Monday 30 July 2012

A Tourist at Home

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

I’ve lived in Leicester all my life. I’ve wandered round all the well-known bits. I’ve even written a Children’s History of Leicester. [I needed to do plenty of research for that!] But yesterday was the first time that I’d been a real tourist at home. I went on a guided tour of Leicester’s Castle. There’s not much of it remaining. We couldn’t climb worn stone stairs or wander wind-blown ramparts but we were able to look at odd bits of stone rising up here and there, The Turret Gateway, John of Guant’s Cellar, the mound of grass that was once the Motte and, with an expert in the lead [Richard Buckley from Leicester University’s Archaeological Services], we learnt so much more than lumps of stone could ever impart.

This is a page from my Children's History of Leicester.
The photo on the yellow background shows remains of the castle wall where gun holes were
punched in it to defend Leicester (unsuccessfully) from Prince Rupert's army in the Civil War.

Why have I never been on a local guided tour before? When we go abroad we always sign up to guided tours so why not in our home town? That was a rhetorical question. I know the answer. It’s because we think we know what’s there. We get so used to seeing it that we stop seeing it. Why does our brain do that? [That wasn’t a rhetorical question so do please let me know if you have the answer.]

The same thing happens in other areas of our lives. I’m very lucky to have a lovely house and a beautiful garden but days go by and I forget to notice them… until a friend visits and I see it all through their eyes and remember. Yes, I am lucky.

I wonder if this happens with writing. Do we become so immersed in the character detail of our work-in-progress that we forget where we were intending to take the story? Or maybe we get too hung up on plot twists to work on our characters.

It certainly happens with relationships. It’s not until we run the risk of losing someone that we look through our seeing eyes, the ones that view things for real.

I know that I need to use my seeing eyes more often and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Street Photography and a Weather-Related Moan

I’ve been exploring the blogging world a little this last week and I’ve found a whole group of bloggers who post up a photograph every Wednesday using a weekly tagline from a website called Sticky Fingers. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve enrolled for a photography course so this will be a good photography-based focus for my brain. [As it’s so hot in the UK this week I’ve chosen photographs that allows me to incorporate a little moan while I’m at it.]

The tagline for this week's Photo Gallery is: Street Photography

You don’t often find streets like this in the UK, streets where you can escape from the glaring Jerusalem sun and wander in relative comfort.

Jerusalem's Old City, October 2011
Taken with Canon IXUS 115 HS
Jerusalem's Old City, October 2011
Taken with Canon IXUS 115 HS
And my moan, as if you hadn’t guessed, is about the glaring UK sun. I got up very early this morning and was showered, dressed and out in time to beat the heat. I needed to do the food shopping without melting both myself and my butter. Irrespective of the weather, this is the best time of the day to shop. The shelves are stacked high, members of staff are fresh, friendly and helpful and the car park is empty. I may even start doing early morning shopping all year round. [I’m kidding! I won’t really!]

The UK is meant to have a temperate maritime climate. So far this summer we’ve had torrential rain, floods, tornadoes, electric storms and now searing heat. Could this be the global warming that scientists have been predicting? If this level of heat continues we’ll have to build sheltered, walled streets like the ones in Jerusalem’s Old City. As for the flooding, I know nothing about the grand scale, but I’m convinced that locally we’d benefit from a little less concrete and a lot more garden area so that rainwater at least has a chance of soaking away... It would be nicer to look at too.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Cosmological Confusions

Last night on the radio he asked us a question.
Hard to believe it's all happening behind
these innocent clouds.
Do you believe in parallel universes?
Well, Professor Cox, this is my answer:

My brain is very small.
It can’t conceive of infinity,
Nor black holes that suck and distort matter.

It is so small that some thoughts make it panic.
Like the one about the Big Bang
The way it expanded the edges of the universe.

You see, if there are edges then there must be more beyond
But how can it truly go on forever?
And now you say there are parallel universes.

My brain is becoming clammy.
Does a parallel universe consume more space then infinity?
Steady on, Prof Cox!

You’re asking me to believe what I don’t understand
To accept theories without facts.
You’re asking me to have faith
And everyone knows that’s not science.

[BBC Radio 4, The Infinite Monkey Cage, with Brian Cox and Robin Ince]

I love listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage, even if I don't always understand it, but then Brian Cox could say anything and I'd hang on his every word!

[Writing Den Update: Mr A has finished the structural alterations and decorating that I blogged about here. The walls are a pink/beige liquer colour. We've ordered a beige carpet and curtains with a deep red flower pattern.  I'm searching for rugs and cushions to complete the deep red theme with a splash of added green and I hope to be working up there very soon! And yes, there will be an opening ceremony and photos!]

Friday 13 July 2012

Books that have stuck in my mind

I’ve been given the Booker Award. Not THE Booker Award, as in the Man Booker Prize. That would be silly. This is a blogging Booker Award presented to me by the lovely Kathy McKendry from Imagine TodayMy task is to list out my top five favourite books of all time and then pass the award on to five more bloggers. 

Picking five books is not easy. There are so many I could have chosen. Having said that, I’m not an obsessive reader. If I’m not instantly gripped I’ll often discard a book rather than ‘plough on’. I’ve selected the following because the stories have stuck in my mind and I didn’t once want to stop reading, even the one that I hated!

Miss Garnet’s Angel by Sally Vickers
I read this shortly before we went to Venice. Mr A had read it too and we spent a fascinating morning retracing Miss Garnet’s footsteps.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I hated every painful plot-turn of this story and normally I’d have stopped reading right near the beginning but I was totally gripped. I couldn’t bear it yet I couldn’t stop reading it and I’ll never forget it.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam
This book was recommended by a friend when I needed cheering up and it certainly did that. Old Filth, an elderly International Lawyer, is a fascinating character. Gardam weaves a tantilizingly complicated web of relationships, much of it set in the days of a fading Empire.

On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill
I flicked through the pages before taking this photograph. They’re going a browny/yellow, the way old paperbacks do, but I was drawn in once again by Hill’s sometimes hilarious, often moving use of language. [This blog post would have appeared a little earlier if I hadn’t just reread Chapter 2!]

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
This is an unusual book and I know a number of people who have said, “You don’t mean that one where the bottle of wine tells the story?” Well yes, but that’s not why I’ve chosen it. I loved the suggestions of supernatural. I loved the relationships and once more I couldn’t put it down.

I'm going to pass this award on to the following bloggy folk:
[Apologies if you've already received one.]

Anne Mackle who blogs at Is Anyone There?, recently set up a new blog called Books with Wine and Chocolate and isn't feeling too well at the moment so "Get well soon, Anne!"
Francene Stanley at Stitching Words
Susan Clow at Getting a Word In
Annalisa Crawford at Wake up, eat, write, sleep
Susan Roebuck at Susan Roebuck

Monday 9 July 2012

When it Storms

Torrential rain. 
Plants flattened. 
Flowers destroyed.

But if you look hard enough you'll always find a survivor.

[I've enrolled for a photography course next month. I've been told that my small camera isn't sharp enough for producing really high quality shots. I was really pleased with this shot of the rose but I have to admit that it was taken with my iPod and it wouldn't look right to take photos with an iPod on a photography course... or would it!]

Tuesday 3 July 2012

A Moment to Shine... and to Chat

It was raining. Did I really want to walk to the corner of our street just to see someone carrying a flame? Really? Well as you can see from the photographs, I did. It was an historic moment. It will never pass by my street again in my lifetime and I’m really pleased I went.

It wasn’t necessarily the girl and the flame that provided the satisfaction, although they were fun to watch...

It wasn’t the completely empty main road, save for a few police motorcycles, although that was a novel sight... 

It was the people!
   “We should do this more often!” I overheard someone say and, yes I agree. We should! We met up with lots of neighbours who we hadn’t spoken to for months. Mr A even met an old colleague and has planned to go off sailing with him.

You really do have to go out walking to meet and chat. I know that I could walk without a dog but since our lovely Josh died there’s not been the same incentive. Even if I had a cast iron will [which I don’t] it only takes a few spots of rain and I’m either switching the computer back on and kicking off my shoes or reaching for the car keys.

I’m not saying that I never see friends and neighbours but those are organised events. How lovely to just stroll down the road and know that you will meet up with familiar people. That must be what it’s like living in ITV’s Coronation Street and popping in to the Rovers Return. [We don’t have any local pubs round our way, something to do with a covenant on the land.]  

I often wonder how many lonely people there are living behind closed front doors. [Front doors do hold a certain fascination for me. I posted up a poem about them here.] I’m sure that as social animals we were never meant to live in single-residency units and I have a niggling belief that somewhere, during our many centuries of sociological development, we took a wrong turning.

   Is it too late to find a better route?