Friday 29 July 2011

Misha's Guest

I’m a guest over at Misha’s blog today. I’m talking about memories. Regulars to this blog will know that I’m a bit of a nostalgia obsessive. Haven’t I warned you all about it in my bio? But I’ve also made money through memory writing. It’s not all self-indulgence, so do please go on over to Misha’s blog and find out how.

Talking of nostalgia, I’ve looked back over some of my old blog posts and, it’s true. I am somewhat obsessive.

Here I’ve talked about quirky old cars from when I was a kid....

...and here and here I’ve posted up some old sepia photographs of my Grandma and Great Aunts.

...and... hmm... there are too many posts to list. Even posts about other things seem to come back to the topic of memories, right down to my recent blog post here about swinging in the back garden.

So what’s your favourite childhood memory?

Have you ever used a memory as a starting point for writing?

And have you been over to Misha’s blog yet? ;-)


Tuesday 26 July 2011

Good news at last...

... even if it does mean another change.

I’m always going on about how much I hate changes and it’s true. Even as I type this, Mr A is cutting down a wisteria. I fought for that wisteria to live. It provides green leaves outside our bedroom window but Mr A was adamant. The problem is that it hasn’t flowered for about ten years now and, as Mr A says, “What use is a wisteria that doesn’t flower?” 

He’s got a new one to take its place but it’ll be years before it reaches those heights and now I’m going to have to look at bricks from my window instead of leaves... I hate changes.

But there’s one change soon to arrive in our house that I won’t hate at all. Mr A is getting his driving licence back!! After one and a half years of having to rely on me to drive him everywhere he’ll be regaining his independence. All he’s waiting for is the licence to arrive in the post. It’s almost like a kid waiting for the postman on his birthday.

When his eye sight was first affected he was on a course of chemotherapy, high dose steroids and Gabapentin. The specialists still aren’t sure if it was his condition or the treatment that caused the problem but either way he couldn't see well enough to drive. I’ve always been a reluctant distance driver and so we were both uncomfortable in our new roles as 'me the driver' and 'him the passenger'.

For much of last year I drove no further than the hospital and back because he was so ill, but over the last few months his health has improved and he’s been eager to travel once more.  I’ve had no choice and in a way it’s done me good. My driving confidence has improved no end. I’ve driven to Manchester and back two weekends ago and down to London last weekend and I’m determined not to lose that confidence once he’s driving again...

...although there is something that I definitely will be losing, exclusive use of our car! But one look at the grin on his face makes it well worth it... I think!


Tuesday 19 July 2011

Have we run out of stories...

...and does it matter?

Last night we went to see West Side Story at Leicester’s Curve Theatre, a modern and cavernous structure that I can’t quite decide if I like or not, but this post is not about the theatre, it’s about the show. Although it was an amateur production, it managed to pack the punch of that well-worn plot, two warring groups and two young lovers.

The story is as relevant today as it was when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in the 1590s and as relevant as when Jerome Robbins wrote West Side Story in 1957 and Mansoor Khan wrote the Bollywood version, Josh, in 2000. It’s such a powerful story that I believe it can stand any number of retellings.

But is it true that there are no new stories left to tell? Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was itself influenced by the Roman myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. Lord of the Rings has elements of Greek mythology in it and dare I suggest that Harry Potter has elements of Lord of the Rings.

If we were to select a piece of literature, say from the 19th century, and pair it down to the bare bones of the story, and then if we were to rewrite that story placing it in today’s world, would it be denounced as plagiarism or welcomed as a fresh piece of writing?

And if you know the answer do please tell me... is there such a thing as a completely new story?


Friday 15 July 2011

That Special Thinking Place

Do you have a special thinking place in your home, a place where you can ponder a difficult plot twist, work out a supper menu for guests or maybe chant a meditation mantra?

When I was a kid I used to escape to the end of our garden. It was only a small garden but through my little eyes it was a long way from our house. I used to sit on our swing and lose myself in the movement of the sky. This is a much-cherished photo of that swing with my big sister and me.

These days I have a few favourite places to sit in our house. A lot of my writing is done at the dining table. It’s a substantial piece of furniture which Mr A had made from old, oak floor joists. If we ever have to shift it we’ll need an elephant and tackle.

For inspiration I sometimes sit halfway down the stairs. The landing window looks out over the tops of the fir trees. I love that view... even if it does make me feel a bit like Kermit’s nephew, [a TV Muppet Show reference!]

The best view of all is from our bedroom window. The sun sets behind a row of poplar trees and some evenings the colours are so amazing I can hardly believe they’re real. This is my special place for a quiet thought, a hope, a prayer...

...and now I have a new favourite place which takes me right back to my childhood... only in a more sedate fashion. We’ve bought a garden swing-seat.

I thought it would be an ideal place to get on with some serious writing but there’s only one problem. This is the view...

Where’s your favourite place?


Tuesday 12 July 2011

More Needles than a Hedgehog

A nurse came to the house today to teach Rod how to inject himself. It’s all to do with his low kidney function. He’s got to administer weekly jabs of EPO to boost his red blood cells. But that’s not all.  Two weeks ago they gave him all his childhood injections at the hospital. At the same time they started him on a twice weekly course of B12 jabs... and I’m not even trying to count how many times they keep taking samples of blood to ‘see how it’s all going’.

I decided to use a picture of a cute hedgehog here rather than a not-so-cute hypodermic needle.
This time last year he was preparing himself for a seven week hospital stay which was to include a ridiculously high dose of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, four weeks in isolation and a period of kidney failure. The doctors are pleased with the way his Amyloidosis has responded to this onslaught. The levels of nasties in his blood have reduced considerably but every time I look at him I have this picture in my mind of a man leaking water...


Sunday 10 July 2011

My Chicken Soup Supper

Once or twice recently I’ve mentioned a useful all-in-one-pot chicken supper that I’ve created with the added advantage of having an almost authentic, just-like-my-Great-Auntie-Lena-used-to-make chicken soup the following day. A lot of you asked for the recipe and so I forced my friends to come over and share this meal with us so that I, in turn, could share it with you.

All you need are two carrots, a parsnip, two sticks of celery, a leek, an onion, two cloves of garlic, some potatoes (freshly dug from the garden, I might add!) and some chicken pieces placed in a large, shallow casserole dish.

Par-boil the potatoes, chop the vegetables and sprinkle it all over the chicken.

Add chicken stock, Telma stock cubes preferably, until it almost reaches the top of the dish. Cover with tin foil and cook for two hours. Check it every half hour, turning the vegetables and potatoes so they don’t dry out. For the last half hour leave the tin foil off so it all goes lovely and brown.

Not quite cooked yet!

The dish can go straight onto the table... which Mr A prepared earlier.

And the proof of the pudding supper...

Is in the eating!

Important point: The gravy is not gravy. It’s chicken soup! 

Put it in the fridge and don't worry that it turns into jelly. Heat it up next day and enjoy your chicken soup with lokshen (vermicelli) or knedlach (dumplings).
Who said cooking was difficult? J


Thursday 7 July 2011

I Love Lyrics

This blog has been inspired by Jenny Matlock's blog and this week's Alphabe-Thursday which is the letter L for Lovely Lyrics and I do so love lyrics... 

I believe that lyrics are even more powerful than poetry. I know three, maybe four poems by heart, but I know the words to hundreds and hundreds of songs and can produce them at a moment’s notice from that mysterious place that is the bottom drawer of my brain.

There are some moving and thought-provoking lyrics out there including Bob Dylan's 'The times they are a-changing' and John Lennon's 'Imagine'. There are also plenty of dramatic ones, like Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’ (by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris) for those moments when a relationship has hurt you so much that you’re not quite sure if you actually will survive. 

Hands up all those of you who have pointed aggressively towards the door as you’ve sung the lines:
“Go on now, GO!
Walk out the door.
Just turn around now.
Cause you’re not welcome anymore.”  
Me too!   *Hand waving in air and bottom half off chair.*

In my last life, when I was a primary school teacher, I often used songs as an introduction to a new topic. I’m talking about the days when teachers were not throttled by the constraints of the National Curriculum, when, if a child brought in a birds nest that was no longer being used to rear baby birds, we would abandon all our plans for the day and use it as a teaching aid... yes, with no prepared curriculum aims and objectives except to avoid catching bird fleas and lice.

I have precious memories of a term in the early 1990s spent with my Year 3 and 4 class (ages 7 to 9). We used the words of Michael Jackson's ‘Heal the World’ as an introduction to our term’s topic. The work covered English, the environment, politics, geography, history, music, drama and personal development. We had a great time and I’d like to think that my class can remember it as clearly as I can. I wonder if today’s Year 3 and 4 classes will remember their National Curriculum constrained lessons in 20 years time.

Michael Jackson’s words have since been marred by the revelations about his alleged relations with the children who surrounded him. There is also a sadness that his plea to make the world a better place 'for you, and for me, and the entire human race’ has not been realised. Naive of me I know but I really thought our generation might be able to make a difference. There’s still time, but while I’m waiting at least I can sing about it...
‘There are people dying.
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for you and for me.’
 Which song lyrics do it for you?


Tuesday 5 July 2011

Rock and Roll! At my Age!

I’m just about recovering from our nice, restful weekend away, but then I’ve only got myself to blame. We’ve been to the Warners Holiday Hotel near Harrogate and I dragged Rod along to one of their Rock and Roll classes. Warners is the sort of place where you have to join a class or two, get involved, or you haven’t had the full “Warners experience”.  The problem is, I never think these things through. I mean, one and a half hours of Rock and Roll! At my age! I ask you!

It never looks that tiring when you watch the celebrities doing their routines on BBC TV’s Strictly Come Dancing. They don’t ever have to sprawl across a table gasping and sipping water and I’ve never seen any of them having trouble walking afterwards. But that’s them. This was me! And what a shock it was! Not only is the music scarily fast, but the teacher wouldn’t let us get away with walking through the routine. Oh no! She kept shouting out, ‘Remember to bounce!’...

...One and a half hours of bouncing! At my age! I ask you!

And so that’s why I’m only just recovering from our nice, restful weekend away. In future, if I want to have a dance I’ll stick to the hand jive. It’s so much more dignified.

Anyone who can remember the Hand Jive first time around, the one with Johnny Otis, will have a bit of a nostalgia trip watching this You Tube clip. I don’t remember it myself, of course... honest I don’t! But I dare say some of you will.   *dives for cover as assorted blogger missiles whistle through the air*