Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Writing Exercise and Some Thoughts on Travel

Yesterday we had our second East Midlands Lapidus Therapeutic Writing Day. We seem to have hit on a winning formula here because the day was every bit as enjoyable, stimulating and worthwhile as was the first one.

I thought I’d share with you a little bit about one of the writing exercises that we did. It is something that anyone can try and is amazingly powerful, but to get the most out of it you’d need to grab a pencil and paper now, read the following instructions, do about 15 minutes of rapid writing and then return to my blog to read how I got on. If you linger to think about it then the spontaneity will be lost.

I shall pause now while you get yourself equipped.

Ok, the task is to write a letter (unsent) to thank someone from your past, someone who has had a significant effect on you, who has influenced you and maybe your life.

A second pause while you go and do it.

We didn’t discuss this exercise in any way before we started and yet we all chose a strong-minded woman to ‘receive’ our letters. I chose my Great Aunt who I’ve talked about here before so I won’t go into the details. I will, however, say that as an outcome of that writing exercise I was able to see how much more satisfied that generation were with ‘their lot’ than we are today. Is it because they had to fight to survive? In my Great Aunt’s case it was not only near starvation and subsequent immigration from Latvia in the early 20th century but also evacuation during the 2nd World War leaving the security of a Jewish, Yiddish-speaking environment for the life of a foreigner in Leicester, yet she never appeared to be dissatisfied. I feel truly humbled at that realisation.

Finally a note about the ups and downs of travelling: The session yesterday was in Melton Mowbray which is only about 17 miles from home but I made the decision to take the train rather than drive. (If I had a pound for every wrong decision I’ve made in my life I’d be rich indeed.) 

The bus journey from my house to the train station took twice as long as the train journey from Leicester station to Melton Mowbray. (The journey to the train station normally takes about 5 minutes.) It was an extremely frustrating journey. 

Having said that, travelling by train has advantages over driving. You meet interesting people, are able to watch the world in a voyeuristic way and arrive without shoulders glued to ears! (My usual position after driving unfamiliar routes – yes I know! That’s so ‘girlie’!)

Did you do the writing exercise? 
How did it go? 
Have you any such writing exercises you could share?

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Amazon, The Children's Book of Richard III and the weather

I'm pleased to announce that Amazon is now stocking The Children's Book of Richard III. You can view the page here

Even though my first three books were listed on Amazon, this is my first real working relationship with the company and so I have been spending a bit of time mulling over the setting up and wording of my Author Page which you can view here. It is still a work-in-progress. I have been browsing other Author Pages and making improvements to mine as they occur to me. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. 

My next task is to get the book reviewed by a national newspaper. I have a few ideas how I might go about this but, again, any suggestions would be very welcome.

Weather Report:
They have forecast snow and I suspect that people are stockpiling tins of food even as I type! We're not very good in the UK when it comes to snow. Of course, no one likes it when neither feet nor car wheels can 'make purchase' but the excitement that it generates is sometimes verging on the farcical. It is guaranteed to make the news headlines. Reporters are sent to snowy streets to show us what it looks like. We are treated to aerial shots of white fields and action movies of children on makeshift sledges. 

What makes this kind of reporting all the more amusing is that bad weather happens every year. It's winter! So wrap up warm, be careful how you go and don't let the snow hype get you down.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

My body has lost all its zoom

I saw an advert on Twitter today for an intensive Lindy Hop/Jive session. I'd love to do that but I fear my body wouldn't hold up so I wrote one of my poems instead:

Where are my glasses? It makes me feel sad.
As a youngster my vision was great.
I’d thread needles for Mum and read small print for Dad.
Now those tasks get me into a state.

In the old days I never kept losing my things
And I knew why I’d entered a room
And I’d skip down the road like my feet were on springs.
Now my body has lost all its zoom!

I can’t keep up to date with today’s trendy youth.
And technology changes so fast.
Though I like modern music, to tell you the truth
I’d much rather play songs from the past.

So I live in what is, but I dream of what was.
It’s a common thing. That's what I'm told.
It’s expected. It’s normal. It happens because
We just can’t stop ourselves growing old.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Leicester Born and Bred...

...but what if...

Me and the Clock Tower (in the photo on the right) have lived in Leicester for ever but I never planned it that way - I'm talking about me now, not the Clock Tower! I had once, in my teenage years, been on the verge of planning to go to Israel. I had booked myself onto a course to learn the language and the way of life on a 1960s Kibbutz. (They call them Aliyah Courses and they are still available today.) The timing of that course was crucial. I met the boy who was to become my first husband the week before and I cancelled the booking but what if...

I often wonder what it's like to live in another city or even another country. What's it like to make new contacts? I have known many of my Leicester friends since I was a baby and that's lovely but I sometimes wonder what it would be like to discover new shops, to find new places to visit, to learn about a new environment. I suppose I'll never know.

Every route I take through the City brings back a memory. I pass the street where I lived as a child, my old school, the garage where I bought my first car, the petrol station where I accidentally demolished the kiosk when I tried to put petrol into that first car, the spot in town where once a huge clock hung and where I met my first date, the house where my children grew up and where neighbours became dear friends, the University where I trained to be a teacher, the Adult Education Centre where I first learnt about creative writing. The list is endless and, whether I like it or not, these memory trips have become daily experiences for me.

I suspect that it's too late to move on now and so I shall try not to feel regret for those life experiences that might have been, but even so I can't help wondering what if...

Sunday, 4 January 2015

When the family came to visit

Mabel, the cat, writes a blog post

She (my mum) is busy washing bed linen… for some obscure reason. So I have taken it upon myself to write this week’s blog post. You’ve heard about me, I suspect. I’m the cat who likes to sleep in the fruit bowl, which I can assure you is more comfortable than it looks, but this is not the subject of my first ever blog post. The subject is visitors, scary, noisy ones.

It all began with the sound of feet stampeding through the house and voices ringing in my ears. I had no choice. I left home. That first night the temperature fell to minus 3. It was enough to freeze the pads from my paws. I heard them calling my name but I refused to return. My food was put in the greenhouse, the cold, icy greenhouse. Then a blanket appeared and for that I was grateful. I ate a little. I slept a little, but even from that distance, I could hear the shrieking of those wild creatures inside what had once been my lovely, safe home. 

The next day they were still there, still rampaging and shrieking in a manner that I find most distasteful. On the third morning I took a chance and peeped through my flap but one of them spotted me and I had to run like a cheetah. I could feel my heart pounding through my ribs by the time I reached the safety of the hawthorn hedge. 

It felt like an eternity before I heard car doors banging, an engine revving and then the best noise in the whole wide world... silence. I waited for over an hour just in case they might return but they didn’t. At last I have my home back but it was a worrying time, a worrying time indeed.

And now please excuse me while I have a nap, yes, a cat nap. What other kind of nap would you expect me to have? Oh, and I’ve been asked to wish you all a happy new year… for some obscure reason!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Peeling Potatoes

I’ve opened a present, a bottle of Schnapps
My favourite, Archers, peach flavour
I’m peeling potatoes and just dare not lapse
Cause my roasties are something to savour.

I’ve eaten four mince pies laced liberally with rum.
I’m still peeling but feel rather weepy.
So I've gulped down some whisky. It's warming my tum,
But potatoes are making me sleepy.

They’re inside watching telly. That’s fine. It’s ok.
Come the adverts, they all want a cuppa.
It’s a Peach Schnapps for me. I feel better that way
When I’m peeling potatoes for supper.

I’ve made them all tea and they’re watching a play
So I’m peeling potatoes like crazy
But the kitchen is starting to gently sway
And I’m feeling incredibly lazy.

I’ll just rest for a while. I’ll slide onto the floor
I know one thing without any doubt,
I’m sorry. I can’t peel potatoes no more
Cause I fear I’m about to pass…

Monday, 22 December 2014

Faith, Hope and Gluttony

Every Christmas time I scour the TV Times to make sure that my favourite Christmas story will be showing, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I've watched it in one form or another almost every year since I was a teenager. I could mouth some versions, but that doesn't spoil the enjoyment for me. I love the way that Dickens put his message across, which I interpret to be the same message as is in the title of this blog post.

'...Faith, Hope and Gluttony, that'll be Christmas...', lyrics from a Christmas song sung by Thea Gilmore. There are a lot of Christmas songs being played right now. Mostly they talk about happiness and family togetherness which is what we've been trained to expect at Christmas, trained by the media and advertising but...

Last week The Independent stated that 13 million people in the UK are living in a state of poverty. That is brain-stunningly shocking.

13 million people! In the UK! 

Shelter predicts that 93,000 children will be homeless this Christmas and the Trussell Trust, who are responsible for the food banks throughout the UK, talk about there being a 'real, stark two-nations Britain'.

When food banks were recently debated in parliament, Maria Eagle MP stated that the number of people using food banks had increased from 41,000 in 2009/10 to 913,000 in 2013/14. She went on to say that 'over the last four years prices have risen faster than wages ... and failings in the operation of the social security system continue to be the main triggers for food bank use...'

I am not an economist and so can't even begin to work out how the problem of rising prices versus wages could be solved but it doesn't take an economist to see that something could and should be done about failings in the operation of the social security system. In 2013 I blogged about food banks. I talked about the experiences of my friend who is a volunteer in her local food bank. She said,
"People are given three days' worth of food. These are not society's drop-outs but people who are desperate to feed their families. Many are having money problems through no fault of their own. One had to wait for a payment cheque which had taken longer than usual to arrive. Another explained that his allowances had been changed which meant there was a gap in payments."
I wonder if those people who are responsible for issuing allowance payments have any idea what it feels like to have no money at all, no savings, no family who can lend, no tins in the larder to dip into, nothing? And I wonder how those people responsible for making these late payments are able to enjoy their heavily-laden Christmas dinner table?

Which brings me back to my favourite Christmas story and the realisation that we have, as a caring community, changed very little since Victorian times. It is disappointing. There must be something we can do to make a difference but I really don't know what.