Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Seeing Beyond"

In search of breeze, brine and brightness, we found ourselves last Sunday morning on Crosby Beach.
Crosby (in striking distance of Liverpool) is the ideal setting for Antony Gormley's fantastic installation:" Another Place". This consists of 100 life-sized cast-iron figures; they're spaced haphazardly along the shore, and they stand, strong and solitary, private and peaceful, gazing out at the water, staring beyond the horizon....and seemingly, beyond the stretch of our imaginations...

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Peace Of Mind"

Here's something for my friend, C. It's Camille Pissaro's lovely "Landscape with snow"
C reads m'blog. AND C will know EXACTLY why I have posted this..

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"HA! Good Old January.."

Your life has come to something, hasn't it, if you're propped up in bed on the greyest day imaginable, with a couple of tabby sisters ( who are not normally allowed up stairs), a mug of Yorkshire tea, and Radio 4 spouting on about hula hoops.....
Well, to be precise, Janet Ellis on Radio 4 spouting on about hula hoops, ( she of ex "Blue Peter" fame and mum of singer Sophie Ellis Bexter, she of beautiful but strangely trangular Picasso lady face) BUT I am digressing...
I've been below par. Hopefully this low par won't last low very long....I keep thinking about stuff I want/need to do. And as for hula hoops...I never COULD keep the silly things swirling and they always took up too much room in my bedroom and mine got bent, twisted and warped... AND then at school, I usually skidded into them and always went flying dangerously into wallbars ( are you peeping, MR??) when we used them as "bases" for games in the gym......Silly lethal things hula hoops and Janet Ellis should've known better...a whole 1/2 hour programme on 'em, what next, and there's poor me, feeling below par to start with ..??
I AM RANTING. Well, grousing..HOWEVER:I turned poor Janet off. On my quilt lay the latest copy of " Mslexia" magazine ( see ) If you've not met her, Mslexia is a magazine "for women who write." She's encouraging, illuminating and she publishes both new and established writers. Helen Dunmore ( " Zennor in darkness" : brilliant) says she's " astute/invigorating"...Enough: I've surely whet your appetite by now..
SO I flipped through. On p 15, I read "10 Top Tips: New Year Writing Resolutions"...excellent ones, commonsensical ones ( NOT as easy to put into practice as one thinks, but all valuable and worth bearing in mind)......Stuff like:Develop a habit( this means write daily, I hasten to add.....something I certainly dont do) OR Edit " ferociously" ( WHO once said:" Kill Your Darlings"???...a marvellous phrase) OR Invest in a notebook you love..the list went on, much pretty obvious, but I for one need telling..
THEN I glanced back on my own post about NYear and resolutions and stuff and HORROR of HORRORS.....I realised although I'd mentioned parties and dinners etc, I never mentioned several fabulous New Years we've spent with friends JM and RW. I'm sure RW never reads m'blog but JM does (occassionally) and I know she'd read that particular aplopogies to you both and I must say how much we enjoyed: Provence ( JM's friend's medieval apartment carved into rocks, where we arrived at midnight, stared across balcony across dark Med to the flickering lights of Corsica...) and of course St Ives, Cornwall...HA! are you peeping Minx??... ( the craziest beach party imaginable... as we sloped at the harbour by the Sloop Inn....the whole world in fancy dress.... 7 drunken penguins flapping along the shoreline, followed by 6ft Queen Mum with tiny corgi; "she" a huge Rugby playing type in pink " duster coat") and then there were two trips to S Ireland ( Galway, great pubs with great music.. and Wicklow...where we gatecrashed a dance at the Vardy (?) Social Club and were accused of being yet another film crew....

SO THAT Omission , Folks, will teach me to think more about what I'm writing AS I write it ... yet another New year Resolution for me ...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

" Climb Every Mountain!"

When the news came, there was joy in our kitchen.
When the new came, our Kelvinator fridge hummed with delight and the crisp pile of my father's freshly starched shirts gleamed with pleasure. My brother and I sat at the table eating cornflakes dotted with prunes... and suddenly, we believed life really COULD be a fairytale. Today's news finally proved it.
The Background: There was our mother, rosy faced by her whistling kettle, crimson lipped, navy and white peeptoe-shoed, her chestnut hair ( we called it the colour of gravy) fluttering around her pretty rosiness. I remember it well. It was early June and I wore a pink dress with brown smocking and I sat at the kitchen table by a window with yellow curtains and the morning was warm already.
And there, of course, was my father....brisk and smiling, smelling of soap and Players cigarettes, flannelled and tweedy jacketed. There he was, Daddy brandishing the Daily Express in nicotined stained fingers, his hair wavy, Brilliantined...
"The office" Daddy declared " The office can wait."
So old SPL ( his boss from Hell) could shout in vain. Daddy would not be there, even though SPL had tantrums, whatever they were. Tantrums made SPL lie on his office floor swigging gin and tantrums made SPL touch his secretary ( Ruth) on her bare arms ( wow!) as she took away his teacup. Ruth came for tea because my mother said she was overwrought ( about the arm touching) and Daddy said she needed the calmness of Mummy so Ruth sobbed over fairy cakes and was sick over lemon cake and had to be taken home in a taxi. Mummy said SPL should be classified ( or perhaps it was certified) and Daddy said he should be " strung up by his giblets" which painted dreadful pictures to me and my brother and believe me, I never ate lemon cake ever again and any time I've met a "Ruth", I've expected red eyes and tearfulness and a woman who needs the calmness of someone's mummy. ....
But back to our kitchen:
"Today" Daddy said"is a Moment Of History. This News should be Relished." And his voice shook with emotion. It really did and I hear it still. He cleared his throat.
"Today" said Daddy " Hillary has conquered Everest." He paused, eyes particularly blue: " But two things are special today. Hillary has conquered Everest AND Queen Elizabeth is crowned."
" What's 'conquered"?" said my brother ( we knew about "crowned" BUT "conquered"..??): " is "conquered" to do with conkers? And who is Hilary, Dad? Is it that spotty lady down Red Lion Lane who lives with fat Edgar?" (We passed Fat Edgar on our way to school. He always wanted to play "Tag" but our mother said he couldnt play "Tag"; Edgar was 57 and we should merely smile and walk on because people of 57 played games like Bridge or golf, not "Tag" in Red Lion Lane ..)
" Hillary is Edmund" said Daddy reverently " And he's reached the top of the highest mountain in the world with Sherpa Tensing. And today a new Queen is crowned..."

Sir Edmund Hillary died this week. He was a hero of my childhood and the memory of his triumph ( told at breakfast one morning in early summer) gave me a precious glimpse into my own past. Hillary conquered the highest mountain on Earth and reading reports of his life since, I see he achieved more remarkable things. He deserves to be long remembered.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

"Taking A Break"

Little blogging break coming up, just a week or two, so hope to see you soon. AND don't break ALL your resolutions at once!!

" The Unhurried List: Twelve Good Things About This Christmas"

So! Here is the Unhurried Post. Here are my 12 Good Things About This Christmas.
I've jotted down stuff that's happened over the whole period and I've cheated a bit by squashing 2 ( sometimes 3) into one. I've probably forgotten stuff too.....BUT here goes!
And a la StrictlyComeDancing, they're in no particular order, although no 1 IS no 1..
1. Christmas Day at the homes of my "children" and us being hugely spoilt much to our huge appreciation. The sight/sounds of said " children" weaving new customs amongst the old. Quite moving, actually.

2. Grandson's delight ( and my son's delight in his own son) He's 2 and his use of language is superb, eg. : " Grandpa, would you mind doing me a favour??" and then some longwinded request..

3. A day in lovely Ludlow with my brother/sisterinlaw. Wet and windy, but The Feathers provided excellent fish/chips and Ludlow shops are quite something. We shall return.

4. My city early Christmas Eve, when I dashed to M+S, when the city was calm and clean and empty ( showing her cheekbones) and promising her ageless delights; she was her beautiful best. Coffee in the Grosvenor Brasserie, relaxing in a comfy leather chair as people scurried by outside.

5.Twixt Christmas and NY, a very sane chat with a close friend that I think brought us even closer.

6. Impromptu ( and very unsane!) Charades in the colourful home of very old friends. Looking at old photographs with them all, pictures of our younger prettier selves. Laughter that made your belly ache. Good for the soul, although felt a bit stiff next day and the head a bit woooollly...

7. Being treated to a Christmassy lunch by one of my writing groups. Having time to know them better. And liking them all (their contrasts, their kindnesses, their talents) enormously.( )

8. A Coffee Morning at a lady called Annie's, which ran well into the afternoon and included champagne and strawberries and lots of talk and laughter as well as the mandatory coffees.

9. Listening to a remarkable lady called Jenny Newman; she's a novelist and Reader in Creative Writing at L'pool JMU. One of her books, "Going In" tells of her time as a teenage nun in a convent. Dr Newman is a vivacious honest person; she delighted 40 Friends of Chester Literature Festival ( see for "how to be a Friend" ) with her tales, thoughts, anecdotes. And believe me, the eyes of several ex Convent educated women were SERIOUSLY wide with recognition....

10. Another scrumptious lunch: Sheldrakes, Heswall, on the Wirral peninsula. Wonderful setting by the water in a lovely laidback place. Boats bobbing, seabirds swooping, the Welsh hills brooding across the estuary..( )
AND I mustn't forget another Christmas meal: Francs Restaurant ( ) with L'pool writer Gladys Mary Coles ( see post Oct 31st) ) and novelist Clare Dudman, she of the wonderful blog

11. A W.I gig in a village hall where 6 of us read our Christmassy stories etc. Friendly faces, interested women, and certainly not forgetting a rather good supper....Our group, ( now 8 yrs old; I started it January 2000) consists of a band of very different women, but all are intrigued by writing and wonderfully, this group works a treat...( post June 16th)

12. Our 1st New Years Eve "in" for donkey's yrs.
And we watched " Girl with a pearl earring" ( C Firth: long hair, hooded lids, slow smiles, so let's Say No More) followed by Jules Holland ( filmed 2 wks ago!) but McCartney/Kylie duetted and there was an intro f0r us to Kate Nash ( great) and brilliant Mika....
In the past, we've done NY dinners, pub crawls, CAMRA parties ( can't forget those) and we've hosted the most memorable of street parties....BUT this yr, the grandson stayed and at midnight ( instead of cavorting ) we stroked his cheeks as he slept and we wished him and our quiet selves the Very Best of Times...

Friday, January 04, 2008

" Three Wise Men Followed By Twelve Good Things About Christmas...."

First, those 3 Wise Men:
Sunday sees the Feast of The Epiphany, when 3 Wise Kings visited the Babe.
And here, folks, are three mysterious and faceless Men. It's a painting by Gisela Ueberall and it's called " Three Wise Men"
And as in so much in our lives, what's left out ( or not said, for instance ) IS actually the most crucial, the most telling...
I've always equated Epiphany with the coming of the 3 Wisemen ( magical names, glamorous ethnic pedigrees ) and as a child, images of this regal presentation to the Babe of the gold, frankincense and myrrh, fascinated me; as did the Star in the East that they followed...
SO as a child, I'd look for "The Star".......out through my bedroom window on many Christmassy nights. From my room, I could see a street lamp outside our gate; once I saw Mrs Venables ( no 12) meet Mr Clegg ( no 38) and they leaned towards each other in the glow of the lamplight, brushed cheeks, then clasped each other tight in their long tweedy coats while Harry Belafonte sang the WHOLE of " Mary's Boy Child" in the warmth of my pinky stripy bedroom; on the radio, I hasten to add. This illicit meeting of Mrs Venables and Mr Clegg was, to me, a priceless vision and probably the first time I sniffed adultery.
BUT usually from my window, I'd just see toothless fur-coated Mrs Thwaites tottering by in the foggy dark ( always foggy) with a carrier bag of gin or I'd spot one of those " SO handsome Ling boys" ( quote my mother) as he snogged yet another bouffant-haired girl... she, perched precariously on a bike with scary handlebars, starched petticoats protruding well beyond her flimsy skirts and the SO handsome Ling boy's huge grotesque saddle...
And sometimes while star gazing, I'd spot Roger Gabriel ( he of my post Wed 12th ) walking his dog. He'd look at my window, see me, look away, casually kick a stone into the gutter, then swagger off down Greenfield Rd with his highly strung cocker spaniel at his Clarks sandalled heels; his dog was a snappy golden bitch called Judith ( or was the dog called Trudi and Judith his clever elder sister?)
BUT enough.
On Sunday, ( 12th Night/Epiphany) we'll take down The Tree, cards, pretty wreath on door. We'll pack stuff away til next year. Then next yr, we'll unpack them and smile and remember countless other unpackings ...all very predictable, but safe and comforting and warming in this changing world of ours...(tissues please and I'm not apologising..)
AND WHAT about those 12 Good Things about Christmas?? Lovely things, happy times.
On my Dec 12th post, I said I'd list Good Things about Christmas, but that's enough for now and the list will follow ASAP . I've decided it deserves a whole unhurried post of its own...