Friday, 29 January 2016

The January greys... my opinion

People might call it the blues but it's not,
blue that is.
It's grey.
January is a grey month.
It infects us all with its greyness my opinion.

The month begins with a bang,
Gunpowder is for wars,
or mining,
not pleasure.
Money going up in smoke.
It should be banned my opinion.

As soon as the pyrotechnics cease,
the resolution-making begins;
new diet, new fitness regime, new hobby.
They never last.
You might as well make a resolution a day
(some call this a to-do list)
then at least you stand a chance of success my opinion.

It's a month of long nights,
short days
unforgiving north-easterly gales.
They conspire to wear us down,
deplete our energy
dampen our mood my opinion.

It's a month of coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis
and, if we're not careful,
There's no magic cure,
even though health food adverts tell us otherwise.
It's all a matter of luck my opinion.

Then I step out of the kitchen door.
I share a gust of biting wind
with a lone hellebore.
It's a sign,
a reminder that spring is on its way,
and though we're not yet through with the cold,
the sun is rising in the sky,
the evenings are getting lighter
and so are our spirits my opinion.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Down Memory Lane...

...or to be more precise, down Leicester's Gipsy Lane.

Last week I had to go to a meeting on the other side of town. This meant driving past the street where I was born and along the road that I used to cross on my way to school (I really mean the road that Mum used to drag me across. I hated school), the same road where I used to trail after Mum from shop to shop on her daily trip to buy food (no fridges in those days). There are still shops there but the grocers and greengrocers have gone.

I used to wait for the bus to Grandma's house on Gipsy Lane. The bus stop is still there. I can remember holding Mum's hand, looking forward to being at Grandma's, trying not to turn and look at the Towers Hospital behind me.

An old photograph of The Towers Hospital
 from The Leicester Mercury archives
Last week, as I crawled along in a line of traffic, I glanced at that same Towers Hospital. It stands in its own grounds and, although it is no longer a mental institution (formerly referred to as a lunatic asylum), it is still largely unchanged from the outside. I was surprised at how close the building was to the road. In infant school, we were taken there each Spring for nature walks. I remember walking along a little piece of woodland beside an iron-railed perimeter with the scarily imposing building safely at a distance. I know a lot has changed but the iron-railed perimeter hasn't moved and the building hasn't moved. It's only my memory that has had a size-change. That 'little piece of woodland' is merely a narrow path with trees and bushes alongside it.

It's strange how we remember things from long ago as being smaller or larger, nearer or further away. Maybe our memories can't retain size proportions accurately. Have you ever returned to a childhood location and been surprised by your memory's inaccuracies?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

From Little Red Riding Hood to Space Oddity

It takes someone with a very special talent for their work to live on centuries after their death. There are many obvious names that would fit into this category; Plato, Shakespeare, Dickens, but I’m referring to two names that are trending on the Internet today.

One name is, of course, David Bowie. He may well become more famous, respected and revered after his death than he was during his life. I suspect that most people in the UK today are singing one of his songs in their head. I know I am. (we know Major Tom's a junkie...) Many of us have been influenced by his creativity in fashion and lifestyle. I need say no more about him. The newspapers are full of accounts of his life and artistic contribution.

The other name is someone featured in today’s Google Doogle, Charles Perrault, born 388 years ago today. His name might not be so well known but his stories are very much a part of our country’s culture. He was an advisor in the French court of King Louis XIV, later becoming an author. He wrote Little Red Riding Hood making it much clearer than today’s version how the wolf really represents all those men who prey on young girls walking alone in woods.

He wrote a version of Sleeping Beauty that was based on a 14th century folk tale. Today’s version is a mixture of this, Grimm’s Briar Rose which was written as an oral version of Perrault’s story, plus lashings of saccharine from the Disney writing team. Perrault also wrote such tales as Puss in Boots and Bluebeard although I’m not sure if these were adaptations of earlier versions or created by him.

The point I’m trying to make: Wouldn’t it be amazing to think that you’d created something brilliant, made a positive contribution to the world, and as a result your name would go down in history. I suspect I’ve left it too late to try to achieve that for myself but, if any younger people are reading this, then why not give it a go! No, I haven’t got a clue how you’d begin. If I knew that I’d have….

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

That Post-Holiday Feeling

A post-holiday rhyme

I’m trying to think of new stories to write.
It’s a new year. My mind should be brimming and bright.

But the ideas won’t come cause I have eaten too much.
Creativity’s choked by the Christmas pud starch.

The food has been constant, the dinners, the cake,
and chocolates - so many they made my gut ache. 

So I've gone on a diet of fruit and good stuff
cause I know that my tummy has had quite enough.

In a few days the goodness will reach to my brain
And then I can get back to writing again.

How do you cope with all the holiday excess? 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Another year nearly over…

So that’s 2015 almost done, dusted and packed away in our memories. We’re half way through a decade and I still can’t work out how to pronounce it. Was it twenty-fifteen or two thousand and fifteen? And does it matter?

As ever it’s been a year of ups and downs. I had a big birthday in June. I turned 65! I know how to pronounce that; it’s pronounced ‘old’! The best thing about my birthday was spending it in Jaffa and the best thing about Jaffa was watching the mix of cultures and religions, living shoulder by shoulder, with tolerant smiles. So much can change so quickly or was it an illusion created for me, the tourist?

This time last year I was tentatively thinking of getting myself fitter. Now I go swimming twice a week and I love it but I haven’t quite mastered the gym… yet.

This time this year I’m tentatively thinking of joining a choir. I’ve just signed up for a taster session with the National Rock Choir. I wonder if I’ll enjoy it. I won’t know until I try.

A few months ago I bought a new car… new, but the same make, the same colour; the only difference is the registration plate.

Yes, I’m a bit conservative. I don’t like change but I can’t stop the date from changing. It’ll take me a few weeks to get used to writing 2016 but I won’t be making New Year resolutions. I’m old enough to know that it’s not only with a new year that we can have new opportunities. They’re there at any time of the year. It’s up to us to grab them.  Right?

So let’s drink to a year of new opportunities, opportunities that we don’t let slip by, opportunities that we grab and run with.

Happy New Year

Sunday, 20 December 2015

After the Earthquake

Today I'll like you to meet my very good blog/Twitter friend, Jo Carroll, who has some important news to share.

Thank you so much, Ros, for inviting me to drop by your lovely blog. Dear Reader, you should know that this is especially kind, as Ros has fits of the vapours if she even reads about some of the things I get up to.
[This is very true, Jo.]
But she has taken the risk on behalf of my new book. What a star!

For those of you who’ve not met me before: I gave up work to go walkabout in my mid 50s, and came home with stories. I’ve carried on travelling, and carried on telling stories. But this book is more than just a travelogue about my recent trip to Nepal; it has different tales to tell.

Firstly some important points explaining why this book is so special:
  • All profits are going towards building a house that came down in the earthquake.
  • I know the man who will build the house and the family that will live in it.
  • I know the rubble that they lived in throughout the monsoon.
  • If you want to know more about the appeal, you can find the details here. 
This is the first time I’ve allowed myself to ponder on the wider impact of the earthquake on an economy, eg the man by the roadside in Pokhara with bikes for hire. He’s lost his shop, and can only call to passing tourists from the inadequate shelter of a tree. All of which sounds very serious. 

But no book of mine about Nepal would be complete without the exploits of Tika, Shobha and their family. 
     The cold shower.
            The irreverent giggling at the Peace Stupa.
                  Eating chips on their rooftop.
                        AND I had a close encounter with a crocodile.
                              [Smelling salts please, Jo!]

So there you have it: After the Earthquake: Over the Hill Goes Back to Nepal.
(Sorry, it's an ebook only - it's very short and so it's not economic to invest in printed copies.)

Thank you so much, Jo. What an amazing project. I've already downloaded my copy.
I'm sure I'm not the only reader who is inspired by all your hard work and commitment. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Yesterday's Brush Strokes

A piece of free verse poetry and a thought on life:

If every day was truly a new beginning
you would start each morning with a blank canvas.
You would paint with untamed inspiration
as your day emerged dripping with vibrant colours.

In reality morning canvases are tainted
with the marks of yesterday’s brush strokes but,
in that moment when sleep clouds your consciousness,
you anticipate a canvas that is virgin clean.

Then you remember
and you get up
and you get on with your day
because that is all there is.