Sunday, 30 December 2012

What drought?

My blog title is particularly pertinent right now. I originally called it Writing in the Rain because I was writing to keep my brain occupied during the time that Mr A was having all the chemotherapy treatment in the hospital. It would appear that I am now literally writing in the rain!

Do you remember those threats of a UK hosepipe ban early in 2012? By April our reservoirs were dangerously low. They said it would take years for the underground water levels to be restored. The government declared the country in a state of official drought. The next day it started to rain and it’s hardly stopped since. Wasn’t that summer rain relentless? There were brief spells of summer sun but the rain dominated and now we’re about to finish the year with threats of more floods.

Apparently 2012 has been the wettest year since UK records began. That does not surprise me. The rain is drumming on the conservatory roof as I type this. I’m relieved that we don’t live in an area that’s prone to flooding. How awful that must be. My heart goes out to all those who do.

I know we need water for our survival but there are limits! I hope it stops raining soon, just for a little while.

The next time I blog it’ll be 2013. I don’t usually make resolutions but I’m determined to think more positively next year… so if you hear me being negative you have my permission to give me a sharp rebuttal! Well, maybe not sharp... well, maybe not a rebutal... perhaps a gentle reminder would be adequate ;-)

I hope you all have a happy new year. See you in 2013.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Help! I'm Strictly at a Loss


I’ve blogged on and on about it for the last two years. I can’t not blog on about it this year, now can I? You might think I’d managed to ‘get myself a life’ and that would never do!

I’m talking about Strictly Come Dancing, of course. [For those in America it’s like Dancing With The Stars] and here's the glitter ball again which I've dusted off from my 2010 blog post aptly named Why I'm Obsessed with Strictly Come Dancing.


For the last three months I’ve watched every Saturday extravaganza and every Sunday results programme. I’ve even watched Strictly It Takes Two every weekday evening. I’ve loved every dance, every interview, every bit of back-stage gossip and now that it’s over, I’m bereft. The programme becomes so much a part of my life for three months each year that I’m at a loss when it’s finished.

Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace
performing their winning show dance.

So, now it’s all over, what am I going to do with myself?

STOP PRESS:  Thanks to @kirstyes I've now got tickets to go and see the Strictly Live Show in Nottingham. Yay! And thanks again, Kirsty.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Fun Photo!

I just had to share this photo with you. 

It's Barney, our friends' lovely little Jack Russell dog. 


I think he might be saying, "Of course I can lick my nose. Can't everyone?"

I bet someone out there will be able to think of a better caption though... right?


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Bleak Mid-Winter


It’s been a week of two halves [and I thought I’d explain why I’ve not been around to visit many blogs this week.]

On the bleak side Mr A has had a bad attack of flu. His temperature soared to scary heights on Tuesday. His resistance has never fully recovered from the stem cell transplant two years ago and so any attack like this has to be carefully monitored. Thankfully the antibiotics have kicked in and he’s slowly recovering.

On the bright side there have been lots of Chanukah celebrations, donuts and latkes to eat [traditional Chanukah food - I’ve explained why at the bottom of this post] candles to light and parties to prepare and organise.

And this morning the changing view from my Writing Den window reflected my week’s two halves.

A frosty -4 degrees   :-/

And then the sun came out   :-)

[Donuts and latkes and all things fried: In the year 168 BCE the Jewish Temple was seized and defiled by the enemy. There is always a symbolic light burning in the Temple but in those days each jug of oil lasted for only one day. During the siege that one jug lasted for eight days. This is why we eat fried food during Chanukah, to remind us of the miracle.] 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Right Place Right Time

[Last week I started a blog post with ‘It was twenty years ago today...’ but, in spite of my ‘Sergeant Pepper’ reference, the post had nothing to do with The Beatles. Now I’m starting with ‘It was fifty years ago today...’ and it has a lot to do with The Beatles so:]

It was fifty years ago today, 9th December 1962, that The Beatles played in their usual venue, The Cavern Club in Liverpool, but to an unusual member of the audience, George Martin, the Parlaphone Producer. It is said that he looked totally out of place mingling with sweaty youngsters but he was there on business and went on to record The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me.

1962 was an important year for The Beatles. They had their first BBC Radio session in March and they recorded Love Me Do in September but I wasn’t overly impressed by them... not yet. They were just another young pop group dividing their time between UK and Hamburg and it could have stayed that way.

What if they hadn’t performed at The Cavern that night?
What if one of them had decided to live in Hamburg and the group had split up?
What if they hadn’t gone on to record Please Please Me with George Martin?

I do believe that success has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. That’s what I think each time I submit a manuscript. Will it land on the right editor’s desk at the right time, at a time when he/she has a gap in their publishing list? I submitted a children’s novel and a children’s picture book this week and I am really hoping that they land on the right desk at the right time.

And a very Happy Chanukah to all those who are celebrating this week. I’ll be lighting an additional candle each evening until all eight plus the central lighter candle are burning and I'll be watching that miracle, the one where a tiny candle flame has the strength to overcome a room full of darkness.

These were my candles on the last
day of Chanukah a few years ago.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Happy Birthday SMS

It was twenty years ago today [No, this isn't a Sergeant Pepper track!] that the first experimental SMS text message was sent. It said "Merry Christmas" and was sent by Neil Papworth, the British Engineer who developed the software. It was originally intended as a paging system for use in offices. No one expected it to take over from actual phone calls but it's now estimated that over 15 million messages are sent every minute... and that includes mine!

I love text messaging and the following are just a few of the reasons why:

  • You can pass a message on without interrupting someone, even if they're in the middle of their dinner.
  • You can send a happy smiley face to someone without saying a word.
  • You can reply when you've got the time. That's why I'm happy to text if I think someone might be driving whereas I'd never phone them.
  • You can send someone something like an address or a contact name and they don't have to scribble on a piece of paper with the phone under their chin.
  • You can get a reminder from the doctor/dentist/hospital/garage about an appointment so you've no excuses for forgetting.
What are your favourite reasons for text messaging? And if you've never tried it then why not give it a go. Even Mr A does it!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Talking History

There are many people who think that I like the sound of my own voice. I can’t deny that I am rather fond of butting into discussions and getting my opinion ‘out there’. But when it comes to literally hearing the sound of my own voice I cringe and hide behind furniture. That’s what I did last Sunday when I was listening to myself being interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester.

Bridget Blair,
BBC Radio Leicester presenter
The interview was for BBC Radio Leicester’s Talking History and that’s what we did... we talked history. I chatted with the lovely Bridget Blair on all manner of historical topics.

* We talked about Richard III and his recently discovered remains. [We’re still hoping it’s him. Only just over a month until we know for sure!]

We chatted about the way that archaeologists bring to life things that to me look like nondescript lumps of stone.

* The conversation worked its way around to my favourite historical topic from my blog Why does history hide in holes, the one about how history is always at the bottom of trenches and does this mean that the world is getting fatter.

And in true going-on-a-chat-show-to-plug-your-book fashion, Bridget held up a copy of A Children’s History of Leicester to ‘show’ the listeners.

If you want to hear my voice, and, indeed, the interview, you’ve got five days left to listen but I’m warning you that I sound nasally and I’ve got a Leicester accent! If you still want to listen then you can find the programme here.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

My Market Performance

I’ve mentioned Leicester Market a few times on this blog. It’s the largest outdoor covered market in Europe and it has a special place in my heart. Long ago Mum and Dad sold costume jewellery there and I loved going with ‘to help’. I was free to wander, in a way that children sadly aren’t able to do today, and I have rich memories of colourful market characters each acting out a performance just for me… or so I thought.

This cartoon of the light bulb man was drawn 
by Mick Wright for my Jewish Voices book. 
You can order one of his excellent cartoons 
or caricatures from Mick Wright.
Enter stage left, the light bulb man waddling and swaying from one empty stall to the next, wearing a special jacket which had one enormous pocket spreading around his body. The pocket bulged and clinked with light bulbs as he leapt across wooden-planked stalls, inserting bulbs with an expert twist of the wrist into the hanging flexes. In the winter that swinging bulb was the only source of warmth for Mum and Dad’s frozen fingers.

Next came the skip boys, pushing fully laden wicker skips from the cellar store rooms beneath the old Corn Exchange. The skips smelt musty and the skip boys strained to push their weight across the cobbles.

By now shoppers were arriving, their stiletto heels clicking, voices rising into a cacophony of sounds with brash sales patter, promising only the best, only the cheapest. "This jumper was made for you, me duck." And the rhythmic call from the fruit and veg section. "Get your oranges, lovely and sweet."

Sometimes I’d skip through the arcade to a clearing in the stalls, an open space for the pitch boys. They towered above my head, balanced on boxes, singing their sales patter to gathering crowds. Their assistants held up sets of matching plates, packs of saucepans. There was always a bargain and always someone in the crowd who appreciated a cheeky aside. "But to you, sweetheart, a special offer!"

And so I wandered on into the dusk and the market’s closing performance, the street sweepers, pushing wide brushes of mounting debris, vans and cars hooting, the skip boys returning refilled skips to their dusty dungeon home, the light bulb man, thin and ordinary, feeding his jacket with hot light bulbs until he was full and waddling again.

It was time to return to our stall, to help pack unsold jewellery into boxes and sit on the wooden planks swinging my legs and ‘guarding the stock’ while Mum and Dad packed up our little car. I always waved to the light bulb man as I squeezed into the back seat and perched beside piled-up boxes, but I don’t think he ever saw me.                 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Any more unusual cold and flu remedies?

Here in the UK we’ve reached that time of year when we are overflowing with coughs, colds and flu. In my last blog I mentioned that I had a flu/virus 'thingy'. You’ll no doubt be relieved to hear that it’s on its way out but during this week I’ve received a number of suggestions for how I might hasten my recovery. Here are a few:

Mabel always has to get in on the act!

Lemon and Honey:
You can’t beat a mug of lemon and honey when you’re feeling rough. I’m sipping yet another one now as I type.

Cider:
Thanks to Joanne from Word Splash for suggesting cider. Apparently her mother gave them cider for many and various conditions. It’s not my remedy of choice. In fact, I don’t know that I could cope with drinking cider this week but if it helps you then go for it!

Brandy:
I suppose that brandy is a common alcoholic ‘remedy’. If I'm not mistaken, it was my son who suggested I try this, even though [or maybe because] he knows I don't drink alcohol.

Dirty Socks:
I have heard that wearing a dirty pair of socks round your neck can help cure a sore throat. Not sure why but I’m not about to try it.

Cold, Wet Socks:
I googled that sock idea and was surprised to read that wearing cold, wet socks in bed helps to relieve congestion. Hmmmm. I don’t fancy that one either.

Jazz:
While I was googling I found a recommendation for listening to jazz music. Apparently it boosts our levels of Immunoglobulin A which helps our body to fight against infections. I think I’m going to try this one out so here's a dose of Billie Holiday singing Ain't Misbehavin':




If you know of any other unusual cold or flu remedies please share them... as long as they don't involve socks!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

I'll never know how you feel


On Friday evening I was felled by a flu bug. I could feel glands swelling up where I never knew I had glands. My stomach rebelled against food and I’ve spent the best part of the last five days curled up on the settee with Mabel the Cat watching daytime TV.

I’ve tried to explain to friends and family over the phone exactly how I feel but each one has a different take on it.
      “Get yourself up and moving and it’ll soon go away.” No it won’t.
      “I’ve had that too and it only lasts a few days.” I suspect you haven’t had this bug, not exactly this bug, because this is my bug.

What I wanted to say was, “You don’t know how I feel,” but I didn’t because that would sound rather pathetic. After all, it’s only the flu, but it is true that no one can possibly know how anyone else feels in any given situation, no matter how empathetic they are.

On Sunday morning, with this thought in my mind, I curled up with Mable the cat and watched The Remembrance Day Parade on the TV. I watch it every year. It makes me think of my Dad. He always went down to London and marched alongside other members of AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen. He always made careful preparations for the trip, ensuring that his poppy was smooth and perfect, that his coat was brushed and clean. He always came home cold, tired and silent.


My Dad in the Middle East sometime
during the 2nd World War
In 1977, at the age of 55, he became seriously ill. We didn’t yet know that it was Cancer and that it was too advanced to treat. This was the first time since the end of the 2nd World War that my Dad did not go to London for the Parade. He died the following week.

And so I watch the Remembrance Day Parade every year and think about my Dad.

Was he traumatised at losing close friends in the war?

Or did he miss the camaraderie and organised life that National Service had given him?

Did he see terrible things when he was posted somewhere in the Middle East?

Or did he relish the new skills that came from being in the REME, The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers?


My Dad never talked about feelings. It was the way things were in those days, and besides, I could never have known how he truly felt, however hard I tried. The only feelings I can really know are my own...

...and now excuse me while I take two paracetamol and curl up on the settee with Mabel the cat.

Have you ever longed to know how someone else is truly feeling?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

I'm on a Barge in Rotterdam...

...I wish!

In truth I'm virtually on a barge in Rotterdam.

I'm on Val's Barge to be precise at Watery Ways. We had a lovely chat over the Internet. She asked me questions about all kinds of things and encouraged me to 'reveal all' on her blog, so if you want to find out more then do pop over for a visit to:



Sunday, 4 November 2012

Blogging Successes and Failures

Jo Carroll, one of my very good blogging friends, has given me The Addictive Blogger Award.

Thank you, Jo.

If you’ve not visited her blog then please pop along to:


In return for this award I have to talk about why I started blogging. Some of my original hopes for this blog have not been achieved but the failures have been cancelled out by the successes.

  • Failure: I started this blog when Mr A was first diagnosed with Amyloidosis. I had hoped to contact others in a similar position. This didn't happen but we’ve got used to his condition now and it’s become part of our lives.

  • Success: I’ve always wanted to write one of those opinion columns in the newspaper. *Glances at soap box in the corner* I don’t suppose I’ll ever get paid by a newspaper for doing it, so this is the nearest I’ll get.

  • Failure:  I wanted to promote myself as a writer.  *hmmmm, me and over a 1000 other writers*

  • Major Success: I thought it would be nice to meet other like-minded people. I never expected that I would get to know so many lovely, chatty, supportive bloggers. Social Networking sometimes has a bad press but for me it’s all good. *virtual cup of tea and cake anyone?*

  • Failure:  I thought that writing a regular blog would kick-start some of my writing projects, the ones that have been ruminating in my pending file, but some weeks I hardly have time to do any writing. I’m far too busy enjoying and commenting on everyone’s blog posts, not to mention writing my own. OK, I exaggerate but it is a commitment and inevitably takes time.

  • Success:  Not a week goes by when I haven’t written something new, edited and polished it and posted it up for people to read so I am writing!


There are as many negative bullet points as positive ones but I wouldn’t want to be without my blog, no way! What are your blogging positives and negatives?

I now have to nominate five other bloggers to receive this award. They now have to explain why they started blogging and pass the award on to five others. Do go and visit them and, if you don’t already understand why I spend time reading other people’s blogs, then you will soon.

Val at Watery Ways

Joanne at Word Splash


Ann at Morning AJ

Carol at Carol Hedges [I’ve just noticed that Carol has, last week, blogged about why she blogs *synchronicity* but I think you should visit her blog anyway.]

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Italy by Train

Buenos Dias. That's about all the Italian I know so it's a good job we had a Tour Guide with us.

Train travel is not the quickest method of getting across the Continent but it suits me better than defying the laws of gravity for hours on end and you can see the countryside as you go. This is the foothills of the French Alps taken through the window of a very fast-moving TGV.


Our main base was in Chiavari, Italy, where I drank lots of coffee sitting outside lots of cafes in the myriad of arcaded streets. 

We were part of an organised tour group, 24 of us in total, and everyone was lovely. We ate, drank, chatted, laughed and still managed to squeeze in lots of sightseeing. We visited The Cinque Terre, five small fishing villages nestling in crevices where the mountains met the Mediterranean...


We sipped Italian coffee in Portofino Harbour and pretended that we were rich and owned an enormous yacht...


On the way home the Alps were transformed by thick snow and it was even more beautiful than when we came (only not so photogenic!)


And now we're home and it's cold and dreary but I've got some lovely memories to keep me going through the winter. We've decided that we really like Italy and we're going to go back there for sure, so I'd better learn a bit more of the language. Ciao for now ;-)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Winter is Coming

North Wind is in training.
He’s sparring and teasing like Ali once did.

The dustbins are tumbling.
They’re spewing out litter from ill-secured lids.

Our old fence is shaking.
The fence posts are rotten and can’t stand the fight.

Sash windows are rattling.
They're causing insomnia right through the night.

Our swing seat is naked.
No more lazy lunches while we sit and sway.

The canopy’s dismantled
To stop Wind from lifting it up and away.

Oh yes, Wind means business.
He’s pulled on his gloves with a duck and a dive.

He’s punching our garden
And kicking detritus all over our drive.

Go reset the heating
And put all your t-shirts away until spring,

Cause winter is coming.
Wind's left hook has knocked summer out of the ring.



Friday, 19 October 2012

What are you doing with your Today?

Lots of sayings and thoughts scroll past my eyes when I’m on Twitter. Mostly I don’t notice them but sometimes a special one appears, one that seems to be speaking directly to me, like this one...

“...Today well lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope...”

It’s from a poem by Kalidasa called Look to This Day and it’s beautiful, inspiring, but it also throws up an issue for me. What is meant by “well lived”? I’d like to know because I’m very aware that once a day has gone it has gone. Each day is precious and I hate to think that I’m wasting them so...

Does it mean to work so hard we collapse into bed at the end of the day or does it mean to doss and generally over-indulge ourselves, rather like our cats always do?

Mabel is on the left and Charlie on the right.
Does it mean to work for the good of others thereby gaining satisfaction from making other people happy or does it mean to look after ourselves, Number One, and make sure that we’re happy, rather like our cats always do?

If somebody can give me a blueprint for living my day “well” then I promise I’ll give it a try. In the meantime I’ll have to carry on doing a bit of everything and never quite being sure if I’m truly getting the best out of my days.

What is your idea of a day “well lived”?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Jo Carroll's Hidden Tiger

“You’ll be surprised what you can do with a rhino behind you.”


Jo Carroll

This was one of my favourite quotes from Jo Carroll’s latest book, Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain. I suspect I would curl up in a ball and cry, but not Jo and so I had to invite her along to my blog and ask her a question or two:



Speaking as a wimpy, scaredy-cat, non-traveller can you explain to me why you go travelling, on your own, to such far-flung places?
That's a hard one. All I can say is that I love it - love that stomach-lurching dislocation of stepping into a new country, the not-knowing, the effort of trying to cast off all my western assumptions, begin from a place of knowing nothing and then trying to understand. I love the extraordinary efforts total strangers can make to help me feel at home. I love the smells of hot cities. I love the orchestra of the jungle. (I used to think I loved tigers!) 

Buddhists in Lumbini, Nepal
What is it about Nepal? It sounds as if it’s touched your heart like no other place.
I do, indeed, love Nepal. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I never quite get over how huge the mountains are! Even though we know the Himalayas are magnificent, it's still humbling to totter round their foothills. But it's more than that - I love the people, their humour, their generosity and their determination to grow their rice or open their businesses in spite of the weather or the terrain or the lack of electricity and governmental chaos.

Which was the one moment, standing out from all of those truly terrifying situations, when you really didn’t think you’d get home alive?

Coming down the mountain, in the dark, after the cyclone. Never again! (Never again to cyclones, that is - not never again to travelling!)
Jo on a wobbly bridge, foothills of the Himalayas


Do you have any future travelling plans?
I wanted to go to Madagascar in January because I've never been. I even bought the Lonely Planet only to find that it's cyclone season. Since I have yet to rediscover a sense of humour where cyclones are concerned, I decided to look elsewhere. So now it’s Thailand and Laos after Christmas but I'm not sure how easy independent travel is there. I shall have find that out when I arrive. 

Thanks, Jo, I think you're amazing, an example to all of us *polite cough* older ladies. I know that everyone reading this post wishes you an enjoyable and SAFE time in Thailand and we're looking forward to hearing about it. 


If you want to read all about Jo’s amazing trip to Nepal then click on the book cover to buy a copy of Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain:



And do visit her at her blog at Gap Years The Book.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Two Special Days


Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. One of the messages of the day was for people to open up about their mental health issues. That makes sense and so...

...I don’t think I’ve ever admitted here on my blog that I left full-time teaching due to a nervous breakdown. I've since spoken to many other teachers who have had similar problems and it helps to know that I'm not the only one. I’ve never completely recovered my composure since then but I’m a whole lot better for having had counselling and the chance to talk about things.


Tomorrow is World Arthritis Day. This is another one that I can identify with. About ten years ago I was diagnosed with the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I saw a Rheumatologist who prescribed anti-inflammatory pills and said, “Ask your GP to increase the strength when these are no longer strong enough.” I didn’t take them. My arthritis has hardly worsened and I dread to think what my stomach would have been like if I’d been stuffing it with those drugs for the last umpteen years.

That doesn’t mean that the Arthritis doesn’t trouble me. It does but it’s manageable. I’ve tried various exclusion diets. Wheat, dairy, they made no difference. I cut out oranges, plums, tomatoes and rhubarb. That helped a little and it does get worse when I feast on delicious cherry tomatoes from Mr A’s greenhouse. I do Pilates once a week. It's Clinical Pilates. There are only six of us in the group and the instructor knows about our individual needs and adapts moves accordingly. This exercise does more than anything to keep things moving so I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones.

Arthritis Care are asking people to raise awareness of World Arthritis Day. About 10 million people in the UK alone have arthritis so this is relevant to a large percentage of us. Pop over to their website, ArthritisCare, to read about the facts of arthritis, get contact details of people who can help you cope with the disease and find out more about this campaign.

Do you have any tried and tested ways to ease the symptoms of arthritis? If you do then please share them in the Comments below. A lot of us will be interested to read them.
[Apparently this week is National Chocolate Week. Who needs a whole week to remind them to eat chocolate? Every week is chocolate week, isn't it?]

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Virtual Chocolate and Wine

As promised here are the prizes for those who commented in rhyme on National Poetry Day.

There’s something rather special about writing within the constraints of a strict metre and rhyme. I inevitably start off saying one thing but, in a strange way, the constrictions lead me to say something quite different and often better. If you haven’t tried it then you should... at least once!

Some of my best blogging friends are among the winners below. I love visiting their blogs so I’m going to include their blog links with my presentation so you can enjoy them to. And so....

Virtual chocolate and wine goes to:

Susan Flett Swiderski who blogs at I think; therefore, I Yam

Duncan D. Horne who you’ll find at Our Home Called Kuantan. Duncan used to live in my very own Leicester, UK, but he's now loving living in Malaysia.

Jo who blogs at Gap Years The Book and will shortly be making a guest appearance on my blog to talk about her latest scary trek in Nepal (you can find out all about it in her book Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain.)

Delores who you can find at The Feathered Nest

Julie a lovely friend from Empty Nest Insider

Anne who blogs at Is Anyone There? and who has become a firm friend thanks to Twitter.

Lauren who is a new visitor to my blog and has her own blog at Book in the Oven

Amy who blogs at The Green Bathtub (I just love some of these blog names! Must start asking people why.)

Joanne who you’ll find at Word Splash

And last but (as they say) by no means least, the lovely Robyn who blogs at Life by Chocolate. Even when life turns tough for Robyn, her blog posts still brighten my day.


I hope you won't be waiting until next year's National Poetry Day to write another poem. In fact, I think you should take a chocolate, help yourself to a glass or two and pen a poem now... and don't forget to share it with us! 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

It's National Poetry Day

The 4th of October is Poetry Day.
I hope you’ve all taken the time
To ensure that your writing and clever word play
Is exploding with rhythm and rhyme.

Write your daily to do list in long ballad form
Leave the milkman a note in Haiku
Your sonnet style emails will go down a storm.
Why not tweet out a tanka or two.

I’m trying to make sure I talk all in rhyme
Using couplets and triplets galore
But I wish it was over til next year this time
Cause I can’t keep it up any more.


I'll give virtual chocolates and wine
For comments with rhythm and rhyme! 

[OK and all right, it was only a joke
Tho I know blogger land's full of poetry folk.]

You can find out more about National Poetry Day at their website http://www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk/

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

to:

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.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Last Bank Holiday

In the UK we've just had our last Bank Holiday until 25th December.

The rain fell...

The wind blew...

The sun hardly showed itself...

But we had fun out and about, visiting family and doing real Bank Holiday type activities, like taking our grandchildren for their first steam train ride:


Today the local children went back to school. I watched them going down the road wearing new school uniforms with sharp creases in their trousers, perfectly tied ties and plenty of room to 'grow into them'. It reminded me of when I used to send my kids off to school. I even shed a few tears. How soppy is that? 

So the holidays are truly over and, like I said, the next one in the UK won't be for four months [Message to Government: Can we have a few more please?] but in the meantime I have a camera full of photographs and a whole load of memories of a lovely time and that's very precious.

What's your favourite way to spend a Bank Holiday?