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A Dry Write Season

17 Apr

I haven’t written a post in thirteen days; and if you haven’t noticed, then I haven’t written a decent recent post.

I don’t believe in Writer’s Block, preferring to call the occasional arid periods in which my fingers take on all the attributes of blank paper with none of its promise – rather like a British tabloid newspaper – ‘dry spells’.  I know I could write something if I neck a bottle of wine in one sitting; but you might not like what I’ve written.  Or understand it, come to that.  Rather like a British tabloid newspaper.

Fortunately, WordPress has been watching me (I knew it!) and sent me a prompt post entitled Five Posts to Write Right Now:

Mired in bloggers’ block? Pshaw — we’ll give you a push! Here are five posts you can publish right now, no matter what topics you usually blog about.

Thank you, WordPress; that’s really thoughtful of you.

1. The last thing that made you mad.

I can’t believe WordPress is spying on me!  What business is it of theirs if I don’t write for two weeks or two years?  Pshaw!

2. Your typical childhood lunch.

Large.

3. An ode to an object.

An Ode To WordPress, The Object Of My Affliction

When I don’t write
You prompt me to
Bloggers not blogging
don’t reflect well on you

When I do write
You spy on me
I must object
Tremendously

But let’s be fair
This ode is crap
Are you really sure
You want me back?

4. Self-psychoanalysis via your bookshelf or Spotify playlists.

Spotify?

I’ve seen it on Facebook as in Suchabody Withnolifetospeakof is listening to Songs For Those Too Lazy To Share The Dull Minutiae Of Their Lives Via Blogs Like I Do on Spotify.

Take the five books on your nightstand, the last five songs you listened to, the last five movies you watched or the last five blog posts you liked — what do they say about you? 

Three Brenda Jagger novels, Siegfried Sassoon’s War Poems and the Bible:

  • Lives in the past; hopes for the future.

Prepare Ye, Beautiful City, Day By Day, All For The Best, By My Side:

  • Lives in the recent past; hopes for the son’s future.

The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, Dumb & Dumber.

  • Loves a good romance.

Posts I Like – I have to be discreet here so as not to offend anyone by not including them, so I’ll go for generic subjects instead of specific posts:

  • Hairless cats (funny)
  • Doctor Who (essential)
  • The return of old bloggers (old as in been around a long time, not old as in been around a long time)
  • Boobs with belly buttons (we’re back to the future again)
  • Jolly good news (even more essential than fictional doctors)

5. A mad lib.

I know mad libs are (is?) some weird American traditional game played at Thanksgiving and when the internet is down, but that’s all I know, so we’re back to dry spotify again.

Thanks for nothing, WordPress.

 

 

 

 

 

In Which I Eat Elephant Ears

4 Apr

You may recall my post about elephant ears and what a disappointment (of sorts) it was to discover that they were not, in fact, mammoth trophies but were…well, if you don’t know, you’ll have to read the post for yourself.

Now I discover there is another kind of elephant ears: the kind you can eat! The best kind.

Don’t worry, I might not be vegetarian (shudder) but even I would balk at a pachyderm pot roast.

No, my lovely American friend Laurie, who blogs at laurieanichols, sent a surprise parcel in the post – a tin of elephant ears: homemade biscuits, so-called because of their shape.

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Sadly, the Hub has just been diagnosed as diabetic, so he couldn’t have any; Spud doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so he had a taste, approved of them, but declined to eat any more; Tory Boy lives elsewhere; and I watch my weight these days.  

I value my friendships more than my figure, however, so I manfully swallowed as many elephant ears as I could.

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At the risk of offending all of my other friends who have fed me homemade biscuits before, I have to apologise and say: these were the best biscuits I have ever tasted.

I will always remember them fondly.  And so will my waist.  Thank you, Laurie!

Disgruntled

31 Mar

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in Britain.  

It was also the day the clocks went forward.

The one day a year a mother gets an extra hour in bed and it’s stolen from her by British Summer Time?

The calendar is clearly compiled by a man.

A Tale Of Two Parents

25 Mar

The Hub wears a new t-shirt to the play and is ‘awesome’, ‘best dad ever’, admired by all of Spud’s friends.

I pay a teacher a compliment and I’m banned from ever speaking to anyone Spud ever knows for the rest of his life, ever.

Here’s the Hub’s shirt:

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Here’s my compliment to Godspell’s choreographer:

Wow!  Spud told me the dancing was really naff but I think it’s great!

I don’t understand Spud at all.

Donate Your Hair To Children With Cancer

22 Mar

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If you have long hair like mine was, and decide to cut it, you can send it off to a charity in the UK called Little Princess.  They make wigs for children who have lost their hair through cancer.  A quick Google search found similar charities in other countries.  Please think about doing it if you’re going short; you need a minimum of 7″/17cm and all it costs is a padded envelope and postage.

My hair was long but thin, so my plait was pretty feeble; but every little helps.

When the Hub posted it off, the clerk asked if there was anything valuable in the packet.  The Hub explained what was in it and she winked and said, Aw, that’s nice.  Are you going to do the same with your beard?

I think he should; I heard their office needs re-wiring.

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I Cried Yesterday

19 Mar

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Actually, I cried the day before yesterday but I wrote this post yesterday so the title was correct for yesterday’s yesterday but not for today.  Anyway, me crying at all except at the end of Love Actually is such a rare event, I felt I had to blog about it.

As you must know, because I’ve bored you to death about it for months now, Spud is playing Judas in his school production of Godspell.  The first night is tomorrow tonight.  I can’t get the songs out of my head and as I was preparing his sandwiches for tonight’s tea between tweaking-rehearsal and performance, I sang Beautiful City to myself.  I suspected I might be allowing it to take over my life when I came to the line, We can build a city of man and sang, We can build a city of ham…

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Yesterday (‘s yesterday) was the dress rehearsal.  The Hub is an excellent photographer and took some great pics of the last three school productions Spud starred in (no bias here, honest).  He gave them to Spud’s drama teacher and she loved them and asked if he would go along to yesterday’s yesterday’s dress rehearsal to take photos of this production.

The Hub has M.E. so of course he needed his loving and supportive wife along to hold the spare camera batteries.  The fact that I got a sneak preview of the show was purely coincidental.

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We had front row seats and we needed them, because my heart swelled with so much pride it took up all of the space between the audience and the stage.

I know he’s my son and I’m biased and all that rubbish, but Spud was fantastic.  He began as a happy, hopeful man and changed over two hours to anger and betrayal via confusion and doubt.  

He sang, with music and without.

He cried in Jesus’ arms the moment before he left to betray him.  He sobbed on the floor after the crucifixion.  

He was totally believable.

IMG_5205smallTeachers made a point of coming up to tell me how good he was and how he should pursue acting as a career.  But better than that, the director told me that, for all of his talent, he is a lovely, lovely boy and she hopes her own son will grow up to be just like him.

Can you blame me for blubbing?

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Googling Myself

12 Mar

It’s not that I’m vain, or anything, but I do occasionally Google my name (okay, I am vain; but can you blame me with this hair?).  At least I don’t check to see if I’ve got a Wikipedia page – no, really, I don’t, honest…

I have to Goggle myself when I’m submitting poems, because so many editors exclude poems already published online, even if it was on my now defunct poetry blogs which can no longer be accessed.

I Gaggled four poems and my name this morning and I was disappointed to find one of them in the 2010 comments section of a poetry blog, which means I can’t use it.  

The Haggle brought up a pleasant surprise, however – which isn’t always a given when you Giggle yourself; all I’m going to say is tea bags/washing line/shame…. Fortunately, I’m such a prolific blogger that the embarrassing photo is hidden way down in my Boggle listing.  

I discovered that a poem published by English Pen last year in their Dictionary of Made-Up Words was featured on their website earlier this year, as part of an ongoing promotion of the book.  I didn’t know it was there.  I’m chuffed!

Even better – it was retweeted!  It’s nice to be twit.

You may say it was coincidence, but I think it’s strange that I didn’t come across this poem until I had my hair cut.  I’m like an anti-Samson: all of my power was consumed by my long hair; now it’s short, I’m discovering my work in the ether and being invited to take part in poetry events which may or may not come off so I can’t say anything at the moment…except that the invites were issued after the haircut…

So, do you Wriggle yourself?  Or are you afraid to discover dirty little secrets of yours hiding out there in the ether?  Are there photos of you drunk at a party? Taking an illicit beach day from work?  Wearing flares?

I’ll find out, you know, when I Ogle you.

Short Cut

11 Mar

This was me last Friday morning:

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Me as Captain Caveman:

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This was me on Friday afternoon:

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What do you think?

Hoo-Ray!

10 Mar

So glad to see Ray Quinn win the last-ever Dancing On Ice.  Incredible to think he’s an amateur.  Here’s his Bolero:

My favourite skate:

His solo skate:

What am I going to do now DOI has finished forever?  Sad face.

I guess I’ll have to watch Strictly.  Sadder face.

Never Forget The Prompts

6 Mar

Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation you weren’t supposed to? Tell us about a time when it was impossible not to overhear a conversation between people who didn’t know you were there. What was the conversation about? How did it make you feel?

It wasn’t eavesdropping so much as my first ten minutes in a new job in Johannesburg.  A secretary walked into the office in great distress, crying her eyes out and complaining that ‘he threw my elephant ears off the balcony!’

Hillbrow flats are small and their balconies are tiny and I wasn’t interested in the argument – instead, I was consumed with a desire to know  what exactly were elephant ears?  If they were ornamental elephant ears, how huge were they?  Did he have to use a tool to tip them over or was he so adrenalin/drink/rage fuelled that it was like a mother lifting a car from her child’s pinned-down body?

Or were they genuine elephant ears?  If they were, they’d still be pretty big but surely they’d have shrivelled to mankiness; and where would you buy something like that anyway?  You could buy legal ivory because elephants weren’t protected in South Africa in the Eighties but I never heard of anyone buying wrinkly skin flaps before.

I felt quite sorry for her distress and empathised with her experience of that terrible creature known as ‘man’, but I was cripplingly shy in those days, kept my head down and never stuck my nose in where it wasn’t wanted.  I went all day without knowing what the argument was about but, finally, at 16:29, one minute before leaving, I had to ask: what on earth are elephant ears?

She laughed and replied, ‘A plant.’

How mundane.  Eavesdropping: it’s really not worth the ear-burning it causes.

*

Tell us about a situation where you’d hoped against all hope, where the odds were completely stacked against you, yet you triumphed. Be sure to describe your situation in full detail. Tell us all about your triumph in all its glory.

I really hoped those ears were real.

That was back in the days when I wasn’t animal-mad; or unselfish (no kids yet).

I triumphed because I plucked up the courage – in the face of twenty-four years of terror at the thought of asking questions of a complete stranger, especially about her personal life – to satisfy my curiosity.

*

A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

Nellie the Elephant…some of you may have heard of it.  I’m transported to church at half-past seven in the evening and the recollection that I forgot to tell you that I’d had a spicy dinner that day and had to clench my butt cheeks the whole time I was on my knees practising CPR, in case the evidence seeped out.

Don’t mock: I could save your life one day.

*

You’re 12 years old. It’s your birthday. Write for ten minutes on that memory.

I can’t remember it.  I’m not an elephant.

*

What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?

You never take giant steps when you have a wind problem like mine.

*

When was the last time you were embarrassed? How do you react to embarrassment? 

Did you not read my last answer?  How easily embarrassed do you think I am?

Okay, you’re right: I am very easily embarrassed in real life; blogging is fairly anonymous so it removes my inhibitions.  If I were to break wind in your physical presence, I think I’d be embarrassed beyond measure.  We both would.

*

Publish a post in the style of a favorite author/blogger or photographer.

A nonsense poem for you, written in five minutes, as an homage to Ogden Nash, Roger McGough and the city of Chicago.

In Praise of Gas 

There’s an art to the fart, I’m sure
(just follow a wild beast’s spoor).
But if a pump makes you jump
stay away from the elephant’s trump.

He who has gas laughs last (and usually alone).
He capers at vapours and gels with smells;
but he secretly prays there’s no belligerence
caused by his intense flatulence –

he feels embarrassment
but masks it with merriment
and expensive,
frequently sprayed scent.

Apologies to my audience:
I feel I ought to rescind my words about wind –
I suspect I am less sinned against,
than I have sinned.

More On Doors

5 Mar

I remember another time a doorway exchange caused some confusion.

We were living in South Africa and we had a dog who had given birth to five puppies but who had no interest in caring for them.  She escaped at every opportunity and the Hub was at his wits’ end (admittedly, he didn’t have far to go), trying to persuade her to feed her pups.  

One warm Saturday morning (so, any Saturday morning; this was South Africa), Scamp sneaked out again and the Hub, watering the garden, spotted her doing her snake impression across the kitchen threshold.

We had new neighbours.  Their first impression of the kind of people we are – misogynistic husband; downtrodden wife – came when next door’s wife heard my husband scream, ‘Get in the house and look after your babies, you stupid b****.’

Guests

3 Mar

I thought Toby was scratching at my door at his usual five a.m. the other night. He never wants to go out; he wants to remind me that his breakfast is due in two hours and forty-five minutes.  I am never allowed to forget it: he will growl at me several or fourteen times between then and quarter-to-eight.

It wasn’t Toby; it was Spud, trying to slip a note under my door; and it wasn’t five; it was sometime after one.  He came in, as I was now awake, for spare bedding.  He said ‘Excuse me’ but I was half asleep and didn’t register until he knocked me over, having expected me to move.

The note was to explain, in case I woke up in the night and wandered around in confusion, that two of his friends had phoned at one a.m. to beg a bed.  They had been to a party which Spud had decided not to attend because of travel difficulties (three buses there; three buses back) and, because they live several towns over, had nowhere to sleep once they were kicked out.

We are not the sort of people to see teenagers on the streets, so of course the Hub had said ‘yes’.  Besides, they are both in Godspell, with Sam playing Jesus.   We want it to be a success and a destitute lead is not in the remit.

Spud was given his instructions by the Hub and, when the boys arrived some time after two, Spud opened the door and declared: ‘Sorry.  There’s no room at the inn.’

We might be kind but we will have fun at your expense.

A Treat For Doctor Who Fans

28 Feb

It’s about four years late but I’ve only just seen it.

Enjoy!

My Left Arm: The Story Of Crusty Scabs

27 Feb

You may recall I took a flying visit to the pavement some weeks ago.  My left arm bore the brunt of the impact but it’s on the mend.  The scabs have almost gone and would have been gone long ago if I’d stopped leaning on the Hub’s face with my elbow.

Although it still hurts to stretch too high or too quickly – - – sorry, short break for hysterical laughter while I corpse at the thought of me exercising  - – - it is fully functioning.  That’s why I thought I’d be okay to give blood from it on Monday [the Hub interjected with something about getting blood from a stone-hearted...butenoughfromthegallery].

I don’t have a favourite arm (does anyone?).  I have great veins, according to many nurses, and they can siphon it from either side, so I didn’t think twice when I sat in a left-handed chair (this post is beginning to seem weird even to me); and maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference but my left arm was not happy with the way the Blood New Donation Executive – BloNDE for short though, in actual fact, she was a BruNeETTE: Brutal New Executive Trying To Extract.

I’m not sure she was new, if I’m honest, but it’s the only explanation I can think of for the way in which she hacked at my left arm with the needle, came back several times to wiggle it about, and smiled nicely at me in the most terrifying way.

The blood eventually seeped out, reluctant though it was.  I don’t understand it because I’ve donated blood at least nineteen times and never had a problem. This time, the area around my elbow was tight and ached and my left hand went extremely cold.  I was told to report it if it still hurt after my orange juice and Club biscuit (two Club biscuits…I was feeling quite sorry for myself) which it was, so I did.

Boy, was I sorry.  Yes, I was.  They sent me to the nurse.  It was like being back at school, except I didn’t come away with a cloth brick and two safety pins at the end of it.

Forty minutes to go through my story, check for bruising, explain possible forthcoming symptoms, explain what to do in the case of possible forthcoming symptoms, explain what is on the other leaflet instead of the bruising leaflet which was all she had to hand but most of the possible forthcoming symptoms were the same on the one leaflet as the other and the advice anyway was to immediately phone this number and ask for advice about those possible forthcoming symptoms if I showed any of those possible forthcoming symptoms.

I didn’t have any forthcoming symptoms and I told the nurse as much when she phoned next day to check on me.  They really want you to go back and give more blood, you know.  Something about ‘saving lives’ and ‘helping research’. I’m not sure what exactly; I couldn’t hear her over the lump on my left arm.

The lump had almost disappeared by Wednesday evening and the ache had long gone, so I didn’t consider missing last night’s First Aid class.  My church applied for funding to provide this sort of education to the community and I thought it would be useful to attend, especially as it was free (I may be a Christian but I’m not made of money): if I ever deck a ReDHEAD (Really Doesn’t Have to Ever Ask DoesthiswhoppinggreatneedlethatI’mstabbingyouwithhurt?), it would be good to be able to revive her again.

The trainer was very funny and had us all singing Nellie the Elephant: half of the chorus sung twice amounts to thirty chest compressions.  First Aid has changed a lot since I took a course twenty-five years ago.  No more three breaths good/five compressions better; now it’s all assume-if-it’s-a-stranger-they-have-Hepatitis-and-don’t-give-mouth-to-mouth-unless-he’s-particularly-good-looking (though I might just have added that list bit to my notes without hearing it from the instructor first).

CPR was harder to do than I expected, especially the breathing; but I aced Burns – no butter!  No bandages!  No hot water! (how my mother once treated my sunburn).  Dealing with choking was easy enough to do on small dummies; however, I was the class dummy when it came to adults – bottom of a class of seventeen people.

The trainer put on a harness thing which had a large pad to protect her back when we whacked her – five times, having first bent her over our arms – and a simulated choking throat on her front (sponge in a bottle).  The idea was to stand behind her, make a fist and thrust up around the area of the diaphragm, five times; then go back to five whacks and so on.  Some people managed to expel the sponge fairly quickly, especially the men, who were stronger; but plenty of the women did it too.

I had a little trouble.  I have no strength at all and, although the spirit is willing, the flesh is as weak as one of my puns.  I grasped her from behind and looked for all the world like an enthusiastic Goldilocks desperately humping poor Papa Bear, and having as much success.

Jo is an excellent trainer and wanted to ensure that everyone went away knowing they could do this, so I kept at it until she’d have been long dead in real life – but I got that sucker out in the end!  Thank you, Jo.

Which brings me back to my left arm – nobody tells you that saving people’s lives is difficult.  Okay, perhaps they shouldn’t have to tell you that, it’s kind of obvious when you think about it, or doctors wouldn’t train for so many years so they could be sued for their BMWs;  but I hadn’t expected it to be so physical, and I could barely use my left arm last night.  Instead of using my left hand, I had to rest my right hand on my hypochondriacal damp brow.

I’m not sure I’ll bother using the skills I’ve learned (it’s not like I paid for them); it seems like so much hard work.  It might be okay for someone who I quite like, such as my children; but what if it’s an MP, or a telesales person, or the Hub? My arm really hurts as a result of all that being noble and brave guff.  I’d give my left arm for it not to be aching right now.

Talking Heads

24 Feb

Last Thursday, I gave another poetry reading at Walthew House in Stockport – my third.  They have asked me back for a fourth visit.   One chap (he’s a chap because he’s from the older generation; if he was my age, he’d be a man; Spud’s age, he’d be a lad.  Isn’t language funny?) told me that they had talked about me long after I left last time; then hastened to assure me he meant, ‘in a good way.’ Hmm.

It wasn’t me so much, but the poetry.  They are a wonderful, lively group called Talking Heads, and that’s what they do: talk.  A lot.  The poems I read caused much debate.  The group leader had asked for poems on the theme of ‘spring’ so I had prepared about forty poems (I was due to read for an hour), including some of my own.  The topics of mine varied from cleaning to seduction to dog poo, but all mentioned spring.

They enjoyed one poem so much – six lines on World War One military equipment – they asked for the name of the poet…which was me.  I was delighted to send two people home with copies of the poem – the first time that’s ever happened.

The chap who asked, Vincent, told us it reminded him of a poem he had written when his son was serving in Iraq during the Second Gulf War.  He wondered if he could read it to us, but the memory of his emotion at the time – the absolute fear from having a child in a war zone – choked him up so much, it was fifteen minutes before he composed himself enough to read it.  It was worth the wait: lovely; touching and heartfelt.

After some talk of Thomas Hardy (none of whose poems I had read, but that will show you the meandering nature of the discussions), Vincent mentioned that his son’s best friend had sent him a collection of Hardy’s poems, underlining The Darkling Thrush in the Contents as his favourite poem.  A couple of days after receiving the book Vincent, unable to stay in the house and listen to war news on the radio, had taken an evening walk and came across a lone thrush, singing a solo symphony in the evening air.  Vincent was entranced.

Returning home, there was a phone call around 11:30 that night.  Shaking, he answered.  It was his son: Dad, I’m home!  He didn’t have time to talk because there were several people he had to call with the news, but his Dad had been first on the list.

Next evening, Vincent took another walk and came across the same thrush, singing in celebration, it seemed.  Vincent said he yelled at it: You knew he was safe last night, didn’t you?  You could have told me!  Neither Vincent nor the thrush took any notice of the people staring at the barmy man yelling at a bird in the tree.

What a wonderful story, provoked by a poem.  And that’s why I love poetry.

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