Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Sharing Our Heritage

Sharing Our Heritage is a 100-page, full-colour history book written by four authors in five months. I can't begin to count how many zoom meetings it took but it's done now and it's going to the printers this week. Halfway through the writing process I bought a bottle of Optrex eye lotion. It was the first time I'd needed Optrex since I did my first degree in 1979. The biggest strain on my eyes was from the proofing process. How many times can a piece be read and yet still contain errors? It baffles me.

The four of us are still friends in spite of everything. 'Everything' includes:

  • screens that froze and links that failed
  • disagreements over initial capitals and commas (I may have developed an aversion to commas. I now twitch each time I use one - rather like the psychiatrist in the original Pink Panther movie.)
  • four completely different versions of a chapter that each of us have edited and insist on discussing during a zoom
  • what to include and what to miss out 
  • and, even more problematic, what names to include

As I explained in my last post, there was a reason for writing a history book in such a hurry. The synagogue in Leicester has had an extension and rebuild thanks to a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant. The year before Covid a few of us worked on a timeline depicting the history of the congregation for the wall of one of the rooms in the new Heritage Centre. During the research process it became apparent that the congregation was quite a bit older than had previously been thought. This meant that earlier publications were incorrect. 

Have you ever made a promise that your mouth is totally confident about, but your head is screaming, 'Don't do it!' Well that was me five months ago. I announced that we would be able to produce a brand new history book in time for the official opening of the Centre. There were friends who assured me that it was not possible to write a book in five months but that made me all the more determined. I obtained quotes from both printer and book designer, I organised weekly zoom meetings, created and stuck to a tight schedule of work, and the rest (if you'll pardon the expression) is history. 

Here is the back cover blurb:

Sharing Our Heritage is a book written by four people with one voice. They have pooled a wealth of research and personal experience to produce this inspiring history of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation. It takes the reader from the excitement of a new Heritage Centre, back in time to the early 1800s, charting two centuries of the LHC’s rich history, with many fluctuations in fortune along the way. It illustrates the spirit that lives within the LHC, a spirit that has enabled the congregation to survive when other provincial Jewish congregations have not.

And here is the front cover (author names are in alphabetical order):

What I need to do now is to open up my folder called 'poetry work in progress', stick my creative head on once more and get back to building up my poetry portfolio. Although I may just have a bit of a nap first.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Writing a book by committee!!

As I said, albeit briefly, last month, I'm writing a book but it's writing with a difference. I'm working with three other people to research and record a complete history of Leicester's Synagogue. 

There are two hair-raising issues related to what I just said. 

  • The first hair-raiser: we were producing the book to be launched at an event scheduled for September this year. It has been brought forward to July! 
  • The other hair-raiser: I'm writing the book with three other people. Writing a book is never easy but writing it by committee could be a recipe for disaster. I'm delighted to say that it is in no way a disaster, we are on schedule and we're all still talking to each other.

The bulk of the work has been done on zoom due to Covid and the fact that one of the team lives about 100 miles away. It has involved a lot of emailing sections of work back and forth and, as I'm responsible for pulling it all together and liaising with the book designer, I've had to keep juggling all the plans in my head.

A few years ago three of us produced an historic timeline that is now firmly embedded along the entire wall of the upstairs room in the new synagogue extension. That was when we mused about the idea of writing this book which covers over 200 years of history. We're calling the book Sharing Our Heritage and that's all I'm going to say right now. The front cover is amazing but as nothing is quite complete it would be unfair of me to disclose any images. However, once the book has been sent to the printers I will share an advanced viewing with you here.

It's Pesach (Passover) and Easter tomorrow. It's interesting that sometimes the two events collide as they are inextricably linked. (The first evening of Passover is the Seder meal and it was the Seder meal that is referred to as the Last Supper...apologies if you already knew that.) Passover is set according to the Hebrew Lunar calendar and Easter... well I'm never quite sure how Easter is set but I know it involves a mathematical calculation. 

I have put my work away until next week and would like to wish you all a happy Passover/|Easter/Bank Holiday weekend.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Time to smell the daffs

 In the middle of writing a history book.

 Uncomfortably tight schedule. 

Editing stage. 

Sore eyes. 

At least I’ve no time to check on the awful news.

But I just noticed spring so I closed my laptop lid to go and smell the daffodils… and the crocuses and the hellebores. I’ll post about the book in due course, or as Daughter would say, 'laters…'

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Five February Favourites revisited

In February 2014 I wrote about my five February favourites. Looking back I see that little has changed.

1.  When the sun shines you can now feel its warmth and the promise of spring - provided you're not standing in gale force winds.

2.  The snowdrops are only just poking through but I know that very soon they will be amazing.

3.  There are no family birthdays or anniversaries in February so I’m saved that difficult question that begins, “What do you want for…”

4.  The evenings are starting to get lighter and I'm waking up to the first chirps of dawn chorus.

5.  My brain can finally stop singing that irritating Christmas song. In 2014 I moaned about the Slade Christmas song but this year it has been that one that begins... "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..." In truth it's beginning to look a lot like spring so please, most irritating song, leave my brain and stop being such an annoying ear worm.

Happy February

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

81 Words - A Flash Fiction Anthology

Last weekend an amazing book, 81 Words, had its official launch. It contains 1,000 stories and each story is precisely 81 words in length. Contributions were received from around the world, including Leicester UK because I too have a flash fiction story in the anthology but more about me later. The 1,000 stories cover as many styles and genres as there are writers in the world. I may have exaggerated slightly about 'writers in the world' but you get my meaning and it certainly makes for a fascinating read.

This impressive feat was the work of Christopher Fielden. It has taken him seven years from the first idea to the published anthology and all profits from the book will go to support Arkbound Foundation, an independent charity aiming to widen access to literature and improve diversity within publishing. You can buy a copy of the book via this Amazon link: 81 Words  when you've finished reading my blog post, of course! And if you've never visited Christopher's website then I suggest you pop along using this link: Christopher FieldenHis website is full of writing advice, competitions and challenges.

My flash fiction is called The Living Statue. It's number 868 in the book and I'm guessing that Christopher won't mind if I reproduce the page here for you to see... as a taster... before you click on the Amazon link above and buy a copy for yourself. Apologies for the poor production of the page. This was my failing. I am not and never will be a photographer. The book is far lovelier than my photograph suggests.

A big congratulations to Christopher. He has produced a book to be proud of.

Some news about Richard III

While I'm here I'd just like to blow my own trumpet a little. I noticed recently that, although my Children's Book of Richard III is not available for sale on Amazon, they have awarded it four and a half stars out of five and there are a large number of excellent reviews on the page. I am well chuffed!

If you would like a copy it is for sale at the price of £8.99 at museum shops in and around Leicester, at the Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester and at the Bosworth Battlefield gift shop. If you are unable to pop into any of these outlets then please email me at rosalind dot kathryn at gmail dot com. I will then consider you a friend and will let you have a signed book for £8 plus p&p which for addresses in the UK is £3.79.

Friday, 7 January 2022

Raining Cats and Dogs?

Yesterday the Meteorological Office forecasted thundersnow. It’s as if they have permission to make up words.  I’ve heard of thunderstorms and snowstorms but thundersnow only came into my consciousness briefly last year and now it’s being forecasted willy nilly… ok so I exaggerate but I can’t help wondering if this strange weather phenomenon has always been around or is it a new invention?

We all know that weather is changing. We've had enough warning about global warming and climate change. This got me thinking about the weather when I was a child. There were rainstorms, gales, heatwaves, but one thing that has all but disappeared, certainly here in Leicester UK, are fogs and, even worse, smogs. I remember when they used to stop the buses when a fog descended. We would be sent home from school early so we could catch the last bus and by the time I got near to home it would be so thick I had trouble seeing where my street was. The phrase people used was, ‘You can’t see your hand in front of your face’… bit of an exaggeration but it was certainly an eerie and rather daunting experience. Not only was it difficult visually, it also made it hard to breath. During the Great London Fog of 1952 it was reported that 12,000 people died. 

London 1952 - image from britannica.com

I’m glad that thanks to the laws to clean up air pollution we no longer suffer from fogs or smogs and as for the thundersnow, that never materialised. In fact we only saw a flurry of sleet which soon turned back to rain. I wonder what kind of weather they’ll think up for us next… icewind? rainshine? Or maybe I’ll finally be able to experience my childhood fascination and it will start raining cats and dogs. Now that would be a sight to see!

Oh yes, and a Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Poetry, Nails and Miracles

Poetry Acceptance

Firstly a big thank you to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review for accepting my poem, 'The Passing of Time on Peddars Way'. It will be published in their Winter 2021/22 issue. Pedders Way is a picturesque walk along the Norfolk coastal path. We used to regularly walk there from Blakeney to Cley. We haven't been for years but we're planning to go back there next year - Covid permitting.

As for the poem,  I have now racked up 17 published poems. Is it time to start thinking about a poetry pamphlet? I'm not sure and would welcome your opinion. Do you rate poetry pamphlets? Or do you only purchase them when a friend invites you to their pamphlet launch party? 

A Nail Saga

For three whole weeks I delighted in my grandmother-of-the-bride-nails. They gleamed with deep magenta gel. They were glossy and glisteny and I have been flashing them in front of people and stroking them lovingly. When they hit the three-week mark they went into rapid decline. Three weeks is old for nails. In fact, in 'nail years' three weeks is positively ancient. They were cracking and bending and had become so long that I was having trouble typing and picking up anything smaller than a knife and fork but the gel had set like concrete and no way could I file them down. The gel had to go!

But it is two weeks before Christmas and all nail-gel-remover shops are fully booked. Undeterred I went to the chemist and bought a bottle of acetone. It has large red warning signs on the bottle and smells atrocious but I was intrepid. I was determined. I spent the best part of twenty-four hours soaking my nails with smelly cotton wool and wrapping them in tin foil. I became light-headed from the fumes, slightly dizzy and squidgy but I did it. The gel is gone... and my nails are plain and boring once more. 

An Affirmation of Miracles

This week I went to a Singing for Pleasure group that I joined recently. We were asked to bring in short readings for our final session of the year and so I thought I'd talk about Chanukah. I first explained the history, how the small group of Maccabees won against all odds over the Greek army, how the Greek were intolerant of other religions and how they, when retreating from the Maccabees, destroyed the holy oil in the Temple. The Maccabees found one bottle of oil, enough to burn in the Temple for one day and yet it lasted for the eight days that it took them to purify more oil - a miracle that we remember each year by lighting eight candles plus a lighter candle.

Some people don't believe in miracles these days. They say that miracles only happened to people in the Bible. I don't agree with those people. What about the development of a Covid vaccination in about six months when it would normally take at least two years? And for me, my personal miracle is my grandson. When he was a toddler he almost died with Type 1 Diabetes. He's now 11 and three weeks ago, on the weekend of his sister's wedding, he stepped up onto the Bimah in the Synagogue and sang in Hebrew two pages of prayers on his own in front of the whole congregation. So don't tell me that there's no such thing as miracles. I've seen them first hand.