Wednesday, 15 April 2015

National Poetry Month - A Poem for Mum

This month is National Poetry Month. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the Grammarly website and their poetry quiz.) I posted a poem last week dedicated to my teddy bears but this week I thought I would post up one with a far more important dedication.

This poem is dedicated to my dear Mum who passed away four years ago this week. I still miss her very much. This is not one of my better poems. It is certainly no literary piece of work. I wrote it before Mum died and she read it and approved of the sentiment so I know that, even though the metre is a little clunky and the rhyming a little forced, it had my Mum’s blessing and that’s good enough for me.

Mums 1950s Menu

Rationing was boring. No fun food to eat.
My Mum's cooking was judgement to this.
On a Sunday she roasted a joint of meat,
Which she sliced up on Monday with chips.

On a Tuesday we knew it would be shepherds' pie.
While on Wednesday we always had stew.
There was omelette on Thursday, fresh egg, no more dried,
With a fried up tomato or two.

On a Friday I thought that the meal was quite good;
Steamed white fish, mashed potato and sauce
With the yummiest Apricot Sponge for our pud,
Which she got from the Co-op, of course.

The 60s saw Mum spread her culinary wings.
Bolognese that was not from a tin,
Vesta packets of dried, little cube-looking things
Topped with noodles all crispy and thin.

But we still had some order to the weekly food file,
Certain things for each day of the week,
Until Mum launched herself into 70s style
Then we never knew what we would eat.

There was chilli-con-carne and curry and rice,
A big pizza for our Sunday lunch.
Mum's menu was transformed by lashings of spice.
And we even had something called brunch.

Until Mum became lost all alone in her flat,
Too tired to shop or to cook.
So she moved to a Care Home and there she found that
Things were more familiar than they looked.

She had roast beef on Sunday, sliced up the next day.
It all felt really safe and secure.
And whenever the stew was served up she would say
That the day must be Wednesday for sure.

She talked about cooking and how it once was
When a loaf of bread cost a few pence. 
She talked of the days when you knew where you were, cause
She knew where she was once again.

This week the Grammarly website has a special poetry quiz to pair you up with your poet soulmate. If you have a go at it then do let me know who you were paired up with. I got Pablo Neruda and his poem If You Forget Me. This is a poem that I have read many times and, although it is a translation and so the wording is not as precise as the original, I still love it very much, so the quiz does, indeed, seem to work.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

It's only a teddy bear!

(For those who view my blog through non-formatting readers, the following is a poem - OK, son?!)

It’s ok to chat with a cat, so I’ve heard,
Cause you know that a cat can hear every word
But you don’t want to talk with inanimate things,
Like your teddy, whose stuffing is held in with string.

Just a minute! A cat doesn’t care about words.
He would much rather chase after dormice or birds.
The teddy, however, absorbs all you say.
He collects up your words in his kapok each day.

So your teddy bear holds all your wishes and thoughts.
He knows all of your hopes, all those demons you’ve fought.
Please ignore those who say he’s a toy. It’s not true.
He’s the one true custodian of all that is you.

Don’t you just love your teddy bears? 

Here are a few of mine:

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Retelling the Passover Story

This Friday evening marks the beginning of the eight days of Passover. We start the Passover (Pesach) with a special meal on the first two evenings called the Seder meal.

Photo curtesy of Bridget Blair from Thinking of the Days
During the Seder meal we retell the story from Exodus of the escape from slavery in Egypt. To hear Leicester's Rabbi Pink talk about this then please visit Radio Leicester. His interview is 1:45 mins into the programme.

I talked about it on my blog last year. I just reread that post and I’ve decided that, if we can retell the same story every year at the Seder table and it still has an effect on us, then my blog post from last year can stand a second telling because it’s still… no, sadly, it’s even more relevant today than it was last year.

This is a section from my last year’s post with only minor alterations:
We have to tell the story every year to help us remember. We eat bitter herbs so that we never forget the bitter times of slavery. We dip parsley into salt water so that we never forget the tears. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but thousands of years ago?
Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Belsen in 1945. (This was correct last year. The Passover is determined by the Hebrew calendar. The actual date is 15th April.) When the soldiers arrived they were horrified to see piles of dead and rotting corpses and thousands of sick and starving prisoners. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but 69 years ago? (70 years ago now.) 
Today in 1994 Rwandans were being massacred, not by the thousands but by the hundred-thousands. The massacres continued until mid-July. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but over 20 years ago?
When I wrote that post there was headline news about the liberation of sex slaves locked in rooms in the UK. It doesn’t get any closer to home or contemporary than that and sadly the atrocities continue. There have been too many incidents to list, but I feel I have to mention the horrific Charlie Hebdo shootings. 

And yet we continue to retell the story of the Exodus in the hope that by remembering, it might mean that it is not repeated. Are we remembering in vain?

Do you think that it is important to remember the past, or should we only look to the future?

Update: While I was writing the above blog post the news was breaking that Islamist gunmen had shot dead 147 people at a college in Kenya. Tragic news. There is no end to it.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Richard III - Post 10 of 10

Five facts from this most amazing week:

1.  Over 20,000 people filed past the coffin.

2.  The oak and yew coffin was made by Michael Ibsen, cabinet maker, relative of Richard III and provider of the decisive DNA sample.

3.  The funeral service was presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby, with representatives of world faiths in the congregation.

4.  The sarcophagus is made from two tonnes of Swaledale fossil stone with an inlaid coat of arms of marble and semi-precious stones.

5.  This evening 8,000 candles will be lit in nearby Jubilee Square.

And one additional fact about me:

I almost froze signing my book, The Children's Book of Richard III, on our pop-up market stall but thank you to everyone who came along, shook my hand, bought my book and said such kind words about it.

Thank you for visiting my ten Richard III blogs and now I shall curl up and sleep!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Richard III - Post 9 of 10

The Reinterment

The funeral of King Richard III took place today behind closed doors. I watched it on the TV. It was a beautifully orchestrated and extremely moving event.

This photograph is from the TV and it all happened here, in our Cathedral. I'm so proud of my City of Leicester.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Richard III - Post 8 of 10

Me chatting with customers
Twenty thousand people have filed past the coffin of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral over the last few days. For me today has been another day of signing my Children's Book of Richard III on the market. Did I mention how cold it is? No? It's freezing!!

Fortunately, Leicester Market is packed with friendly people. Many have travelled a long way to come and visit Leicester Cathedral and most of them want to chat about Richard III. I've done a lot of chatting as well as signing!

Tomorrow is the reinterment. I don't have tickets for the event so I will have to rely on the myriad of TV cameras to see what's going on. I thought, today, I would mention just one of the events which will be taking place during the service.

Dame Carol Ann Duffy has written a poem called 'Richard' to be read out at the service. It includes the phrase 'grant me the carving of my name' and, of course, tomorrow his name will finally be seen carved in the sarcophagus.

The poem is being read by Benedict Cumberbatch. There are two reason why he was chosen. Firstly, he is playing the part of Richard III in a forthcoming TV programme called The Hollow Crown. (Something to look forward to!) Secondly, he is Richard III's third cousin sixteen times removed. (Who knew?!)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Richard III - Post 7 of 10

I hate listening to my voice on the radio but I'm guessing that some of you would like to hear me being interviewed about selling my book so here is the link:

BBC Radio Leicester

And you'll hear my interview at 1:20:00

I spent this evening at Leicester Cathedral and the Richard III Visitors Centre.

The image of RIII is being projected onto the Cathedral wall
In the Cathedral we had a talk from the Very Reverend David Monteith. He told us that five thousand people had filed past the coffin yesterday and seven and a half thousand people filed past it today. They were still filing past as we sat there listening to him explain about the plans for the reinterment on Thursday.

Then it was our turn to pay our respects. We weren't given very long. In fact we were moved along quite quickly and this is why my photo is rather blurred but it was such a special moment that I decided to include it anyway.