin - Never Give Up

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Click here to listen to A. J. Cronin with full text on YouTube

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 A. J. Cronin was one of Britain's most popular writers and his best known book was The Citadel. A story of medicine, poverty and riches. But, The Citadel nearly didn't happen at all. It was saved by a walk in the rain.

At the time, A. J. Cronin was 33 and working in London. He was a general practioner and worked very hard. His days began early and sometimes lasted all night. Burning the candle at both ends. But, despite his very heavy work load, A. J. Cronin always found time for studying and keeping up with medical developments. He was not only a popular doctor, he was dedicated, too. But, his private life was completely the opposite.

A. J. Cronin could never find himself. He was always looking for other things to do. A balance in life. A hobby. He was never short of ideas, but none ever worked. He simply lost interest and stopped. Being a doctor was all he could do. He worked harder and harder and longer and longer. But, was always too busy to see what was happening.

One morning, A. J. Cronin woke up with a terrible pain in his stomach. He tried to ignore it but it got worse. The next day, he called on a colleague to examine him. A.J. Cronin didn't like what he heard. He had an ulcer. He was seriously ill. His choice was simple. A dangerous operation or 6 months off doing nothing at all. A. J. Cronin went to the far north of Scotland.

The fresh sea air and going for walks did him good. His health began coming back. But, very, very slowly. He would need time. But, what else could he do except nothing? Then, whilst down on the beach, he had an idea. Something he'd always wanted to do. Write a good book. There was nothing to stop him. Now he had time. On his way home he stopped and bought pencils and paper. Then, after dinner, he sat down and started.

Writing a book wasn't easy. Until then, A.J. Cronin had only written prescriptions. But, he had an idea and knew his direction. So far so good. But, the words were the problem. They just wouldn't come. It took him two weeks to write 800 words. He persisted. A month later, he was writing a thousand each day. His book was coming on well. He was happy. Then, the inevitable happened.

All of a sudden, A. J. Cronin lost interest. He stopped writing. He was frustrated and angry. Angry for starting something so silly. A book that no one would read. He was sour. In a fit of white rage, he threw everything into the the bucket. In to the rubbish went his work. Never again would he do such a thing. Then, he went for a walk in the rain. He had to cool off. And, there, not far away and working his field was Angus.

A. J. Cronin and Angus had become very good friends. Angus immediately knew. Something was wrong. A. J. Cronin explained. But, Angus showed neither compassion nor understanding. Angus was angry. Very angry. How could A. J. Cronin simply give up! If everyone gave up, nothing would happen. Giving up for old Angus was simply no option. A. J. Cronin was a big disappointment. A. J. Cronin was stunned. He was ashamed. He turned and went home.

The first thing he did was rescue his work from the bucket. He sat down and continued his writing. Now, very intensively.  Angus's words had struck home. Three months later, A. J. Cronin found a publisher in the phone book and sent in his manuscript.

A. J. Cronin recovered completely and time quickly came to go back to London. He had got to know the entire village and was now saying goodbye. Suddenly, he heard his name being called. It was the postmistress. A telegram was waiting for him. It had just arrived from London.

A. J. Cronin was to contact his publisher as soon as he got back to London. He and Angus went out for a drink.

A. J. Cronin's book, The Citadel, sold more than three million copies. A huge success. It was translated into nineteen languages and filmed as well. A.J. Cronin had made it. He had won. He had beaten himself. And, all because of a walk in the rain and some very straight words from old Angus, a very good friend.

A. J. Cronin never gave up again. He went on to write many good books. Amongst them, Dr. Finlay's Casebook, and, The Stars looked Down. A. J. Cronin was born in Scotland in 1896, and died in Switzerland in 1981.

A. J. Cronin – A man who gave up giving up.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Edward Cave


There are many different kinds of magazines. Something for everyone. Everything from atoms to zoos. But, why are magazines called magazines?

In 1730, the French Canadian printer Edward Cave decided to produce a monthly printed sheet for men. A general interest sheet to contain short and interesting articles. His idea was good. But, what should he call it?

Edward Cave's first idea was 'A Store of General Information.' An idea based on the many general stores of his time that sold everything needed. This was a perfect description of his concept, but sounded far too clumsy. Something better was needed. 

Fortunately, Edward Cave spoke French. All he had to do was substitute the English word store for the French word magazine. Both meant the same. But, the French sounded better, and, it worked. 'A Store of General Information' became 'A Magazine of General Information.' And, the word magazine stuck and became international.

Edward Cave's magazine  became very popular. And, within just a short space of time, many others had followed. And now, 300 years on, magazines are just as important as ever. Magazines - not stores - are part of our lives.

Edward Cave had an idea. A store of brilliant ideas that became a magazine for men. Not only a clever idea with a very clever  name, but also a clever new word that became known all over the world. The word magazine. A cross between English and French.

Edward Cave and his magazine for men. Without French it would never have happened.

Edward Cave. A Canadian printer with a very good idea.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Ida Leo - Leaving Her Mark!

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Ida Leo was very, very busy when she retired. This fine Canadian lady was a very keen reader.  And, biographies were high on her list. People were very  good subjects.  And, Ida Leo was an interesting subject as well.  And, all for one very good reason.

It all began a long time ago.  It was a cold winter evening. Ida was in front of the fire and reading a very good book. Every page was exciting. Then the telephone rang.   A picture of her daughter made do as a bookmark,   

Then, after this very long phone call,  Ida Leo went back to her book. And, there, waiting for her was her daughter's wonderful smile.  Ida Leo went back in time and felt happy. Wonderful memories. Then she had an idea.

Soon, Ida Leo was turning old photos into bookmarks. The results were amazing.  There, Once again, were the people she knew and all were  smiling at her.  Ida stopped feeling alone.

Within a very short time, the rest of Ida's family were catching up on their pasts with bookmarks by Ida. And, it didn't stop there. Word quickly spread. Soon, Ida Leo was getting pictures through the post to turn into bookmarks. She was in business.  Old family snaps had found meaning again. They had come out of old boxes to where people could see them again.

And, Ida's long winter evenings? They were no longer long. Ida Leo had too much to do! Her bookmarks were now in everyone's books. There was no one in Canada without one.  Reading had become a family occasion, People were seeing each other again. and, all because of a phone call.

Ida Leo answered the phone and discovered a brand new very good use for old family pictures.  Bookmarks with welcoming eyes and the smile of someone who's close. And,  now, Canada's smiling again.  What could be better?

Ida Leo - Leaving her mark!  

Alma Mahler

  Alma Mahler – The Very Same Sadness Draft 001 Alma Mahler was very well known in her day. Her father was Emil Schindler the famous Vien...