Thursday 30 June 2011

Me, my dad and a Knickerbocker Glory

I forget the year, nineteen-fifty-something
We went for a week to the sea
We stayed in a caravan, nothing too grand
Just enough for my Mum, Dad and me.

I forget the name of the ice cream parlour
I remember it opened at 10.
I remember that Dad took me there every day
Our treat, it was just me and him.

I forget what he ordered to have for himself
I’m guessing a strong cup a tea.
I remember exactly what I had each day
A Knickerbocker Glory that was bigger than me...

...Now I’m all grown up I realise that it wasn’t actually bigger than me, but in nineteen-fifty-something it certainly felt as if it was...

...and the memory is even bigger and very precious.

This post was in response to Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe Thursday. Jenny issues all sorts of tasks for all her followers. This week’s task was to blog about something beginning with K.  Knickerbocker, as you no doubt have noticed, has three Ks in it and it’s a bit of a special memory for me right now. 

For some perverse reason, since Mum died in April, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad, who died in 1977. I’ve been thinking about the precious times we had together, just the two of us. It’s not only Knickerbocker Glory memories. In the school holidays I used to go with him to buy jewellery for his market business. We went to London on the train, travelled to Hatton Garden on the tube and, when he’d bought all the new stock, we went for a salt beef sandwich before heading home. Happy days.

I’m going to be taking part in A River of Stones during July. It involves close observation, picking on one thing each day and writing down exactly what I see. I’ll be tweeting them daily using the tag #aros. I'm also planning to post up my favourites once a week so yet again, watch this space.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

My words through an artist’s eyes

I’m trying something new with my writing. I’m working with an illustrator. I suspect a couple of sharp-eyed followers will already have noticed a contradiction. Two posts ago I wrote of my dislike for change and now I’m about to embrace it. But when it comes to writing, I’m always keen to explore different styles and if I ever stop trying to improve my work then it’ll be time to hang up the keyboard.

Sue Hague
I have my writing group to thank for this idea, yet again. [They’re lovely, are my writing group!] We all belong to a children’s book group which meets once a month to read and discuss children’s books... and to have lunch, of course! One of the members is an artist. Her name is Sue Hague and whenever we have a meeting at her house we are in awe of her artwork, especially the finely detailed flower paintings. She is passionate about observing and recording all those tiny details in the world around us, the details that most people don’t notice... the same details that I, as a writer, try to record with words, whereas Sue uses a mixture of acrylic, watercolour and soft pencil.

Last week Sue ran an art workshop for us writers. We’ve never done anything like this as a group before. It was an amazing experience if a little messy... 

Our first task was to rub oil paint onto an acetate sheet and scratch a picture onto paper which had been placed over the top of the paint. My result was a little smudgy but the activity had been satisfying and absorbing in a compulsive sort of a way.

Alex Gutteridge (left), me in the middle and Debbie White who I suspect had prior art training! 
Pippa Goodhart
We worked with materials that I never thought could go together... like a pen, some bleach and a sheet of soft coloured paper. The effect appears gradually. It’s another fascinating process. This isn’t my attempt. It’s Pippa's.

I didn’t produce anything that would hang on my walls but then that wasn't the aim of the morning. What I did come away with was a lot of inspiration, especially when it comes to looking at those finer details of life that are all around us... but there was more. I had a chat with Sue about the art of illustrating and it was then that we planned our collaboration. I have a number of children’s picture book manuscripts, words only, with written illustration guidelines where relevant. I have a rough idea of what the pictures might look like but I was interested to see if Sue’s expert input would add another dimension to my work.

As soon as I got home I emailed a manuscript to her. She came straight back to me with ideas that were already ‘running through her head’. Changes began to happen, improvements began to emerge, as she suggested some fine tuning to my story line, things that I wouldn’t have thought about on my own. She’s now working on some rough drafts and we’ll be meeting up very soon to merge our ideas. We’re hoping to make a joint submission and although we both know that it could well join my list of rejections, it’s been extremely useful to look at my words through an artist’s eyes... and who knows, it might even be accepted!


Monday 27 June 2011

Cool cats on a hot day

Charlie says: "What was Mabel doing in my conservatory?"

Charlie says: "You can't beat a cool doorstep on a hot day. Lovely!"

Charlie says. "Oh no! Mabel's back again!"

Summer has arrived in the UK! Hope you're all keeping cool.


Wednesday 22 June 2011

What do you mean it’s as good as a rest?

Changes are not restful. Changes make me tired. I don’t mean the daily things, like changing the sheets. There’s nothing nicer than snuggling beneath a freshly laundered quilt cover… or changing the dish cloth and washing up sponge. Apparently there are so many different kinds of bacteria living in dish cloths that it’s impossible to count them all. We’re supposed to change them every day and the same goes for underwear, but possibly for slightly different reasons. I sometimes change our daily newspaper order, although I don’t know why. They’re all as bad as each other and I have been known to try a different brand of toothpaste but only rarely. You see, the problem is that I don’t like changes.

I know that we have to have changes. If the world never changed then there would be no new inventions or discoveries, and that includes everything from antibiotics to astronauts, but given a choice I’d rather not. This could be the reason why I’ve lived in Leicester all my life. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a completely new location. I even have trouble when they change the layout of our local supermarket. I suspect they do it to increase sales but it just makes me irritable.

Sometimes we decide to change things round in the kitchen but this is never good for me. It throws me into a tizzy. I spend weeks reaching for plates where we now keep mugs or cereal bowls where the teapot now lives. It’s the same in the garden. Alan Titmarsh can dig up shrubs and replace them with different varieties all he likes. I prefer the garden to look exactly as it did last year… and the year before… and the year before that.

You may have noticed by now that I’ve recently faced a pretty major change. I’ve changed my blog template. I have to admit to being thrown into a clammy panic when I did it. You see, I didn’t intend to change it. I was trying to get rid of the embedded comments box and replace it with the pop-up variety. It should have been a simple case of ticking a button but the button has disappeared. A kind fellow blogger suggested it might reappear if I updated my blog template. It didn’t reappear but it is the reason why you’re now looking at this freshly designed page. I suppose I’ll get used to it soon. It’s just a bit of a… change.

What changes make you hopping mad? Or do you revel in variety?

Sunday 19 June 2011

Cute and Tagged all in one week

A Seriously Cute Blogger

Yes, it would seem that I’ve had my cover blown. Under this serious, stern, assiduous exterior I am cute. 

It must be true because the lovely Pauline Barclay said so. All I have to do is to list out 5 books/films/TV prgrammes I've read/watched in the last 12 months so: 

1.  FILM: I’m not a film fanatic but I have recently seen Casablanca again. I love that film. “Here’sh looking at ya, kid.”

2.  BOOK: Wuthering Heights for my book group. I fell in love with it as a teenager but we all agreed that read through mature eyes it’s a brutal book rather than a love story.

3.  BOOK: The Hating Game by blogger friend, Talli Roland, was a great read and a good laugh. Looking forward to the next one, Talli.

4.  TV: Have I got news for you. I just love the banter between Paul Merton and Ian Hislop.

5.  TV: Strictly Come Dancing. Isn't it time for the next series yet?!

And here's my award, 'Aaah, cute!'

Tagged: And now Jemi Fraser has tagged me with 7 questions so here goes: 

Are you hot?
Yes, I’m roasting *waves face with hand*... no, I’m frozen *grabs jumper*... yes, I’m on fire *clutches burning cheeks*... [How long do I have to put up with these sweats!?]

Upload a picture or wall paper you are using at the moment.

Delphiniums from the garden. 

Mum used to read me the poem about geraniums red and delphiniums blue. I talked with her about it the day before she died and told her that the flowers would always remind me of her. 

They’re beautiful.

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?
Last Friday night. I’ve devised this great way of cooking chicken, potatoes and root vegetables in a large shallow dish in the oven. Hardly any washing up and it gives us chicken soup for starters too. Delicious.

Songs you listened to recently?
Loving You by Minnie Ripperton on my car CD.
Summertime by Cleo Laine to remind me of the Strictly Gershwin programme we went to see at the Royal Albert Hall last Thursday. Fabulous.

What were you thinking as you were doing this?
The Royal Albert Hall. It was my first ever visit and entering the auditorium brought tears to my eyes.

Do you have nicknames?
Dad used to call me Rosie. Rod calls me Petal. There’s a theme emerging.

Tag eight Blogger friends.
In keeping with my recent blog about childhood games, this tagging business has made me think about the game of tic tic in the playground. Quite often I’d be one of those kids running away from no one. I’d not even get ticked if I stood still. I’d try to pretend it didn’t matter but it did.

It’s lovely to be tagged but it’s hard to choose those who I want to tag because I’d like to tag you all. 
If you’re a regular visitor here then I may have recently sent you an award or maybe I don’t know you’re a regular. 
[Do please leave a comment. Just ‘hi’ would be great and then I’ll know you’ve popped by.] 
Or maybe you’ve just been tagged in which case I’m going to give you a choice...

So I’m going to pass either Jemi’s tag with its 7 questions or Pauline’s Seriously Cute Blogger with its 5 books/programmes [you choose] to:

Nutshell at The Writing Nut  

Mary at Giggles and Guns 

K. C. Woolf at The Woman Condition

Canyon Girl at Desert Canyon Living 

Christine at And so the story goes...  

Barbara at From my Kitchen Table 


Monday 13 June 2011

Chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee...

I’m trying to prepare a second sepia blog. I’ve selected photographs of my family in the 1920s and I’ve scanned them onto the computer but every time I try to think about the words...

Chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee...

Daddy Chaffinch is at it again. He’s been chwee... chwee... chwee-ing all day, every day for almost a week now and it’s driving me crazy. I think it must be his way of telling his babies that he’s just popped out for some nice juicy insects and he’ll be back soon. 

‘Aaah, sweet,’ I hear you say.

No! It’s not sweet. It’s aural torture. Please Chaffinch babies, grow up and fly away... preferably this afternoon.

This is the second brood that Mummy and Daddy Chaffinch have brought into the world this year. Their nursery is hidden in the depths of our wisteria. The wisteria is up against our bedroom wall and yes, chaffinches get up early... very early indeed!

I was excited when The Chaffinch Family chose our garden for their nursery. I was feeling virtuous that our home-made compost (that writhing mass of brown which Mr A keeps spreading furiously across the garden) is providing them with lots of fresh food. I’m also grateful that Mabel and Charlie were never educated in the ways of hunting cats.

So this should be a positive experience and it would have been if only Daddy Chaffinch hadn’t turned into such a repetitively rowdy father. That bird is pushing us all to the limit. Even Mabel and Charlie have been doing a few of those silent I’m-coming-to-get-you meows today and if this goes on any longer I’ll be making I’m-coming-to-get-you noises too...

... It’s ok. I feel better now I’ve got that off my chest. I’m going to go back to writing my sepia blog now but don’t bother trying to talk to me because I’m wearing ear plugs. 

Chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee... chwee...


Friday 10 June 2011

I Feel Dizzy

There are two reasons for this. The 1st reason is boring and I’ll give it no more than 3 sentences...

1.  The anti-depressants that the doctor gave me just before Mum died did what they had to do and got me through the horrible bits but they also kidnapped my brain.

2.  Last week I decided to get my brain back so I stopped taking the pills.

3.  Yes, yes, I now know that you’re not supposed to come off pills just like that and that I should have cut them in half, taken them every other day and all that sort of thing, but I didn’t and now it’s too late and I feel dizzy.

There! Let that be the end of the discussion! I shall move swiftly on...

I loved all your comments this week about the skipping and ball games and, what with that pill incident that we’re not supposed to be discussing, I got to thinking about all those twizzling, twirling games we used to play.

I really did have an old fashioned spinning top and I loved to play with it but I much preferred to spin myself. A favourite game was to cross arms, hold a friend’s hands tightly and spin round until we dropped. Then we’d lie on the ground and watch the sky slowly moving, vortex style. I don’t know why we did it but I’m guessing that kids are still doing it and always will.

There were lots of gentler circle games that we played in the playground. Did I say gentler? ‘The Farmer’s in his Den’ was anything but gentle. It was also just a tad middle-class and sexist now I come to think about it. The farmer (always a boy) stood in the middle of the circle and the rest of us would walk round holding hands and singing,

The farmer’s in his den
The farmer’s in his den
Eee, eye, addy, oh
The farmer’s in his den

Next he chose a wife (a girl of course) ...

Then the wife wanted a child (usually a girl) ...

And the child wanted a nurse (a girl again) ...

Finally the nurse wanted a dog. This could be either a girl or a boy but, for reasons that I never understood, I was often that dog. This was not good because the final verse went...

We all pat the dog
We all pat the dog
Eee, eye, addy, oh
We all pat the dog

And ‘patting’ meant beating the back of the poor unfortunate ‘dog’ until a teacher came to rescue her (me!)

As the years went on the games changed but still I had this need to make myself dizzy. My favourite fairground ride was The Waltzers. The ride spun one way and the seat spun the other. I’d ride it again and again. What was I thinking of?

I put it all down to the recklessness of youth. Now please excuse me while I go and lie down in a darkened room... *sigh*


Monday 6 June 2011

Games from my Childhood

I'm taking part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Fun and Games Blogfest

‘Blog about your three favourite games,’ said Alex.

‘Easy,’ I thought...

...but there are so many games to choose from that it’s almost impossible to select three.
  • Can Wii games be judged in the same category as board games?
  • Can a game of Spider Solitaire compete with a game of Pooh Sticks with the grandkids?

When I was a girl, games really were games. You could lose yourself for hours and hours without using a single battery or charger pack and so, in reverse order, my top 3 games are as follows:

In 3rd place is Snobs 
(in other areas of the UK it was also known as Stones, Fives or Jacks)

I had five small cube shaped stones. They were made of china clay and each one was a different (and very pretty) pastel shade. The idea of the game was to throw them on the floor and throw one up in the air while picking them up one at a time, then two at a time, then three and one. 

Finally we threw the handful up and tried to catch them all on the back of our hand. [I can’t quite remember why but I remember loving it.] 

In 2nd place is Skipping

I had a small rope of my own (no fancy handles, just a piece of rope) and I’d skip for hours in the back yard but the best Skipping took place in the playground. There was always someone who had a very long rope and this very long rope was always being turned by two kids. The rest of us would stand in line, run under the rope skip and run out again.

I can only remember one skipping song: 

‘Two fat sausages
Sizzling in the pan,
One went pop
And the other went bang.’ 

On the word bang we had to stop skipping and jump astride the rope. 

You see what I mean. Life doesn't get any more exciting than that! Today's kids don't know what they're missing!

And now for the winning game 

In 1st place and a clear winner is *roll of drums*

Double Ball 

With two rubber balls and one brick wall I could spend a whole morning – a whole day – playing Double Ball.  I’d chant endless rhymes (but I can’t remember a single one!) and I’d throw the balls under arm, over arm, bounce on the ground, clap my hands between catches, one ball up in the air and then back onto the wall. The combinations were endless and I’d pride myself on never dropping them. I could even have kept going right through dinner (except Mum didn’t let me).

[These days my favourite game is far less active. I’m totally addicted to Bridge. It’s the best thing I learned to do since Double Ball.]

Can anyone think of those songs we used to sing while we threw two balls up against a wall? I'm going crazy trying to remember them!