Sunday, 24 August 2014

Collecting Happy Memories

We've just spent a bit of quality time with our amazing grandkids. I have to admit that I am now exhausted but it was lovely to see them and I've gathered up lots of happy memories while we were there. We saw monkeys in the monkey forest playing and chasing each other. We played on the swings in the local park and I plucked up the courage to swing high, like when I was a kid. Then there were the stories that we read together and the games that we created whilst crawling on the floor. The best memories are the hugs and kisses and the words, "I love you, Grandma Ros and Grandpa Rod".

Those happy memories will keep me going for a little while until we can meet up again. (Why can't families all live round the corner from each other like in the olden days or am I wearing those tinted specs again?) But I came away from our visit with more than happy memories. I came away with a wise piece of advice from my son. (Don't you love it when your kids become wiser than you?!) On our last evening there he put little grandson to bed and came down saying, "I always like to leave him with a happy thought to take with him as he goes off to sleep. Tonight he chose the baby monkeys playing in the forest."



A lot of life is about what's in our heads, isn't it. We can think about something lovely and smile or we can think about something awful and grimace. It sounds like an obvious choice and if it was as easy as that then we'd all spend all our time thinking lovely thoughts. For me the hardest times are those hours in the middle of the night, but maybe I can turn that around if I listen to my son's advice and take a happy thought with me when I go to sleep. (If you're reading this, Son, and I know that you often do, then thanks. I'll certainly give it a go.)

Daughter update: I'm so pleased to report that my daughter is recovering well following major surgery earlier in the summer. She's hoping to get back to work after the Bank Holiday week. Thanks to everyone who sent her get well wishes.
Children's Book of Richard III update: We have almost sold out of the first print run. Because there were one or two small changes required, this next print run has become a 2nd edition. Apologies if you wanted to order a copy this week. The 2nd edition will be available either online or in person from The Reading Shop in about two weeks' time.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Writing About Food

Our writing workshop met this morning and I suggested we do a writing exercise before getting on with our critiquing. I chose an exercise from one of my favourite and well-used books, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She recommends a short session (we did five minutes) of brainstorm/freeflow writing followed by a further session to edit some or all of the material produced and then to share the pieces out loud. 

I had chosen food for our writing exercise, anything to do with food. I guessed that each of us would produce something totally different and I was right. We heard about the bulk cooking of pizzas for a family gathering and the way that food can touch the memory like no other sensation can. We were taken into a French kitchen with its rich atmosphere and pungent aromas. We mused at the way in which a trip to the market to buy cherries turned into memories of an aunt and her hat-purchasing fetish and we had a mouthwatering account of all the foods that we have, over the years, brought along to our monthly lunch gatherings. (Yes, we are ladies who lunch as well as ladies who write!)

Although most of us are fiction writers, every piece of writing was based on true events, most of them long-ago memories. This was also true of the piece I'd written, except it isn't a long ago memory. It happened yesterday. I wrote it in short poetry-style lines. It's not meant to read as a poem. It was just the way it fell from my pen:

I love cheese,
creamy yellow cheese, 
crunchy mature cheese, 
soft runny French cheese, 
the kind that stinks out your fridge,
cheese wrapped in nettle leaves,
even blue-veined cheese,
but yesterday I wanted cheese scones for lunch.

We called at the bakers.
They only had cheese straws.
We popped into the deli
But baclava doesn't do it for me.
We had soup for lunch instead
and I disappeared off to write,
trying to ignore the noises from the kitchen.
Clunk, whir, click.

Teatime.
He brought me a steaming mug of tea 
and a plate of tiny, round,
perfectly formed,
cheese scones.
They dissolved on my tongue.
From a man of few words 
They spoke a million.

Only one left. Proof of the pudding...

Friday, 8 August 2014

Nothing Lasts Forever

Website Launch

It's been a long and hard year of work but the task to catalogue our old and crumbling cemetery is nearing completion. For those of you who have expressed an interest in the project, please visit the official Project Website at Jewish-Gilroes It helps to explain why I've not been around much on the Bloggersphere recently.

Nothing lasts forever. This photograph shows some of the older stones as they were last year. Sadly, since then, even more stones in this part of the cemetery have become unsafe. Every time we go to the cemetery we see that the Council have erected more and more orange netting. It surrounds the dangerous stones; the ones that are crumbling or have succumbed to subsidence.

I know that even the Internet and Websites don't last forever but I hope that we've preserved something; the images of the graves, information about the people buried there. It's all on the Website for future generations.

This has been a really worthwhile project and I'm extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for all their support but I can't wait to get back to writing something frivolous, something purely fictional. I think I can feel one of my ditty-style poems coming on!


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Describing a life in 500 words

By the end of August I hope to have completed most of the text for the Website that records the cataloguing of all the graves in our local cemetery. As soon as it’s done I will post up the url because I’m starting to feel quite proud of it, but there’s a lot of hard work still to be done.

The original project plan was to select one or two of the older stones and research the life ‘behind the stone’. In other words we’d write up a short biog in no more than 500 words. In practice it’s almost impossible to describe a life in 500 words especially as we are including contributions made to the local and wider community, family, interests, career, and the journey that led to Leicester – particularly interesting as a lot of the graves are for people who survived pogroms and holocaust atrocities.

It soon became obvious that the word count was the least of my problems. There were too many interesting stories to tell. My job was to decide which names to include in this ever-growing list, but by definition, this also meant that I had to decide which names to omit because we just can’t produce over 900 individual stories. The problem is that everybody has got a story to tell. We may not all have had a long and dangerous physical journey to arrive where we are today but many of us have had long emotional journeys. 

Side-headings

I’m giving the researched stories side-headings but that made me think about me. What side-headings would I give to my own story-so-far? 

Teacher That would have to be there.
Writer I couldn’t miss that one off.
Mother Goes without saying but I’ve said it anyway!
Animal Lover I’ve rarely been without a pet throughout my life.

But would I include the more painful periods of my life? 

Divorce It can’t be ignored.
Family Illness I couldn’t omit my husband’s stem cell transplant, my mother’s long and final illness, my daughter’s recent major operation, and then there’s my own struggle with agoraphobia as a teenager.
Not a Good Traveller That is very much a part of who I am but would it find it’s way into my story-so-far?

I suspect I would gloss over the negative, play up the positive and provide the reader with a ‘rose-tinted’ version of myself.

What side-headings would you give your life’s story-so-far?


Saturday, 26 July 2014

I'm at Hedges Towers

Today you can find me lounging on that lovely Pink Sofa at Hedges Towers

Thank you, Carol, for a lovely *hic* time and if you've never visited Carol Hedge's blog then now is the time to do it. Her blog posts are always an excellent read... *polite cough* ...especially today. "Yes, please, Carol, I will have another drop of mead." *hic*!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Photos of an amazing day

Yesterday was an amazing day. We had two book launch events for The Children's Book of Richard III and each one was the kind of exciting event that gives you an inner buzz.

This blog post is going to be totally self-indulgent with photographs of both events, in case anyone is interested in looking at them.

The morning event was a media launch held in Leicester's Guildhall, an appropriate venue because the hall predates Richard III. This is a picture of Alice Povey and myself (Alice is on the right) posing for the Leicester Mercury photographers. I've started with this photo to show you what an amazing room we were in. Just look at that wonderful fireplace!


A clearer photograph of Alice and myself.


We were delighted that Richard Buckley, Head of Archaeology at Leicester University, was able to join us. This photo shows him talking to us about the book.


We were interviewed by Bridget Blair from BBC Radio Leicester and that interview can be heard on the Radio Leicester website here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p022yr98

In the evening we had a private launch party at The Reading Shop. The crowds were overwhelming. This photo was taken by Dave Goodman from Soar Valley Press, the lovely people who printed the book for us.



We were delighted that Tori King, Leicester University Geneticist, the lady who announced the DNA results on Richard's skeleton, was able to join us in the evening. A number of guests asked if she would also sign the book and this photo shows her joining our 'signing table'. She's sitting to my right in the middle of the photograph.


I shall end this picture show with a photo of some of our writing group members. From the left there's Alex Gutteridge, me, Josephine Feeney and Bridget Blair. They have been so supportive and they piled me high with flowers and chocolates last night making me feel like a real star!



If you'd like to buy the book it's for sale at The Reading Shop, Oadby, Leicester or online at The Reading Shop.







Thursday, 10 July 2014

Nurse Mum

I’m relieved to report that Daughter is progressing as well as can be expected, considering the major surgery that she had. The specialist Endometriosis Unit at London’s UCH is, as I said in an earlier post, excellent. 

But to more mundane matters… how I coped as Nurse Mum for two whole weeks!

For the first two nights after the operation I stayed at the Premier Inn, within walking distance of the hospital. On the third night I made my way to Daughter’s house to prepare for her homecoming. It was a long, bag-laden walk to the station and an even longer walk along the platform looking for the second-class carriages. It took me five carriages to realize that the word ‘First’ referred to First Direct and not First Class.

My biggest test as Nurse Mum came when they discharged Daughter with a catheter fitted to ‘rest the traumatised bladder’. On her first day home she couldn’t even bend to reach the drainage tap, never mind tackle the night bag! Have you any idea how heavy a bag of wee can be? The post-hysterectomy inability to lift meant that the night bag was a ball and chain around her leg. I won’t go into the fear and panic when, on Sunday morning, the bag became blocked, I will merely thank the efficiency of the district nurse who arrived in time to save us a rush to A&E.

While I was staying at Daughter’s I was ‘sleeping’ on a blow-up bed in her living room. Strange how you can sleep anywhere when you’re exhausted! On the eighth night of blow-up-bed-habitation, Daughter’s cat brought me a present… a shrew… a live shrew. She placed it lovingly beside my head, which was mere inches from the floor. Needless to say my head didn’t stay there for long! I rescued the poor little shrew, set it free in the garden and spent the rest of the night on the settee. For my last two nights as Nurse Mum I checked into a nearby hotel. That, as it turned out, was a good plan because it gave Daughter a chance to see if she was ready to manage on her own.


I’m now back home and catching up on a little paper work and a lot of sleep. I hope to resume normal service as soon as possible, especially as I have a major book launch to attend next week for my Children’s Book of Richard III. Apparently I have to make a speech. I dare say I’ll blog about it and I’m quite sure there will be photos to post up so you can kind of join in too.

Thank you to everyone who sent get well wishes to my daughter. We both really appreciate all the messages.