Spud’s old room:
I’m going to be AWOB (Absent Without Blogging) for a week or two, as I’ll be decorating my new room in proper girlie colours – honeysuckle, pastel yellow, pink accents.
See you on the other side!
I don’t know if you remember me – I used to blog. I’ve been so busy lately, however, I haven’t had a chance – well, we’ve had a couple of weeks here at Tilly Bud Towers! A bruised scapula from chasing a rabbit; a septic appendix; and a hysterical teenager. Not to mention exam results and poetry readings. I’ll break it down into diary form or it will take up a third of the page just to repeat, ‘…and on Suchaday we…’ It will probably take a couple of days to regale you – you know I can never make a long story less than Lord of the Rings length.
Saturday 9 August
In the week prior to a week-last-Saturday, First World War anniversary fever hit me hard. The Hub, Spud and I attended a candlelit walk around the park on Monday 4th, along with several hundred others, following a piper and six flag-wielding WWII veterans. A short service followed before the Last Post was played, and all candles were extinguished at eleven p.m., to signal the moment one hundred years ago when Britain began to be at war with Germany. It was incredibly moving.
I don’t know if my non-Brit readers know the story of Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, but it is worth repeating:
A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week [...]. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below on which we were looking. My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”
From Grey’s memoir, published in 1925
To commemorate the start of the war, my church held an open morning with the theme, The Lamps Are Going Out. As I was one of two people organising it, I spent the whole week working with my friend Pam The Great Administrator (she’s amazing and must only be spoken of in capital letters in my hearing) to collect artefacts, set up a slide show, arrange for costumes, rehearse poems and heavily promote the event. The last bit worked especially well because we more than quadrupled our usual Saturday morning numbers. Actually, it was even more than that, only I don’t know the correct term for ‘five times as many people came into church than is usual’.
We expected two tables of old bits on display but we had six. Some people brought a table’s worth alone, and stayed with their stuff to chat to visitors and explain the (fascinating) history.
Pam baked delicious Anzac biscuits. The children decorated glass candle holders. We had period music playing in the background. And Spud and I gave two readings of poems written between 1914-1919. The whole event was a huge success, not least because it reminded us of what was sacrificed, at home and abroad. Spud remarked to me that, as he was just eighteen, if he’d been born a hundred years ago he would probably have been off to war with all of his pals. A sobering thought.
Sunday 10 August
Church followed by Stockport Writers. It was my turn to chair. I wanted to take the August meeting so I could use the theme, The Start of the War. I hadn’t considered, three months earlier when I put down my name, that it came back-to-back with yesterday’s event and I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of Thursday night, realising that I had nothing prepared. Two hours and one irritable Molly later, it was done: I pared fictional and actual events down to their bare essentials – e.g. the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand became An angry teenager with a gun - and used them as prompts.
I had been in five minutes and had just poured boiling water into three mugs when there was a knock at the door. A neighbour had seen a runaway rabbit and called at my house because I was on the corner and therefore would probably know who it belonged to. With logic like that, it’s hard to believe we can win a raffle, never mind two world wars.
Still, I’m a sucker for a scared pie filling so I went out to help, calling for my pretty assistant the Hub to come along: animals love him and if anyone could catch it, it would be him.
Turns out anyone couldn’t catch it, including the Hub – it sat in a shrubbery patch, snaffling the carrots we used to entice it and ignoring the umbrella-thrashing we gave the bushes in an attempt to frighten it out. The last we heard, it had eloped with a runaway pig and they had set up home in Tamworth.
The poor Hub didn’t have such a lucky escape: it was raining and he slipped on some cobbles, landing flat – hard! – on his back and breaking his watch, to the amusement of those neighbours who had come out to watch us chase the rabbit but felt no need to join in. Or to help him up.
When I got him back inside, Spud was in a spin: having had a late night, he had only just got up. He came downstairs to find half-made tea, still warm; the car in the drive; the back door unlocked; but no parents. He tried calling us but our phones rang inside the house…he was creeped out like only a half-asleep teen with a vivid imagination can be. The Hub would have laughed if it hadn’t hurt so much; but he refused to go to the hospital.
Tune in again – date to be determined because the excitement is still ongoing.
Coming soon: A day trip to Wales
This is what the Hub, Tory Boy and I were doing today in 1994, one of the best days of our lives:
The first day of polling in the first Free & Fair South African election.
We were living in Alberton in the Transvaal at the time. We got up early to be at the polling station for seven, when it opened. We didn’t want to be stuck in queues all day long. The government had declared a national holiday so that everyone could vote, and it seemed like everyone intended to.
We were first in the queue, but only just. Not that it did us any good: we were still first in the queue come four o’clock in the afternoon. There were no ballot papers at the polling station. The election officials popped out periodically to tell us that they were on the way – in a helicopter now – would be here any minute. None ever showed up, except on auction sites in the last few years.
In spite of this, and in spite of the news of bombs going off at the airport, the mood of the crowd was, well, joyous. There was a lot of singing and a lot of braaing (barbecuing): those who came later and knew about the long wait brought their skottels (a portable gas barbecue) and fold-up deck chairs. The Hub went home to make us some sandwiches and drinks, but I wish we had braaied instead.
Whole families turned out to vote. We had four-year old Tory Boy with us. I have another photo of him, sitting glumly on the kerb, unaware that he was participating in a truly momentous event in South African history. He’s grateful now, of course.
We chatted to everyone around us. There was a tearful old man who had never believed that he would ever get the chance to cast his vote. There were Afrikaaners, resigned to the inevitable and taking it gracefully; and many who welcomed it. I suppose those with strong opposition to the change were at home, planning protests. People of every race, tribe, ethnicity, colour and political persuasion stood in that queue and waited with great patience for the ballot papers that never arrived.
There were no murmurings or angry voices, but there were a lot of rumours about what was happening in the rest of the country. We were in a capsule, a moment in time when we were all in this together, all looking toward a happy and prosperous future; each believing that things would be better, fairer, and right. We were in the mood to party, not fight.
No ballots came.
Because of our tired little boy, we wondered if we should go home and come back next day – the election was intended to be held over two days, but lasted three because of the issue of having nothing on which to cast your vote – but then we heard there was a magical polling station a few miles on which did have ballot papers, and even enough to go round. We thought it was worth trying because we really did want to cast our vote on a day that would go down in history. We wanted Tory Boy to be able to say that he was there.
I don’t remember where either polling station was, except that the first was in a suburb and the other in a huge, unkempt field. At the second, we joined a slightly smaller queue that we could see was moving, though it didn’t have the atmosphere of the first. It took three hours but we got inside at last.
The most bizarre moment of the day for me was when I went into the booth and there was a scruffy little stub of a pencil. It didn’t seem fitting to cast a vote that would help change the political landscape of a nation, with a tatty bit of lead. To this day, I’m not certain that I wasn’t expecting quills or expensive fountain pens.
In the PWV area (Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging) we had a choice of thirteen parties. As brave as the National Party had been, I couldn’t vote for the architects of Apartheid. I couldn’t vote for the ANC bunch of terrorists either, no matter how just their cause. I didn’t think the KISS lot (Keep It Straight and Simple) was taking the whole thing seriously enough; and the Women’s Rights Peace Party was missing the point. I voted for the Democratic Party. Helen Suzman was a lone white protest voice in the wilderness of the Apartheid government for many years, so I voted for her party, which I felt had moral conviction. As the vote was by proportional representation, I helped them to their seven seats.
I discovered a wonderful quote from Helen Suzman, via Wikipedia:
She was once accused by a minister of asking questions in parliament that embarrassed South Africa, to which she replied: “It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa; it is your answers.”
Our tiny piece of history made, we took our exhausted child home, probably collecting a takeaway on the way. Once he had eaten I put him straight to bed. We followed soon after. History is important but it’s the mundane that keeps us going.
Relatives living further out told us they hadn’t bothered to vote on the first day when they saw the queues; they left it to the next day and walked straight in and out. It seemed most people wanted to vote on the first polling day. I guess we were not the only people conscious of history on that glorious day.
At the moment, I have no words. It made me smile, then, as one of life’s little ironies, when I received an email announcing the launch of a new poetry ezine containing one of my poems – a poem about censorship, in which most of the words have been removed.
I may not be writing much but I do know how to make a short story long, so here goes.
My poem In The Tradition of ‘The Star’ appeared in the anthology In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights last year.
Earlier this year, one of the anthology’s editors contacted me, asking for permission to use it in a new ezine she and another editor were starting; and inviting me to read at the magazine’s launch in London at the end of March.
I gladly gave permission but had to refuse the invitation, commenting that I wouldn’t know how to read it aloud anyway.
She replied that she quite understood: her employer (a charity fighting female genital mutilation) had held a memorial meeting for Nelson Mandela and my poem had been read out at the meeting – with difficulty.
I sent a garbled reply about poems being like children and taking on a life of their own without you, once you’ve sent them out into the world.
I didn’t hear from her again, but that’s hardly surprising. If you’ve read this far you’ll be in the same dazed state.
Anyway, to get to the point, here is a link to the new magazine, Writing in the Blackout.
Here’s a bit of the blurb, for the political amongst you:
‘Writing in the Blackout’ is an anthology of poetry and art work that explores the theme of arts censorship and freedom of speech:http://www.ideastap.com/Partners/keatshousepoets
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.
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!
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
But let’s be fair
This ode is crap
Are you really sure
You want me back?
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:
Prepare Ye, Beautiful City, Day By Day, All For The Best, By My Side:
The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, Dumb & Dumber.
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:
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.
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.
An Overlooked British Evacuation
Welcome to the Great White North....
Her Bad Hare Days