Thursday 27 September 2012

Teenage Angst - a poem

After lunch on a Sunday we’d head for the park,
My transistor would crackle and hiss,
Playing Pick of the Pops, Alan Freeman, ‘Not ‘arf!’
Just one hour of musical bliss.

We’d hang round the boating lake hoping to walk
Past the big, handsome boat-keeper lad.
Then we’d stand on the solid stone bridge and we’d talk
Of a time we’d no longer be sad.

We knew we both wanted to meet Mr Right,
Get engaged, buy a house of our own
Have a couple of kids, leave our childhood behind,
Have a better life once we were grown.

We both worked so hard with our homework and worse,
Like the weekly clean-up of our room!
We wanted to leave all that hard work behind
And be rid of our teenager gloom.

Now, I know that I’m not the first person to want
To turn time back so my friend and me
Could still listen to music and dream all our dreams
Of how great being grown-up would be.

[The park was Abbey Park in Leicester. The boating lake and big stone bridge are still there but these days the lads in charge of the boating lake look so young! As for my friends, sometimes I walked round with Linda and sometimes Sylvia. I’ve not been in touch with either for decades. Wonder if they remember our Sunday walks round Abbey Park.]
Where did you go walking when you were a teenager and did you have the same sort of dreams?

Thursday 20 September 2012

Tomorrow is World Peace Day

World Peace Day has been held on 21 September for the last ten years. I'm only sad that more people don't know about it.
Two questions to think about:
1.  Why does the Media not raise the profile of this movement?
2.  Would the Media rather report acts of aggression than acts of peace?

The Global Truce 2012 Campaign:

This year, for Peace Day 21 September 2012Peace One Day is calling for and working towards a day of ceasefire and non-violence, the Global Truce 2012 campaign. They are hoping that it will be the largest global reduction of violence ever recorded on one day, and the largest ever gathering of individuals in the name of peace.

Some more about Peace One Day:

Peace One Day has the backing of the United Nations and has, over the last 10 years, created the opportunity for life-saving activities and actions by individuals throughout the world. These range from:

The provision of polio vaccinations for 4.5 million children as a result of Peace Day agreements in Afhganistan since 2007


Highlighting issues of domestic violence which sadly occurs throughout the world and in all societies. 

The Peace One Day Celebration Concert:
If you haven’t heard about Peace One Day then you won’t have heard about the Peace One Day Celebration Concert. It is going to be streamed live on You Tube. You can find it via Peace One Day’s YouTube channel from 7.30pm (London time) on Peace Day, Friday 21 September 2012. Wherever you are in the world you can join Peace One Day in celebrating Peace Day and Global Truce 2012.

Spread the Word:
Please mention Peace One Day to at least one other person today.
  • Tweet about it if you're on Twitter using #PeaceDay #GlobalTruce2012
  • Talk about it with your class if you're a teacher. Visit the Global Truce Schools' Network.
  • Issue a report about it if you're a member of the Media
  • Blog about it if you’re a blogger
  • Like them on their Facebook page
  • And don’t forget to watch the concert!

World peace is a big ask but at least there are people out there who are trying to make a difference. I hope you'll agree that they need and deserve our support.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Tashlich - to cast away

This time last year I was blogging about apple and honey, the Jewish New Year and my wishes for a sweet and healthy year ahead. In the same blog post I talked about visiting my sister-in-law in her cottage in Wales. I even posted up a photograph of the beautiful view from her front door. This year the apple and honey lay untouched on the plate. On Monday I came home from New Year prayers to the news that my sister-in-law had just passed away. She’d been very ill for a number of years but it still came as an awful shock.

That afternoon my friends from the Synagogue were gathering at a local stream to perform a custom called Tashlich. Tashlich is a Hebrew word that means ‘to cast away’ referring to casting away our sins. Prayers are said and pieces of bread are thrown into the water, each piece representing sins from the previous year. This year I didn’t join them. I was feeling too sad.  

Tashlich is a therapeutic activity and I will do it, in a few days time. My sister-in-law always told me that I shouldn’t worry so much. She sometimes teased me, saying that I was a worry wort, so I’m going to try and do something about it. I'll take myself off to the local river and I'll cast away my worries into the water along with all my sins and all the negative things that have happened this last year so that next year... well... next year is going to be a year full of positive thoughts and positive outcomes... hmmm... I’ll do my best anyway.

Whether you're celebrating your new year now or in a few months time, let's all hope for a good one. Shona Tova.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Digging for a King - Richard III Exciting Update

This is today's headline in the Leicester Mercury, our excellent local newspaper.

In case you can't see the smaller print, it says "Leicester archaeologists stun the world..." and indeed they have, because, for anyone who hasn't been following this archaeological dig then allow me to announce that all the evidence points to the amazing fact that...

The body of King Richard III has been found in Leicester.

Yesterday morning a press conference was held in Leicester's medieval Guildhall, an ancient and impressive building, a fitting place for an announcement about a King. Leicester University Archaeology Department, led by Richard Buckley, have found a skeleton in what was once the Choir of  Grey Friars Church. This is where he was said to have been buried all those many hundreds of years ago. I know we have to wait for final proof and completion of tests but... Wow!

This is what they have found:
  • A skeleton that appears to be male buried in an unusual position and covered in a shroud.
Records show that Richard III's body was stripped and displayed in the City by Henry VII's men to prove that he was dead. He would have then been buried in the Choir of the Church and this may well have been done hastily.
  • The skull has injuries that could have been caused by a sharp weapon.
Philippa Langley, playwright and member of the Richard III Society, said that there was a ballad written shortly after the Battle of Bosworth which claims that Richard died after being 'hit on the head with a poleaxe'.
  • There is a barbed arrowhead embedded in his upper back.
This shows that the body had been in some kind of battle before his death.
  • There is evidence of spinal abnormalities, possibly severe scoliosis, and so his right shoulder would have appeared to be higher than his left.
Tudor propoganda made him into an evil hunchback. This is not reliable evidence. More reliable are the witness accounts who saw his body during the three days it was displayed in Leicester and who spoke of certain abnormalities of his back.
  • There is DNA available from a direct descendant and this is now being checked at the Leicester University Genetics Department.
Michael Ibsen, a London furniture-maker, has been identified as a 17th generation descendant of Richard III. These DNA tests could take up to 12 weeks.

If you want to read more about this then I blogged about the dig at Digging for a King 
And I blogged about my visit to the site including photographs at Digging for a King - Richard III, Part II

During the press conference Philippa Langley said that this had been her lifetime's dream. She went on to say that if anyone listening has a dream then please don't ever give up on it because dreams really do come true.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Digging for a King - Richard III Part II

The Leicester University Archaeology Department are digging under a Leicester City Council Car Park to search for the bones of Richard III. I blogged in more detail about it last week.

They were pretty certain that this was the site of The Grey Friars, a Franciscan Friary and Church which had been destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th Century. Sure enough they unearthed evidence and this weekend we, the public, were invited to see it for ourselves.

We had to queue...

But the sun was shining, people were chatty and excited and before we knew it we were in. This was our very own Archaeologist for the visit.

He showed us the trenches and explained what they were able to deduce from their findings...

They had, as yet, found no bones but they had found some floor tiles... 

...and the imprint of where those tiles would have been...

They've unearthed the foundations of narrow passages which would have been the cloister and of a wall with a buttress which was the Church. We had to use lots of imagination. No doubt when the report is shown on the TV there’ll be stunning projections of what the Friary would have looked like, but for me that won’t be anywhere near as exciting as being on the site, seeing the process and speaking with one of the archaeologists. It made it feel even more real than any TV projection possibly could.

It will be great if they do find Richard III’s bones but the dig isn’t quite over yet so... watch this space!

Friday 7 September 2012

Lyric Snippets

I’m often awake in the middle of the night. I try not to disturb Mr A so the only part of me that can be active is my brain. This is dangerous territory. Thoughts can rapidly tumble into places that are even darker than the sky beyond the curtains and so I force my brain to concentrate on one of my many night-time mind-games. 

A few nights ago I chose one of my favourite games, lyric snippets. There was already a song going round my head, Just Can’t Say Goodbye by Lionel Richie. You probably won’t know it but it begins, 

“Here I stand, without an overcoat in January. Where did I go wrong...” 

That gets to me every time. In fact, I’ve written a poem inspired by it.

Last year I posted a blog called I Love Lyrics and a lot of people put the title of their favourite song in the comments below. This time I’m not thinking of whole songs, but just a snippet of lyric, a line that can be taken away and mulled over, like these:

“No one else can make me feel the colours that you bring...” 
Minnie Riperton, Loving You

“What do I do when lightning strikes me...” 
Joe Cocker, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

“Sometimes the sun goes round the moon...” 
Vanessa Williams, Save the Best for Last

“Things that we were after were much better from afar...” 
Neil Sedaka, The Hungry Years

Before I throw this post open to you to add your own favourite lyric snippet, I’d like to share with you a lyric-related memory:

When I was at College, many years ago, I was obsessed with song lyrics. In those days, before Googling lyrics was invented, I collected lyrics in a notebook. [Sad, I know!] One day, in the middle of a Business Studies lesson, I was happily scribbling down the words to a Rolling Stones song when the teacher snuck up behind me and snatched the book. He took great delight in reading aloud the following lyrics:  
“Let’s spend the night together. Now I need you more than ever...” 
In those days spending the night with someone was as bad as shouting out the F word in class. I can still remember my embarrassment and a look of utter disapproval and disappointment on the teacher’s face.
And now, do please share your favourite or most inspiring lyric snippet. Remember, it’s not the song, it’s a short piece from the lyrics, a thought that we can take away as inspiration for our writing... or even our lives!

Monday 3 September 2012

Digging for a King

The history beneath our feet never fails to fascinate me. Archaeologists from Leicester University are, as I type these words, digging up Leicester’s Grey Friars Car Park. A few days ago they found what they believe to be a section of wall from Grey Friars, a Franciscan Friary where it is thought that Richard III's body may have been buried. They are continuing the dig in the hope of finding his remains.

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field which is only a few miles from Leicester. Over the centuries there has been much speculation as to what happened to his body. Some say he was buried in Grey Friars. Others say his body was thrown into the River Soar. Now we may be about to find out the truth.

In my book, The Children’s History of Leicester, I talked about the Witch of Daneshill. They say that she was among the crowd who watched the King ride into battle on 21st August, 1485. Richard had stayed overnight in the White Boar Inn near Leicester’s River Soar. As he rode off over the river his foot knocked against the cornerstone of Bow Bridge. The Witch of Daneshill called out,

    “When next he comes over that bridge it will be his head that knocks the cornerstone!”

They say that her prediction came true. His body was carried back, thrown across a horse, and his head knocked against that very same stone. 

Bow Bridge is still there. It’s now part of a busy thoroughfare and only a few streets away from the archaeological dig. This area of ground has never before been excavated as it had been private gardens for many centuries and then a car park. I can’t wait to see what secrets it’s about to reveal.

Are there any historical mysteries beneath the ground in your area?

If you want to keep up with the news of the dig as it breaks then you can find the latest on The Leicester Mercury site.