Susan Fletcher England was born in the small Northwest Georgia town of Summerville, Georgia, USA. Married to an Englishman, she has lived in the Liverpool, England area for 20 years. She still sounds like she just got off the Delta jet from Atlanta. She has loved to write since she was 10 years old and is grateful to Write to Work for giving her the opportunity to renew her passion. She lives with her husband Dave and 4 cats, Desmond, Molly, Lucy and Loretta in Formby. An edited version of her mother’s sweet tea recipe and Eating at Beas was published in the Guardian.
From the age of 10, I knew I was a writer. My school hosted a writing contest calling for essay submissions entitled, "What a Tree Means to Me." Lo and behold, I won a $25 USD savings bond and had my essay published in our local small town newspaper. A few years later, I joined the staff of both my junior high and high school newspapers.
Our "Indian Lore" (high school newspaper) staff and chaperones went to the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia for a conference for student writers. I was smitten with Athens, Georgia and the University, but I was head over heels in love with The Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication! Not only did I know what I was born to do; I now knew where I would be trained to fulfil my dreams.
Finally achieving admission to the University of Georgia as a pre-Journalism major, I soon became homesick. I’d gone from a hometown of 5,000 to a town of 50,000 during term time. Finding it difficult to make friends and to achieve the same high marks I’d made in school, my self-confidence quickly slipped away.
Bereft, this Daddy's girl rang regularly begging to come home. Daddy convinced me to stay for a year, and assured me if I was still unhappy, I could return home. A year went by, and still desperately sad, I returned home. Totally dejected, I was certain my future writing career was dead and buried. With no idea what to do next, I took the advice of my older sister’s mother in law, a Registered Nurse. She assured me that my compassion would serve me well as a nurse. I enrolled in the nursing programme at a junior college in Rome, Georgia, a town 25 miles from my hometown.
Unfortunately, my father died suddenly of a heart attack when he was 52. The one person who had always supported me was gone. I was bereft.
My nursing course ended in 1985, and I passed the state registration exam as a Registered Nurse later that summer. I completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1989. After working 10 years in nursing, I decided to go back to UGA to finish my journalism degree. Working 2 twelve hour weekend shifts in nursing, I took university courses during the week until I finally obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 1996.
Discovering my soulmate in 1994 via an email pen pal group, I moved to England after our marriage in 1997. Moving to England was frightening, but I’d grown up a lot since calling my dad begging to come back home.
In England, I suffered numerous setbacks to writing and returned to nursing. However, the desire to write still flickered. Re-ignition finally occurred courtesy of a course called Write to Work. I applied for the course a day before the deadline, not expecting a reply. Surprisingly, an acceptance email followed shortly. Ecstatic, I accepted the invitation and walked into Toxteth Library the morning of 9 May 2017 (one day before my 20th wedding anniversary). Write to Work has turned that tiny spark into a raging fire. Once again, I wake during the night with writing ideas. My mind is constantly scanning the world around me for things to write about.
A diversity of topics, supportive tutors and a group of writers who have become a second family to me has turned this 12 week writing course into a life-changing experience. During the course, I have had an article published in the Guardian newspaper, and will attend a radio journalism course commencing in September. Our writers’ group will continue meeting even though the course is over. I will now treat setbacks as learning experiences and never stop trying to improve my writing or apologise for any of my work or for my feelings.
My life has changed for the better, and I owe it all to everyone involved in Write to Work. The supportive tutors and the warmth and encouragement of my new family of fellow writers have helped me to regain confidence. The depth and breadth of the course has opened my eyes to writing opportunities I never even considered. I thank each and every person involved in this spectacular course. You’re a part of my heart now, and I will never forget any of you.
We're run by a loon who lets the Tweets fly
No matter how stupid or evil or rude
Or childish or hateful or painful or crude
With hair like a Tribble and orange fake tan
Modus operandi is hate flames to fan.
No morals would he beg, steal or borrow
Decency dead fills me with sorrow.
E pluribus unum turned on its head
Many American hearts full of dread
Will democracy die in the land of the free?
Run by "facts" gleaned from Fox News TV?
Republicans say, "He's just Trump."
Lefties think he's dumb as a tree stump.
While they bicker, bluster, bumble and spin
The world staggers on as if full of gin.
Why does the Fourth of July make me feel blue?
For reasons preceding you should have a clue.
Donald Trump is deranged, deluded and strange.
That, I am certain, isn't subject to change.
Loretta's are more a Caribbean hue
Lucy loves her belly rubs
'Retta likes to hide in shrubs
Amo mis gatas Españolas!
But why do I love these little girls so?
Why does my heart beat or my blood flow?
Is it such a ridiculous thing?
Their purrs alone make my heart sing!
Amo mis gatas Españolas!
Lucy meows like a megaphone
Loretta flies around like a remote control drone
They wake me at four
Wanting cuddles and more
Amo mis gatas Españolas!
Hard to believe they were once on the street
Because they have made my life ever so sweet
Since these cats have entered my life
They help me to deal with the stress and the strife.
Amo mis gatas Españolas!
Makefest Liverpool 2017
Where can you make your own heart badge, meet future scientists and contact the International Space Station?
During a weekend already chock full of exciting events, Liverpool Central Library played host to the 3rd annual Makefest, a full day packed with traditional craftsmen as well as those involved in high tech creations. Makefest, a free event, is run by volunteers who hope to inspire young and old in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. Covering all four floors of the Central Library, as well as the terrace, the event ran from 9am until 4pm. Those wishing to avoid crowds are advised to attend prior to noon, as the afternoon period is when many families with small children attend.
Women in Tech, centrally located on the ground floor, was a welcome introduction to this year’s festivities. In an effort to attract girls and women into technology, Liverpool Girl Geeks hosted women currently employed in technological fields. Rachel Frier, a featured designer, has had her garments combining traditional craftsmanship with technology shown on the London Catwalk.
The Liverpool Girl Geeks themselves are a local organisation who work in collaboration with FACT to train teenage females in traditionally male-dominated technological fields. The Girl Geeks will host their second academy for young females in September 2017. Perhaps future Makefest events will be able to expand the Women in Tech area, and add more hands on participation for eager young females. Many opportunities for hands on experience were on offer in other areas, but unfortunately, not in the Women in Tech area.
Other highlights of this participant’s day included a discussion with a humanitarian involved with Field Ready, an organisation that travels to areas devastated by war, famine or natural disasters. She showed me an umbilical clamp printed by a solar powered laser printer taken to Africa. Previously, due to lack of supplies, locals had used dirty shoelaces to clamp the umbilical cords of new-born babies. Likewise, previously donated incubators had become unusable due to lack of parts. As the incubators had been donated from other countries and were now obsolete in “first world countries,” parts to repair them were no longer available. Solar-powered laser printers were used to construct parts suitable for repairing the equipment, so the incubators can once again be used to save vulnerable new-borns.
Around lunchtime, a call went out for those interested to join the Quantum Tech Club on the library terrace as they attempted to contact the International Space Station as it passed overhead. People young and old, male and female gathered as two gentlemen, one equipped with a laptop computer and the other with a hand held antenna, sent signals to bounce off the international space station. In a scene reminiscent of a Big Bang Theory episode, the crowd was entertained by blips on a computer screen and modem like sounds as equipment from a rooftop on Liverpool sent signals to the International Space Station. It was a scene that would bring a tear to the eye of Sheldon Cooper, PhD.
Liverpool continues to offer ample opportunities for local residents to be exposed to arts and sciences. In a world that often seems geared only towards making the rich richer, and grinding the poor even further into the dirt, it is an honour to live in a city that continues to champion ordinary people, and offer them hope for the future. Makefest, now in its 3rd year of existence, continues to highlight the best of humanity. Well done to the volunteer army who put on a day of fun and learning for the whole family.
Susan's Iced Tea (As Made by her Mother Doris)
Get a pot as big as you can find (a gallon or more should suffice).
Fill the pot up about 3/4 full with water.
Put the pot on the stove and bring water to a rolling boil. (This will require you to turn the stove (hob) up to high, whichever way your particular stovetop works).
When the water starts boiling, turn the stove back off.
Throw in 8-10 tea bags, according to how strong you like your tea.
Let the tea get to the strength you want. Weaker tea is generally caramel coloured. Really strong tea is the colour of tar.
Slowly stir in sugar. Generally, start with a 5 lb bag, then sweeten to taste.
Make sure the sugar is dissolved. There's nothing worse than sweet tea with sugar that has sunk to the bottom.
Helpful hint: When you reach the sweetness of maple syrup, you've reached sweet tea perfection!
Now, pour it in a really big jug, or several jugs depending on the size of pot you used.
When the tea is ice cold, pour it into a Mason jar or other drinking vessel, whichever kind you prefer.
Tip for folks not from the American Deep South: Real ice tea has LOTS of ice in it. There's a reason we call it ice tea (or iced tea as they say in the UK).
Now, lie back, and enjoy your diabetic coma.
Please note: Southerners like to embellish and exaggerate, so please don't report me to the sugar police. Frankly, I can't afford another fine and am too busy to do the jail time.
Daddy always took the “All You Can Eat,” as a personal commandment sent down from above. Biscuits with white gravy, green beans cooked all day with ham hock, fried chicken so crispy it crackled like cornflakes when you bit into it, as warm juice dribbled down your chin. Sweet corn, fried squash, fried okra, banana pudding, pulled pork BBQ, and peach cobbler. Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, fries, onion rings. It was a sweet Southern symphony of food. Food that was bad for the heart but good for the soul. Regardless of occasion, Bea’s was the place we celebrated. Never a demonstrative family, our family loved each other with food, and Bea’s was an orgy of family love which always ended in the sweet agony of heartburn and the vow to “Never again…”
We’d impatiently wait in line to go in and pay $5 a head to stuff ourselves into oblivion. Stocked with diner chairs with red vinyl-covered backs and seats that squeaked and squealed when your sweaty back and backside hit them, heavy pale green plastic dishes like they use in a school cafeteria, plastic flowers and a Coca Cola clock as décor, and black and white tiled floor probably there since opening in 1950. It was Southern fine dining at its best.
I’m filled with complex emotions remembering these times at our favourite Southern restaurant. We rarely went places with my Dad, as he worked constantly. I’m sad as I lost my dad when I was 20 and he was 52. I was just getting to know him as an intelligent, thoughtful human being who worked so hard for a retirement that never came. The food was gorgeous, but it’s the time spent with my dad that I miss the most.
Years later, trying to get to the bottom of my intense craving for fried chicken, I remembered these afternoons eating at Bea’s Roundtable in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Fried chicken equalled love in my mind. It reminded me of my love for my dad and his love for me. I was encouraged to find something sans calories that reminded of my dad. I loaded my iPod with Big Band tunes by the likes of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, two of my dad’s favourites, thus helping to end my addiction to fried chicken. Addiction aside, a trip to Bea’s is still required when I return home to Northwest Georgia. It’s a family tradition.
Blind in his left eye due to a childhood accident, Daddy memorised the eye chart in order to pass this part of the physical. He went on to achieve an excellent score on his marksmanship test, so must have thought for a time that his visual deficit would remain a secret. Riddled with flaws like anyone else, my father made mistakes and even broke my heart a few times. Despite the imperfections, I rarely questioned my father’s love nor doubted he would move Heaven and Earth to provide for his family.
One day during target practice, another soldier's rifle butted my dad on the left side of his head. The military doctor sadly informed him that he was now permanently blind in his left eye, and would be issued an honorary medical discharge. Each time I recall this era in my father’s life, I can’t help but beam with the same cheeky grin my daddy displays in the photo. I'm sure he was devastated to be discharged from the Marines, but at the same time I'm sure he was busting a gut to tell the distraught doctor that he'd actually been blind in that eye since he was poked in the eye with a window screen at the age of five. After his military escapade, my dad went on to be an insurance salesman, cross country truck driver, owner and operator of a service station (garage which also sold petrol) and technician in a sewage filter plant.
Unfortunately this 6'2" Southern gentleman with a deep drawl as slow and thick as molasses on a cold winter morning, would die in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 52. I was 20 at the time and just a few months earlier had helped Daddy prepare for his chemistry exam at the filter plant. Only last year, I found out he scored 100% on the test. As I was just getting to know my father on an adult level, I feel a bit cheated that we lost him so soon. I'd begun to recognise my father's keen intelligence, and that he could have gone on to achieve an advanced degree and high paying job if he'd had the same opportunities I did.
I’m now 54, so have already lived 2 years longer than my dad. I wonder sometimes if he'd known he was going to die at such a young age, would he have taken a bit more time off. Most of his life, he worked 6 days a week, often for 12 hours a day.
To anyone else, this is a photo of an ordinary US Marine, but to me, Daddy is one of the most extraordinary people I've ever met. I'm filled with pride and sadness when I look at the photo of this young man with his whole life ahead of him. I still miss him every single day. Happy Father's Day to my dad. I'm so fortunate to be your daughter.