Sorry this post is late. To make up for it, I have two guests today, writing to each other.
How ignorant we were. We thought we were so clever. We’ve been on the move such a lot but we marched in to this village to join the hardened troops at last. So full of optimism were we. Despite minor incidents and losing one or two brave fellows we are, at last, nearing the thick of it.
Stupidly we marched in broad day light with bands playing and officers astride horses. Jerry let us have it and one Captain was thrown clean across the road. I won’t go into too much detail, Rose, but suffice it to say that we were lucky so many of the shells were duds. There could have been carnage. We are still amateurs at this but learning fast.
One youngster is doing a field punishment No.1 for falling out of the march in without permission. Now he is tied by his wrists to the wheel of a travelling field kitchen with his arms out-stretched. He is crying and his nose is running. Rose it is like a crucifixion. It’s so horrible. He argued with the CO which didn’t help his cause. I said I needed to discipline my men but I can’t accept this is a positive image for them. It generates fear not respect.
Perhaps I should not be telling you these things. If you would rather I didn’t, please say. It helps me to unburden my thoughts and I sense you have the strength to understand, Rose. I cannot write thus to my mother. In the main I am doing my brave duty for King and Country and other times are quiet and dull.
When next you write, tell me of the countryside around our home with your artist’s eye. Describe the scents and sounds in the lane. Let me know of your work at Lady Margaret’s and tell me what interests you, dear Rose. Everything is brown and grey here. Your letters cheer me and let me know all is well in the world somewhere.
I was so pleased to receive your letter but I hope sincerely that you take no unnecessary risk whilst doing your duty, of which you can be very proud. Please tell me the truth of what you are doing, though and how you feel. I am not your mother who needs protecting from truths, nor your sweetheart for whom you need to sound brave and courageous. I am your good friend and I have strength to help you shoulder whatever this war sends you.
I have included this tiny talisman. He is a ‘Fumsup Touch Wud’. As you see his little arms raise to touch his wooden head. If you look closely he has a four-leaved clover on his forehead and the words ‘Touch Wud’ on the back of his head. The wings on his ankles are to speed you home with safety. He is yours for the duration.
The weather here is cold and grey but I wrapped up and walked along the lane to the little shop for Mama. The fields are many shades of brown with just one here and there full of tiny green shoots of promise. I imagine it is winter wheat or barley but it heralds the spring which surely will come.
I heard and owl last night. It was a female calling as it seemed to say t-wit and not t-woo. It kept me awake for a while and I lay wondering about you and what you are doing. Do you ever hear a bird sing in your grey landscape?
I am sure you want to know that Delphi is well and so is Izzy. Our life has not changed significantly. We sew and knit for our boys abroad. Delphi is involved in a local group who bake each week and the proceeds of their labours are sent to France, to our own Manchester lads. Perhaps you will receive a box from them soon.
Keep safe, Michael. God bless you and your chums.
Your good friend,
About Flowers of Flanders
This drama is set before and during the First World War.
Rose rivals her beautiful, mercurial sister for Michael’s love but calculated lies and misunderstandings alter the young peoples’ course. War breaks out and Michael is as eager as the others to go. Maybe Rose will settle for second best with Thom even though she cannot get Michael out of her soul. Does a man need the grace of serenity to rediscover his own or is it frivolity and seduction he craves when he has been through the darkest places of war? Michael’s experiences in the trenches gradually alter his perceptions.
This is a story about deceit and loyalties, complex relationships and loves developing from youth to adulthood during a cataclysmic time in history.
About Ros Rendle
Having worked as a head teacher, Ros has been used to writing policy documents, essays and stories to which young children enjoyed listening. Now she has taken up the much greater challenge of writing fiction for adults. She writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance; perfect for lying by a warm summer pool or curling up with on a cosy sofa. Her books are thoroughly and accurately researched. Flowers of Flanders is her third book.
Ros is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.
She has lived in France for ten years but has recently moved back to the UK with her husband and dogs. Ros has two daughters and four grand-daughters, with whom she shares many heartwarming activities.