Friday, 31 July 2015

TFI Friday

Well, we've made it to the end of another week, but it has been a challenge. Is it the Blue Moon, I wonder? Today, I'm celebrating:
  • I've just sent off the final instalment of a bumper proofreading job.
  • I have an article in the August issue of Picture Postcard Monthly ('What's new, pussycat?').
  • I've upgraded to Windows 10 without a hitch.
Have a good weekend, folks.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

There was a message waiting for me from Google when I came to my blog this morning:

'European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent. As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies. You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog and that it is displayed.'

I mention this because you might have seen a message at the top of this post asking you to consent to the use of cookies. Rest assured that I am not following your every move. I have no idea how to embed tracking software into my words - and I wouldn't even if I could.

Nice use of the phrase 'as a courtesy', don't you think? Thanks, Google.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Celebrating some small things

It's been three weeks since I posted a CTST and then it was very hot. Today I went to town in my boots, because it's chucked it down with rain all day and the temperature has dropped accordingly. Mind you, the rain is my first cause for celebration, because my poor allotment is starting to look a bit droopy.

Other things worthy of note today are:

* Having had my creative side prodded by the poetry challenge set by friend Tricia on Monday

* The launch tomorrow of my friend Rachel's bookshop venture 'Not Just Words', which opens with a fundraising day of music in aid of our local hospice

* My sensible mother (she knows why)

Have a good weekend, folks.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Poetry: day four

Howitt Place
For day four of my poetry selection (see Monday's post) I'm going back to my childhood with 'The Spider and the Fly' by Mary Howitt. Most people will know the first verse, but perhaps not the rest of it. My childhood connection with this poem is that I grew up in a house called Howitt Place, which is where Mary once lived (when it was known as Botham House). As well as being an acclaimed writer and poet, Mary Howitt was also a keen promoter of children's literature (she translated Hans Andersen's fairy tales into English) and she was a social activist, speaking out for women's equality and the abolition of slavery.

‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly,
‘’Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.’
‘Oh no, no,’ said the little Fly, ‘to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.’

‘I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?’ said the Spider to the Fly.
‘There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!’
‘Oh no, no,’ said the little Fly, ‘for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!’

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, ‘Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome – will you please to take a slice?’
‘Oh no, no,’ said the little Fly, ‘kind Sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!’

‘Sweet creature!’ said the Spider, ‘you’re witty and you’re wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I’ve a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.’
‘I thank you, gentle sir,’ she said, ‘for what you’re pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.’

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
‘Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple – there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!’

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue –
Thinking only of her crested head – poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour – but she ne’er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
The rear view of Howitt Place: that's me on the steps beneath a 1980s perm

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Poetry, please - day three

Malham Cove, copyright Clive Thorley
Simon Armitage's book Walking Home: travels with a troubadour on the Pennine Way is an account of his journey along this footpath, which he funds by performing poetry readings in odd places in return for donations. After a reading in Malham, he finds his audience have left him £86.96, two corn plasters and a leaflet explaining how to put someone in the recovery position.

The poem below is in Walking Home and also in  his collection Book of Matches. In the unlikely event that Mr Armitage reads this blog, I hope he will excuse my reproducing it here:

I feel I am at the end of my tether
and I don't want to go on any longer.
Not like those climbers on Malham Cove -
dipping backwards for their bags of powder,
reaching upwards for the next hairline fracture,
hauling themselves from my binoculars.

And without enlargement they take on the scale
of last night's stars in Malham Tarn,
inching upstream as the universe tilted, mirrored
till we burst their colours with a fistful of cinders.

I follow a line
from the base to the summit, waiting
for something to give, to lose its footing,
for signs of life on other planets.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Second poem of the day

'The dropping of the daylight in the West'*
Further to being nominated to cite my favourite poems (see yesterday's post), I choose 'My Last Duchess' by Robert Browning. I won't reproduce it here: it's on the long side and easily found if you have a mind to look.

This is another poem I was introduced to at school under the broad topic of 'poems about people', would you believe. It will be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in poetry, and some might say it's rather a corny choice, but I really like it. I'm a sucker for a good monologue anyway, but this one is just so sinister. It gives me chills every time I read it:

I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.

* Photo John Lindsay via

Monday, 20 July 2015

Poetry, please

My friend Tricia has nominated me on Face Book to name my favourite poems on four consecutive days, beginning today. This is quite a challenge for me, because poems are not my go-to art form, despite the best efforts of Mrs Morley, the teacher tasked with tutoring me in English Lit at senior school. It is, however, an appropriate challenge, not least because Tricia's husband Will is one of my son's godparents and they gave him The Walker Book of Poetry for Children as a gift to mark the occasion. Inside is inscribed a quote from one of the poems in the book, which  I choose as my favourite for today. It's by Walter de la Mare.

As long as I live
I shall always be
My Self - and no other,
Just me.

Like a tree -
Willow, elder,
Aspen, thorn,
Or cypress forlorn.

Like a flower,
For its hour - 

Primrose, or pink,
Or violet -
Sunned by the sun,
And with dewdrops wet.

Always just me.
Till the day come on
When I leave this body,
It's all then done,
And the spirit within it
Is gone.

Thumbing through this lovely book to find this poem, I was reminded of an occasion when my son was at primary school and he was asked to take his favourite poem into class. He chose one from the same book. It's called 'Oodles of Noodles' by Lucia and James L. Hymes, Jr:

I love noodles. Give me oodles.
Make a mound up to the sun.
Noodles are my favorite foodles.
I eat noodles by the ton.

It's daft, I know, but it earned him a star from his teacher.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Currant affairs

There is a part of me that wishes we hadn't been quite so efficient in our netting of the currant bushes at the allotment.

I like a fruit crumble as much as the next woman, but you can have too much of a good thing. There is an entire drawer in my freezer now filled with boxes of blackcurrants nestling in sugar, in anticipation of tarts and cheesecake; I have jars of jams and jellies lined up on my shelves; I have made cordial (which, incidentally, has given me an  insight into why Ribena is so expensive); and I am mid-way through making a vat of blackcurrant vinegar.  There is the gentle drip-drip-drip of the jelly bag in the front room and the bloop-bloop-bloop of wine fermenting under the stairs. Think of a way to process a currant and I've probably done it.

It looks as though the three or four pounds I still have in the colander will be the last for this year, however. I shall have cleared the fruity decks in time for the courgettes, which are already starting to make their presence felt.

Monday, 6 July 2015

A multi-faith day

Yesterday I went to our local Buddhist centre, the Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre, for its annual World Peace Fete. I have watched this event grow over the years and it is the most extraordinary thing, with short meditation sessions in the temple while outside there is a music tent, children's activities, fabulous food and loads of tempting stalls with crystals and incense as far as the eye - and nose - can see/sense. Naturally, I came away with a bundle of joss sticks and a singing bowl, but I resisted the lure of the paneer curry in anticipation of the second engagement of the day, of which more below. It was, as you might expect, a beautiful, tranquil way to while away a sunny day.

I've been to the centre many times for weekend and day courses, for evening meditations and wonderful meals. If you are anywhere near, I really recommend it. You don't have to be a Buddhist (I'm not).
Tearing myself away from the offer of a holistic massage, I went instead to St Michael & All Angels Church in Great Oakley, which is a tiny stone building in the grounds of the local manor estate. I was there to hear the Camerata Singers summer concert. This is the choir of which I was a member for a while and it was great to see some familiar faces. They sang an impressively varied programme on the loose theme of the Grand Tour, with guest appearances from an accordionist and a musical duo on violin and recorder. As always, the interval was enhanced by a choice of delicious cakes, hence my abstention earlier.

Then it was home for a tasty spaghetti carbonara and a session of putting the world to rights with number one son: all in all, a splendid day.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Busy, busy, busy

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  
Here are my celebrations for this Friday:
1. Aircon - I covered a yoga session in a gym this morning, and it was lovely to be able to work in a cool room.
2. The England women's football team, who really showed the men how it should be done.
3. Another busy week on the work front - which means I can't write any more today. Must dash!
Have a good weekend, folks.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

An English obsession

If, like me, you're older than you like to think you are, you might remember the summer of 1976, when the weather went a bit bonkers in Britain and for 12 consecutive days the temperature reached 32 Celsius somewhere in the country. It was the summer of the Great Drought.

Whitby's whale bone arch
This was the year in which I took my O-levels and after each one I came home and burned the associated school books. It never occurred to me that I might need them for a resit, and I certainly had no intention of taking A-levels. I hated school and I was off!

And off I went - all the way to Yorkshire, where my friend Steph and I worked in the West Bank Restaurant in Robin Hoods Bay, perched at the top of the village, for the whole summer. We lived in and worked all day, six days a week, with Saturdays off. Saturday was changeover day for visitors, so it was quiet. We would catch the bus into Whitby or Scarborough to spend our hard-earned money. Weekday evenings would be spent in the pub (we had no problem getting served: different times!), flirting with strangers (again, different times), and then we'd stagger back up the 1-in-4 hill home to bed.

A decade later, and with a new name
The restaurant was run by an American called Taylor, which at the time struck us as a very odd first name), and his wife Mickey, who was proper Yorkshire. She had been named after a racehorse, Mickey Finn, which had won the St Ledger. Just in case people thought this was an odd name for a girl, she had been given the second name of Stephanie. Given what some folk call their children these days, Mickey seems quite sane.

Eventually, the government decided something should be done about the weird weather and appointed Denis Howell as Minister of Drought. Sure enough, that solved the problem and three days later the heatwave ended in torrential rain and even hail in some places. Pity, really, because it was Bank Holiday Monday.