Wednesday, 21 August 2019

What happened to warm and cuddly?

I may have started using that pair of rose-tinted specs again but I'm sure that films in the cinema and programmes on the TV used to be warm and cuddly. These days they all feel harsh and sadistic. I accept that a storyline needs its peaks and troughs. We have to travel through adversity with our hero before the satisfying conclusion, before our hero achieves, possibly also learns, and it makes us feel - well - warm and cuddly. I don't want to share my relaxation time with sadists, so I shun the cinema and avoid TV programmes - except for Mastermind and University Challenge, of course.

That said, last week I watched more films than I had all year. We shared a holiday cottage with Son and family. The cottage boasted an impressive selection of DVDs and every morning I had a date with 9-year-old Grandson at 7.15 to share a breakfast-time film of his choice. He had seen them all before but they were new to me and he was especially delighted when the ending of Paddington 2 reduced me to tears. "You've really connected with this film, haven't you, Grandma."


I've said that I only do warm and cuddly and Paddington is warm and cuddly but one scene from that film will forever live in my head and hurt like billy-oh. Without going into too much detail, Paddington thinks the Browns have forgotten him. He falls into the river. Mrs Brown dives in to rescue him but he's trapped. For several moments they float motionless, looking at each other with real love in their eyes (How do film animators do that!?!) and then comes the rescue, etc., etc.

Why am I recounting this section of film? Bear with me (sorry, couldn't resist the pun!) and it will all become clear. Last Friday was departure day from our cottage. We packed bags, loaded cars, checked the cottage, locked up and shared hugs, kisses and 'goodbyes' before they headed North and we headed South. We got into our respective cars. My car window was level with their back window where Grandson was sitting. He wound his window down. I wound my window down. We silently stared at each other. Then his window closed and they drove away. It took a while before I could drive off. Like I said, it hurt like billy-oh.

But I'm coping. I have a Mastermind and a University Challenge to watch on the TV tonight and I just know that they will distract my thoughts from anything remotely non-warm-and-cuddly.

Posts have been few and far between recently because I've been kept rather busy working on the displays and texts for a new Visitors' Centre at Leicester's Orthodox Synagogue but more about that next time.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

More than just a ferry

Last week, we visited Liverpool - my first visit to the City. We stayed in a hotel near the Albert Docks, an area alongside the Mersey River that has been developed into a tourist attraction for lovers of all things both maritime and Beatles related.


My first excitement was seeing the Liver birds on the Liver Building. There was a 1970s television series called the Liver Birds and so I stood and gazed up at the birds, just like Nerys Hughes had done every week on the telly.
(I discovered from a tour guide that the clocks were made in Leicester - so proud!)

My second excitement happened as we walked through Albert Dock towards the river. A busker was playing Ferry Cross the Mersey and there I was looking at the actual Mersey River. I didn't expect to get emotional but I had to blink back tears. It was a mixture of nostalgia and a kind of raw emotion that only music can invoke - all this and we hadn't yet been to the Beatles Experience museum.

It was clear that the Beatles had to wait. My priority was to go on the ferry across the Mersey, just like Gerry and the Pacemakers had done when they sung about it all those years ago. The ferry is now painted in psychedelic patterns (I'm guessing it was a boring grey in the 70s) and every time it docked they played the tune and every time they played the tune I got all emotional all over again.

So much emotion is exhausting...


but I loved every minute of it...


We went on to visit the Beatles Museum and the Tate North Gallery, the Maritime Museum and we had a tour of the City on an open topped bus, but nothing could beat sitting on that ferry and listening to that tune because it's so much more than just a ferry. It's the soundtrack to my teenage years.



Monday, 17 June 2019

No More Spam Comments

The spammers will not stop me from blogging


I have been blogging here for almost ten years. My first post was in November 2009. Back then receiving comments from you, the reader, was a joy, an added bonus to the privilege of being able to post my thoughts, problems and achievements in this most public of places. Now I delete numerous spam comments daily. I wouldn't mind if they had been written in a fluent - or even semi-fluent - way but they seem to be auto-translated with the syntax in places that English syntax was never meant to be. Consequently they make little or no sense and are never related to my blog post.


It is for this reason that I am now only allowing members of this blog to comment, so apologies to any genuine passers-by who are desperate to contribute to my myriad ramblings - but thank you for visiting anyway. I'd like to particularly mention two fellow bloggers who have, over the years, faithfully visited and commented on my blog. I really appreciate their support and friendship and would be delighted if you could pop along and visit their blogs. Joanne Faries blogs at Word Splash and Hilary Melton-Butcher blogs at Positive Letters

Writing Update:


I have finally recovered from the MA experience, my feet have just about touched the ground once more and I am submitting poetry. I've sent three poems about journeys to the Myslexia call for themed submissions and I've also submitted to several other magazines including Strix and Granta.

Yesterday I sent two poems to the Writing East Midlands Aurora Competition. They are accepting short stories and poetry and the closing date is 26th June, National Writing Day. If you fancy entering here's the link: Aurora Competition

If I get any good news from my submissions then you will be among the first to know! Have a good rest of June and here's hoping it has finally stopped pouring with rain.



Friday, 24 May 2019

Talks, Talks, Talks

Over the last two days I've been to three different events, each with speakers and each speaker with a very different kind of message.

Bill Turnbull:
The first event was the Annual LOROS Ladies' Luncheon. It's a big affair held at the King Power Stadium (a football place!!). Over 600 women were fed, plied with wine and ready for a talk from the television personality, Bill Turnbull and he pitched it perfectly with warmth, humour and a captivating personality. He talked about his career in news broadcasting and his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing before moving on to his diagnosis and ongoing treatment for prostate cancer. It was a brave subject to address but he did it gently with enough humour to keep the mood buoyant whilst at the same time driving home the message to get to the GP straight away if you have any doubts.

Dialogue between faiths:
That evening I had been invited to accompany a friend to an Iftar meal, the meal with which Moslems break the daily fast during the month of Ramadan. It was organised by the Dialogue Society who firmly believe that promoting dialogue between faiths, getting us to talk about our beliefs, our differences and our similarities, goes a long way towards eradicating discrimination. There were speakers from a number of faiths talking on the subject both before and after the meal. Sadly, you only have to read the newspapers to see that it hasn't worked for everyone yet but it's a good place to start.

Poetry with a message:
The next day I was off to Nottingham for a poetry pamphlet launch - two poetry pamphlets to be precise. The launch was held at the amazing Five Leaves Bookshop in Long Row, Nottingham and the poets were both brilliant and poles apart.

Linda Stern Zisquit came over from Jerusalem to launch her pamphlet, From the Notebooks of Korah's Daughter. She has taken lines from the Psalms and written her responses to them during a time of great personal turmoil. Her words were moving. She had me spellbound.

Declan Ryan was reading from Fighters, Losers, where he finds poetry in the lives of famous boxers, in their rise to stardom and in their inevitable but painful fall. He delivered his work with a delightful helping of sardonic humour.

Well done to the publishers, New Walk Editions. They have two winners on their books.



Monday, 22 April 2019

Passover - a hope for peace

The sun has risen on the third day of Passover. The Seder nights are done - but not forgotten. It's the traditional Passover meal when we sit round the table with family and friends, tell the story from Exodus and eat a lovely meal together. We remember the Israelites who were made to work as slaves, suffering at the hands of Pharoah. We also remember the Egyptians because they too were suffering. Pharoah had hardened his heart to the pleading from Moses to let the Israelites go, so the Egyptian people had to suffer the ten plagues.


The following is a well worn moan of mine but I make no apologies for repeating it:

It would be good to think that by retelling the story each year, people would no longer have to suffer, either at the hands of other people or from modern-day plagues but this is not the case. Humans seem to be able to justify causing untold pain and misery to other humans. I don't understand it.

And then there are the plagues, the many illnesses that we still have no cure for and, even worse, those that we do have a cure for but the people suffering from them are too poor to pay for the medicines or they have no access to clean water...

I could go on but it won't change the facts and so instead I'll wish you a happy Passover/Easter and hope that some time soon our newspapers can be filled with news about people not killing each other.


Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Learning Poetry by Heart

The other day, Giles Brandreth was talking on BBC Radio 2 about the values of learning poetry by heart. Not only does it help children to learn, it also helps stave off dementia. Quoting poems by heart is certainly a satisfying experience. The science bit of the programme explained why. It would seem that acoustic statistics are aligned with each other when you speak poetry and that's why it feels right to the brain. I suspect that song lyrics have the same effect.

As I've often said on this blog, my head is full of song lyrics. There's an entire section of my brain given over to their storage. (I know it doesn't really work like that but it's how I think of it.) There is also a section that stores my favourite poems. I once learnt a nonsense poem by Gelette Burgess and it seems to have taken up permanent residence in my memory:


I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one;
but I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.


There are many others that I learnt by heart years ago. A. A. Milne's poems I've blogged about before, including my ultimate favourite by A. A. Milne:

There once was a dormouse who lived in a bed
of delphiniums blue and geraniums red...

I have, on my book shelves, a very old poetry book by Thomas Hood that I treasured as a child. My favourite poem from that book is still:

I remember, I remember
the house where I was born,
the little window where the sun
came peeping in at morn...

Magical stuff!

I never think to learn poems these days, but according to Radio's Giles Brandreth this is precisely the time in my life when I should be learning. He talked of Dame Sybil Thorndike who memorised a poem a day right into her nineties. This, he said, was 'to keep her mind alive'. I want to keep my mind alive so I'm going to do the same. I'll start by learning a poem a week and I'll report back here next month with my list of achievements... if I remember (Sorry, for that corny and predictable quip!)

All I need to do now is to select a poem for my first week of learning. Any suggestions?


Saturday, 6 April 2019

White Out


The thing I love about writing poetry is that nothing is wrong, anything goes, and the words can be interpreted to say what you want them to say. This may be a poem about walking through a blizzard - or it may be about something else entirely.

Walking through a blizzard
your feet take time to acclimatise.
You move slowly
and with each step you sink deeper.

You turn to check your progress
but you can’t quite be sure
which way to go,
which way you came.

For the moment it’s beautiful
but you know that underneath it all
the world is grey and very soon
the pain and numbness will hit.