Monday, 24 November 2014

To Do Lists

I love it when I can tick off lots of things on my To Do List. It's so satisfying. Over the last few weeks I've blogged about a number of current jobs and tasks and I'm pleased to say that this last week I've ticked off the following:

  • One therapeutic writing workshop successfully hosted, thereby kick-starting the East Midlands Lapidus group again. We had an amazing day thanks to the lovely people who attended. (The next meeting is going to be in January 2015 so if anyone is interested in joining us do let me know.)
  • One book signing (Children's Book of Richard III) at a Richard III Day at Leicester's Guildhall successfully completed with lots of compliments on both text and illustrations. (These were especially appreciated from members of the Richard III Society.)
  • One health club duly joined, one aquarobics class attended and one swimming session completed. (I went for the expensive club with no deep end for those of you who read my blog post from two weeks ago.)
  • The final report for The Lives Behind the Stones Cemetery Project completed. Yesterday I clicked "submit" on the screen, thereby sending it off to the Heritage Lottery Fund and marking the end of the project. (Not really the end because people still want me to add information but that's not a problem.)

The thing about To Do Lists is that you've never completely done with them. There are always more tasks to add, more challenges to meet, but then life would be boring if our To Do Lists were empty... wouldn't it?

Monday, 17 November 2014

When Writing is Therapeutic

I love picking up a pencil and writing about nothing in particular. I never know what is about to emerge onto the paper. I only know that something always does. It's therapeutic. It's the kind of writing that is the absolute opposite of what I've been doing during this last year. My work cataloguing the local cemetery can't, by any stretch of the imagination, be called therapeutic. My parents and other family members are buried there, along with a number of dear friends. I've spent too much time immersed in grave stones. I need a break. I need to do some therapeutic creative writing.

I'm a member of Lapidus, The Writing for Wellbeing Organisation. The local East Midlands group fell into 'disrepair' several years ago so I decided that it was time to repair it. The first meeting of our newly formed East Midlands Lapidus Writing Group will take place this Friday 21st November in Leicester. If you live in the East Midlands and you'd like to join us then please get in touch with me or leave a message in the comments below and I'll get in touch with you.

Talking of comments, it is with some sadness and a lot of irritation that I've had to put comment moderation back onto my blog. Most people post comments that are helpful, friendly and relevant. Why do some people always spoil things? I'm receiving regular comments from people who want to sell me dubious items, want to offer me dubious jobs or - and these are the most confusing - comments that are nothing but a list of nonsensical words. Why would anyone waste their time writing that when they could be writing therapeutically instead?

If you're interested in therapeutic journal writing then I would recommend you visit Kate Thompson's blog called Therapeutic Journal Writing. It's packed with inspiring writing ideas.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Watery Dilemma

Earlier this year I announced, with a certain amount of smugness, that I had joined a Caribbean Dance Class. I now have to admit that it only lasted three weeks – my attendance, that is, not the class. I believe there are still people dancing themselves to a standstill and I’m sure it’s doing them good but it was too much for my poor, unfit body. I returned to the comfort and safety of my computer chair… until a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago, for the first time ever, my GP expressed concern about my blood pressure. He’s not overly concerned so thankfully I don’t have to take pills but he did ask me how many times a week I exercised. He wasn't impressed with my new yoga routine. "It has to be aerobic," he said. My blank stare of a reply told him all that he had, no doubt, expected and I was sent away with a warning to think about it seriously.

For the last few weeks I have been thinking about it seriously. That frenetic dance class wasn’t for me. I’m hopeless at running. My ankle swells when I walk too much (old squash injury but that’s another story!) The only activity left is swimming. I've decided to treat myself and join a club. That way I’m sure to go because I’ve paid money up front (Yes, I am that pathetic at keeping up exercise regimes!) So where to go?

There’s a lovely pool at my old Univerity five minutes drive away and I’m entitled to join because I’m an alumna but it's very expensive. There is also a pool that belongs to another Uni that I could join. It’s the other side of town, not too far away, and it’s a quarter the price but here’s my dilemma. I can swim perfectly well but I’m a wimp. I have to fight the panic if I go out of my depth.  The expensive pool has no deep end. The cheaper one does. On the other hand, they both offer aquarobics on a Friday morning which sounds like fun and I'm sure my GP would approve. 

All I need to do now is to decide which one to join and yes, I know, I am prevaricating. I will get exercising again, really I will... just as soon as I've decided where to go!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

4 a.m.

I read recently that the mind can heal itself naturally, just like the body does, but that this healing takes place mainly at night. This is worrying. I’ve mentioned before about the problems I have not only getting to sleep but staying asleep. Last night it was 4 a.m. when I woke. My mind was filled with thoughts and I suspected that going back to sleep would be an unlikely event. I was right.

So what do you do when you're awake in the middle of the night? I sometimes write poems in my head...

Waking at four in the morning’s all wrong
And counting sheep can drive you mad.
I sometimes try going through words of a song
But the ones I know best are too sad.

They say you should get up and make a hot drink
But with two cats there’s really no way.
They insist on their breakfast and unfairly think
I should instantly kick-start their day.

So I lie very still and I wait for the light
And I watch the dark fading away.
Only then, when I've banished the thoughts from the night,
Can I throw myself into the day.

(Don't worry. I'll feel better after a good night's sleep :-)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Lives Behind the Stones - The Finale

As many of you know, for the past year I have been coordinating a project to catalogue our local cemetery. I’m delighted, relieved, pleased to say that the year is almost over. This weekend I’m holding a presentation to celebrate our achievements and, as I jot them down in preparation for my speech, I’m proud to say that the outcomes far outstrip the aims. In fact, had anyone suggested at the outset that we would get this much work done, I would have been quite ‘negative’ with them.

We now have information boards at the cemetery. These include plans of all the plots. There are row markers and small plaques for every unmarked grave…

And more than that, we now have a website with all the basic information that anyone might need to know about the cemetery…

And much more than that, the website contains a record for every burial with data about that person and search facilities. It is now a fully functioning genealogical website…

And even more than that, the website contains many researched stories about the lives led by a number of the people buried there. This is why we called the project The Lives Behind the Stones. We’ve managed to gather a fair cross-section showing contributions made to the local community, to the city, in some cases to the country. There are contributions to commerce, celebrations of scientific developments and, sadly, many moving stories of refugees and evacuees who sought shelter here in Leicester.

I’m sorry you can’t all come to the presentation but, if you’ve not looked at the website recently, you might like to see the finished product and discover what I’ve been up to all year.  You'll find it here.

Thanks to my team and to all the volunteers who have worked so hard and, of course, many thanks to the Heritage Lottery people who have funded the work and supported us during the year. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Dreaded Sunday Clock Fiasco

The family know to keep out of my way,
It’s the end of October again.
If you ask me the time, I won’t know what to say.
Greenwich Meantime has messed with my brain.

The Sunday fiasco begins with a groan.
Is it eight o’clock, seven or nine?
My alarm clock apparently changed on its own.
I’m just grateful my watch is still mine.

It feels like it’s lunchtime but no one is sure.
Am I early or am I too late?
I’ve decided a real early night is the cure
Cause my body clock’s in such a state.

This is not just my way of saying that the clocks go back this Sunday. It truly is how I feel. I obviously have a very sensitive body clock. It’s a good job I don’t have to do regular commutes to the US!

Is it just me?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

How do all our memories fit in?

I've been doing a bit of yoga recently, trying to clear my head, put some good thoughts there and remove some of the worries. This has got me thinking about our thoughts and our memories. What makes memories linger in our brain? I'm not talking about bad memories here, not today. I'm just talking about the good ones, the kind that can be replayed over and over in your head, the kind that can take you to a better place when you're feeling fed up.

What amazes me is that there seems to be no limit to how many memories any one brain can hold. The popular image of a memory is that of a filing cabinet, where each memory is stored away in some kind of sensible order. That's how I like to think about mine anyway and it will come as no surprise to my blog friends that a lot of my memories appear to be filed away under the heading of 'pop songs'. It's not only music that can bring memories to life, though. Smells, tastes, even colours can be evocative of times past.

I remember from my GCE Biology (yes, they were called GCEs in those days before GCSEs had been invented!) ...I remember that memories are stored in the hippocampus but that doesn't help me to understand how it works because the hippocampus is a very small part of the brain. How do all the memories fit in? I also remember learning that the average brain weighs about 3 lbs and 80% of that is made up of water. Mum helped me to revise Biology and we did it so well that a lot of this stuff is still stored in my memory. Why is it not overflowing?

What's more, our memories can be 'jogged'. Go to a reunion or meet up with an old friend and a whole file full of memories can be reopened. You start thinking about things you did all those years ago, things that you'd almost forgotten about, but now the memory has been 'jogged', they're as vivid as if they happened yesterday.

Of course, the bad news is that our memories can start to lose their 'search facility' as we get older. That old chestnut of walking into a room and forgetting why you're there happens to most of us and it's apparently because by the time we reach 50 the connections between neurons in our brains are starting to show their age.

I'm not sure how scientifically effective it is but I'm doing my best to keep my brain active in the hope that it will maintain its full search facility functions for as long as possible. I play Bridge at least once a week and I play word games and do crosswords every day, although the Guardian cryptic crossword is much tougher these days than it used to be - humour me! It is tougher, isn't it?!

What do you do to keep your brain active?