Monday, June 06, 2011

The Cat Who Is No More (Lilian Jackson Braun Dead at 97)

Bestselling author Lilian Jacskon Braun died on June 4 at age 97 according to her husband, Earl Bettinger.  Braun was the author of 29 "The Cat Who..." mysteries, a series she began in 1966 with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.  According to Bettinger, Braun was working on the 30th book in the series at the time of her death.

After adding two more books to the series, Braun devoted herself to a full-time job with the Detroit newspaper, and eighteen years would pass before she published the fourth "The Cat Who..." book.  The last book in the series, The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, was released by Putnam in January 2007, and what would have been book number 30, The Cat Who Smelled Smoke, has now been cancelled.

Braun, who was born on June 20, 1913, missed her 98th birthday by just sixteen days.

(I have seen Ms. Braun's books in bookstores for most of my life, it seems.  They are hard to miss in the mystery section because of the way the covers generally share a common design - but I never read one, always getting the impression that the books were of the "cozy" type more aimed at a female audience than a male one.  Whatever the case, she was a major figure in mystery writing for a long, long time, and I'm sure that her fans are saddened by news of her death.)

66 comments:

  1. I didn't actually like her books - I think "cozy" is an understatement, because I had read several cozies that have felt more like they were set in the real world, with the potential for real world problems, than the Cat Who series. However, her books were like a fixture. My mom loved them, and when I was a kid it wasn't uncommon to find a Cat Who book in her latest pile of library checkouts. This news gives me a sadly nostalgic feeling.

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  2. I think they are a lot of fun but are not very deep at all. One must read them simply for the fun of it. I like Jim Qwilleran despite his womanizing! :) I haven't made it very far through the series but I am saddened to know that there will now be no more added. Especially since the last one (which I unwittingly listened to first) left us with a lot of unanswered questions!

    97 is a ripe old age though, and she has left behind a legacy that will last for many decades if not centuries to come!

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  3. Library Girl, I was never drawn to them because they seemed to be marketed to readers who enjoy very old fashioned (tame) mysteries, with "tame" being the key word. But they were always on the shelves, so I assumed they were selling in good numbers...libraries always seemed to have a bunch of them on the shelves, too. But I doubt I'll ever read one...too many others I want to get to first.

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  4. Andy, I hadn't thought of trying one as an audio book. Perhaps her style is more suited to my daily commute...have to keep that in mind next time I pick up a new audio book for my commute.

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  5. Sam, it has been years since I read one of her books. The books were never 'deep', but Qwill was a character I could develop deeper in my own mind. My mom and I would get the books from the library for summer reading - quick 'reads' on a hot summer afternoon. Thinking of Qwill brings back those memories- the kind you know you can't ever have again but were fine at the time. Does that make sense?

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  6. Brenda, thanks for your thoughts. Your comment made me smile - that's exactly what reading is all about.

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  7. I read every single one of them and loved them! Her last couple did not really seem her usual style which led a lot of her fans to speculate that she did not really write them entirely herself (for crying out loud she was in her nineties!) In any case, I am saddened by this news. I looked forward to January every year as that is when the new ones would be published.RIP Lillian, you gave me many lovely afternoons of leisurely reading. Who could ask for more?

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  8. Very nicely said, Anonymous. Lillian would be smiling to read this, I'm sure.

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  9. I suppose they're cosy in the sense that there's no espionage or high stakes shootouts or anything like that. But they're fun and funny and sweet and I learn at least one new thing with each of her books!

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  10. Deniz, whatever we call them, the books certainly had a large and loyal audience, so the lady was doing something right and she managed to do it for a very long time.

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  11. I'm sad to hear of her passing! I too have read all her books. As a multiple cat owner, I was originally drawn to the title "The Cat Who...". Her books are light hearted, easy reads that are rich in character. Her stories kind of have the feel of Garrison Keillor's News from Lake Wobegon on his A Prairie Home Companion radio show. I always looked forward each year to read her next book to get the latest news from Pickax. Lillian's books are a pleasant escape to a small town atmosphere with a murder mystery thrown in for excitement. I will read them all again when I get to my twilight years. Thank you Lillian!

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  12. She certainly stayed popular for a long time, Duane. Not many can match her longevity anymore, I don't think. Your description of her work makes me almost curious enough to pick up one of the books...just need to find the time to work one in. Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. I am an UNASHAMED MALE FAN. I "read" every one of the audio books I could get my hands on. They made the Millions of Miles out on the road away from my wife and kids alot easier. Yes, they are lite on action, violence, sex, etc. which means that the whole family can enjoy them. And, as a fan of Koontz and King, I found LJB's "cozy" style to be refreshing. I will miss not knowing what comes next for Qwill, Kool Koko, and the gang 400 miles north of everywhere.

    P.S. George Guidall voices the Cat Who Series so well, one can easily forget the characters are not real.

    thnx,
    LUCKY

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  14. I think these books are a wonderful way to introduce younger people to the mystery genre. When I worked for an audiobook store, I could always recommend "The Cat Who ... " books for family trips because there was no swearing, graphic violence, or sex beyond a kiss. As a cat person, I always enjoyed KoKo and Yum Yum. Quilleran and the whole gang will be missed, but not forgotten.

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  15. Sorry to be so slow in responding to your comment about Braun, Lucky...just saw it for the first time. Happy to hear that you are a fan of her writing and that she became such a key part of your road travels. That's damned cool.

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  16. Great points about Braun's "G" rating style, Kiki. I'll have to recommend her books to my granddaughter who is just getting into mysteries...got to drag her away from all those stupid vampires, witches, and obnoxious teens before it's too late.

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  17. Just have finished reading my first LJB book (The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare) and enjoyed the light, undemanding entertainment (and the attractive human sleuth and Their Royal Felinities). Got these for my mother while she's in rehab, but ended up with them at home. Lucky accident.

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    1. Make sure you read them in order! Shakespeare is WAY down the list! The Cat Who Could read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, Turned On & Off, Saw Red, Played Brahms, Played Post Office, Knew Shakespeare, Sniffed Glue, Went Underground. Sorry to bore you. Anyway, if you get her last book and look in the front section, it should list all of her books. Don't forget the Cat Who Had 14 Tales! It's a fun Stand Alone. My mom got me The Cat Who cookbook. It has a lot of the delicious things that Qwill liked to eat! Hard back, too! Started my reread of the series about 2 weeks ago. Love the books. What a way to pass quarantine time, right? Stay well everyone

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    2. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this great information behind for readers just now discovering her work. Much appreciated.

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  18. Sometimes we get lucky, don't we, DameAlys?

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  19. I discovered "The Cat Who" series 30 years ago. My wife & I are cat lovers and sped through the series loving every story. We were saddened to hear of LJB's passing but amazed by her tenacity. She gives us all hope of staying sharp into and through our senior years. By the way two of our more recent cats (we have six) are named KoKo and Yum Yum.

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  20. You're right, Anonymous. Braun is certainly an inspiration to the rest of us about the benefits of staying busy and active as long as we are alive. From what I've been told, even her latest books hold up well in comparison to the earlier ones.

    Love the idea of naming your cats after something in the books...still haven't read her work, so I'm assuming that's the case with KoKo and Yum Yum.

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  21. I was looking to see which book was next in line to read and sadly I find news of her passing....don't know how I missed that except that my own dear husband passed away last year. I will enjoy the last book (#29) and start over again because I love them so much. The "keep me company" and "take me away " from every day life. Her life was a blessing to me! God bless her husband....

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  22. Just the other day I decided to get back into the "Cat" books for some lighter reading, to take of rest from the theology I read most of the time. Now I learn of her passing a couple of years ago. :( For me, it was love at first listen, on my way to visit my friend in KY. The English is so beautiful that it melted my heart. Her word choices, her phraseology, are exquisite. I will always relish these books and recommend them to others for some light, enjoyable reading.

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  23. Unknown, your words are a beautiful tribute to Ms. Braun. I'm sure she would be proud to read of your feelings.

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  24. I just finished the cat who had 60 whiskers. Went online to see which book was next to answer the unfinished "business" and I find this is the last book and I learned of her death. I was introduced to LJB. About 18 yrs ago by a patient we are dog lovers and I wasn't sure if I would like cat books. They were wonderful. Perfect reading at the beach. I was able to laught out loud and no one noticed. We read most in order. They do build upon each other.
    My daughters upon reaching their 10 year were introduced to them as they were truly family books. Like so many comments before me, she and her tails will be missed but cherished
    Cait.


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  25. Cait, I have to admit that I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of fans who have posted comments regarding Braun's death (even two years after the sad event) and by the depth of their feelings regarding the author. That speaks volumes for her talent. Thanks for posting.

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  26. and remember, she burned down the barn in the last one out, and gave Qwilleran a new girl friend. She had moved on . . . .alas. She's missed

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    1. She is missed, as is the whole gang. I keep checking back here from time to time hoping to find a posting stating that the last book will finally be published. Still will leave us with unanswered questions and hopes....but will furnish one last fix.

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    2. It's been so long now, Martha, that I wonder how much work she had actually done on the last book before her passing. But, you know, even if all she left was an outline or plot summary, it is common for someone to be hired to "finish" partially completed books like this one. Don't give up hope.

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  27. She was a wonderful author and I agree with all the positive comments listed here, and that males as myself can enjoy the series, even if we too like Koontz and King (which I do!). I was saddened by the abrupt end of the series and composed an unofficial continuation which can be found on facebook if you search on CAT WHO FAN CLUB (don't put a THE in the search, if you see my siamese cat yum yum on the top shelf (yes that was what I named her!) you will have found the right place. Then look in the Files section of the group page for 'The Cat Who Grinned' as well as some PDF scans of some of the original Official Lilian Jackson Braun Newsletters! It is a fun place if you are a fan! And Sam Sattler here may be correct. If you visit the page above you can read more about this!

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  28. I am a fierce Italian fan of Mrs. Lilian Jackson Braun and his Cats in yellow ... I love the world of Qwilleran and the town at six hundred kilometers from everywhere (as it is translated in the Italian series published by Mondadori) ... How many more readers I was puzzled by the last book published in Italy under the title "the cat who had sixty whiskers" ... and absolutely devastated by shedding the writer has made between the journalist and librarian, making her even leave for Paris without any compelling reason ... i hope that someone recovers really farewell of Mrs. Braun and reveal the mysteries surrounding the streets of Pickax and its residents, before they are overwhelmed by the fog of forgetfulness ...

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  29. I have every Cat Who book in my collection except Lilian's short stories and loved every one except Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers. Did she really write that one? I can't believe she would burn down Quill's wonderful house, permit his "girlfriend" move out of the country, and move Koko and Yum Yum away from him! The book was so far from her usual happy style and upbeat themes that to me it is unbelievable. It sure was a disappointing ending to a fascinating series. I see two possible answers. Was someone so jealous of her success that he/she took advantage of her illness to destroy her upbeat themes and characterizations? Or did they want to bring the series to a conclusion by scattering the people who populated Pickax to the four winds? I guess I'll never know but will always wonder. But I'm sorry I read it!
    Nothing about it sounds like Ms Braun to me!

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    1. I agree 100%. Nothing could convince me she wrote this book. I own & love all the rest as well as the audiobooks. Glad I at least borrowed the lady from a library rather than buy it. It was terrible.

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    2. I so agree with Anonymous and Holly. Maybe Lilian started the first few chapters but who ever tried to have her quick and charming wit failed in every instance. Perhaps Putnam Pub was wise in not printing book #30. No one will ever be able to step into Charlotte Bronte's books or Lilian Braun.

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  30. I love the passion of these last three comments, y'all. That's what reading is all about and you guys make me proud to be as committed to books as I am. Thank you all for the comments.

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  31. I recently lost my husband and evenings are the most difficult. A neighbor loaned me the entire series, which I have almost completed. The fact that these books are not "deep" is perfect at this time in my life. Wonderfully entertaining, easy reading and as I have two cats, I love the description of Koko and Yum Yum.

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  32. Has there been any change ,will The Cat Who Smelled Smoke
    ever be published ?

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  33. I met Lilian Jackson Braun at a cat show in Concord North Carolina many years ago. She was dressed in her trademark hat and I introduced myself to her as we had the same first name and I told her that I love quill she looked up at me and smiled and said oh I love him too ...what a wonderful memoryfor me.I have loved her books and read them several times ...rest in peace dear Lilian. and thank you for such delightful books and sharing your talent with us.

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  34. Well I guess the "Cat Who..." books live on since she died over 6 years ago and she is still missed. I don't think I have even been in a library during my travels that there have not been a good number of "Cat Who..." books on the shelves. If you haven't settled down for a good read as only Lilian could write you have truly missed the boat!!

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  35. Lilian Jackson Braun has given us so many hours of good, wholesome reading! There remain several books for me to enjoy and will re-read them all again! Marian

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  36. Having grown up in a small town in Michigan, I identified with Pickax in many ways. My father who ran a small bank had a sign in the lobby which said, "There's not much to see in a small town, but what you hear makes up for it." I had a friend who I visited in Bad Axe Michigan (Population 3500!) where Ms Braun lived (and after which she modeled) in Bad Axe. Great memories from small towns! I loved the people I got to know in her novels. The snob artistic double talk in her first novel was hilarious and really got me hooked to read them all. By the way, I disagree with previous posters about her last novel. I think she knew her time was limited in terms of doing much more writing and she was clearing the deck for Qwill to get married (or at least headed for that) in order to close up the series. This would not have worked with Polly still around.Interesting that if you check out the 49th parallel where Pickax is supposed to be it is in the northern part of Lake Superior!

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  37. I just found this page tonight after so many years of her passing. Thank you for keeping it up and open. I have all the books on audio and an MP3 player just for them. I am 72 and have read them also with my late Mother up until her passing in 2014. I have 6 cats and have managed to find a home for one feral kitten who was then named YumYum..and 2 others that ! tried to name Koko and YumYum, but they wouldn't answer to the names, so Houdini and Cissy are their answer names and Koko and YumYum are their birth names. Yes the books are mild..just right to sleep by at night and not have any bad dreams. Soft cushion headphones are great. I like most all the books but The Cat Who Played Brahms and Who liked Shakespeare best.....this week. :)

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    1. I'm happy that you found the posting, and I apologize for it taking me a while to get your comment processed. I am constantly fighting spammers, so it sometimes takes me a while to get to everyone.

      The author left behind quite a legacy of her work having really touched her readers deeply. That's obvious from the comments that have been left here over the years.

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  38. Hello Mr. Sattler and Cat Who Friends. Having decided I need a comforting way to spend the coming winter after this past year (so long 2020, don’t let the door hit you…), I started rereading The Cat Who series. Out of curiosity, I did a quick Wikipedia check to see if there had been any news regarding #30 and followed one of the reference links from there and ended up here. It’s been nice to read all of your comments.

    I can’t remember exactly when I first read a Cat Who book, but it was probably close to 30 years ago. I was hooked and read the series over the following years. I remember reading and then passing each one along to my best friend to read as we went along.

    So happy that folks are still commenting on this page and keeping the Cat Who alive. LJB created a very special world in these books. It may not be for everyone, but for those of us who love Qwilleran, Koko, Yum Yum, and all of their friends in Moose County, it will always be very dear. RIP Ms. Braun, you are forever in our hearts.

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    1. Angela, thanks so much for following that link to this old post. People have continued to add comments to it long after I thought they would. And that speaks volumes about the respect and love they still have for this author.

      I love the way you are re-reading the entire series this winter. Favorite books are very much like comfort food - only a whole lot healthier - because they are there when you need them most. Right now, I imagine they are a wonderful reminder of better days, and the better days that will surely come. 2020 has been a chore.

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    2. Yes, comfort food indeed. Thank you and hope you have very Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year.

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    3. Thanks, Angela. I hope you and yours do as well.

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  39. I love them too. They do have a lightness to them.. but a bit of dark too. After all, her cat who books Were about crimes too! one of my gone but not forgotten pusscats my daughter & I named Koko, but Ive yet to find a girl I can call yum yum -one day maybe! Lilian gave us a place & its people that can never be forgot, a part of our world where we as readers could feel included & be a part of. Her cats Koko & Yum yum were so real, & Koko's abilities didnt ever surprise me -cats senses are amazing, theyare soo intuitive! RIP Lilian. btw,Sam -get reading!!

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    1. I love your enthusiasm about the books, and I can imagine how special they must be to readers like you who also dearly love cats. Have you read all of the novels?

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  40. from Barbara (again!). Sam, I shouldn't have said get reading, but, Have you managed to read\listen yet to any of the cat who books? I would like to think you would like them too:)

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    1. I'm embarrassed to say that I still haven't experienced on of her novels, Barbara, despite my good intentions. Maybe an audiobook would be the way to go.

      I generally do not much enjoy cozy mysteries, and that's kept me reluctant to pick up one of her books to now. But it's hard to argue with her success or such dedicated fans of her work, so maybe now's the time. Any suggestions?

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  41. well..inasmuch as they are purported to be 'cozy' mysteries, I'd never thought of them that way. I suppose the cat part appealed -& the crime part cemented the attraction. so I just got on with the reading part! maybe they do have a cosiness to them, but I found\find them more interesting a read as cool cat, complex Quill, & quite interesting crime plots. just maybe skim thru' yore audiobook, or perhaps listen to a-bit-at-a-time. & aye, starting with the 1st one in the series might at the very least give u the groundwork if u want to see if u'd like to followhon from there. so..1st one, skim or listen to a bit, see how u feel. One note, Ive oft found that as I start a new strange to me book, ive not been too impressed... but more than once as ive kinda ploughed thru it\them, ive come away from the experience being grateful that i Did do the whole read. of course, u may not feel that way if indeed u do read her book, but well, u never know! btw forgive my typing -im rubbish at it! & ad i live in mid-scotland, its quite late on, here (22:59!) take care :)

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    1. Barbara, I'll see if I can find a library copy of the first book in the series soon. Like I say, the "tamer" mysteries don't appeal to me as much as the grittier, more realistic, ones do. But, who knows...I may find that I should have tried the series a long time ago.

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  42. Barbara here...btw, the reason I mentioned the time was more a curiosity as to what part of the world you live in, rather than mentioning the late hour here -Im a night owl anyway! but, yes, my typing's rubbish!

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    1. I'm from Texas, Barbara, and have retired in a suburb that borders on Houston city limits. I did spend a decade working in and around the UK, though, and Scotland is one of my favorite places in the world. Beautiful country and beautiful people.

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  43. y'know, I like all the CSI tv prog's, & the like, but then I also like murder she wrote, the persuaders, et al. Must admit my tastes are eclectic; in books: the two world wars, fantasy fiction, science fiction, crime fiction, ie: cat who, etc, oh! & many others. but then i Am a gemini so thats to be expected😏 suppose what im saying is the gritty are good, & sometimes the softer ones are,sometimes,(not always!)ok too.
    Im hopeless at geography, but ive gleaned from online you're the 'mexico' end of America.? hope ive got that right! Can u remember what part(s) of Scotland u were in? I live in Fife, roughly mid-scotland btw. soo cool u remember it so fondly. That's cool🙂

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  44. I did a good bit of exploring in Scotland, and I ended up spending some time in places like John O'Groats, St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, and Thurso. Those are the places that come immediately to mind for me. I even drove Stranraer to catch the ferry over into Northern Ireland at one point, and after two days in Belfast I went to Dublin for a few days. I'll never forget that ferry ride...very rough seas and lots of "sick" people aboard. It turned into one of the longest nights of my life. LOL

    Another good memory is the night I spent in a small inn/pub in the middle of nowhere someplace in Scotland. A very friendly crowd bought me beer for hours and told stories most of the night that I could barely understand a word of. Those were good times. Wonderful folks.

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  45. you were certainly adventerous! but im glad u had interesting unforgettable times here, thats really heartwarming☺️
    i rem' when i was introduced to (real) scrumpy -Wow! i was barely 17(had recently run away to Scotland from a very evilly dictatorial father) & had No idea a/what it was, & b/ the immense effect it would have on me, to that end I downed a full pint pretty quick, felt fine, lovely taste I thought, thereupon went out to the outside loo -& fell flat on my face!😂 that was somewhere in deepest darkest Fife on a deep & dark night. canna mind what happened after!!

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  46. meant to say, the place that my friend took me to that fateful night(!) looked a bit like a shack, in an out-of-the-way place. goodness knows where it was!

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  47. you know, it comes to me that those times you spent in scotland may be worth writing about, yourself As the saying goes, we've all got a book in us, & writing of times gone by is informative, but it would also make an interesting & wondrous read🙂 I suppose in a way that's what Lilian did, as she appeared to base moose county on her own geographical location(s)along with the people & their quirks,in her books,on her own experiences. History of a sort.

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    1. I wish I were a writer, Barbara, but I'm not. If I were ever to write a book, it would certainly come from that decade, though, and the experiences I had in the UK, Algeria, France, and the Sahara Desert. Unfortunately...no talent.

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    2. well... perhaps you could instead speak of all those (amazing!) experiences, on a personal tape recorder. As i say, Amazing. You have had a very full life, by the sound of it. Mine pales in comparism!

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  48. &, oh, if you record those incredible experiences by voice, you could simply be imagining that you are chatting with some friends..at least, thats what I do when im texting someone or writing a letter or a book,Like, conversational. it doesnt suit everyone, but then "you cant please All of the people All of the time~" & anyway its for your ears only! (unless you want it to be otherwise) ah well, get off my soapbox! sorry🤭

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