5 * Review of A PASSING STORM

i have been feeling a little down lately, and so I was particularly pleased to receive the following 5 STAR Review of my book A PASSING STORM by NATASHA JACKSON  of the Readers’ Favorites site:


by Phyllis J. Burton

Romance – Contemporary

352 Pages

Reviewed on 08/07/

Reviewed by Natasha Jackson for Readers’ Favorite

Phyllis J. Burton’s A Passing Storm is the intriguing story of Jennifer and Peter, a couple married for more than two decades when things start to change. In their twenty-fourth year together, Peter suddenly becomes obsessed with his career goals and all the trappings that go along with being made Chief Executive of an international company. Unable to face the failings in her marriage, Jennifer seeks refuge in Scotland, where she meets a handsome stranger called Angus. He is warm and caring where Peter is cold and indifferent. Jennifer is torn between going after her own happiness and doing what is deemed “right” by society. Instead of running head first back to Scotland and into Angus’s arms, she stays and puts up with her husband’s infidelity and indifference.

A Passing Storm is written in two parts so we get to know both Angus and Jennifer better and understand the different paths their lives took during their time apart. It was a stroke of genius on Phyllis Burton’s part to tell the story in this manner as it allows the reader to simply get absorbed in one tale, then the other. Every word is written for meaning rather than effect, which made A Passing Storm all the more real. While it seems that Angus grew as a character, I am sad to say that Jennifer did not. She never did take responsibility for her own happiness, and while her choice of partner changed the outcome, I would have loved to see Jennifer become a bit more independent and proactive. Although I did find it difficult to connect with Jennifer, I felt great sympathy for her life and inability to do anything about it and I longed for Angus from his first whispered words.

Phyllis Burton did a fantastic job and her perfectly measured words were soothing, heartfelt, and poetic.”

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I can’t help it:  I just love trees.   They are beautiful, large wonders of nature.   I live among the wonderful Surrey Hills – an area covered with trees of all kinds.  Our garden has an area of woodland with mostly oak, beech, ash and holly trees all vying for a patch of blue sky.

One particular beech tree at the bottom of the garden is enormous.   I haven’t measured it, but it would probably take about three people to link arms at the bottom.  There is some decay and a couple of holes in which animals could, and probably do, live.  It is a truly giant tree and is possibly about 300 years old.  It must be home to an indeterminate number of creatures and nearly every day I go down the garden to stand and look up to the top way above my head, and marvel at its symmetry.

During Easter this year, we held our annual Easter Egg Hunt for our seven grand-children.  The weather was slightly inclement, but nothing daunted and before their arrival, I spent some time hiding eggs (all in plastic bags because of the many squirrels who would probably enjoy some chocolate).   I tried to be as selective as possible according to age and each child had three bags each to look for – colour coded of course. 

Two of our older grandchildren – 13 and 11 respectively – presented more of a problem.  How to make the search harder?  When I remembered the holes in the bottom of my favourite tree, I knew just what to do.  And so armed with plastic bags I walked down to the bottom of the garden and placed one bag in each hole.  We also have an old stable, so I hid some more amongst the old logs piled up inside.  My constant worry was that the animals would find them before the children, but that made it even more exciting as far as I was concerned.

Fortunately the weather held and with much excitement and chatter the children set off to find their eggs.   I must admit that my hiding place in the tree turned out to be quite a difficult one, even for the two older children.  In the end, I had to give them some clues, which admittedly they were able to decipher with a little help from their parents!   After all the excitement they all raced inside to have some tea.  On reflection they didn’t eat as much as I thought they would, but I did notice that quite a few of the chocolate eggs had already been consumed.  

When I remember the day of the Easter Egg Hunt and the fact that the trees were then still bare, and I look down our garden at all the trees now in full leaf, I feel how lucky we are in this country to have so many different kinds of trees.   But, there is a growing problem.  Diseases of all kinds can, and indeed do, infect and kill some of our trees.  We mourned the loss of the Elm and now, there is every possibility that we might lose the majority of our beautiful Ash trees.  We have about ten really healthy looking Ash trees in our garden, some young and some quite old and large, which are quite literally dripping with ‘keys’.  I am not a scientist or a tree expert, but my love for mine and the country’s trees, is making me collect as many of the Ash seeds as possible.  I sincerely hope that some of the Ash trees survive, but perhaps…and I say perhaps, if the worst comes to the worst, I can, just like the pear pip I managed to grow into a small two-foot tall tree, I might be able to grow an Ash or two from the seeds I am collecting.

This weekend, my little pear tree is being ceremoniously planted in our garden.  Good luck little tree!

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Our Friend


It is warm (well getting hot really), the sun is shining and the sky is blue.  I have been sitting in my beautiful sun-bathed garden and listening to the birds singing their little hearts out.


It is my birthday today.   And yet…my heart is heavy.   I should be feeling happy today of all days, but…we have a beautiful golden retriever (Bailey) who is now over fourteen and a half years old.  He is not at all well and we are going through what every pet-lover goes through…should we end his life or keep him alive a little longer?




If only dogs could talk.  I well remember the old song ‘If I could talk to the Animals’ – this shows my age! – sung by Rex Harrison many years ago.   IF we could talk to him, Bailey would be able to tell us how he feels:  whether he is in pain – he certainly can hardly walk now as his joints are stiff with arthritis and the fact that he doesn’t like the fits he’s been having – and whether he would rather still be with us, or be free from whatever ails him and be able to run around in a wonderful dog’s version of heaven.




There is a dichotomy to all this.   Are we keeping him alive for his sake, or ours?   When our previous golden retriever – Fergus – died several years ago, we decided that we would never have another dog as we missed him so much.  After all our best friend had gone and we were bereft.   About a year passed by and I just happened to be looking through The Golden Retriever Website, when I saw him.




He was the most beautiful dog I’d ever seen.   Bailey is a large dog and much larger than our three previous dogs.  I must say here, that to us they were all beautiful, but he is or was, an Alpha Male (or leader of the pack).  You might think, ‘Then why was he on the website for sale?’   Good question, and we asked ourselves that as well.   I emailed the owner.    The husband thought he was too big and didn’t like him:  at this time Bailey was in his prime at three years of age and his wife couldn’t take him out because she had a bad back.




So we took him on and we are glad we did.   We have about two and a half acres of garden and woodland.   Bailey I’m sure has been in seventh heaven.  He has spent his days running in the woods and chasing anything that moves.   Only problem is, he can’t run now and can’t feel the breeze ruffling through his fur as he used to  when running helter-skelter through the trees.




Which now brings us back to the question above and I still don’t know the answer.   It is my husband Jim’s birthday on Wednesday and…  Do we wait a little longer?




This BLOG is dedicated to BAILEY, our friend.  This photo was taken several years ago.


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Elder Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra calls for ACTION

Elder Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra calls for ACTION.

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Really Interesting People!

Really Interesting People!.

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Really Interesting People!

Over the years, I’ve met several people who impressed me immensely. They were in the main elderly, but they carried their age with dignity, pride and utter resourcefulness.

My sister was living in Cairns in North Queensland, Australia and as I hadn’t seen her for a number of years, I decided to go to Oz by myself to visit her. You must understand that for me, this was a difficult decision to make. I have flown to many parts of the world, but hate flying and to undertake such a journey, sent my head in a spin. But I really wanted to see me sister and so I set off for Cairns.
A few days after my arrival, we took the train up to a place called Karunda and whilst there, I stopped to speak to an old aboriginal man. His origins were obvious and he was sitting proudly upright on the side of a dusty path with his legs crossed and displaying the white soles of his dusty feet. His broad nose dominated his black, lined face and he was old, but how old it was impossible to tell. His lips were parted, showing uneven brown teeth that jutted out from his gums like so many broken tombstones.
He had stubbly, coarse grey hair and his tired, yellow-edged black eyes stared past me and away to the far distant horizon. He spoke with passionate wisdom in a deep sonorous voice about the history of his people and how difficult it was for them to fit into our world. To his simple mind, we should have been able to fit into his.
He was selling brightly coloured boomerangs and I shall always remember him. I bought one of course!

In the town where I lived a few years ago, I often used to see a tall elderly woman walking sedately along the footpath. She was always beautifully dressed with every hair in place and wore her hat at a jaunty angle. As I walked by she would smile sweetly and say hello. As a writer, I tended to look at people and try to imagine who they were and what sort of a life they had led. 
One day I walked into a shop that sold greeting cards, books and small gifts for every occasion and standing before me was the old lady holding a paper bag in her gloved hands. She looked at me and recognition flared in her myopic eyes.
‘Hello,’ she said. ‘My name is Lilian and I’ve just bought myself a treat. You see it is my birthday and I am 92 years of age today.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘How wonderful: many happy returns of the day.’
‘Yes, thank you and I’m so excited. You see, I’ve just bought a guitar and in this bag is a little book telling me how to learn to play it.’
‘A guitar,’ I said in some surprise.
‘I’ve always wanted to learn how to play one,’ she said with a giggle.
‘Well that’s wonderful…I…’
‘Oh, you don’t think that I’m too old to learn to play the guitar, do you,? she interrupted.
‘Lillian, of course I don’t. I hope you enjoy it.’
After that I often used to stop and chat with her and yes, she did learn to play the guitar, but unfortunately six months later she died. I will never forget Lillian or the proud way she used to hold her head when she spoke about her latest achievement. Such a pity it was her last. I shall never forget her.

The two people I have just described, although very different in every way, both had faith in themselves and in their abilities.   My mother often used to say to me, ‘I don’t feel old inside you know. I still think of myself as being eighteen.’   We must never forget that with extreme age comes great wisdom and we must remember that they trod the paths which we now follow.

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Dream, dream, dream…

Dream, dream, dream….

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Dream, dream, dream…

Everyone dreams, but not everyone can remember them in the morning.  Don’t you find that frustrating sometimes?   I suppose there are some dreams that you would rather forget and hope that you will never have them again and some dreams to which you would love to return. But as so often happens as you desperately try to recapture the moment, that elusive something refuses to come back.

In a recent short story which has been included in my latest book ‘Fifteen Brushes with LOVE!, entitled ‘PORTRAIT OF A DREAM’, a woman grew up having the same dream about a truly handsome man. Once she married, the dreams stopped, but…when the marriage failed, the dreams started again.  Here is the start of the story:


I couldn’t believe it, my dream man was back and my heart pounded with excitement. He stood on the other side of the courtyard, staring at me: I was totally lost and instantly under his spell again.

‘Come to me, please come to me,’ he murmured. His voice was as soft as velvet and it floated as if on a zephyr breeze. His full-length robe had golden edges that gleamed like the early morning sunshine and his long blond hair moved gently as he moved his head. He was magnificent. A cry of pleasure escaped from my lips as his outstretched arms beckoned to me. ‘Come to me my dearest. It is time and I need you…oh how I need you,’ he pleaded.

Recognition flared briefly as his deep blue eyes bored into mine, piercing my soul and heightening my already receptive senses. Pure joy, strange distantly remembered love, longing and peace settled over me like a warm silken blanket. I was being cosseted beyond my wildest dreams. I was a compliant and happy slave, a helpless moth hovering and flitting over a flame and I ran towards him.  I could feel the sun filtering through the gently swaying palm-trees circling the courtyard. A heady perfume exuded from the tropical plants surrounding the ornate fountain in the centre and the sound of water trickling and flowing over stones was like gentle music to my ears. This was a peaceful paradise interrupted only by the sound of bees, fluttering their sun-drenched golden wings around me.  I was nearly there…”

It was then that she woke up!  But dreams come in different guises.   People sometimes say ‘Sweet Dreams’ when saying goodnight to you.  But are they always ‘sweet’ or are they nightmares instead?  Who can tell which sort you will experience each night as you close your eyes and go to sleep.

But you don’t necessarily have to be asleep to dream.  In my book PAPER DREAMS the central character, a young librarian, Katie Nicholson, is a good case in point.  Katie often spent her time day-dreaming, and as a librarian she was sent to an old creepy mansion to catalogue the books after the death of the elderly owner. She entered the house…

“She stared at the staircase and soon imagined herself being rapidly transported backwards in time – back to the moment in history that had always fascinated her  …Beautiful crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, reflecting one hundred-fold, the many candles which lit up the fairy-tale imaginary scene. There were baskets and vases everywhere which were crammed full with flowers and she could almost smell the heady intoxicating perfume they exuded. Women with elaborate crinoline dresses, appeared to float down the stairs, the hems of their dresses making a slight rustling sound as they descended. Each woman’s hair was expertly coiffured and dotted with jewels and real flowers and they drew expensive looking fans across their heavily made-up faces in a feigned effort to conceal their mock coquettishness. The women were all being received at the foot of the stairs by their equally well-dressed and bewigged menfolk as they bent elegantly dressed knees in deep bows and patronising sweeps of their arms. The lace cuffs of their sleeves just grazed the floor as they looked up with feigned expressions of love. To complete the picture, footmen with white powdered wigs and haughty expressions on their faces, weaved in and out of the assembled throng, handing round glasses of wine and delicious looking canapés, all displayed and served from ornate Georgian silver trays. The sound of a string quartet playing a Mozart minuet appeared to drift into the hall through one of the open doorways. Katie could hear the excited chatter of happy people having the time of their lives. Just then everyone seemed to stop what they were doing. They turned and walked towards her, their arms outstretched in greeting…”

This day-dream was pure indulgence on Katie’s behalf, but as an intuitive person her nightmares often seemed to come true!   In this extract she has fallen asleep on a train.

“She found herself in a huge cavernous room.  She was surrounded by bookshelves and cupboards and they all appeared to be leaning towards her. Books hung at crazy angles and somewhere even suspended in thin air, whilst others littered the floor. Confused thoughts of fear and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, invaded her mind. Misty overwhelming shadows floated around her…and feelings of dread enveloped her.  What was going on?  She felt compelled to place the books back on to the shelves.  And just like an automaton, Katie circled the room, but as fast as she picked them up, more fell silently around her. Nightmarish ghostly pieces of paper and parts of books swirled around her head. She raised both arms in front of her face to protect herself.

A peculiar noise made her turn around in alarm.  A man appeared in a doorway which had loomed out of nowhere, and without any warning he threw something at her. Books…more books rained down upon her as a hideous smile spread across his frightening face.  His demonic eyes burned into hers and Katie felt real terror. She struggled and fought to protect herself from this onslaught as her whole world became a storm…a total blizzard of small pieces of paper. She could no longer see anything, but she could feel…evil…and menace. She awoke with a jolt. “

As the story progresses, Katie has several reasons to remember this particular nightmare.

So dream on, dear reader, dream on…and remember most people dream a lot more than they realise.  As far as remembering a dream is concerned, you will probably only be able to recall the ones you have immediately before waking,   But don’t lie awake being too afraid to go back to sleep in case the bogeyman gets you!  SWEET DREAMS!

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