Thursday, 17 September 2020

And so to the year 5781

Everything is strange right now, not least the High Holy Day observances which begin this weekend. I have decided not to go to the synagogue this year for Rosh Hashonah (New Year) or for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). I know that the Synagogue Committee have done their best to make the place Covid safe but I also know what I'm like. I won't have seen most of the congregants in person (I'm not counting Zoom) for over six months and I'll be tempted to linger on the way in or on the way out. I'll start to chat and I'll forget about social distancing. This year I'll say some prayers at home. 

I can still serve up apple and honey for a sweet new year. I've bought in lots of lovely food and I'll do some extra cooking and maybe even some baking today and tomorrow in anticipation. On Yom Kippur we say special prayers in memory of family who have died. This year I'll sit in the garden, read through the prayers and think of Mum and Dad. I don't have to be in a special place to do that. Their memories are always with me. However, we are meant to hear the blowing of the shofar (a ram's horn) during the High Holy Day services. I don't have a shofar but the Rabbi has promised to walk past my house blowing his shofar on Sunday afternoon. So for anybody living nearby - you have been warned!

There's little more to say other than l'shanah tovah (happy new year) and here's hoping for a happy, healthy, peaceful and sweet new year for us all - and let's hope the scientists can discover a cure and vaccination for this awful infection very soon so that our lives can return to normal. 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Our new body language

The other morning I was queuing outside the bank, masked up in anticipation of my turn to enter when a member of staff came out to check the queue and smiled at me. I smiled back and she moved on. This left me wondering how I had known that she had smiled at me and how did she know that I had smiled back. I decided that it must be in the eyes but then I watched people who were meeting and smiling in recognition. There was something about their body language - an almost imperceptible jog of the shoulders accompanying mask-concealed smiles.

What do you mean smile?
I am smiling!

This got me thinking about other aspects of our new body language. The obvious one is the absence of handshaking, hugging and kissing on both cheeks. I can't say that I miss that, especially the kissing-on-the-cheeks bit. I always get confused as to whether it's one cheek, two or indeed three - kisses not cheeks. My timing is so poor during such rituals that I invariably bang noses or catch glasses and end up feeling undignified and inept. 

Chivalry is suffering too. (Mixed feelings about male chivalry but I'll hold that discussion over for another blog post.) I was waiting outside our small local chemist today while a man was inside collecting his prescription. As he came out he held the door open for me but that would have meant me breaking the 2 metre rule so I waved him on and an awkward few moments ensued before he realised what I meant.

Post-shopping involves me walking around with my hands in the air rather like a surgeon who is scrubbed and ready to operate. This is followed by the gelling of hands (accompanied by that funny antiseptic taste in the mouth - or is that just me?) Gelling causes me much consternation. In order to put my bag down and get my gel out I have to unlock the car. I can then gel my hands but need to also gel the car keys as they were touched with ungelled hands. I then ponder the car door handle. Surely that should also be gelled - but I've decided that I have to draw a line somewhere. (I've just realised that it also involves my handbag which has not been gelled at all since all this craziness began. What a dilemma!)

What strange quirks of body language have you noticed recently? 

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Daily TED Talks

I blogged recently about how much I'm enjoying listening to Podcasts. Since then I've gathered quite a list of regulars. My most recent addition to the 'Favourites' tab is Daily TED Talks. A new TED Talk is posted up every day. A few days ago they posted a talk called 'Do schools kill creativity?' It's from the archives but was repeated because the speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, sadly died last week. He was an accomplished speaker, winning the audience over with light-hearted banter and then subtly dropping the serious stuff in. I won't spoil any of it by telling you my favourite bits from his talk because I'm hoping that, if you haven't already heard it, you go and listen. It's well worth sparing 20 minutes out of your manic day. The link is below.

I have very firm opinions about the subject matter. Yes, schools do, indeed, kill creativity. When I taught in a primary school I used to love watching the nursery children bounce into the hall for school assembly, broad grins on their faces, keen to find out everything they could about the world. As each year group filed into the hall the smiles faded and by the time the Year 6 children (aged 10 to 11) arrived there were few smiles and too many glazed eyes. What did we do to those children during their formative years?

That's a rhetorical question. I know full-well what we did. We followed the National Curriculum guidelines. I have to admit to being rusty about today's primary school curriculum but I suspect nothing much has changed. The National Curriculum instructions for the teaching of English was lamentable. I was disappointed, upset and quite honestly I was angry when we were told that we could no longer read a story to the class at the end of the school day. There wasn't enough time and the only fiction they would receive in the classroom was to be short pieces of narrative to be analysed laboriously. 

I have vivid memories of story time when I was their age. I can even remember some of the stories our teacher read. Dr Doolittle was one of my favourites, long before the film was ever thought of.

I could go on to discuss the shortcomings in other subjects but Sir Ken Robinson tells it much better than I do so go along and have a listen. As I said, it's only 20 minutes and when you've heard what he has to say do pop back and make a comment. I'd be interested to hear your views on the subject. 

Do schools kill creativity?

Thursday, 13 August 2020


Clothes feedback:

Before I start strolling I thought I'd give some feedback from my previous post about where to get responsibly sourced clothes. A number of people left comments on my Facebook page about this. They ranged from:
      'You can never be sure where the material has come from or how the clothes have been made' 
      'It's best to buy second hand or recycled clothes if possible' 
      'Here's a list of five trustworthy suppliers.' 

I was pleased to see White Stuff on the list because I love their clothes. I'd never heard of the other four which are: Dedicated, Know the Origin, People Tree and Thought Clothing.


Over the last few months I've become very well acquainted with people's front gardens. Shielding for vulnerable people in Leicester ends on Monday 17th August - we hope - so our main outing each day is a stroll around the block. We do have a choice. We step out of the front door and discuss whether to turn right or left. Ok, so it's not much of a choice but it amuses us.

There are as many different kinds of front gardens as there are people. Hollyhocks feature high in our walk. We're forever dodging out of their way as they lean and sway. Hydrangeas deserve a mention. I love the way they fade from pink to blue. I know about the science - acidic and alkaline soil - but their colours fascinate me, almost mystical. Roses always demand attention to check if they have a perfume and then there are the hedges...

Our front garden plants
We used to have a hedge in our front garden until the council sent us a letter asking us to keep it trimmed back. It was an escalonia and I thought it looked pretty but we responded by removing it. This was a good move. It's only a small front garden and now we have a selection of small shrubs that give variety and colour.

Some of the hedges we have to negotiate on our daily stroll surely deserve one of those council letters especially as they are often alongside a car parked half on the pavement - or even three quarters in some cases. Add to this the problem of social distancing and you can imagine our frustrations. We are continually having to step into the road. 

By far the best bit about strolling round the block is bumping into friends and neighbours. It's only then that I realise how much I desperately miss interacting with other people. Us humans were never meant to be lone creatures. I'm not hankering after a massive, sweaty rave-up but a few friends round for afternoon tea would be good. All we need now is an update from the government with a Covid-19 all clear for Leicester!

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

How do I know if I'm buying responsibly sourced clothing...

...but first a Leicester UK Lockdown update:
We have just been released from an extra month's-worth of lockdown. We can now go to non-essential shops. We can travel beyond the City boundary but we're not allowed to invite members of other households into our house or garden. Feels a bit never-ending!

I need clothes:
It's been over six months since I went clothes shopping. I'm blowed if I know how to buy clothes online. I need to try things on. Last week I bought two summer nighties from a well known high-end store (initials JL). I selected a blue one and a silver grey one, same size, same style. The grey one fits perfectly. The blue one is tight, so tight that I'm going to have to cut open the sleeves and try to remember dressmaking skills that my Grandma and Great Aunt tried to teach to me long ago.

Made in China:
I can't understand how these nighties can be so different. I chose this store because I thought I could rely on good quality merchandise. On the label it says 'Made in China'. I would have preferred it to say 'St Michael - made in Corah's of Leicester' (suppliers for Marks and Spencers in the days when M&S clothes were top quality). I decided to check the labels on my other clothes. I have items made in India, Turkey, Bangladesh, Cambodia. It's time the UK became a manufacturing country again.

Made in Leicester:
Leicester once 'clothed the world' and there are still textile companies here but over the last few months the media has been buzzing with news of a number of companies paying their workers less than the minimum wage, have less than sanitary working conditions and are putting pressure on those workers to continue working even with positive diagnoses of Covid-19. There's also a concern that a large amount of our cotton is being produced in China under similarly appalling working conditions. I'm left scratching my head as to what clothes I should be buying.

Where can I buy clothes?
So if anybody reading this knows of outlets supplying clothes from firms where cloth is responsibly sourced and workers are treated with respect and consideration then please let me know about them because right now I'm exasperated by it all.

Monday, 20 July 2020

From Far Away 1904 - a Poem

Today I have a poem published in The Copperfield Review. This is a fascinating site specialising in historical fiction and historical poetry. Regular visitors to this blog will understand why I was particularly attracted to the publication - right up my street!

Here is the link for the poem:  From Far Away 1904.

I've been quite distracted from my writing of late especially as Leicester is still in extended lockdown but I have been doing writing of sorts. I've been emailing my Member of Parliament, my local councillors, the Town Mayor and anyone else who will listen. I know I'm only one small voice but it felt good to make that voice heard, especially as I have had responses and have been in conversation with these leaders.

One of my frustrations is that social media is full of photos of groups gathering in our local parks and people having large social gatherings in their houses. What is the point of a lockdown if it's only being observed by the most reliable members of a community? There's more, a lot more, but for now I will put all those frustrations to the back of my mind and enjoy the poem that I've just had published. I can recommend their site for a good read and, as an added bonus for any writers of historical fiction or poetry, they pay for our work.

Stay safe x

Sunday, 5 July 2020


Today I typed two blog posts moaning about Leicester being back in lockdown and then deleted them.

I then typed a post about the nasty reaction I had to antibiotics last weekend and how ill I've been this week. I deleted that too. It didn't make for a fun read.

So what does that leave to talk about? Well, my 100 word piece was accepted for publication by 100 Words of Solitude. The website was set up by a group of University lecturers who wanted to record 'intimate moments, behaviours and feelings from real life in the time of Coronorvirus' from around the world. The site is well worth a visit. I was particularly pleased with the way they introduced my piece. They said that I had delicately and intimately detailed the dramatic changes to life in lockdown at the start of isolation.
You can read my piece here.

For those of you who love words like I do I thought I'd share a podcast that I've been listening to this week. It's called Something Rhymes With Purple and it's by Gyles Brandreth and Susie Dent.  It's not too serious about itself and it has helped me to pass a few relaxing hours this last week so I thought I'd share it with you.