Thursday, 8 April 2021

My Top 5 Pandemic Positives

We surely must be able to glean some good from this last year of death tolls and lockdowns so here are my top five pandemic positives, things that I would like to give thanks for. They are, in no particular order:

1.  Not having to scrape the frost off the car or even get dressed properly to attend a meeting ...thanks to zoom.

2.   Not always ending up in the slowest queue at the supermarket ...thanks to Ocado (and all the other online food suppliers).

3.  Not having to hold tightly to my bag for fear of pickpockets in a crowded area ...thanks to all the 2 metre signs and one way notices.

4.  Not having to handle cash - maybe never having to handle cash again ...thanks to contactless swiping (I know this was around before the pandemic - as was zoom and Ocado - but contactless payments are more generally accepted now even for small transactions.)

Last but most definitely not least:

5.  Not having to receive uninvited hugs plus kisses on both cheeks from men I barely know ...thanks to social distancing (and if that makes me sound like a miserable so-and-so I'm sorry but it's how I feel).

Have I missed anything? 

Are there pandemic positives that you would like to give thanks for? If so then do please share...

Monday, 29 March 2021

Worm Moon plus lots of Festivals

Last night was the Worm Moon, the third full moon of the year. I didn't see it. The clouds were thick, the wind was vicious, but I knew that Worm Moon was there, somewhere above the swirling nebulae. (Did you know that every full moon has a name? I thought that only applied to the Harvest Moon.)

Apparently it's called Worm Moon because the earth has warmed up enough for the worms to come to the surface, providing a culinary perk for robins and various other small birds. I only have to watch our resident robin and his partner to know that this is correct.

This year the Worm Moon is also called the Paschal Moon because it's the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. This got me thinking. Paschal is from the Aramaic 'pasha' and the Hebrew 'pesah'. It means 'the passing over'. The word refers to both the Christian festival of Easter and the Jewish festival of Passover/Pesach, (it's in Exodus Chapter 12 verses 13 to 23). If I'm interpreting it correctly both festivals, although very different in practice, are about freedom and salvation. 

They're not the only festivals occurring this time of the year. It is rather a busy time for festivals. So here's the festival run-down. I hope that I've illustrated them appropriately and that I haven't missed any:

Last week the Spring Equinox was celebrated by Pagans.

The Spring Equinox is the new year in Iran and is called Nowruz.

The Jewish festival of Passover began on Saturday evening and lasts for eight days.

Yesterday (Sunday) was the first day of the Hindu festival of Holi. 

Today is the Muslim festival of Shab-e-Barat. 

Today is also the Sikh festival of Hola Mahalla.

The Christian festival of Easter begins this week with Maundy Thursday followed by Good Friday. 

I don't pretend to understand the finer nuances of all these festivals but I have a feeling that incorporated in all of them is a hope/prayer for freedom, peace and security. If we all hoped/prayed together then maybe our joint voices would have an effect. Now, wouldn't that be a result!

Whatever festival you are observing right now, have a good one.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

My contribution to World Poetry Day

March 21 is World Poetry Day.
I do hope you’ve all taken time
to ensure that your writing and clever word play
is exploding with rhythm and rhyme.

Record your to-do list in long ballad form,
leave the milkman a note in Haiku.
Your limerick emails will go down a storm.
Why not tweet out a tanka or two.

I’m planning to talk in rhyme all of today
chatting sonnets and ballads and more.
I will rap and give rhythm to all that I say
using couplets and triplets galore…

…except Mr A has asked me to please stop as it’s a tad annoying!

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Looking forward - fire pits and all

There's nothing like seeing your name in print to encourage a return to the keyboard. I had been suffering from lockdown lethargy but when The Pomegranate London magazine landed on my mat last week I was proud, excited and enthused. It's a lovely magazine, quality print, illustrations, varied reading material and of course it includes my poem, The Circus Barker. Not bad for £5. As a result of this renewed enthusiasm I've submitted four poems this week and have several more just about good to go.

That doesn't mean I've not had time for other activities (with apologies for the double negative!) In the UK from March 29th we should, as long as the virus doesn't re-spike, be allowed to invite friends into our gardens for socially distanced afternoon tea - or indeed morning coffee. Leicester in April can be bitter but I'm desperate for social interaction so today I ordered a fire pit for the patio. 

Initially I thought it sounded like something from a Roman arena with battling lions and slaves but internet images have put my mind at rest. I might also order a chimnea - those pot-bellied affairs with a little chimney. I need to see how effective the fire pit is first. 

I must say, I am normally a careful and conservative shopper, taking days if not weeks to decide whether or not to buy new items but with the sniff of lockdown-relaxations I am afraid I have become totally reckless.

The rest of the day was spent helping Mr A with the rubbing down and painting of the patio table and chairs so that they're ready for the onslaught of visitors. All I have to do now is to find people who would like to visit!

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

How to keep a gratitude journal...

...or should that be 'how not to'?

A few weeks ago Daughter gave me a gift of a pink journal. It has a soft, leathery cover and is compulsively tactile. She told me it was for recording daily gratitudes. She said that this method of dealing with negative thoughts has now replaced the old 'dumping of baggage' journal, explaining that writing negatives down every night was reinforcing them in your mind. Writing gratitudes down every night will reinforce the positive. 

Reinforcing positives certainly makes sense but it took me a few weeks to get the hang of it. For a start I began by picking out events that had previously been a negative in my life but had now improved and so I could record my gratitude, for example the Covid rate going down to below 100 per 100,000 in our area. Daughter told me that this was not the idea at all. It was to find pleasing, gratifying moments. She saw the blank look on my face - I'm afraid I am something of a 'glass half empty' person - and so she gave me examples. 

    "Look Mum, how about writing it down next time you see that woodpecker at the bird feeder and the way you told me how he sends showers of seed all over the place for the smaller birds to clean up... or... or you could write about that daffodil bud in the garden, look, the way its yellow petals are just beginning to unfold. That's positive. That's gratitude."

I may have remembered the conversation slightly wrongly. Daughter will probably read this, roll her eyes and say that I've still not quite grasped how to keep a gratitude journal but I think I'm getting there. 

I saw the woodpecker again today and as for the daffodils, they're looking lovely and I had to smile at the pretty pink hellebore photobombing my daffodil shot...

Have a good week.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Max Out In The Lake District

Recently my daily breakfast has been transformed. While I munch on my toast I 'walk' through Cumbria's stunning Lake District with Max the springer spaniel, his two siblings and their owner, Kerry Irving.

It was only when Max the Miracle Dog was awarded an animal OBE last month that I found out about him and his Facebook Page, Max Out In The Lake District. Max is a therapy dog and has helped thousands of people overcome depression. Kerry Irving explains how his dog Max saved his life after he had a road traffic accident. He was unable to walk and sank into a serious depression but Max helped him through it. You can read the article from the Guardian newspaper of 19 Feb 2021 here: Guardian article.

Kerry Irving creates live posts of his daily walks on his Facebook Page and that's how I'm able to join him and his three springer spaniels as they walk through the breathtakingly beautiful countryside. 

Photo of Max from the Guardian article

On a personal note: I very much miss my cats, Charlie and Mabel. When Josh the dog died in 2011 I said 'never again' to another dog. I said 'never again' to more cats when Mable died a few months ago. I still miss her very much and hate living without animals but I don't know if I can bear the pain and worry of living with them. And this pandemic isn't helping me to make a sensible decision as we still can't get out and about. So in the meantime, while I decide what to do about pets, I'll carry on walking with Max and his two doggie siblings. I hope you enjoy their videos as much as I do.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Time - is it real or an illusion?

Time is important to me. I have surrounded myself with clocks, watches and digital time displays to satisfy my constant need for that all-important time check. But is time real or is it an illusion? Scientists claim they can now measure time with a device so accurate that it would lose no more than a second over a period of a million years and yet I have read articles claiming that time is an illusion, nothing more than 'a complex network of events onto which we project sequences of past, present and future', a theory expounded by Carlo Rovelli. If I think about his theory too much it freaks me out.

The physicist, Professor Brian Cox, (who also freaks me out when he talks about the infinite, eternal universe) has devoted a number of episodes of his radio programme 'The Infinite Monkey Cage' to a discussion about time. It was while listening to one of these episodes that I got the inspiration for this poem:


What do scientists know?
They say that our brain takes time to process
what our eyes perceive, so when I look at your face
what I see has gone, only milliseconds gone,
but gone for sure.

They say they can measure time accurately.
They pat their collective backs at their progress
from the hourglass trickling sand,
to the oscillating pendulum
to the precision of the atomic clock

but they can't explain time's elasticity,
how an hour passes in a second when you're here,
an hour lasts a day when you go away
and how the memory of your touch
can stretch time into infinity.

What is your perception of time? Reality? Illusion? Or is there just not enough of it for you to allow yourself to sit and ponder such questions?