Friday, 28 June 2013

Celebrate the small things again

How can it be Friday already?

I had two days of yoga last weekend, which was lovely, but meant I didn't have time to catch up on my domestic duties. This means we have run out of food several times and meals have been adequate but not overly pleasant. Celebrating a full tummy.

I've taught seven yoga classes this week, so I'm feeling thoroughly stretched. I've also bought myself a couple of books for inspiration for future classes. There are only so many poses, and I live in fear that my students will get bored and wander off to another teacher - or take up Pilates. So I'm constantly on the lookout for ideas. You can't have too many books, I say. Celebrating my lovely students.

Speaking of which, I've started to read the books I bought at the Althorp Literary Festival. I'm beginning with Luck by Ed Smith and I'm really enjoying it. It's a fascinating look at the role that luck, risk, chance, fate - call it what you will (though the terms are not interchangeable, I'm learning - plays in our lives. I heard Ed Smith speak at the festival and he was amazing. He is a former cricketer, which makes it all the more astonishing that I'm enjoying the book; I hate cricket. But he has a lot to say and a good way of saying it. Definitely recommended. When I spoke to him as I was getting my copy signed, I asked him if he thought there was any point in making plans, given that luck is so important. 'Not really,' he replied, which brought a chill to my control-freak bones. When I'm not reading this, I'm reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which is a completely different kettle of fish. Must finish this before I see the film. Celebrating my literacy.

Happy birthday, bro
Choir committee meeting this evening, then it's bring on the weekend. New Orleans jazz tomorrow, then a family do on Sunday to mark my little brother's big birthday.Celebrating friends and family.

One more thing. I had my hair cut yesterday by someone who didn't look old enough to be out on her own. She sprayed my head with 'Age Defying Radiance'. One can but admire her optimism.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Judging competitions

I am in the middle of helping to judge a flash fiction competition. (I won't say which one in case you've entered.) I like writing flash fiction; it appeals to the editor in me. However, I know some people who hate it either as a writer or a  reader, saying it's too short for anything meaningful to happen. I disagree.

All the entries I have read are very good and even though some are not to my taste I can appreciate the work that has gone into them and the skill behind the words. Some, though, are examples of writing craft without the element of fiction: perhaps they are pure description or opinion. One of the factors that has helped me to decide which stories deserve (IMHO) to go through to the final is whether they are complete stories - with a beginning, middle and end; with conflict and resolution; with character development: with everything you would expect from a longer story. Winners will be announced shortly.

On a completely unrelated topic, I'm celebrating having finally finished and passed my anatomy and physiology course. I'm hoping this will find me better to placed to help my yoga students with their aches and pains. If nothing else, it has enabled me to explain to my son why he struggled to walk after his first ever game of squash. *Smiles maternally*  

Friday, 21 June 2013

Music, music, music!

I've woken up singing 'Dancing In The Dark' and my head is still buzzing from the fabulous Bruce Springsteen concert last night. The man's still got it!

So last night I'm in the Ricoh stadium with 30-something thousand souls. Last Saturday I was in my friend Rachel's front room with 40 people listening to folk legend Martin Carthy. Two top-drawer artists in venues that couldn't be more different and from different genres. Tomorrow I shall be at a gospel music performance in the Baptist Church down the road (that'll be a first!).

It's corny, I know, but there is only good music and bad. Seek out the good wherever you can. Live music is just the best thing on the planet! (Now put down that patchouli oil, Julia, and get back to work.)

So that's what I'm celebrating? How about you? Celebrate The Small Things here.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Father's Day

It's Father's Day here in the UK. I wrote the following for a competition ages ago.

An Ordinary Special Man

I wasn’t there when my dad died, but that doesn’t matter. I was there when he was alive: vibrant, busy, diligent, always with a project on the go; strong, loyal, full of integrity, a Christian but not a church-goer; opinionated, irritating, stubborn, occasionally sulky; but always loving.

Before he went into hospital for his operation, I’d kissed him and told him I loved him. I wish that had been the last time I’d seen him. But days later I sat by his bed as he lay there unmoving save for the work of the clunking ventilator.

And then he died. People were sympathetic, of course. But unless it’s you that’s grieving you don’t really know how it feels. They said they were sorry for my loss or that they were sad to hear my news, but then moved on with the business of their own lives. Why wouldn’t they? He was special to us, but not necessarily to them. Death is ordinary.

Many asked how he had died, as if some illnesses or circumstances are worthy of more sympathy than others. Dad was just shy of 75 and had developed ailments that could in part be attributed to lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what they were. It wasn’t a tragic accident or a young life cut short. It was just a regular, pensioner death. Unremarkable, just sad.

I was in the middle of a busy family Saturday when my brother rang with the news. A couple of hours later normality had been suspended, and I was sitting on a train travelling north. People around me were reading, chatting, planning. I wanted to tell them why I was making the journey.

At home, my mum was sitting with my brothers and their wives, looking calm but shaken. This was the moment when, at age 44, I suddenly felt like a grown-up. I wasn’t there to be comforted by her, as I had been so many times in the past – for dramas at primary school when I’d fallen out with my best friend, teenage tantrums over boys, issues over wedding plans, confrontations with in-laws. Roles were reversed and now it was my turn to look after her. I had lost my dad, but she had lost the man who had been by her side for over 40 years. She was predictably strong and practical, but also willing and able to lean and take the help that was offered.

We held a service at the crematorium for family. Nothing special, just dignified and functional. But afterwards I cried and clung on to my husband. Friends had advised me not to take my young sons with me and I was glad I had heeded their words. I wept uncontrollably. Mum went through the motions and kept herself in check.

Then it was on to church for a funeral service with friends and all-comers. Having sobbed so hard, I was now calm. My sons rejoined me. On the way out we stopped in the church doorway and turned back to look at the huge congregation. I told my boys that all these people had known and loved granddad and we should be glad for that.

In the pub afterwards – how he would have approved! – people I didn’t know revealed aspects of my dad’s life that were unfamiliar: friends from his childhood, colleagues, fellow golfers in their club blazers, relatives I hadn’t seen for years and didn’t recognise. Even at the time I knew that I was, bizarrely, enjoying the occasion.

I haven’t visited Dad’s grave. Why would I? He isn’t there. But there are traces of him everywhere else: in the house where his DIY efforts still hold things together; in the garden where he worked so hard to get the front lawn green and weed free, and never quite managed it; in the CD rack where his taste in jazz and swing music is still evident; in the eyes of his grandchildren; in our conversations and in our hearts.

My dad is dead. He hasn’t ‘passed over’ or ‘gone to a better place’, he has died. We thought we’d grieve forever. We don’t.

But we miss him.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Early celebrations

I had an interesting-looking parcel through the post yesterday. It came in a bright pink box and the label was handwritten. I was intrigued because I couldn't remember ordering anything, nor is it my birthday or anniversary or other special occasion. What could it be?

I ripped off the sticky tape and delved into the shredded paper to reveal (fanfare) a bottle of Ecover washing-up liquid! There was an explanatory note inside: I hadn't won the chance to be a 'Citizen Journalist' at Glastonbury, but had been sent a consolation personalised bottle of lemon and aloe vera. Still, notwithstanding the disappointment of no free ticket to the festival, it's nice to get a surprise in the mail.
I was watching The Culture Show on Tuesday, which was all about the selection process for the Royal Academy Summer Exhbition (the show is still on iPlayer and well worth a look), during which one of the artists said that she always has a bottle of champagne on hand to toast the results of her submission, whether she's been selected or not. I love that philosophy and will try to remember it next time one of my short stories is returned. In the meantime, I shall raise a glass to the team at Ecover. Cheers! 
I shan't be around tomorrow to Celebrate The Small Things because I'm off to the Althorp Literary Festival - itself a cause for celebration, I think.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through...

...trying to find lots of things not to do.

Corpse Pose | Yoga Poses | Yoga Journal
Just taking a moment before I get started
Feeling very Monday-ish and although I've got some work I could and should be getting on with I've been doing other stuff. Most recently, I've just come back from a Zumba class (ah, the joys of self-employment) and need a sit down, hence my quick blog post.

I haven't wasted the morning, you understand. I've updated the choir website with news of our next concert, put the details on Eventbrite and emailed our database of supporters with the links to where they can buy tickets. I've checked my bank statements, done some washing and tidied round.

I've had a little look on Twitter and Facebook and dealt with a few emails, some of which were work related, honestly. I've downloaded some page proofs for checking later today.

One useful thing I have done is to put a thingy on my Facebook page about giving blood. It's National Blood Week, which isn't a Twilight convention, but a drive to encourage more people to donate blood and to welcome back those who used to give but no longer do. Apparently, of all the people who have ever given blood, 72% haven't done so for over two years. I wonder why. So, like it says: Do something amazing. Find out more here.

Now, I really must knuckle down and earn some money.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Welcome to Friday

So it's time to Celebrate The Small Things again. Quite hard, this week because it's all been a bit meh.

The week started well enough, with a one-to-one yoga session with a lovely lady who asked for me by name, which was kind of her; but attendance at my regular classes has been down and I heard news that one of my venues is going to be out of action for six weeks over the summer, which is going to present some challenges.

Editorial/writing work has been rather dull, too: just the same old same old, but with some unexpected tax reports to proofread.

On the plus side, I did go out for lunch on Wednesday and I'm off to a folk gig this evening.

So this Friday I celebrate that nothing has gone wrong and the weather has been kind. I'll try to do better next week.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Little bit of politics

1. Wetherspoons is to open a pub on the M40. That can't be right, can it? Read all about it here.

Where's a shiny-suited satirist when you need one?
2. My local councillor has given me the opportunity to express my views on the proposed gypsy/travellers' site in our area. One option is on a tiny road in the town centre behind the church hall; the second is just down the road from our house on the site of a disused school (we are all assuming, although it doesn't actually mention the school in the bumf we've been sent); the other is on a plot that was formerly occupied by some garages and is at the entrance to our allotment site. The challenge is to compose a constructive letter without coming across like a raging fascist.

3. Pregnant women are being advised to opt out of modern life (details here).

Please insert your own jokes/despairing sighs.