Thursday, 17 October 2019

An Onion Poem

A lot of the time people assume that anything an author writes must be autobiographical, especially a poem. Sometimes it is but not always. I remember reading about a Gilbert O'Sullivan tour in the US where Americans wrongly assumed he was an orphan because of his song Alone Again Naturally.

What I'm trying to say is that the following poem is not autobiographical - except for the bit about those onions that have seen better days before you even get them home from the shops.



Onions

I tug at the cellophane.
Its crinkle-sealed edges refuse to part.

Each Spring Dad dug the earth
round the back of the outside loo
and planted sets in rows.

I rummage in the drawer beneath
spatulas and holed plastic spoons.

He hoed and tended them after work.
He showed them off to visitors.
He won rosettes with them.

The scissors splits the cellophane
like a spade through well-tilled soil.

He pulled one from the earth each day
and took it in to Mum.
That first slice would bring tears to her eyes.

A base of moulded polystyrene
cradles soggy, brown orbs.

His spade would glisten from the care of a well-oiled rag.
Now it is wrapped in cobwebs
and hung on a nail in a silent shed.

I bin cellophane, polystyrene and oozing onions
and wipe a tear from my eye.



Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Stage Fright

When I was young I was a member of an amateur dramatic group. I think I was an ok kind of actress - some say I'm still a bit of a drama queen - but I dropped out because of stage fright. More recently I've cut down on my talks about The Children's Book of Richard III for the same reason. Logically it makes no sense because I have never had to face a hostile audience - except for one school assembly when I finished my Richard III talk at a rate of knots, grabbed my stuff and ran - but on the whole most audiences are lovely and once I begin my talk I'm always perfectly fine. It's those hours beforehand that slay me.

Fortunately not everyone is as wimpish as I am. Last Sunday good friends from way back came for
lunch. They were booked to play at an acoustic afternoon in our local micro pub. Lunchtime consisted of wall-to-wall reminiscing about the good old days when we were teenagers hanging out at the Maccabi Youth Club, but then there was a lull in the laughter, just a slight one, and they excused themselves an hour before the gig to go and set up. They admitted to me afterwards that it always takes the first few songs before they can settle into a set. I was blissfully unaware, tapping feet, singing along and thoroughly enjoying their performance. Their act is called Cherry Tree and they play a wide range of music, including some good old nostalgia songs from the 60s and some bluegrass blues played on a converted cigar box.

I'm not implying that Cherry Tree suffer from stage fright. Far from it. They're experienced enough to know how to channel those nerves, along with the resulting adrenalin, into a successful performance. Before Cherry Tree began their set they were approached by a very talented young girl who asked if she could perform a few songs during their interval. Until last Sunday she had only ever played to her mother and now she was ready to perform in public - brave girl - but as her turn to perform approached her face became almost contorted with fear. Her legs visibly trembled and when she started singing I didn't think her voice would make it to the end of the first song. But it did. She performed four numbers and with each song her voice grew in strength, she handled the guitar with more confidence and her talent shone out. One day she will make it big - once she has learnt how to channel those nerves.

In the meantime I will continue to play my piano when nobody else can hear me and - I'm going to let you into a secret - a new purchase has just arrived in the post. It's a mouth organ. I haven't played a mouth organ since I was 14 so I will have to start from the beginning but I can promise you one thing. You'll never hear me play it - unless you happen to be Mabel the cat!


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

My Blog has a new name

Today I have given my blog a new name. It was almost ten years ago that I began writing this blog. As I've explained in the above strap-line, I called it 'Writing in the Rain' because life was not so good. With Mr A starting chemotherapy the future looked bleak and I thought this blog would be a way to meet other people who were going through similar problems. It turned out quite differently. Thankfully Mr A is in remission and long may it last. As for this blog, it has introduced me to lots of lovely writers and helped me to keep in touch with friends and family. It took me from the negative into the positive and so it was high time the blog got a more positive title.

I was prompted to do this today by Facebook. Sometimes I am irritated when Facebook reminds me what was happening on this day many years ago. Today it came up with a lovely, but bitter-sweet, photograph. It was a picture of me having breakfast in Venice overlooking the Grand Canal. I loved Venice. One day I will go there again but hopefully not for the same reason. We booked that holiday when Mr A was first diagnosed with Amyloidosis. We knew that the prognosis could turn out to be bad and Venice was one place that neither of us had visited - it was on our bucket list and so we went.


Thank you Facebook for making me turn to the positives of life. In fact, this has given me an idea for a poem and so I am Writing Again...



Wednesday, 21 August 2019

What happened to warm and cuddly?

I may have started using that pair of rose-tinted specs again but I'm sure that films in the cinema and programmes on the TV used to be warm and cuddly. These days they all feel harsh and sadistic. I accept that a storyline needs its peaks and troughs. We have to travel through adversity with our hero before the satisfying conclusion, before our hero achieves, possibly also learns, and it makes us feel - well - warm and cuddly. I don't want to share my relaxation time with sadists, so I shun the cinema and avoid TV programmes - except for Mastermind and University Challenge, of course.

That said, last week I watched more films than I had all year. We shared a holiday cottage with Son and family. The cottage boasted an impressive selection of DVDs and every morning I had a date with 9-year-old Grandson at 7.15 to share a breakfast-time film of his choice. He had seen them all before but they were new to me and he was especially delighted when the ending of Paddington 2 reduced me to tears. "You've really connected with this film, haven't you, Grandma."


I've said that I only do warm and cuddly and Paddington is warm and cuddly but one scene from that film will forever live in my head and hurt like billy-oh. Without going into too much detail, Paddington thinks the Browns have forgotten him. He falls into the river. Mrs Brown dives in to rescue him but he's trapped. For several moments they float motionless, looking at each other with real love in their eyes (How do film animators do that!?!) and then comes the rescue, etc., etc.

Why am I recounting this section of film? Bear with me (sorry, couldn't resist the pun!) and it will all become clear. Last Friday was departure day from our cottage. We packed bags, loaded cars, checked the cottage, locked up and shared hugs, kisses and 'goodbyes' before they headed North and we headed South. We got into our respective cars. My car window was level with their back window where Grandson was sitting. He wound his window down. I wound my window down. We silently stared at each other. Then his window closed and they drove away. It took a while before I could drive off. Like I said, it hurt like billy-oh.

But I'm coping. I have a Mastermind and a University Challenge to watch on the TV tonight and I just know that they will distract my thoughts from anything remotely non-warm-and-cuddly.

Posts have been few and far between recently because I've been kept rather busy working on the displays and texts for a new Visitors' Centre at Leicester's Orthodox Synagogue but more about that next time.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

More than just a ferry

Last week, we visited Liverpool - my first visit to the City. We stayed in a hotel near the Albert Docks, an area alongside the Mersey River that has been developed into a tourist attraction for lovers of all things both maritime and Beatles related.


My first excitement was seeing the Liver birds on the Liver Building. There was a 1970s television series called the Liver Birds and so I stood and gazed up at the birds, just like Nerys Hughes had done every week on the telly.
(I discovered from a tour guide that the clocks were made in Leicester - so proud!)

My second excitement happened as we walked through Albert Dock towards the river. A busker was playing Ferry Cross the Mersey and there I was looking at the actual Mersey River. I didn't expect to get emotional but I had to blink back tears. It was a mixture of nostalgia and a kind of raw emotion that only music can invoke - all this and we hadn't yet been to the Beatles Experience museum.

It was clear that the Beatles had to wait. My priority was to go on the ferry across the Mersey, just like Gerry and the Pacemakers had done when they sung about it all those years ago. The ferry is now painted in psychedelic patterns (I'm guessing it was a boring grey in the 70s) and every time it docked they played the tune and every time they played the tune I got all emotional all over again.

So much emotion is exhausting...


but I loved every minute of it...


We went on to visit the Beatles Museum and the Tate North Gallery, the Maritime Museum and we had a tour of the City on an open topped bus, but nothing could beat sitting on that ferry and listening to that tune because it's so much more than just a ferry. It's the soundtrack to my teenage years.



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.