Tuesday, 24 February 2015

It's all in the preparation

We’re having our hall, stairs and landing decorated. The decorator is proceeding efficiently and with as little disruption as possible but this is the centre of our house. Every room is affected. How can anyone keep their head clear whilst inhaling the fumes of paint, the dust of sanding and the vague aroma of wet wallpaper, not to mention listening to the drone of the sanding machine and stepping around dust-sheets and ladders in order to get anywhere?

I know, for sure, that this would not be the job for me. It’s not only the heights (there’s a scary drop from the top of our stairwell to the ground floor) or the physical dexterity (how do you get floppy bits of wallpaper to embrace the wall with no creases or tears?) 

The main reason that I will never be a decorator is the preparation. Our decorator has spent at least a week preparing. I don’t know about you, but on the odd occasion that I’ve undertaken decorating (and they are pretty odd!) I’ve raced through the prep work in an eager desperation to get to the ‘real thing’. Consequently the finished product is not very professional (understatement!) It’s the same with such practical activities as knitting because I can never be bothered to knit the tension, or baking because I consider sifting flour to be a time-wasting indulgence.

Even my writing lacks the discipline of thorough and efficient preparation. I do edit, maniacally, but that’s only after the initial excitement of spontaneous writing is over. I’ve mentioned this type of writing before. It’s called free-flow, where you just pick up a pen or pencil and write. Ideas emerge that you didn’t even know were in your head. I’ve explained the process here so do have a go, or another go if you’ve tried it before. There’s a ‘writing prompt’ at the bottom of this post. You truly have to go through the process of writing.  Don’t just think about it. There’s no substitution for putting pen to paper.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and make the decorator another mug of tea and dash to the corner shop for more tea bags and milk. She's doing an amazing job and it'll look lovely when she's done, really it will! 

If you'd like a topic for a bit of free flow writing try writing for ten minutes, without stopping to think, about doors. Hey! I said, don’t sit there and think about it! Do it!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Chill of February...

...and the warmth of friendship

February is the bleakest time of the year. Today the sun is shining but it wasn't like that yesterday. Yesterday tree branches stretched across a mud-grey sky like witches talons. It was so desolate that I didn't notice the clumps of snowdrops with their promise of better weather to come. I photographed them today but, even though the sun had lifted my mood, the wind made me shiver, reminding me that we’ve more harsh weather to endure. This is a time for gathering friends around us. So I got to thinking about what a friend really means to me:

A friend is someone who you can chat with, even when there’s nothing special to talk about; someone who knows exactly what to say when you’re feeling down; someone who’s always there when you need a hug. That goes for virtual hugs too.

So thank you to all my friends, including my blogging friends, for being around through the bleak mid-winter. Here is that photograph which I took in the garden this lunchtime. Spring is on its way and Summer will be just around the corner. Keep warm.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Little Luxury

Every now and then it’s good to allow a little luxury into your life and that’s what we did yesterday. We had tea at Harrods in London's Knightsbridge. It was a gift from Daughter and it was great that she is now well enough to come with us.

Everything about Harrods oozes luxury. It is larger than life opulence, from the doormen greeting you on arrival, to the d├ęcor in the toilets; from the magnificent escalators and bronzed lifts, to the life-size, cuddly teddy bears. I want that brown bear and I want him now! He was so tall I couldn't even reach his head to cuddle him.

Our afternoon tea session began with a discussion on teas. A member of staff talked us through the tea selection and asked us each in turn which tea we would prefer. The tea arrived in silver pots and was served to us by a young and extremely attentive waiter.  He poured our tea into china cups with great care and kept reappearing to top us up as we sipped.

The food was artistically perfect. We had tiny crust-free sandwiches, scones served with a selection of preserves, including a rose petal jam, and clotted cream. This was followed by a trifle served in a dainty little pot and a variety of teeny cakes. 

I know that a lot of the items in Harrods are overpriced and that people are paying for the name. I know that some people think that shops like Harrods merely perpetuate the class divide and there are times when I’ve felt the same myself but not yesterday. Yesterday Harrods provided us with an extremely enjoyable afternoon. A big thank you to Daughter for the treat. It was brilliant.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A small taste of an immigrant’s welcome

The cataloguing of the cemetery and writing up of the website work is still ticking over. Every story that I have researched has given me yet another perspective; not only into historical events, but also into the way we treat each other and life in general.

I spent a fascinating morning recently with a friend, gathering information for a story about her father who is buried at the cemetery. It is now posted onto the website and you can read it here.

There are two things in this story that I’d like to talk about. The first is the way that non-English speaking immigrants were treated in the early 1900s. It could be that immigrants are still treated the same way today. I don't know. My friend said that her family was convinced that the immigration officers gave out a generic name for all Jewish immigrants if they couldn’t understand the Yiddish speakers. In their case, all the families were given the name Goldberg. I accept that this is not an act of cruelty, but it is a dehumanizing approach to people who are already displaced and escaping persecution.

My second point is the photograph. Do visit the web page and have a look at the two men. Don’t you just love those Victorian male bathing costumes? I think they’re fabulous!

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Children's History of Leicester Goes Live!

What a treat I had this morning!

I have often read how playwrights either love or hate watching their words being acted out on stage. Well that was me this morning and I loved it! 

CCM Theatre Company have turned my Children’s History of Leicester into a play to be performed in front of schools throughout the City. They have been supported by the Schools Heritage Fund who are providing a class set of books for each participating school.

This morning I was invited to watch their very first production of the play. They took my gambol through the history of Leicester, from Roman times to the present day, and they turned it into a comedy, a farce, a tragedy. They had the children hanging on their every word. It was brilliant.

I’m making this sound like it was a mammoth production and yet the Company consisted of three people; three talented actors. We, in the audience, didn’t notice that there wasn’t a cast of hundreds. Neither did we notice that they only had time to change hats and scarves between scenes or that the main props were an old chest and three stainless steel ladders.

It was truly an inspiring experience. A big thank you to the CCM Theatre Team, Michelle Gutteridge, Claire Cogan and Jed Spittle for bringing my words to life.

Here are a few shots of them in action. They're not very clear so apologies to the Team. I was trying to be unobtrusive.

This first photo shows the introduction as the three actors produce a chest which 'carries' the narrative thread of the play

This second photo is their rendition of Richard III with the Witch of Daneshill to the right of the shot.

The third photo shows them working hard at the Stocking Frame Knitting Machines. The three ladders to the right of the photo had minutes earlier been the railway tunnel at Glenfield bringing the first steam train to Leicester.

And this is my book that started it all off.