Monday, November 12, 2007

"Back Blogging Soon"

Blogging break coming up but back in 2/3 weeks....refreshed and rejuvenated, I hope. Just need to concentrate on other stuff!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Remembering Gordon, Who I Never Knew."

I had a cousin called Gordon ( decades older) who was shot down in his plane over Russia in the 2nd World War. His body was never found. All this, before I was born.

In Dovey's orchard next door, where my brother and I played secretly as children, there was the smashed cockpit of a plane. It had rested there for years; my father said so. It was rusty and battered. We left it alone. We always left it alone. We looked from afar.

We stared down from the top of the conker tree.. in our grey flannel shorts, our striped Ladybird T shirts...and we spoke of the cockpit in hushed voices and we dared not look inside it. Our friends were in awe. The cockpit stayed in Dovey's orchard for years. And it filled our thoughts for years, stirred our dreams as to its origins, its passenger; as to who he was.....this pilot, who certainly died.

This past week, I've watched News at 10 each evening; not particularly on purpose, it's just happened. But I'm glad it's happened. At the end of each report, there's been something about the oldest soldiers, those who fought in World War 1 and are still living; I think there are seven left? It's been irresistible viewing; it's brought home once again how lucky they've been, how marvellous their long long years since 1918 have been...but most of all, it's shown how vividly they themselves appreciate the luxury of having these years, their LIFE. And it's brought home to me how essential our appreciation of these amazing men must be.

And I've thought of Gordon, the brief glimpse he had of life...and I've thought a lot about the man in the cockpit.....whoever he may have been.

IN COMPLETE CONTRAST and yet there's a theme....
We went to the seaside this evening. ( I'm writing much later) We went to Rhyl, a seaside town in North Wales. Strange activity for a chilly November night, you say. We went to see " Ladysmith Black Mombasa" in concert at the Y Pafiliwn Theatr. This group includes the leading man and his four sons. Their singing was wonderful, as was their dancing.
And they talked of South Africa, of troubled times, of peace, love and harmony....all this on Remembrance Sunday.
AND I'm sure they realised the aptness of the occassion...

The print is "Poppies" by Vincent Van Gogh.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"They Sent In The Clowns..."

And in the twilight on the City Walls, this clown was there. This clown was pale, he was serious.
And as we passed, he stared and he watched. His stillness was complete.
So we paused, several of us, and we stopped and we touched his silence with our own.
And our voices faded and the light crept away from the Walls and the night came.

We saw lanterns, willow ones, gleaming from trees as we wended our way and spirits danced in silver shrouds and children acted plays by Abbey Street and we saw patterns made with ultra violet sand. And as we walked, jugglers played with fire and giant mushrooms swayed and rolled and coloured lights flickered at the edge of the Dean's Field.And all the while, candlewax spiders wove webs in stark black trees.
AND there was more:
At the Bell Tower, black and white memories dangled on string and families with sleepy toddlers and giggling teenagers added their own and by the Town Hall, women with lovely faces tottered on stilts, preened their reflections in pavement puddles as they swirled their gorgeous skirts.
Below the Walls, near Northgate, men in dinnersuits made music with bottle tops and teachests and umbrellas....and people smiled and people clapped and the rain clouds never, thankfully, came...
And then at King Charles Tower, a woman sat, dressed in white, purple hollows around haunted eyes...wreathed in her own quiet thinking. So the child beside me shuddered and her mother took her hand in hers and whispered:" She's lovely, Lucy.The lady's lovely" so Lucy smiled and I knew she'd remember the image for ever....

This was "Up The Wall": a celebration of the City Walls ( light, sound, theatre) organised this w/end by "Chester Performs". This is a new organisation dedicated to developing the performing arts in Chester. Hopefully, more of the same to come.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me..."

What do YOU wish your mother had told you....( Or hopefully, WILL still tell you , if she can....)

Hmm. I've bought this book as a Christmas prezy for someone. It's called (see its fabulous jacket): " Things I wish my mother had told me:Lessons in Grace and Elegance)"
I hasten to add that this someone is ALREADY graceful and ALREADY elegant but she'll love this book anyway. She isn't, however, into blogging so her prezy will remain a secret for the time least to her.

The book is by Lucia Van Der Post; she writes regularly for " The Times". It glitters with classy advice...about luxury shopping, gorgeous dress shops, fabulous interior designers. It tells you how to look great, have a stylish home, buy perfume, get fit, think about plastic surgery(!) ...and much more.
It's certainly not my world. It's not "my thing" ( some of the "spending" I wouldn't dream of...even if I could, if you follow my drift..) but although lots of it refers to a glamorous indulgent world, much of Ms Van Der Post's musing is actually sound and helpful commonsense; it's applicable, for example, JUST as much to women shopping at M+S, East, Debenhams.... as it is to those shopping at Fenwick's, Chloe or Stella McCartney. ..
It's stuff that's often "obvious if you think about it", but it's nice to meet these observations en masse! It's a book you'll pick up for 10 minutes, then suddenly discover it's bedtime, e.g.:
There are thoughts on Marriage ( "All we know is that IF there's a formula, nobody's found it yet" ) and Friendships ( "Nurture your friendships; they matter more than you can possibly imagine") and our Homes ( "I love best the sort of houses that are particular and truthful...honest expressions of who the owners are") Money ( better miserable in comfort than poverty) and Work ( "Accept there ARE no magic bullets" )
AND YES, there's even advice on grandparenting: " Never forget that they're not your children. You've had your turn, now it's theirs" And this particular piece quotes Karen Buckman, on becoming a Grandma: " I'm too young. Grandmothers are old. They bake and they sew. I was at Woodstock! I pissed in the fields..."
Hmm again. Well, folks, I didn't go to Woodstock (even though I've always wished I had) but I saw the film and I DO know how she feels..

BUT PS ( back to beginning of post):
WHAT do you wish your mother had told you?? OR if she's still here ( and I hope she is)... what pearls should drop from her lips...
the "serious stuff" as well as the frivolous?? Your thought-provoking answers welcome...
Book available at: and, of course, all good bookshops ( including, no doubt, Tinners Rabbit, Ulverston..)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

"Don't Despise The Domestic Potato..."

Whatever you do: "DON'T despise the domestic potato"....but take it firmly in hand.
And don't arrange for the chimney sweep to come when your husband's at home.
And PLEASE don't talk to him of things of "worrying nature"til he ( husband not sweep) has finished his evening meal.
AND neither should your husband "sharpen lead pencils all over your drawingroom carpet;the carpet suffers as well as the maid's temper.. "
PLEASE "don't omit to learn how to put on a bandage. You'll be very lucky if you get through your married life without having to do it...".
"Don't let your husband wear a violet tie with grass green socks..if he's unhappily devoid of colour sense, he must be FORCIBLY restrained.... "
"Don't set him up on a pedestal"'ll cry when you discover ( after all ) he's merely an "ordinary man"...
And did you know, some women are like cows......SO: " don't vegetate as you grow older if you happen to live in the country...there's REALLY no need to stagnate.."
And Most Of All, Remember:
"Art", ladies, " is a hard mistress, and there is no art quite so hard as that of being a wife..."

All this cracking advice in one tiny little red book called "Don'ts for wives", written by Blanche Ebbutt in 1913, re-published this year.
It's available, of course, from
I discovered this sage advice (!) in a superb Ulverston bookshop; this shop's well worth a long sultry browse. It's the Tinner's Rabbit Bookshop and it's a warren of rooms ( all shapes/sizes) crammed with fact/fiction for children and adults in the most colourful of fashions...

"A Well Kept Northern Secret"

Last Saturday when visiting the Lakes, we took a trip to the Cumbrian market town of Ulverston.
Ulverston's between the Lakes ( 10 miles from Windermere) and Morecambe Bay; it was granted its Royal Charter in 1280 and still celebrates this every September...
And what a lovely surprise Ulverston was!

Ulverston's a quirky fairytale place; it has cobbled streets where craft shops nestle beside cafes and charity shops, picture-framers and oldfashioned ironmongers; it has alleyways through which I saw pastel-painted, petunia-bedecked houses, a fabulous dress shop, some lazy cats, old men chatting.... and teenagers, black-clad, pale-faced, smoking.
Ulverston has an indoor market ( see snap; thanks again GAC) where you step back into mid 20th century and find cheeses and flowers and old 45's and haberdashery ( when did you last hear of "haberdashery"?) and so much more.....including a clothes stall where hung a superb green coat in the very shade of green I love.. Hmm.

ALSO, there's a much-loved gorgeous Coronation Hall seating 636 ( can you hear that, Chester?!).... where there are plays, conferences, operas and concerts ( Manchester Camerata, Nov 15th!) ) and Ulverston has its own Buddhist centre at Conishead Priory situated in a stunning Gothic Victorian mansion which you can tour at weekends..
There's also the Lakes Glass Centre (Heron Glass) and Cumbria Crystal and OF COURSE, The Laurel and Hardy Museum celebrating its famous son: Stan Laurel, born Argyl Street, Ulverston, 1890. It seems the two comedians visited Ulverston in 1947, greeting the townsfolk from the balcony of the Coronation Hall...
CERTAINLY worth visiting, this surprise of a place.
There's a Dickensian Festival planned for Nov 24/25th...very tempting!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

"Hard Times Gave Us Good Times...last night at the University Of Chester""

Yesterday at the University of Chester, we met an American Academic called Dr Will Kaufman. And through this charasmatic guy, we were priveleged to meet Woody Guthrie, his music, his poetry, his thoughts.....all over again.

One word: superb.
Dr Kaufman ( I'm sure he's easier with "Will") re-visited Guthrie's songs: " This Land is your Land" " Vigilante Man" " I aint got no home" " Pretty Boy Floyd" and lots more, interspersing music with juicy commentary...that of American history in the 30's, the 40's.
SO we stared hard into the Dust Bowl, we shuddered at The Depression, we heard about the New Deal....but most of all, we touched the soul of the people of this time and this place.
We saw the displaced, the lost, destitute and homeless. We saw people who'd been unwelcome in their own land. We saw the Oklahoma "Okies" hard-travellin' to The Golden State.. and best of all, we saw the bravery of their spirit and the reality of their thoughts.
Last night, folks, our imaginations were ignited...we saw and felt and we wondered....and this in a timeless, universal context SO valid today.
All this...brought into our minds by Guthrie's poetry, his music but very especially by Dr Will Kaufman's fabulous telling of it all.
And PS:
" I thank Will Kaufman for introducing a new generation of Europeans to THIS side of the country. It's a wonderful job he's doing"
( Pete Seeger, Friend of WG and fellow Musician)