A 16″ Laptop at a Table for Two

7 08 2015

Five friends, looking like visitors to the island, sat at a table next to us in the window at North Harbour Bistro on the island of Scalpay, the same table we sat at for dinner last Monday night. The five admired the view from their window, looking out over the harbour; they discussed the framed photograph in the corner above their heads of the aurora borrealis, a picture taken by photographer Darren Cole from Hebscape in Aird Asaig beside West Loch Tarbert; they raved over the Harris Tweed tablecloths on the cafe’s tables and “oh look at these” as they touched the Harris Tweed chair back covers complete with Harris Tweed labels. The enthusiasm could be measured in bucketloads.

Meanwhile I couldn’t resist observing the backview of a clown in his 60s at the opposite side of the cafe who sat at a small, square table for two with his elderly mother. While we savoured our carrot soup and seafood chowder at our table for two, the clown spent twenty minutes or so at his table attempting to boot up a blank screen on his 16″ Toshiba laptop which took up most of the space on his table for two, with the eventual Windows-opening-tune singing out to the cafe full of happy eaters. When his food came along he awkwardly angled himself to the right to pick off his plate on the edge of the table. His elderly mother sat there without complaint, without seeing the face of the man behind the laptop screen on the other side of their table, for the duration of their lunch together. That was her lot by the looks of it. No conversation. The clown showed no visible sign of interest in his lunch, carefully prepared by George the chef and owner of this unique seafoody cafe on the remote isle of Scalpay, instead preferring the struggle of getting into his emails.

I pondered.

The day before, the young American I mentioned in my previous Post, asked me about the changes we’d seen in Harris over the last 21 years.

Then, there were three cafes on the island: one in Tarbert, one ten miles from Tarbert in Borve, and one twenty miles from Tarbert in Leverburgh. And I remember on one occasion Rachel gave us tea and scones in her house on Scalpay!

There was no Scalpay bridge linking the isle of Harris to the tiny island of Scalpay. That came along in 1997: http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/eriskay/scalpay.htm. You could only get to Scalpay on the tiny car ferry that ran three times a day. We never took our car on it, and walked everywhere.

A seafood bistro on the tiny island would have been pie in the sky and WiFi was non-existent.

And would anyone then have placed a huge object, the size of an old wireless, on a small lunch table for two obliterating the view between two diners?





A Selfie Inside and a Fast Driver Outside

5 08 2015

Tarbert, Isle of Harris, Wednesday 5th August 2015

Late yesterday afternoon as I began to review the events of the day, the doors inside momentarily rattle. And the wind rushes through long-leggy grasses and wild irises (that I can see through the kitchen window) till they’re almost horizontal.

Then I think of that young blonde girl driver who narrowly missed me in Pier Road at lunchtime when we came out of First Fruits cafe. And it made me think of those drivers in their hundreds and thousands, everywhere, who carry out dangerous manoevres in their cars every day on mainland UK, including our own village, with no regard for anyone; those drivers who put their foot down in any situation without a second thought, do not indicate their intentions, and show no consideration to anyone with their threatening behaviour.

The words of one of the three American guys at our table in the cafe came back to me. I’d told them we’d been coming to the Isle of Harris for twenty-one years. One of them works in Frying Pan Alley in the City of London (the other two who live in Florida quickly had something to say about the skills (lack of) of Oregon drivers who head south to Florida out of the cold in winter) and he asked if we had noticed any changes in Harris during that time. I said Yes.

I’m trying to concentrate as the doors rattle again and the grasses and irises are thrashed in the strong wind.

But before anything else I mustn’t forget Frying Pan Alley, which you encounter on Jack the Ripper walks, and why we were sitting with the Americans in the first place. Most of the tables were occupied when we went into the cafe at gone 12 noon, except the table that seats four just inside the door where two young men were seated. I asked if the two of us could join them. One showed the palm of his hand signifying Please do. There was a bit of quiet chat for a few seconds during which time I worked out they were American. That’s when yesterday’s story really began. Soon we were talking to the two of them, who were joined by another young American guy who drew up a chair to the left of mine. The latecomer said he was pleased he’d just managed to get a shower; they’d been camping anywhere they could find a spot by the roadside. But going back to Frying Pan Alley, the subject of a talk I’d given at Dirty Dicks pub was brought up, the pub being close to the alley. We chatted on but the City man was interested in what I give talks about. The last woman to be hanged in the UK, I said. That led on to one saying he was “astonished they were still hanging people in England in 1955” and how impressed he was with “the most macabre bit of cafe talk ever, anywhere”. They didn’t know about my findings for my Ruth Ellis book. One said his mother hadn’t even been thought of in 1955. They knew nothing about Stephen Ward. They’d never heard the name Profumo. and one asked if he could take a selfie of himself with me. They were actually hanging men in the early 1960s and I forgot to mention that. And we didn’t get into conversation about capital punsihement in general. And I hope the selfie thing doesn’t happen again soon.

I said it’s difficult to describe in a nutshell the changes we’ve seen on the Isle of Harris over 21 years. Lots of men used to work outside with their sheep I told them. It’s different now. There are fewer men and fewer sheep. And thinking about it now (in hindsight after someone nearly tried to mow me down in Pier Road immediately after our chat in the tearoom) we would not have seen young girls driving fast around the village 21 years ago. That’s all changed. As soon as they get to 17 they’re learning to drive now just like anywhere else on UK mainland.

They were impressed with the macabre chat. I was impressed by the three guys’ perfect teeth!





Scotland: Let’s Stay Together …petition

13 09 2014

Hi!

I just signed the petition “Scotland: Let’s stay together” on .

It’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:

Thanks!

monica 





YES minister…white flag

10 09 2014

…at South Harris Agricultural Show…July 2014

Top Photo…Alasdair Allan MSP

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A Golden Future?

6 09 2014

The new whisky distillery under construction in Tarbert on the Isle of Harris

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The Twilight Connection – my new WordPress Blog Book

31 07 2012
Hi
Here’s a link to my new book, published on Blurb, called ‘The Twilight Connection, Monica Weller’s Blog, January to July 2012’.
Robert Pattinson, star of Twilight is my nephew.
The Twilight Connection, Monica Weller’s Blog book is a unique insight into filmstar Robert Pattinson’s ancestry by his aunt Monica Weller. Monica is a freelance writer and photographer and author of ‘Ruth Ellis My Sister’s Secret Life’ amongst other titles. Many family histories are not recorded and disappear in time until someone else researches it. In view of this family member’s current popularity, as a writer she felt she should record this for the future. Many families drift apart for many reasons, sometimes feuds – in this case partly created by the intrusion of the press. Over the past few years since Robert’s rise to fame Monica has been doorstepped by journalists and has been quoted and mis-quoted in newspapers.

“This book is meant as a record of how I see part of our family, as it is now. We are shaped by our roots. Who knows what the future holds? Who would ever have thought that my sister Clare, the little girl in the red-coloured dress who you can see in the Preview here, would become the mother of a Hollywood superstar! The book also contains lots of mentions of the Outer Hebrides. Even Woody’s Express Parcels gets a mention!”.

The book is published in hardback and as an e-book.

Photograph taken in West Loch Tarbert, Isle of Harris

Monica Weller




AN INSPIRATIONAL JOURNEY, PLEASE JOIN ME

12 02 2012

Hello and welcome to my special journey

I previously mentioned three things: Firstly, the article that was published in 2009 in an American newspaper ridiculed and debased the book of which I was the ghost writer (RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE) to the level of a vampire novel. This upset me. Ruth Ellis was the last woman in the UK to be hanged for murder in 1955. Whilst writing the book I sat with Ruth Ellis’s sister Muriel Jakubait for three years, listening to her recollections and harrowing story. I was humbled to learn that every day for the last 57 years she has had the vision of her sister hanging from the end of a rope. No one can possibly understand what that has been like for Muriel who is now 92 years old.

Secondly I previously mentioned that opportunities have arisen in my life since 1999, the year I took photographs of the three children on a damp, midgy Sunday afternoon on the Isle of Harris, that would have seemed unthinkable nearly thirteen years later.

Thirdly, I mentioned on THE PATTINSON CONNECTION blog, that I have a condition called Bell’s Palsy.

So perhaps now is the time to tell you how by chance I became a writer. And how by chance I subsequently became involved in ghost writing the book about Ruth Ellis. Then you may understand why I was disgusted with the 2009 article; how I am not a’ victim’; how I do not say ‘poor me’; and how in a society obsessed by beauty,  it is crucial for people with facial disfigurement to gain confidence and fight their fears.

TO BEGIN

On Christmas Eve in 1995 I woke up to a cup of tea brought by my partner who then opened the curtains. I would have welcomed the sun normally, but that morning it was unbearable. I couldn’t look at the light and then I realised I was dribbling from the side of my mouth.

I was working then as a gift buyer for a national charity and had been suffering from a heavy cold, very unusual for me, and work had been stressful. When I got up that morning I walked past the mirror and was shocked. I saw a face that didn’t belong to me. My right eye was staring, my mouth was drooping down at the side and my right nostril was running. I thought I may have had a stroke. It may sound incredible but I was so caught up in the work situation (I was brought up just to get on with things) and went along to one of our charity’s local shops to check everything was OK. The ladies pursuaded me to go home because I looked so awful.

It wasn’t until 10 pm that evening that I went to hospital where I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy which is a form of facial paralysis resulting from a dysfunction of the cranial nerve.

Although most Bell’s Palsy patients recover completely within weeks or months I was not so lucky. I was unable to use one side of my mouth, I couldn’t blow my nose and I had to wear an eye patch. Because the left side of my face compensated I developed a mandibular joint disorder and the palsy made it difficult to speak clearly.

I tried to carry on working but became increasingly alienated and stressed at work – the final straw came after an unpleasant incident there in 1999. (It was just three months after  I photographed the three children on that grey day in the Outer Hebrides). At lunchtime I walked out of the door and never went back. I had to fight for my rights and there was an employment tribunal. The humiliation then was probably the rock bottom point for me. I was not going there again, not ever.

I received strong support from my family doctor whose advice ‘not to sit in a corner and do nothing’ inspired me. I got on with things. An inner strength must have kicked in.

I am a keen photographer and thought perhaps I could learn to write and become a photojournalist. I began a writing course, some of my articles were published in newspapers but it was a magazine piece about our local fishmonger, about whom I knew nothing other than he sold fish, that turned out to be life-changing. The fishmonger was so grateful for the free write-up in a glossy magazine, he told me the story about one of his customers whom he used to serve in another fish shop some years before. Her name was Muriel Jakubait.

He told me how Muriel was the sister of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the UK.

It was this chance connection with the fishmonger that eventually led to my writing the successful book RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE.

Doors seemed to be opening for me as I resolved to take control of my fears about my facial disfigurement. Confidence was everything. I also joined Toastmasters International (worldwide public speaking organisation) where over a period of time and within a safe, non-judgmental environment, I found my voice. I was able to stand in front of an audience and give presentations with confidence, the best of gifts. Instead of being obsessed with perfection in physical appearance, one of the greatest qualities anyone, including those with facial disfigurements, can possess is confidence. In my opinion we should be obsessed with gaining confidence in our lives.

LA VIE EN ROSE   

Before I begin the next part of my story about Ruth Ellis herself, you may like to listen to a song called “LA VIE EN ROSE” sung by the late Edith Piaf. It  was Ruth Ellis’s favourite song:      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g4NiHef4Ks

THE NAME RUTH ELLIS, to many people worldwide, conjures up the image of the peroxide blonde, divorced woman,  mother of two young children, a London nightclub hostess and a part time prostitute who shot dead her playboy, womanising, racing car driver lover David Blakely (aged 25) in a fit of jealousy, in 1955. Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

The shooting outside the Magdala public house in Hampstead in North London, has been described ever since as an open-and-shut case of cold-blooded murder in which no-one else was involved. Yet at the time of writing our book there were still some  secret files on the case locked away from public scrutiny until 2031.

Ruth Ellis, who at the time of the murder was 28, admitted pulling the trigger of the heavy .38 Smith and Wesson revolver.

The two-day trial at the Old Bailey in London was notable for its lack of forensic and ballistic evidence. Christmas Humphreys, a Buddhist, and counsel for the prosecution set out to prove that Ruth Ellis killed David Blakely. Ruth’s defence team led by Melford Stevenson did virtually nothing to help her. Ruth Ellis had pleaded not guilty, but with the death penalty looming she was entitled to a proper defence.

With access to records previously unavailable at The National Archives, and new witness statements, in our book I presented a range of evidence that the Old Bailey in 1955 never got to hear; evidence pointing to the fact that Ruth Ellis was innocent of the crime for which she was hanged. She died for another person’s crime, having lied to protect him.

Fairly simple fact finding and research for Muriel’s autobiography turned out to be more complicated than I thought at first. It became an extraordinary detailed piece of detective work for first hand evidence in my search for the truth. I followed my instincts. I stopped looking for answers and took one step at a time in looking for facts. Muriel, Ruth Ellis’s sister, told me about landmarks in her life and recollections of events. I followed up with my own solid research and investigation, comparing new findings with previously published conflicting information.

From small beginnings a picture developed of Ruth’s life, stripped of fifty years of fictitious opinion. An unseen side of the last woman to be hanged emerged, as I dug deeper in my investigations; something not uncovered at the time of Ruth’s trial, or since. I tracked suspicious addresses, so-called businesses that did not actually exist, incorrect names on official documents that enabled characters in the Ruth Ellis story to change their identities and mislead anyone who dared to look for them. It took considerable effort to strip fact from fiction. But caught up in a tangle of new connections were clues. I kept an open mind and did not accept things at face value.

The real story about Ruth Ellis began slotting into place.

I hope you enjoyed reading this Post which is intended as a glimpse of our book RUTH ELLIS MY SISTER’S SECRET LIFE ……

….FOR more insights please see  MORE ABOUT RUTH ELLIS’ Page, above

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ruth-Ellis-Sisters-Secret-Life/dp/1845291190

Monica Weller