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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #83

Dear Reader,

Many thanks to my loyal readers for their pre-orders and for placing Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, on the Hot 💯 chart.

Delighted to announce that my Ann’s War series will be translated into French 🙂

More translation news. We started work on two new translations this week both in Spanish: The Devil and Ms Devlin, Sam Smith Mystery Series book fifteen and The Olive Tree: Branches, book two in my Spanish Civil War saga. Many thanks to all my translators for their contributions to our translation projects.

Mom’s Favorite Reads

Happy New Year to All Our Readers!

In our New Year issue…

Surviving the Stone Age

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

Nicolas Winton – The British Schindler 

Meditation

National Hat Day

Stories, Puzzles, Recipes, Humour, Poetry, International Bestsellers and so much more…

20 February 1927, the wedding of Louisa and John, my grand aunt and uncle.

The French Grand Prix, 1906.

Marseille, the setting for my Heroine’s of SOE story, Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, drawn in 1886.

A Roll of Honour produced by the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company in recognition of company officials who served in the First World War.

Ancestry

Three letters from Ken Howe (born 13.3.1919 in Corneli, the son of Billy Howe and Gwendolyne Thomas). In 1940 when the call came Ken responded to the threat of fascism and joined the Queen’s Own Hussars. His letters offer an insight into life at the front and here is the first of them.

30.9.1940

Dear Sis (Priscilla) Handel (brother-in-law) and Clive (nephew),

Thanks for your letter, which I received this morning. Glad to here that you are all okay, as I am. I have just come from dinner, which wasn’t so hot, and after reading about that rabbit my mouth is watering.

Jerry was around here (Newmarket) last night dropping his eggs, but far enough from us. As long as he keeps that distance I’ll be quite satisfied. I was in Newmarket last night with one of the boys from our tent and we spent most of our time in a church canteen reading and talking and it was a pleasant evening, what with free tea and cake. We were issued with a suit of denim last week, the stuff that the Home Guards use, and we use it for our work. We look like Home Guards walking around our camp. There has been talk of us moving this week, but I don’t know if it is right or not.

It is getting cold in the night time now, and I woke last night with my feet like lumps of ice. I think I will have to get a hot-water bottle sez me. We have been on wireless training this morning and I was nearly sleeping on my feet. We are going out in tanks this afternoon, messing about.

I had a letter from Aunt Edie yesterday, and she said she hoped to see me on my next leave, remember the 48 hours.

Joan (sister) sent me some fruit and biscuits in her parcel and I’ve been doing alright the last two days. Well old girl this is about all the news this time so I will sign off. Give my regards to the sergeant (his father?).

Till the next time, love to all,

Ken

Here is the second letter written by Ken Howe of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. Undated, 1940.

We have been cleaning this place out today. We will be a long way from here (Newmarket) by Saturday. Well, Sis, I’m not feeling too good about leaving the old country. It’s been a lovely autumn day, with the sun out, and it brings back memories of South Cornelly, and walks in the moonlight with the boys. It will be a new experience like when I was called up, and I expect I shall get used to it.

Ken Howe’s third letter, 9.2.1941, Middle East Forces

Dear Sis, Handel and Clive,

Just a few lines to say how we are getting on here. We are doing alright so far, and we haven’t got much to grumble at. Elwyn and myself were in Cairo a few days ago on leave, and we had quite a good time there. It isn’t as modern as I thought it would be, and in the native quarters how it smells. We stayed at the barracks there and it cost us nothing, though the money doesn’t half go. I ordered two cushion covers from one of the shops, with our badge on it. They make them and post them duty free for the troops. I’m afraid it will take a long time before you have them, one for you and Joan.

While in Cairo we met a few of our boys who were in our squad in Catterick and we hadn’t seen them for months, and in one of the clubs for our troops I met a chap named Thomas. He owns the Swan in Nottage and he knows Handel and Roy Edwards well. Surprising how small the world is, eh. We went to see the pyramids and Sphinx and other sites.

We both played football yesterday afternoon for the squadron and had our snaps taken by one of the boys, so I’ll send you some on when they are developed. We have had a few sandstorms and boy is there a mess. There’s sand in your nose, eyes, everywhere, and they blow for hours. Well old girl I’m afraid this is all for now. Hoping you are all in the best of health as I am. Cheerio for the present.

Love to all,

Ken

The cushion covers, made of black velvet, were sent to Priscilla and Joan with the message ‘To Sis All My Love Ken’ embroidered on them.

In March 1941 the Queen’s Own Hussars were mobilised to Crete and then to mainland Greece in the forces gathered together at short notice to defend Greece. Sadly, Ken was killed in action on the 23.4.1941, the day the Greek forces surrendered to the Axis. He was twenty-two years old.

The Greek campaign ended with a complete German and Italian victory. In many respects it was a ‘pointless’ campaign for the British because they did not have the military resources to carry out big simultaneous operations in North Africa and the Balkans. Even if they had been able to block the Axis advance, a counter-thrust across the Balkans was impossible.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #79

Dear Reader,

Reading, you know it makes sense.

Exciting news. Sam’s Song is #1 in Australia. Sam is also top five in America, Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, India and Spain while Operation Zigzag is top five in Spain and France, and Betrayal is #1 in America 🙂

My 3 x and 2 x great grandfathers, both William, worked at this quarry so would have been aware of this shocking incident. Maybe they witnessed it.

The apartment of Gustave Eiffel in the tower he designed, 1909.

A Christmas card sent to Sergeant Major Fear in 1918. From The People’s Collection Wales.

Frost on the sand dunes this week.

Mary Francis, a friend and neighbour of my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin.

At 12.15 a.m., on Thursday 17 September 1890, Mary Francis, also known as Bopa, died; she was 110 years old.

Mary Francis hailed from Llansamlet, near Swansea. According to her obituary in the Glamorgan Gazette she was born on the 15th August 1780, the youngest of seven daughters.

Around 1810, Mary arrived in Corneli where she worked as a servant to Owen Howells at Pen-y-Mynydd Farm. Her first husband was a collier named Griffiths. In search of work, the couple returned to Llansamlet, only for Mr Griffiths to expire when he fell into a canal. A widow, Mary went into service at Aberavon.

Mary’s fortunes changed when she returned to Corneli to work on Ty Tanglwst Farm. There, she met one of the farm-hands, David Francis. The couple married on 21 May 1814 and they settled at Ty Capel, adjacent to the chapel, where Mary lived for the rest of her life.

Mary Francis had six children, four of whom were still alive at the time of her death. Her mother, reputedly, lived until she was 111 years old and she is buried at Llansamlet. Mary’s husband, David, died on the 2 November 1839, aged fifty-nine, and so Mary lived as a widow for a further fifty-one years.

The Gazette remembered Mary as an industrious, respectable woman whose faculties remained clear until her closing years. Apparently, she could distinguish people at a considerable distance and her hearing and mind were well preserved. 

Physically, she was short and of small proportions and, like many of her generation, she could neither read nor write. Throughout her working life Mary was employed on various farms in the neighbourhood and was also in demand as a midwife and feather cleaner.

When she was seventy years old Mary broke her leg in an accident and from that point on she was compelled to seek parish relief. Of a religious disposition, Mary regularly attended Capel-y-Pil; she had a fine voice and she loved the hymns. When she could no longer attend the chapel the Rev. E. Williams, himself eighty, would visit her at home.

In her younger days Mary would frequently walk with my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin, fifteen miles to Neath market to sell their homemade dresses.

Unfortunately, in the last two years of her life Mary was confined to her bed, except for a few hours when she would sit by the fireside. During those final years people would call on her and leave donations.

When Mary Francis died her body was covered with a white sheet strewn with sweet scented thyme and rosemary. She was buried at Mawdlam Church and an estimated 1,000 people attended her funeral.

————-

Life for my 3 x great grandparents, William Howe and Mary Hopkin was hard, typical of working class Victorians. They lost four of their five children, in infancy, young adulthood and middle age. They also lost three of their grandchildren.

William’s working life reflected the changing landscape. Instead of a lifetime spent labouring on the land, he left farming in his twenties to become a collier in the recently established coal mines. He returned to the land only to work in the local limestone quarry during the second half of his life. Meanwhile, Mary was a dressmaker walking fifteen miles to the market to sell her dresses. Social life for the family revolved around the Methodist chapel.

Mary had strong material instincts. She brought up her niece, Ann Price, and looked after an orphan, Ann Beynon. Later, she brought up her grandson, Edward Reynolds. Her house was a home for waifs and strays.

On 12 July 1897, aged 79, Mary died of ‘senile decay’. Her son, William, was at her side. The inscription on her gravestone, written in Welsh, reads, ‘To walk in honour to the land of peace. May the good lord return her soul to me.’

Those words on Mary’s gravestone were obviously written by William. He died of bladder and prostrate disease, and exhaustion, on 31 December 1903. Edward Reynolds’ wife, Rachel Thomas, was at his side thus maintaining a link with the Reynolds family that existed for sixty years.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #43

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week with Ann’s War proving popular. This mini series has greatly exceeded my expectations.

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https://www.amazon.com/Hannah-Howe/e/B00OK7E24E/

April 1st was Sam’s birthday. I write the stories in ‘real time’ so Sam has a real age, thirty-seven, although believe me she still looks twenty-seven and in terms of attitude to life she’ll always be seventeen 😉

I‘ve been writing about Sam for six years and have enjoyed every minute. Sam is a writer’s dream, always full of stories.

At the moment, I’m storyboarding Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, and have many more stories planned.

Happy Birthday, Sam! 

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Published today, Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine April 2020. As ever, there are some great articles and features included this month. Read or download your copy FREE 🙂

My latest article for the Seaside News

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To date, Imprint Digital have printed all my books. I’m delighted with the quality of their printing and it’s great to see that even in difficult times they are proceeding with the expansion of their printing plant, pictured here.

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My Imprint Digital paperbacks are available from my website at special reduced prices for visitors to my website store.

https://hannah-howe.com/mystore/

This lyric by Al Stewart could serve as a soundtrack to one of the chapters in my Spanish Civil War Saga, The Olive Tree: Roots.

While traveling northwards on a back country lane

I came on the village where first I grew

And stopped to climb up the hill once again

Looking down from the tracks to the gray slate roofs

I watched the village moving as the day went slowly by

In the fields we lay here, my very first love and I

Under timeless arcadian skies

Under timeless arcadian skies

The old canal lies sleeping under the sky

The barges are gone to a lost decade

On overgrown banks here, lovers’ footsteps went by

Long before ever the roads were made

And in our turn we passed here and carved our names on trees

As the days washed by like waves of an endless sea

Under timeless arcadian skies

Under timeless arcadian skies

Time runs through your fingers

You never hold it at all till it’s gone

Some fragments just linger with you

Like snow in the spring hanging on

I left the village behind in the night

To fade like a sail on the darkening seas

The shifts and changes in the patterns of life

Will weather it more than the centuries

And in another village, in a far off foreign land

The new day breaks out opening up its hand

And the sun has the moon in his eyes

As he wanders the timeless skies

As part of their psychological assessment, the would-be agents at the SOE training school were shown Rorschach‘s inkblots, including card nine, the card featured here. Most of the students interpreted this image as dragons, which coincidentally is my interpretation.

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Harry Rée is one of the inspirations for Guy Samson, my character in Eve’s War Heroines of SOE, therefore I was delighted to see that Harry’s son, Jonathan, has edited his father’s memoirs and published them recently.

I’m looking forward to reading this book 🙂

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This is exciting, for today at least Operation Locksmith is #1 in France, outselling James Patterson 🙂

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Operation Locksmith is now available for pre-order.

“I understand that you wish to return to France,” the man behind the mahogany desk said.

“That’s correct,” I said.

“Your motivation?” he asked, smoothing the corners of his moustache.

“To do my bit for the war effort,” I said, “to defeat the Nazis and to discover what’s happened to my husband.”

“It would be extremely risky,” the officious-looking man said, “suicidal even, for a lone woman to undertake such a venture. However, there is an alternative.”

“Alternative?” I frowned.

“Yes. We’ll parachute you in, as one of our people. Of course, you’d have to undertake training first. Rigorous training. Top secret training. If you fail, I’m afraid it will mean a spell in the cooler, possibly until the war is over.”

“The cooler?”

“But I trust it won’t come to that,” he said, ignoring my question. “When can you start?”

I began immediately. And during my training I met two people who would radically reshape my life – Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp. I also discovered secrets about myself, abilities beyond my imagination. However, as the training heated up so the situations became all too real, until they reached a point where I had to kill, or be killed.

EVE'S WAR OPERATION LOCKSMITH MASTER

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE will continue next week, but this week I present Men of Courage Heroes of SOE 

Harry Alfred Rée was born on 15 October 1914. An educationalist, he was regarded by historian M.R.D. Foot as one of the best male SOE agents.

The son of Dr. Alfred Rée, a chemist who was from a Danish Jewish family, and Lavinia Elisabeth Dimmick, Harry Rée was a conscientious objector, ordered to work for the National Fire Service. However, in 1941 he re-registered for military service and was called up into the army. Later, he volunteered for the SOE. 

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In April 1943, as a Captain, and with the code name César, Harry parachuted into France to join the Acrobat Network. He argued against the RAF bombing targets in France because it turned public opinion against the Allies. Instead, he suggested that SOE agents should organise effective sabotage of factories on the ground. 

Harry convinced the director of a Peugeot factory at Sochaux to cooperate with the SOE. The director, a member of the Resistance, not only assisted in the sabotage, but also shared tactical information on Wehrmacht projects, including the V1 rocket. Due to this action, the RAF did not bomb the factory, saving many lives.

The Nazis tried to capture Harry. Indeed, he escaped a Feldgendarmerie group after being shot four times, swam across a river and crawled through a forest to reach Switzerland. In May 1944 he returned to Britain. 

Shortly after the war, Harry starred alongside fellow agent Jacqueline Nearne in the film Now it Can be Told (aka School for Danger), produced by the RAF Film Unit, which told the story of SOE’s activities in France.

In 1940, Harry married Hetty Vine. They had three children, the first of whom was born while Harry was in France.

Harry died in 1991.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

P.S. Apologies if the Issuu links do not load and for any formatting errors. This is entirely the fault of WordPress who, once again, have undated their platform at the expense of their customers. WordPress’ ‘improvements’ continue to make blogging and website management more difficult. When I joined them they were excellent, but now they provide a second-rate service.

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #38

Dear Reader,

This week, Betrayal reached #1 on the Amazon charts for the ninth time while all five books in my Ann’s War Mystery Series reached the top forty. Therefore, Ann dominates my personal sales chart today.

My latest translation, another wonderful contribution from Adriana.

Operation Zigzag entered the Hot 💯 the day it was made available for pre-order and I’m delighted that the book is still in the Hot 💯 

The writing is going extremely well. It’s been fascinating learning about the mean streets of Marseille, the railway network and the social customs of the time.

I write the books I want to read and I can’t wait to write and read the next chapter 🙂

https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Fort Saint-John in Marseille. Allied prisoners of war were held here.

In Operation Zigzag, set in December 1943, the Resistance ask Eve to spring Zigzag from this prison and escort him to the relative safety of Spain.

From 1940-2 the Germans and Allies had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ whereby the prisoners were allowed to wander around Marseille by day as long as they returned to the prison at night. Both sides honoured this agreement. However, when the Gestapo arrived in Marseille in November 1943 fascist barbarity replaced civilisation.

My 2020 writing schedule includes two Sam Smith mysteries, two Olive Tree Spanish Civil War novellas, two Eve’s War Heroines of SOE novellas and Pearl of the SOE. These books will be published this year, starting in March, although Pearl of the SOE is scheduled for 2021.

This is a demanding, but exciting schedule. My notebooks are full of novel and series ideas, which I hope to develop in due course.

Along with translations and audiobooks, these stories will be my main writing and publishing focus for the foreseeable future.

The cover for my forthcoming dramatised biography of Pearl Witherington the only woman to lead a Marquis group (of approximately 4,000 men) during the SOE’s fight against fascism.

Unknown to the general public, the SOE’s offices were on Baker Street, home of course to the fictional Sherlock Holmes, and immortalised in this classic Gerry Rafferty song.

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Alix Marrier d’Unienville was born on 8 May 1918 in Mauritius. Her parents, wealthy French aristocrats, moved back to France, to a chateau near Vannes, when she was six.

In 1940, with her dual French and British citizenship, Alix escaped to Britain where she wrote propaganda leaflets in the Free French headquarters at Carlton Gardens, London.

Recruited by the SOE, Alix began her training in June 1943. On 31 March 1944, she parachuted into Loir-et-Cher from a Halifax aircraft with millions of francs to distribute to the Resistance.

Under the alias of Aline Bavelan, her cover story stated that she was born on the island of Réunion in 1922 (the SOE making her four years younger), moved to France in 1938 to study and now was the wife of a prisoner-of-war. Clandestinely, her main mission in France was to organise messages for the Free French in Paris.

Alix worked in Paris under the code names Myrtil and Marie-France. She was successful until 6 June 1944 when the Gestapo arrested her in Paris. At Avenue Foch, where she was interrogated, the Gestapo found her cyanide pill.

Held in Fresnes Prison, in solitary confinement, Alix pretended to be mentally ill in the hope that the Gestapo would transfer her to Saint-Anne hospital. However, instead they transferred her to La Pitié a place known for its brutal atrocities. There, she continued her pretence, drawing inspiration from a family servant who had suffered from psychological problems. The secret, Alix reasoned, was never to look people in the eyes.

Transferred again, to a prison camp at Romainville, Alix plotted her escape with another prisoner, Annie Hervé. Their plan was to escape over the prison walls using a rope made from black curtains. Alix abandoned her plan when the Gestapo deported Annie Hervé to Germany. 

Throughout her time in captivity, the Gestapo were deeply suspicious of Alix. Indeed, all the clues pointed to her being an agent, yet they never put all the pieces together. Although she existed in squalid conditions on merge rations, she remained physically and mentally strong, strong enough to continually outwit her enemy.

On 15 August 1944, with the Allies approaching, Alix was in the last convoy travelling from Romainville to Germany when she reached Marne. There, the Allies had destroyed the railway bridge, so the Gestapo ordered the prisoners to cross a road bridge. 

In the town square, the prisoners spied a fountain. They ran towards the fountain to drink while the guards ran after them to haul them back. Sensing her opportunity, Alix escaped. At first, she entered a house. The occupants were sympathetic and offered her temporary shelter. Later, she hid in a meadow and after that with a woodcutter and his family before the advancing Americans liberated her. Free, she returned in a jeep to Paris.

After the war, Alix was employed as a war correspondent for US forces in south-east Asia. Then she worked as an air hostess for Air France. Putting her dramatic life experiences to good use, she became an accomplished writer of fiction and nonfiction producing several quality books.

In keeping with many of the female SOE agents who survived the war, Alix lived into her nineties. She died in Paris on 10 November 2015, aged 97.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #35

Dear Reader,

My sales top ten this week with Saving Grace up to #2. Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

My latest translation will be available soon, The Big Chill in Swedish. This is my third Swedish project with Jill, a wonderful translator.

Just published, Mom’s Favorite Reads February issue!

In this issue…

Valentine’s Day 
Leap Year
Mental Health 
Young Writers
Humour
Interviews
Hypnotism
And so much more!

Read online or download your FREE copy today 🙂

Before I write a story l like to know what the last line will be. My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series will be twelve books, so at this stage it’s difficult to know exactly what the last line will be. However, I’ve just thought of the last significant action that will tie up all the threads within the series. It’s magical when that happens.

Local views today, Margam Park.

The alchemy always amazes me, how one line from research notes can transform into a story within minutes. I’ve just outlined Operation Treasure in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Even in war is it possible to shoot an unharmed woman in cold blood? Eve is about to find out.

Meanwhile, Operation Zigzag continues to climb the Hot 💯 Chart, rubbing shoulders with New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Amazon #1 bestselling author Robert Dugoni 🙂

Here’s the universal book link for Operation Zigzag https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Women of Courage, Heroines of SOE

Jacqueline Nearne was born on 27 May 1916 in Brighton. She was the eldest daughter of an English father and a Spanish mother. Her family moved to France in 1923 then when France fell in 1940 she made her way to Britain via Portugal and Gibraltar.

In Britain, Jacqueline applied to join the ATS, but was rejected due to her lack of experience driving in the dark and on the left-hand side of the road.

In 1942, Jacqueline was recruited into the FANYs, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. This was common for many female members of the SOE. During the summer of 1942 she trained as a courier for the SOE. Her younger sister, Eileen, and brother, Francis, also served in the SOE.

Jacqueline trained with Lise de Baissac, and the two became great friends. On 25 January 1943, after further training, as a radio operator, Jacqueline parachuted into France to work for the Stationer circuit.

Jacqueline’s fake ID card while serving the SOE

The SOE provided agents with tailored clothing to suit the French fashions. Nevertheless, Jacqueline noticed that French and British knitting was so different that the Nazis could recognise the stitching. Therefore, she decided to knit socks for her fellow agents earning the nickname ‘Jackie Red Socks’.

Jacqueline carried spare parts for her radios inside a cosmetics bag. The average life-expectancy for a wireless operator was only six weeks. However, Jacqueline remained in the field for fifteen months, returning to Britain on 10 April 1944 via a Westland Lysander, an aircraft commonly used to deliver and rescue agents.

After the war, Jacqueline spent some time nursing her sister, Eileen, also an agent who had suffered while in France. Then she moved to New York to work at the United Nations.

In 1946, Jacqueline played ‘Cat’, a character based on herself, in the RAF Film Unit’s production of Now It Can Be Told, which was also released as School for Danger, a drama-documentary about the SOE. As well as her daring exploits, the film also highlighted Jacqueline’s knitting.

Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series is now available to pre-order from Amazon.

Eve’s War is a series of twelve novellas. Each book contains approximately 20,000 words and a complete story. Kindly note that the price throughout the series will be set at the minimum level and that Eve’s story arc will be concluded at the end of the series.

Marseille, December 1942

“We’re in a fix,” Vincent said. “The Gestapo have captured a British agent, code name Zigzag. They picked him up through his false identity papers, only the thing is they haven’t discovered his true identity, yet. But they will. And he will talk. They all do in the end. And when he talks he will reveal secrets that will destroy the local resistance networks, including our own. But there’s a way out, through a guard. He’s open to bribes. We’d like you to meet the guard, bribe him, spring Zigzag from the Gestapo prison then escort him over the mountain pass into Spain.”

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because you helped to establish the escape network. And you know the mountain trails like the back of your hand. Furthermore, as the wife of respected industrialist Michel Beringar you are above suspicion.”

I glanced at Michel. From the stern look on his face, I could tell that he wasn’t pleased. Was this one risk too many? And as for me being above suspicion…the Gestapo were following me and they were tapping my phone.

As a child, I’d run away from home. As a teenager, I’d travelled the world, living on my wits. As a journalist, I’d witnessed atrocities inflicted in the name of fascism. As a member of the Resistance, I’d eyeballed fear and stared it down. For the past thirty years I’d lived a full life. I could do this. However, even as I voiced my agreement I knew that my life in Marseille, my life with Michel, would never be the same.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx