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.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

A Day of Spontaneity

A quiet day in Peterborough, that was what I had planned for Daughter and myself. We would have a bite to eat in John Lewis, wander up to the Cathedral and then sip coffee in an as-yet-unidentified cafe. Even though Peterborough is equidistance between us, this was the first time we had arranged to meet there. It was what we both needed on one of Daughter's rare work breaks - a nice quiet day.

I was about to leave the house when she rang. The Peterborough train has been cancelled. Let's meet in London and have lunch at Ottolenghi's... and so began a manic but marvellous meet-up.

Ottolenghi's is in Islington, a typical Israeli relaxed kind of place with long white tables and lots of chatter. We each had a plate piled high with rich and varied salads. As our food was placed before us, I couldn't help thinking that salads never looked like this when I was young.

We sat for hours putting the world to rights and then we wandered off to Angel Islington and the boutique shops. I fell in love with a handbag and, as this was a day of spontaneity, I bought it. We wandered on past a nail bar... well not exactly past. We went into the nail bar and minutes later we were sitting side-by-side having our hands massaged and our nails painted. I went for glittery pink. Daughter chose blue.

In the next street we found one of those cafés where people sit with laptops or lounge on settees and we put yet more of the world to rights over an afternoon cuppa by which time it was no longer afternoon. It was six o'clock and time to return to St Pancras Railway Station.

Just time for a final hug and a wave and the day was over. What a treat, and all the more enjoyable for being so spontaneous.

Friday, 8 March 2019

On Being a Pet Owner

It has been a difficult few weeks for a number of reasons. One of them is cat related. Our little old cat, Charlie, had to be taken for her last visit to the vets on Monday. She had been a poorly cat for some time so this was not a sudden thing but that doesn't mean it hurts any less. Now her sister, Mabel, keeps sitting in the hall crying and wandering round sniffing the carpet. How do you tell a cat that her lifelong companion has gone?

And so I'm trying to write, trying to take my mind off the pains and vagaries of life but, at the moment, I can only think of cat related things to write about and so...

I have had cats all my life. There was a tabby cat called Timothy, a fluffy one called Paddy Paws and my first cat when I got married, a ginger tom called Tinker, aptly named. He would leap from behind and attach himself to unsuspecting visitors' backs.

Plink and Plonk, (I know, I know, they were named by my ex-husband!) were two little brother cats who supported me through a difficult divorce. They moved house with me when I had to downsize twice over and then, when I met Mr A, they had to tolerate the addition of Ben the dog into their lives. I was concerned for their safety as Ben fancied himself as a bit of a cat chaser. We kept them in separate parts of the house for a few days but we knew we had to introduce them. (I have mentioned this once before here on my blog but I think it bears a second telling.) One evening Mr A put Ben on the lead and brought him into the back room where the cats were. Ben pulled and strained on his lead whining, "Let me get at them, let me get at them." I told Mr A to unfasten the lead and I got ready to rescue the cats, but as soon as Ben realised he was no longer safely on the lead he hid behind Mr A's legs and shook. For weeks the cats sat on the dining table taking unprovoked swipes at Ben's muzzle.

Plink and Plonk never truly warmed to Ben but after their demise our little tortoiseshell darling cat, Rosie, fell in love with him, so much so that when Ben died, Rosie pined and we got another rescue dog, the manic and very adorable Josh. Losing Josh hurt so badly I thought I'd never have a pet again. It was Mum who suggested that my home wasn't a home without pets. She was right... of course. Mums are always right. Charlie and Mabel, two sister cats, came from the RSPCA where nothing was known about them except that an elderly lady had owned them. They were traumatised and timid when they arrived but I like to think they've had (and in Mabel's case is continuing to have) a good life here with us which is the most important thing.

And now I shall go back to giving Mabel extra fuss and attention because she deserves it.

Rest in Peace my sweet little Charlie.