Waitangi Day Celebrations

Waitangi Day is celebrated as a national holiday in New Zealand to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840. The treaty was originally signed at Waitangi House in the Bay of Islands, north of the North Island. Over 540 of the indigenous tribal chiefs signed the treaty which gave Britain sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand. Even at the time this was controversial as not all the chiefs signed it and it led to the British seizing Maori lands which they claimed they would compensate the Maoris for, but often never did.

The first Waitangi Day was celebrated in 1934 but it wasn’t until 1974 when the day become a pubic holiday. From the mid-1950’s, as a form of apology to the Maori people, a Maori cultural performance was included as part of the ceremony. This year in 2022, the public holiday will be celebrated on Sunday 6 February and Monday 7 February.

The New Zealand Flag

There is a mention of this treaty in my book, Waireka, a historical novel set in the mid-1850’s, just ten years after the original signing took place.

“They walked along exchanging a few pleasantries about the weather until the Reverend asked, ‘What about little Henry and Maria, Eliza, do you think they’re settling in?’

‘Oh yes, Sir, I think so,’ she replied. She began to tell the Reverend about what they had learnt about the new country and how Henry had been particularly interested in the signing of the Waitangi treaty.”(Waireka, Chapter 3 p63)

If you would like to learn more about the early history of New Zealand through the eyes of a fictional dairying family, please get in touch with me by visiting my website at www.journojohnson.com

The book is based on the story of my great uncle’s story.

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Shirley’s special smile

Most of us have heard of the expression ‘laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.’ 2021 has been a difficult year for many, perhaps worse than the previous one. I know it was for my family. Nine people we knew, some of them very well, died during the year. Shirley above, died in December and I will be going to her funeral on 12 January. I really want to go to say ‘Thank you’ to her, even though the funeral is at a distance. Shirley died aged 91, full of years and full of faith. She and her husband, Gerald (who had died some years earlier) were like my Christian parents, supporting, encouraging and believing in me. For that reason alone I will miss her greatly, although the last five years or so the real Shirley had been buried by the terrible disease of dementia. But I don’t believe her faith ever left her, or indeed her smile.

Shirley hadn’t had an easy life to make her smile. A child of WW2 blitz, she lived through many awful bombings in Liverpool. She married Gerald but they remained childless as a couple after Shirley suffered several miscarriages, they also had Shirley’s mother living with them for the first years of their marriage. Gerald, an engineer, later used his skills in missionary work, joining Operation Mobilisation, they ran their bookshop in South London, which is where I met them.

A typical jaunty Liverpudlian, Shirley could always find the fun in every situation. I remember the time when a lady came into the bookshop looking for Catholic ‘mass’ cards, except I heard ‘mouse’, and proceeded to show her every card in the shop that depicted mice, with Shirley cackling away in the background. A church notice given out in an unfortunate way, such as, Morning service: Preparing for marriage, Evening service: ‘A look at Hell: would mean Shirley had to leave the church before she exploded with laughter! Even if she fell or tripped in later years, Shirley was still able to laugh at herself.

Gerald and Shirley, in working for a missionary organisation, lived a simple life. They never travelled very far or owned very much, but they were content, and took a lot of pleasure in the simple things. For Shirley, this was beautiful skies. She would always comment in her strong Liverpudlian accent – ‘Just look at the sky’.

In remembering Shirley I will try and look upward through my tears and smile. Our loss here on earth is definitely heaven’s gain. Bless you and thank you, Shirley and Gerald.

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I would like to wish all my followers, friends and family every blessing for the Christmas season and for 2022

May you have as much joy and happiness as we did with our early Christmas celebrations.

Bless you all. Thanks for the follow and for buying my books this year.

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It has taken me 63 years to finally get to that graduation ceremony but for all the wait, it didn’t disappoint. Our local racecourse was a great venue with plenty of scope for good photographs along with a lovely, sunny mid-November day.

I was at the racecourse to receive my post graduate certificate in Creative and Critical Writing, the first part of a MA course. I had already passed my first degree in English and Theology some years ago, to be followed by a journalism diploma just over 20 years ago but for the first I was out of the country for the ceremony and for the second there wasn’t one. So, having attended both of my boys graduation ceremonies it was now their mother’s turn! Fortunately, my oldest boy, Adam, was able to take a day off work and join myself and my husband, Angus, which was a lovely surprise. It felt odd this time for me to be the centre of attention and to celebrate with some of the other youngsters on my course.

Plenty of celebration and hat throwing was had by all.

Will the experience make me a better writer? I hope it may, especially helping me to write more clearly and concisely and paying more attention to grammar and punctuation – important considerations on the course.

I wish I had been able to spend more time on campus, of course, many of the lectures had to be online due to Covid. However, it did give me a much needed focus for my writing during lockdown when I know many other writers struggled to find that. All in all, I’m so glad I did the course and I do feel a certain amount of achievement.

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Shakespeare’s Clock by Jan Moran Neil

The title of this book, Shakespeare’s Clock, by Jan Moran Neil is very intriguing, drawing the reader in. Time certainly plays a very important role in this psychological thriller of intrigue and mystery, as the author skilfully switches the action between the present day and back into the sixties school room.

The action initially starts with the meet up of Jayne Thornhill and Shelley Witherington just before Christmas in 2005. We learn that they have been at the same school together but haven’t seen one another for years. The reader views everything that happens in the story through the different viewpoints and perspectives of Jayne and Shelley, as the story weaves itself through the different time zones.

The main events of the story take place in the late 1960’s. This makes interesting reading for those of us who can remember school back then, but perhaps may also be of interest to other readers from a historical perspective, with the events both being played out and explored in this particular time frame. Patricia seems to be allowed to get away with her bullying behaviour, as often happened in those days, and the sexist way in which the boys relate to the girls, and the behaviour of the teaching staff are typical examples of their era.

Although the story is told from the two perspectives of Jayne and Shelley, we get a very strong picture of the dominant character and bully, Patricia, and how her behaviour affects not only herself but the entire group of friends; Shelley, Jayne and Rachel as well as the boys, Danny, Benji and Paul. This impact will affect the group of friends not just at the time, but continue to impact their lives into the future, as a cloud of sadness unites them across the years.

Jan Moran Neil trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and the National Youth Theatre. She spent many years in the professional theatre before founding Creative Ink for Writers and Actors. Her plays have been widely performed. Her short story, ‘Death by Pythagorus’ was broadcast on Radio 4 and her sonnet, ‘Silver Surfing’ published by the Royal Society of Literature. Jan has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge and is available for readings from her collections and novels. www.janmoranneil.co.uk

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I made it out by Avisha El

In these times as we emerge out of the pandemic, many people are struggling with mental health issues, loneliness and isolation. Avishai’s book is a self help story which can help you find hope in the dark times, as she did.

‘I Made It Out,’ details the raw, uncut, and honest life events of Avishai El.  She is 32 years old and decided to write this book to help other people who are going through situations that they feel as though they can’t get out of.  She affirms that you can get out of any situation and provides historical context in which she used her mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual capacities to face challenges head on.  In order to maintain peace, one has to go through things in life to get there.  She has gone through ups and downs.  All readers from all walks of life will be able to relate to her shared experiences.  On days where you feel low in life and on days where you feel high on life, opening this book and reading it will provide you with the tools you need to succeed no matter what.  Some of the imagery is explicit to paint a visual picture for the reader. Avishai believes that if she could get through it you can. You can make it out.

Avishai started off her life well. She was beautiful – brown skin, black curly hair, chubby cheeks, full lips, slanted eyes, and weighing a good 11lbs 11ozs. Her father, a former marine, now worked as a psychiatric aid, her mother, a software engineer. Avishai’s father struggled with alcoholism and a cigarette addiction but he was always her hero, watching her while her mother was at work.

Avishai says, “I was a daddy’s girl. He was my best friend and someone that I thought I would be close to forever. He was a good father, filled with love and compassion for his daughter. Sleeping was not my strong suit as a baby, so he would drive me around in his car until I fell asleep. Although I was a baby, I still remember how good I felt and how the sky looked. The purple skies passing away into a midnight blue as the sun was saying, ‘goodbye.’ But who would have thought that the sun’s ‘goodbye’ would be an omen for my life? Who knew the person that I was the closest to would turn into a stranger.”

To find out what happens to Avishai and how she comes through the experience, read the book and follow the author. The links are below.











BARNES AND NOBLE LINK TO BUY (Their book of the year)


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The Trials of Isabella Smugge

The Trials of Isabella Smugge is the second book of author, Ruth Leigh, and her lifestyle blogger and influencer, Isabella Smugge. It is somewhat darker or you could say, more realistic than the first book, the Diary of Isabella Smugge.

In the first book, we saw the family move from London to Suffolk with, seemingly the perfect family of three children, devoted husband, Johnnie and au-pair, Sofija. The family, at first seem to struggle to fit into the local community of rural Suffolk, appearing very successful and wanting for nothing. Then gradually, by the end of the first book, we see everything begin to fall apart for Isabella. Her good friend and vicar’s wife, Claire, is seriously ill in hospital following the birth of her fourth child, Johnnie has left her to shack up with the au-pair, Sofija and Isabella finds herself pregnant again after a night of fighting and drunkenness with her cheating husband.

But did I enjoy the sequel? You bet. I feel right at home with Isabella and look forward to following her further adventures. It simply took me longer to read than the first book because of the frequent interruptions of our new energy full puppy, Bella, currently giving me the run-around. She has even chewed the pages of the last quarter of the book – not sure the author, Ruth, or Instant Apostle will want a photograph of this to share!

In the trials of Isabella Smugge, we find Isabella developing as a person and a mother with the trials that befall her, coming out stronger on the other side of them as she discovers that other people’s problems can be worse than her own. She also finds some answers to life’s questions in her newly emerging Christian faith, as she tries to identify the mysterious village snitch, who is adding information to fuel Isabella’s arch nemesis, the gossip columnist, Lavinia Harcourt. Isabella then struggles to learn the art of forgiveness.

We leave Isabella in a better place at the end of the book. Claire has recovered and is out of hospital, she has made lots of good friends in rural Suffolk, come through her fourth pregnancy, her sister is back in the UK and she has a better relationship with her mother than she has had for many years as the mother’s health declines. Could true happiness be just a few hashtags and followers away? We await with great anticipation the continuing saga of Isabella Smugge…

Ruth Leigh is a freelance writer, novelist and book reviewer. Married with three children, she is a recovering over-achiever.
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My Scottish holiday and Harper’s Highland Fling

Over the August Bank Holiday, my husband and I took my elderly mother-in-law to visit her family in Scotland. The weather was brilliantly sunny. Indeed, we were probably in the best part of the country for the weather. We visited Perth, Dundee, Broughty Ferry, St Andrews and Pitlochry. To accompany all this wonderful scenery and good weather, I was reading Harper’s Highland Fling, by author and Scottish enthusiast, Lizzie Lamb.

Lizzie in Scotland

This is the third book I have read by this author. I really enjoyed the conflict between the two main characters of the book, Rocco Penhaligan and Harper MacDonald as they travel together in search of their gallivanting teenagers – Rocco’s son, Pen, and Harper’s niece, Ariel. It all made for page-turning fun as they chased the youngsters all the way from Cornwall to Plockton in Scotland.

Lizzie says, “Having independently published six novels to date I’ve got a real feel for what my readers want. I’d long had a fancy for writing a ‘road trip novel’ and decided that Harper’s Highland Fling would be it. As an avid caravanner I’ve stayed in most parts of the country and once I got out the atlas to plot Harper’s journey north the novel almost wrote itself. My husband enjoys restoring old vehicles and I imagined exactly how Harper would feel when Rocco turns up on an old motorbike and tells her to ‘get on or get left behind.’  Left with no choice she does the latter. We were both primary school teachers for thirty four years, so I was able to write with some authority about how Harper felt at the end of a long, gruelling academic year when she discovers that her wayward niece has scuppered her holiday plans.”

Finally, one of my favourite places in Scotland is Plockton so it was a no-brainer for me to set the novel there (with a stop over in Leicester where I live).”

Plockton is a small village in the Lochalsh, Wester Ross area of the Highlands, with a population of less than 500. It has often been called ‘the Jewel of the Highlands’

Lizzie’s book, certainly is a jewel which I would highly recommend. It kept me fully entertained over the break and even for a few days on my return. I think it is probably my favourite by this author, although they are all good and unique in their own ways.

The five others are also featured below and as we’re all different, other readers may find their favourites among the titles featured below.

Lizzie’s books can be found on her Amazon author page or her website at https://lizzielamb.co.uk

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Creativity Matters

At the start of the new school year has your passion for writing deserted you? Do you feel all dry and used up? Help is at hand with the new book compiled by author, Wendy H Jones and a compendium of other writers all sharing their unique styles and genre.

I have certainly struggled to rediscover my own passion for writing. Finding lockdown hard like most people, I sought a focus in a writing course at my local University of Gloucestershire – Creative and Critical Writing, and I’m glad to say that I have emerged at the end of the year with a certificate passed with merit, and a whole lot more writing and editing experience. But what now?

Before this time I published ‘Waireka,’ my historical romance set in New Zealand, but then I didn’t know what to do next. Should I write a sequel? After reading selections from this great book, I am beginning to find my ‘mojo’ again. inspired by Sheena MacLeod’s chapter on historic non-fiction, Joy Margetts historical fact-based fiction and Lorraine Smith’s historical fiction, so much so that I feel I might just write that sequel after all. I could even explore the story behind my Irish relations, as like these great writers I love social history. I also love genealogy, so was inspired by reading Jennifer Ngulube’s chapter on memoir. I might just continue where I left off on my university course assignment.

But at the moment, I have chosen to be inspired by Kirsten Bett and her chapter on writing poetry. I chose prose to study for my university course, so it’s great to get back to a bit of poetry again, the place where my writing largely began. I have subscribed to a three week poetry course – Writing Poetry and Getting Published. I might even try my luck and use some of the submissions from the course to enter a few competitions. I have been highly commended in a couple before, but never won. Perhaps now?

The important thing is that this book has given me purpose and direction again and that’s with only reading just half of it. I still have to explore writing for children, flash fiction and short stories, drama, cat tales, crime and mystery, faith stories, science fiction, humour and re-visit romance. The list of possibilities is endless. Wendy suggests writing a flash fiction piece in each of the genres in the book, so pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Why not? Great idea, Wendy.

If you’re now burning to get hold of a copy of this book, you can find it in several places on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B09D9Q181D/ or via Wendy’s own website page at https://www.wendyhjones.com

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I have always journaled in my life in one form or other. As a youngster my diary took more of the form of a step-by-step view of my day. E.g. Got up had breakfast, made my bed. Altogether rather a tedious re-read, which at times contains gems of memories and experiences. However, as I’ve progressed my journal has been something that I’ve used to record my thoughts, prayers and faith experience.

Journaling can also open up an opportunity for God to speak to us.

Amy Boucher Pye, in her soon to be released book, 7 Ways to Pray, mentions journaling in her book in chapter 4 on hearing God.

She had been campaigning in her journal to get her family back to her country of origin, the US, rather than living in the UK. But God speaks through our thoughts and desires and she suddenly feels, one day, that God is telling her to give up her campaign. I use this example to explain how when we put down our thoughts in writing, it is a way of understanding ourselves and exploring our deepest desires and feelings.

This book can be pre-ordered as the image above suggests at the  Big Church Read

I have just returned from an overseas trip which my husband and I had to make for family reasons. As a result we are currently having to isolate due to someone testing positive for Covid-19 on our flight. So far, so good, no symptoms. However, getting back to journaling, it is something I always do when away on a trip, be it in the UK or abroad. It’s a great record of each country and place that I’ve visited, and, even better, over the years I’ve been able to turn these memories into money. Along with my husband’s brilliant photographs, I use my notes to tell the story of the place, selecting out the relevant and key sights of interest. 

Pena Palace

Pena Palace in the mountains above Cais Cais, where we were staying, is a beautiful place and home of the last Portuguese monarchs. Although our reasons for going out to Portugal weren’t simply to take a holiday in these difficult Covid-19 times, we were still able to enjoy the spectacular places and foods that Portugal has to offer.

Journaling therefore, can have a dual purpose. It can help to grow our faith and relationship with God and it can, at times, be turned into money making articles. 

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