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Remembrance Sunday

10 Nov

 

Today, I Am Ashamed To Be British

10 Apr

Zapiro

From The Mail & Guardian, South Africa

By now, everyone knows that Margaret Thatcher died on Monday.  It has been headline news everywhere.

The BBC managed a Freudian typo – accidentally, I hope:  

Margaret Thatcher dies after a strike.

I wonder if the British reaction has been headline news around the world?  I hope not.

In Britain, many mourn; many…rejoice.  Champagne was sprayed; happy chants thought up; in Glasgow, people who are too young to remember her time in office threw a street party to celebrate.  It was not the only ‘death party’.   Signs appeared saying, Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!  Facebookers – people I know – spewed vitriol.  

While I don’t deny that her policies caused hurt to many, I have been appalled and saddened at the awfulness of the public reaction in some quarters.  The weltschmerz I feel is compounded with shame.  Margaret Thatcher wasn’t a mass-murderer, a torturer, a genocidal maniac who kept heads in the refrigerator.  She was a strong woman, convinced she was right, and unafraid to act on her beliefs.  She was our first and, so far, only, female Prime Minister; for three terms.  No small achievement.  She was respected and sometimes feared on the world stage.

But all of that happened more than twenty years ago.  When she died, she was just a frail old lady.

former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatche...

former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in October 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is wrong with a country in which people can show such scant respect for the dead?  In which it is okay to dance on the grave of a pensioner?

All politics aside, today, I am ashamed to be British.

 

Remembrance Sunday

11 Nov

English: Remembrance day poppy icon and slogan

 

Read This

7 Apr

Read This, Please. 

Please Read This.

If you never read anything I write ever again, please read this:

I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.

I didn’t write it, Single Dad Laughing did, five months ago.  I just read it now.  Everybody should read it.  And share it.

There were many responses, but this one made me cry:

A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay”

Read it.

*

*

Send A Christmas Card Into Space

6 Dec

I did something fun the other day: I sent the people on the International Space Station a cyberpostcard for Christmas.

It’s free, it’s easy, it’s a nice thing to do, so why don’t you have a go?

Click on the link:  http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/postcard/

One thing puzzles me - I’m sending it through cyberspace, which, technically, doesn’t exist; into outer space, which is, I suppose, nothing.  Does that mean it will end up in the same place as the post that comes through my local sorting office i.e. nowhere?

And Then A Hero Comes Along…250 Heroes, To Be Precise

2 Jun
Trinity explosion - July 1945

Image by The Official CTBTO Photostream via Flickr

I read the following story over on Cubik’s Rube.  He and I agree on very little - so little, in fact, that he hardly ever bothers to answer my rare comments on his posts.  I assume he feels, like I do, that we’d both be wasting our time.  But this case is different: we both agree that Japan’s senior citizens are incredible.

A group called the Skilled Veterans Corps are working to fix the problems at Fukushima.  From CNN:

…three retirees sit in a cramped room, hunched over their computers and mobile phones. They look like the planning committee for a neighborhood senior breakfast, not the leaders of a 250-member team attempting to defuse one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history.

But that’s exactly what 72-year-old Yasuteru Yamada hopes his seniors group, the Skilled Veterans Corps, will do: help end the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The group, consisting only of retirees age 60 and up, says it is uniquely poised to work at the radiation-contaminated plant, as the cells of an older person’s body divide more slowly than a younger individual.

This post is short because there are no words to express how much admiration I feel at their selflessness.

The Greatest Quilt Ever Made

31 Jan

For one reason and another we’ve had a bad start to the year (no change there then), but one lovely thing did happen: I got a quilt. 

This is no ordinary quilt, however: every inch of it has been handmade by my dear friend Viv of vivinfrance fame. 

In December I received the following email from her:

I’d like to make you a lap quilt or cuddly as we in the trade call it.  They’re usually about 1.50 metres square, but I’ll make it any size or shape you like (within reason!) It will be a multicoloured scrap top, backed with fleece, and you can have the backing in your choice of these colours:  sky blue, apricot,brick, camel or dark blue.

Who could refuse an offer like that?  Certainly not me, the coldest woman west of the east. 

Viv’s first update:

First two blocks made in an experiment in randomness.  I hope it works!  My sewing machine is misbehaving, though – the twiddly-bit underneath that holds the bobbin keeps falling out.  Air is blue here.

I think that last bit was talking about how cold it was in France just then, because she’s too much of a lady for it to be anything else.

On 23 December, when sensible people were running around centrally heated shops, below-zero streets and sitting in car parks for an hour-and-a-half, awaiting a space and fighting strangers to the death for it, I received this:

Four blocks made, 11 to go!  It’s looking quite exciting.

In early January there was a complaint about the number of email addresses I have, so I think Viv was tired from the Nike-factory-worker-impersonation making my quilt had become; but she did say this:

Progress report:  12 blocks done, 3 or 4 left to do, depending on whether I make it 4 x 4 or 3 x 5.  It’s turning into a trip down memory lane for me – leftovers from favourite dresses I made entirely by hand in Seychelles, fabrics from my very early days as a quilter, one or two snippets from some cottons that my daughter brought back for me from the Hindu Kush in 1994, from which I made her a kimono – the first of many.  There are also pieces from two huge bags of samples given to me by my friend who’s gone back to UK to live, and another friend who used to be a textile and dress designer.
 
I also have the backing, which is bright red fleece, unless you have a rooted objection, in which case I need to think fast.

[small edits for privacy]

I had no objections, not being one to complain at cheerful colours.  I was chuffed at the knowledge that Viv’s gift to me was not only all her own work, but made of her happy memories.  How wonderful to own something made in and from happiness.  And from such a wonderful phrase, too: Hindu Kush - I have always loved saying it.

This was an exciting one because it had a photo as well:

I thought you might enjoy the state of my work-table in the last stages of making the blocks.  The machine’s playing silly buggers and I’m tearing my hair out in handfuls, but am I having fun?  I am?  Who’da thought it!

 

Viv made that gorgeous pincushion, you might like to know.

Then I discovered Miss Vivienne is not quite the lady I first thought her:

Well then, it’s all gone together – not without a great deal of swearing – and the red fleece backing is now being quilted with the top.  I must warn you that I’m not the world’s greatest machine quilter, but if I’d waited to hand quilt it you wouldn’t get it until April!  I think another week to finish it.  It is anything but an heirloom quilt – more a rough and tumble everyday job.

Viv got something wrong here: it is an heirloom quilt.  I shall give it to whichever of my eventual grandchildren visits me most and brings the best presents.

She included a photo:

 

On January 18th I got a message to say it was on its way, ‘fast post’:

Tis anything but a masterpiece, but I can vouch for it being nice and warm – it was covering me knees all the time I was hemstitching down the binding and the label, and I was jolly hot!

And on the twentieth Viv emailed the tracking details in case there was a problem; to which I was able to reply:

I’m sitting snug under it even as I type!  It has just arrived and I put the computer on to thank you and there was your email.

Not me at my most eloquent but I was too thrilled for niceties.  Viv also sent me her process notes, as I requested.  So kind of her to keep a record of her gift so that I can keep a record of her gift.

I have used the quilt every day since it arrived and I LOVE it.  It is the greatest quilt ever made because it is made of and with good feelings; given with good feelings; and received with good feelings. 

And you know what the best part is?  As good friends as we are, we have never met.

Thank you, dearest Viv.

 

 

 

 

Never Forget

27 Jan
Holocaust Memorial Day

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.  I have always wanted to write a Holocaust poem; this isn’t it.  I don’t think I will ever manage it.  It was too terrible a time to comprehend.

It’s important to remember that it wasn’t just Jews who were butchered, but gypsies, homosexuals, the old, sick, disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses: anyone considered a deviant or a burden. 

Whenever I feel sorry for myself - I’m too cold, too hungry, have too little money – I think of the victims of the concentration camps, all they lost; how they suffered; the unbelievable cruelty; and I feel grateful for all I have.

Anyway, I wanted to mark the day; it’s too easy to forget.  Look at what happened in Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur; and tell me it won’t happen again.

 

HMD” _mce_href=”http://vimeo.com/18623986″>HMD”>http://vimeo.com/18623986″>HMD 2011 Untold Stories from Holocaust”>http://vimeo.com/hmd2701″>Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on Vimeo.

How it Happens

I spent the day with Mrs B, 90. 
Her husband liked to get about. 
America, you know; for the Big Fight.  With friends. 

She does not care for curry, 
Americans, foreign travel. 
Oh, but rather likes The Jews

She’s glad that German business never happened here. 
He was fond of the ladies, you know.
 
Almost: Mosley.  Brown Shirts.  Oxford Street. 
Dreadful.  I stayed home.

We Write Poems 30

1 Dec

206 Coffins

Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.
Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.Dead.

*

*

8

 

I wrote this on the day the 206th British soldier died in Afghanistan.  It’s out of date now.

 

We Will Remember Them

11 Sep

If Music Be The Love Of Food, Play On

12 Mar

[An intellectual] is someone who can listen to the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger.  ~John Chesson

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – Bramall Hall and lawnsPrevious | home | Next
an image of the Park and Hall

 All photographs from http://www.bramallhall.org.uk/gallery/index.asp 

I had a fantastic time on Wednesday night.  You know how when you intend to go out drinking you line your stomach with a good meal? Actually, that’s not something I do because I’m not really a drinker and I hardly ever go out in the evenings unless there’s a college course involved, but I think it’s a good life principle in general and I always eat before I go out anywhere, just in case whatever I’m doing runs over my next scheduled meal time.  Unfortunately, my love of food remains with my stomach and doesn’t often extend to my brain, with the result that at least twice a week I forget to take out dinner from the freezer, as happened on Wednesday.  Fortunately, I am blessed with the best of sons who now becomes No.1 Son over his older brother: Spud had food and came home with a chicken chow mein that was not only edible and plentiful, but delicious.  But, even more importantly, it meant that I DID NOT HAVE TO COOK.  That was what moved him up the rankings.*

Belly full, I was collected at six-thirty by my good friend J.  I was going to call her the Taxirhymist because I wanted to mention that she is extremely generous with her car, ferrying me from workshop to college to gala performance to writing group to art gallery without accepting any petrol money; and she is a talented poet but has only discovered her talent in the last year; but it sounded pretentious when I read it back and she is certainly not that, so I shall simply call her my good friend J.  Me, mgfJ  and three other writing buddies all performed at Bramhall Hall on Wednesday night, along with the poet Terry Caffrey and a string quartet from Manchester Camerata.   I wasn’t expecting much, if I’m honest: we attended a workshop at Stockport Art Gallery on Saturday and discovered ten minutes into it that we were going to perform some of our work the following Wednesday.  I hadn’t even heard of the Camerata at that point.  I think Terry was disappointed that none of us snatched at the opportunity and had to be gently bludgeoned into perhaps possibly maybe thinking about it.  However, of the six people at the workshop, five of us turned up, so the message that this was a big deal must have got through.

If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music. ~ Gustav Mahler

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – a view of the Lesser HallPrevious | home | Next
an image of the Lesser Hall

 We were greeted in the Lesser Gallery by two men who seemed quite excited to have us there; poetry reading is not usual for the Hall, apparently. They were delightful hosts and showed us into the Chapel whilst someone went to fetch Terry.  That gave me and a writing buddy time to look through teh rpintouts and notice that our poems weren’t in there.  This might have been a hindrance to our reading if it had not had the foresight to bring along our own copies for just such an emergency.  In my case, I wanted to bring a copy because I had made changes to my poems since submitting them to the gallery the day before.  This was also the moment when I knew I had been right to single out mgfJ for the honour of my being my good friend J: our printer is out of ink so I had emailed my copy to her and she had printed it out for me and, more importantly, brought it with her.   What a woman!

 When words leave off, music begins.  ~Heinrich Heine

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery

Photo – Bramall Hall Chapel

Previous | home | Next

An image of the Chapel

Terry found, greetings greeted, and apologies made for the omission, which wasn’t his fault, he took us upstairs to meet a couple of Camerata wigs (I hesitate to call them big because I have no idea if they were) and to have a quick run-through of the running order.  Then it was time for a toilet break.  I should mention at this point that the house has been built and added on to since the Eleventh Century.  It is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  Never having read the Domesday Book, I don’t know if there’s a map in it pointing the way to the public lavatories, but I could have used one.  When I came out of the loo I found myself alone in a corridor with doors on every side.  I had no idea where I was or in which direction I had come or needed to go.   I felt a little like Alice and I would have appreciated at that point a wine bottle labelled, ‘Drink Me.’  Not having the option to sprawl in a corridor and get plastered, I tried opening each door until I found one that led to some stairs that I remembered we had come up.  More doors at the bottom and lots of dark, empty rooms later, I found the wheelchair access ramp which indicated I was almost home.  I stopped to ponder the absurdity of a wheelchair access ramp leading to an upstairs toilet, and decided that there must be a downstairs disabled toilet, surely?  It was the law.  Then it occurred to me I was in a fantasy world of my own when I should be finding my own rabbits to follow, and I ran and ran the three steps that took me to the very door I needed, leading into the Great Hall.

Image of the Great Hall

 

Music is one of the best ways to enjoy the present.  It’s not much fun to look forward to hearing music or to remember what a song sounded like last week, but music right now absorbs you and places you in the present moment.  ~Sonnett Branche

 

 

  

Music is what life sounds like.  ~Eric Olson

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – a view of the Great HallPrevious | home | Next
an image of the Great Hall

The big photo shows the Hall set for dining but on the night there were plush blue chairs laid out in rows.   Despite its name it is not a huge room; there were about fifty people present and it felt cosy.  The musicians had set up in front of the magnificent fireplace (see small photo above).  I was relieved that we had back row seats because I expected to fidget a lot.  I have never been to a classical music concert before, unless you count Cliff Richard, and though I love the likes of Vivaldi and the well-known classics, I’m not familiar with much in the way of the good stuff.  My expections were massively confounded.  The Camerata began with Mozart’s String Quartet No. 18 and followed it with Dvorak’s Romance (listen to me writing as if I know what I’m talking about).   The Mozart was nice but the Dvorak – cliché alert!  but it’s the only way I can describe it – absolutely blew me away.  I had noticed a man sitting with his eyes closed during the Mozart and thought he was asleep at first, before spying his nodding head and deciding he was a poseur, but I offer him an apology right here, right now, because I found myself listening to the Dvorak with my eyes closed and being aware of nothing but the music.  There is nothing in the world like live music played by polished professionals at the top of their game in an intimate setting with a thousand years of history behind it.  I highly recommend you try it.  Even better if you get to do it for free.

As I was carried away on violin strings to another realm of being (or, to give it its technical term, ‘listening’), I wondered how many wandering minstrels, bards, players, Robin Hood rejects and the like had stood in that very spot and entertained people through the ages.  It made me feel much less nervous: nobody remembers them so it wouldn’t matter if I messed up because nobody would remember it but me.    I stopped worrying about my nervous gut; stopped praying, ‘Please don’t let me break wind up there, please don’t let me break wind.’  I didn’t stop having a glass of wine in the Banqueting Room, of course: it would have been rude; I’m sure I saw an invisible sign saying, ‘Drink Me.’  Trouble is, I had to down it quickly and so I found myself praying while I was waiting to read, ‘Please don’t let me vomit up there; please don’t let me vomit.’

Music is love in search of a word.  ~Sidney Lanier

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – the Banqueting RoomPrevious | home | Next
a photo of the banqueting room

We didn’t have much time in the Banqueting Room because we gathered for another quick run-through and for photographs in front of the fireplace.  Fortunately, only one with me in it came out.   I know it’s true that the camera adds ten pounds but, to quote Friends, just how many cameras were on me that night?

  
 
 

Motley Crue

Terry is second-left; MGFJ is in red; ‘The Blob’ auditionee is second-right.

We were introduced by Frank.  I have no idea who he was or in what capacity he was there, but he was lovely.  He explained that Terry would explain why we were there, then Terry stood up and explained why we were there.  Then we read out our bits  and the writing buddy who went first thanked Terry for the opportunity and mgfJ who went last thanked the audience for having us.  Then Terry thanked us and thanked the audience and it was all very civilised.  The audience just looked bemused.  They had come to a concert expecting to hear the Camerata, and found a group of giggly – but extremely polite – poets hogging twelve precious music minutes.  However, they charitably clapped the Stockport Art Gallery Writing Group, which was how Frank and Terry introduced us; it surprised us all, because no-one had told us that that’s who we are.

The evening was rounded off by the Camerata’s performance of Janacek’s String Quartet no. 2 (Intimate Letters), the hideous music upon which our poems were based, and the point of us being there.  But you know what?  The magic worked again and it was wonderful – lots of plinks and plonks and stalking soundtracks, yes; but the passion and the obsession was tangible through the music.  I have to say that I will never, ever listen to it on a cd, which is how we first heard it at the gallery; but if someone offers me the chance to hear it played live again, I might just accept.

The evening ended with appreciative applause for the musicians, who took several bows and exited, then came back for more applause, bows, etc.  All well and good for the three violinists, but what about the poor cellist?  I swear she had a hump. 

 

Music is the poetry of the air. ~ Richter    

 

  
                                                                                                                                            All quotes from:  http://www.quotegarden.com/music.html 

.     

*Don’t worry, Tory Boy: it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and you have more money than your brother so you can easily regain your place.

Remembrance Sunday

8 Nov

War Memorial

 

I place my hand on

a name – any name – and pray.

I give thanks to a

 

God they despaired of;

thanks for their grave sacrifice.

So many lost faith.  

 

They died.  I live. My

freedom to pray, to believe –

or not – their great gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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