A Hole In The Blogging Community

As I was waking up on Chistmas morning, ready to make tea, and unwrap gifts, something happened that left a hole in our blogging community that will remain forever unfilled.

Three hundred miles to the north of Beetley, Mary Smith passed away peacefully, in Scotland.

Few bloggers can hope to leave behind the legacy that Mary has. An incredibly interesting life, lived to the full. Books and short stories that show us other cultures and lifestyles, as well as her love of the history of her home town of Dumfries.

Humour, wit, and warmth, even as she endured debilitating treatment for cancer and took us along with her on her final journey.

Mary was a blogger’s blogger. Engaging on posts, leaving comments, sharing on social media, always there to help and encourage anyone.

Rest in peace, dear Mary. Surrounded by the love of your family, and your many blogging friends.

Her family kindly let us know, posting the last ever post on her blog.


The Kelpies – a grand day out

I am reblogging this post from Mary in my new series of ‘A Reblog Offer’

Mary Smith's Place

The DH and I enjoyed a grand day out last year when we decided to visit The Kelpies near Falkirk.

Created by sculptor Andy Scott, each one weighs over 300 tonnes and at 30 metres high, they are the world’s largest equine statues. They dominate the Helix, a fabulous park by the Forth and Clyde Canal. Apart from The Kelpies there is plenty to do with walks along the towpaths, play areas, a wetland boardwalk, eating places, visitor centre and shop – but it was the Kelpies we had come to see.

We were not disappointed. They are fabulous, absolutely stunning.

20170428_132416 Standing sentinel on the Forth & Clyde Canal

Kelpies are mythological water horses or spirits which can change their shape. They haunt rivers and streams. A kelpie can appear as a docile pony but as soon as anyone mounts it he or she is stuck and will be dragged…

View original post 346 more words

Blogger’s Books: Mary Smith

This morning I am delighted to feature a book from Scottish blogger and writer, Mary Smith.

Here is her own bio.

Mary Smith is an author, journalist and blogger based in Dumfries & Galloway in south west Scotland. Her work includes fiction, non-fiction, memoir and poetry.
Her memoir, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni about her years in Afghanistan, allows the reader to meet some of the women with whom she worked and provides an authentic insight into the life and culture of the country. Afghanistan also provides the setting for her novel No More Mulberries. Her poems have been widely published in poetry magazines and anthologies and her full length poetry collection, Thousands Pass Here Every Day, is published by Indigo Dreams.
She has, working in collaboration with photographers Allan Devlin and Keith Kirk, four local history books published by Amberley Publishing.
Currently, she is contributing to an anthology about life under lockdown and turning her blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish, into a memoir about caring for her dad through his dementia.

Donkey Boy & Other Stories is her latest fiction publication and first short story collection.
Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.

This review gives you some idea of what to expect from this delightful short story collection.

Testimonial from Margaret Elphinstone, author of The Gathering Night
Whether we’re in urban Pakistan, an old-fashioned travelling circus in Scotland, or repressed suburban Britain, Mary Smith’s stories take the reader right to the heart of a situation. They focus on characters who are disinherited by mainstream cultures. Whether it’s the boy from Peshawar whose father can’t let him stay at school, the adopted child who is marginalised by an identity she can’t recognise, or a woman escaping from lethal oppression, these people have been forced to abandon a part of themselves. The take on this theme varies from first person narrative ironically revealing its own complacency, to an impersonal voice which takes us right to the heart of suffering. The final story is perhaps the most chilling: is the character suffering from all-too-acute perception of cruelty and brutality, or is she simply crazy? In these stories the reader’s position is always ambiguous: are we colluding with dispossession, or are we honestly able to listen?

Other reviews are available via these links.
Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith

You can find out more about the book, and buy a copy, by clicking on these.

Mary is one of the most consistent and supportive bloggers in this community.
Please try to connect with her, and show her how much she means to all of us.
https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com – where she blogs about Scotland, history, walks, Afghanistan – and anything that takes her fancy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543

Guest Post: Mary Smith

I am delighted to feature Mary, a published writer, local historian, and fully-engaged blogger who resides in Scotland. Mary has lived and worked in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and her travels and experiences are fascinating to read about. She has special offers available on one of her her books from today, and I urge you to check it out.

**Please share this post on any social media you use, to help Mary**

Here is her own short bio.

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

And this is her unedited guest post.

I love blogging. I love the conversations and the connections it generates. My first blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish (https://marysmith57.wordpress.com), was about caring for my father when he had dementia in the last couple of years of his life. I started MarySmith’sPlace because I wanted to be able to post on non-dementia related topics – anything from walks in the Scottish countryside to the books I write, from local history to travel abroad.

In September last 2019 I came across old diaries, letters and a draft of a book I’d written about my first trip to work in Afghanistan way back in 1989. Reading them, I could feel again my excitement and wonder at almost everything and everyone I encountered and thought I’d share on my blog. Ever since then I have put up a post once a week on my Afghan Adventures.

I didn’t for one moment imagine where this would lead. I’ve said how much I love blogging’s conversations and connections and this series of posts has led to some astonishing connections – and re-connections. At first it was mainly regular followers who commented (favourably, I’m glad to say) and have continued to follow, comment and several reblog on a regular basis so I felt I was writing something people enjoyed reading.

One day I noticed a tweet saying they were reading Mary Smith’s blog about Afghanistan. I thanked the person, Atiq Lotan. The following week it happened again. This time after my thank you, Atiq Lotan commented on my blog saying, ‘Your writings will be a reliable source for young Hazaras in Jaghori and all over Hazaristan (Central Afghanistan) to better understand their past.’

Apart from making me feel rather old, I was incredibly touched and pleased by this comment for several reasons, not least because people I am writing about approve of what I’m writing. I’d have hated it if Hazara people were upset or angry with what I wrote. I also learned two things, which I subconsciously knew – Hazara Jat is actually Hazaristan (I won’t go into the politics here) and Jaghoray is Jaghori.

My visitor numbers soared although that didn’t translate into as many new followers. However, many of those visitors contacted me through Facebook either with friend requests or private messaging to say they had read my blog posts. One even said I lived forever in the hearts of Hazara people! Two brothers contacted me separately who are the sons of Gul Agha, the landlord from whom we rented our first clinic in Jaghori. One is in Germany, one in the UAE. I sent photos, including one of their father holding a baby – not either of them but their sister, who lives in London. One said he had spoken to his father who remembers me and said to pass on his hello.

My head still spins at the thought of someone in the UAE reading my blog, emailing me to say it is his father I write about, requesting any family photos I had and telling me he had spoken to his father back at home. When I write my posts, I feel like it was only last year I was living through the experiences I write about – but it was over thirty years ago. There were no mobile phones. No internet. Many of the Hazara people reading my blog were not even born then and now they live in a world in which there is instant communication.

Oh, an on the subject of communication. I wasn’t entirely sure if the emails asking for photos were genuine so I emailed my friend in Kabul. He comes from Jaghori. He asked another friend but he didn’t know so he called the person in charge of the Jaghori clinic who asked around and replied to say, yes, Gul Agha’s sons lived in Germany and UAE. In my day such a query would have taken weeks, if not months to get a reply.

Another friend request came from a young woman, whose name I didn’t recognise though I saw she was friends with another of my Afghan friends. I accepted and it turns out she is the daughter of one of the students in the mother and child care classes I taught in 1995/96. She wasn’t born then. She sent me photos of a group of students with me. So touched her mother had kept them and talked to her daughter about me.

See what I mean about loving the connections and conversations! This post is probably becoming too long already – though I could tell you about lots more people who have re-joined my life because of my blog – and I really ought to do a wee bit of the horrible self-promotion stuff.

If this post has piqued your interest in my blog you can find it at: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com I’d love to see you there. Also, I have written a memoir, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni, about my later time in Afghanistan in which you can meet my students and the women who became my friend.

And saving the best ’til last – my novel, No More Mulberries, also set in Afghanistan is on Kindle Countdown for the bargain price of 99p (and $ equivalent) from Thursday 14 to Monday 18 May.

In No More Mulberries we meet Scottish-born midwife, Miriam. She loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan, but she can’t ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son. When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. An old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going wrong.

From 14-18 May; only 99p – you can’t buy a coffee for so little, even if you were allowed to during lockdown.

Here are some ways to connect with Mary, and to see more of her writing.

Blog: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com/
Blog: https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/

She has also published a poetry collection.

Please visit her blogs, and treat yourself to a copy of her book to read during lockdown, for just 99p!