Serendipitous

IMG_1182

Yesterday was definitely a day of contrasts. Before nine I was out of the door, clutching parcels heading for the local post office. I walked, getting part of my allegedly needed 10,000 steps a day. It was a blue sky day not even a wisp of clouds, the air was clear and the breeze brought a crisp morning coolness. Not bad for the main South Circular and I was first in the queue.

The post master was from the Indian sub continent and on the wall behind him he had a wonderfully framed picture of Mother Theresa. I needed to fill in a form and the pen on a chain didn’t reach far enough so the man behind me in the queue gave me his pen and actually gave it to me to keep as my transaction took longer than his.

Next was a 185 bus to Lewisham alighting right in the middle of the market which at 9.30am was lightly populated but the stalls were stacked with produce from around the world, bananas and plantains, yam and sweet potatoes, cumquats and mandarins, pomegranates and Pamilo, Lady’s fingers, Scotch Bonnet and Jalapeño Chillies, Capsicum, Cantaloupe and squashes of every size, shade and textures, avocados, fresh fish laid out on mounds of ice, as well as the everyday fruit and vegetables that we grow in the UK. It was awash with colour, vibrant in the sunshine, it could have been virtually any country in the world and mirrored the diverse languages that can be heard in the market. imagesDespite the scarcity of possible customers the stall holders were still calling out, extolling their wares, but it was not raucous and there was a lot of banter with those who stopped to linger. I noticed how clean the street was, no mean feat for an everyday market. No one was rushing, we were all just enjoying the atmosphere, the normal stress and litter of the day would come later. It reminded me of the Covent Garden scene in My Fair Lady yawning and stretching wouldn’t have been out of place.

My errand was quickly executed and the 185 dropped me virtually at my door.

In the afternoon we would be playing hooky but I had a list of tasks to complete before we could escape. And until 12.30pm I was very industrious. We didn’t want to arrive at the palace hungry so we sat in the garden eating avocado and caramelised onion humous, enjoying the sunshine, the bird song, which will always sooth and lift the spirit, and the rustle of the leaves in the cherry and plum trees. We lingered too long and had a rush to shower and get our posh togs on. Anyone who knows me knows this is where I struggle. I am not a party animal, but the instruction accompanying the invite said lounge suit for Ian, frock and hat for me. My dear friend had helped me through the subsequent shopping ordeal, thank you Rachel.

The taxi arrived promptly and we set off and I breathed a sigh of relief everything was going to plan but the Metropolitan police had other ideas and as we crossed Westminster bridge they diverted us off onto the embankment and we snails paced along and watched the minuets tick by. The only comfort I had was that we were not the only one responding to the invitation as we came parallel to a VIP Rolls Royce clearly heading for the same destination but going in the wrong direction. Her hat was much more splendid than mine.

IMG_1145a

Tumbling out of the cab into the inevitable crowd, equally diverse as Lewisham Market, who were  peering through the wrought iron palace railings trying to get a glimpse of our regal resident, we had to push our way to the front, show our invites and two forms of ID to the gun toting police officers at the gate, who kindly assured us that we were not too late their HRH’s were not due for five minutes, and we headed to the courtyard and up the stairs leading into the palace. As we entered a whole bunch of VIPs converged on us and we were conducted together through the building and out of those French windows, that we have all seen on television, and paused momentarily on the terrace overlooking the lawns. Unnervingly our entrance was watched by approximately 7500 people and I sent up a silent prayer that I wouldn’t stumble going down the stone steps in front of us. Letting the VIPs go off to their specific destination Ian and I endeavoured to blend in with the crowd and just found a small gap in time to hear the National Anthem which heralded the arrival; of Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Anne.

Lanes had been formed through the expectant throng by the beefeaters in their scarlet array, those fortunate few who would meet the HRH’s were positioned strategically waiting expectantly as the rest of us strained our necks for a better view.

IMG_1150

We caught more than a glimpse of Prince Charles and Princes Anne but it was Camilla that was to command our attention. Along with her chats with the designated few she would also turn aside to talk to someone in the crowd a very elderly and frail lady she spoke to was so delighted and there was no doubt it made her day probably her year.

IMG_1151

The rest of the afternoon was so relaxing, pleasant and delightful, quite idyllic, clear Wedgwood blue sky, sunshine and a gentle breeze and it couldn’t have been more British we were glad to be there. The gathered throng was just as diverse as the crowd in Lewisham Market and equally as colourful, with scarlet cassocked clergymen, saris and kilts, uniforms and national dress. Hats of every shape, colour and size, pagris and head wraps; one young lady had a dress all made from Gentleman’s neck ties, very distinctive. The bands, at different ends of the garden, young and old, male and female musicians, instruments gleaming in the sunshine, played tirelessly. The Boy’s Brigade and Girl’s Brigade, St Johns Ambulance Brigade your local bobbies all waiting to help. It wasn’t Ascot but just as vibrant and attractive, My Fair Lady came to mind again.

The Strepsils in my bag came to the assistance of a lady who had a tickly throat, which brought on a coughing fit. We managed to chat to several couples a bricklayer and his policewoman wife from Liverpool, an IT expert and his wife from Nottingham, but originally from India and the elegant Indian lady in the most fabulous Sari, bangles and earrings, who works in the visitor’s shop at Windsor Castle, who with her husband shared our table for tea; serendipitous meetings I thought after my postmaster in the morning and just as we were leaving a very smart uniformed officer and his wife who out of the blue offered to take a photo of us.

IMG_1171We walked, more of my 10,000 steps, around the perimeter of the garden, and the lake definitely wildlife friendly, in flower were Wisteria, Rhododendrons and their cousins the Azaleas, lovely Foxgloves and swathes of Lily of the Valley. Majestic trees, their spring fresh leaves fluttering in the breeze baffling the noise of the city just over the wall and Canada Geese and Moorhens completely unfazed by all these suits and frocks traipsing around the Queen’s Garden.IMG_1175

IMG_1158We may not have seen Her Majesty but we enjoyed her hospitality, our tea was wonderful, Ian got his favourite egg and cress sandwiches, all cheerfully and patiently served by the palace staff, the queue is still alive and well in Britain, at least at Buckingham Palace, that is. We saw our coughing lady again completely recovered and enjoying her day. On the stroke of six the band played the National Anthem and the HRH’s departed and we all, regretfully, wandered home like Cinderella after the ball.

IMG_1202

Advertisements

Heroic little village

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

s-l1600

As a stroppy teenager, I was guilty of looking down my nose at the place of my birth. Not Yorkshire, ‘God’s own county’, heaven forbid! But if asked where I was born I always said a tiny village on the end of the Pennine Chain. In my defence, Mills or anything ending in Mills, you have to admit doesn’t sound very salubrious. These weren’t Don Quixote’s poetic windmills or rustic wooden watermills with their dripping paddles, slowly rotating in tumbling streams, these were to my mind Blake’s Dark Satanic mills.

This might also be because my very early years were spent over shadowed by the aftermath of WWII. An early memory, surprising for such a small Yorkshire village, was the weekly Air Raid Siren practice the slowly rising snarling, whine swelling to a crescendo then slowly spiralling down, like a descending sycamore seed, to a long drawn out moan. Even basic foods were still rationed I didn’t taste a banana until 1953 celebrating the Coronation. Rationing didn’t finish until 1955 10 years after the armistice.

Knife_Sharpener_MET_DP818431

Recycling isn’t a 21st century thing, then it was a way of life for most British homes, children collected pickle or jam jars and took them to school as the central collection point. The Rag and Bone man and his rangy nag and cart were a weekly visitor and bore no resemblance to ‘Steptoe and Son’. He also mended kettles and pans, sometimes mended shoes and sharpened knives and scissors on a treadle powered sharpening wheel. “Make do and Mend’ wasn’t just a slogan for the war years.

If you have read some of my earlier Blogs you will know that I enjoyed some idyllic times in my childhood in the stunning countryside that surrounded my home. I remember sunny days trailing in the wake of my sisters through hills and vales of this green and pleasant land and picnicking with my family by crystal streams where we would gather peppery watercress, pick sorrel, mushrooms, blackberries, crab apples, hazelnuts and more, in season. My mother knew how to wring the best out of nature’s bounty and my Dad was still ‘Digging for Victory’ long after peace was declared.

I also remember picking, from the hedgerows, pink blushed rose hips, gathered to make Rosehip Syrup or cordial to nourish children that had been on hard rations for seven years.

There was a small park in the village clothed with rhododendrons which gave their glory all at once then remained glossy, dark pools for the rest of the year. The stream that ran through the park was stained with dye have you ever seen a blue tadpole?.

Doreen, Janet, Christine, Vera Angela 1

My mother bewailed her lot in Meltham Mills, my family moved there on VJ Day. Everyday she would send out my sisters to school or to play in their spotless cotton dresses and white socks, all washed by hand, and when they returned they would be grey from the soot and grime which had settled for decades from those aforementioned mills. In Yorkshire, with its sheep dotted hills you would expect woollen mills of course. You’ve seen them on television huge grey oblong blocks with a towering chimney all now demolished, converted into flats or antique barns. I only have to think about them and the smell of raw wool and machine oil, and the long wooden spools, made in the Lake District, which worked well as peashooters are only a whisper away. Even in the 50’s we could wander between the spinning machines with the deafening noise of the click, clack of the power belt mechanism, our neighbours Mum’s worked there and there was little or no Health and Safety to speak of; my mother never knew.

62644-75-YTM0106b

There was a Rag Mill and Coates Silko cotton spinners and, surprisingly there were also silk spinning mills in my village. My eldest sister when she left school on the Friday, on Monday morning at 7.00am, persuaded by her best friend Rosy Hudson, were knocking on the Silk Mill door looking for work, much to my mother’s disapproval. But it wasn’t the wool or the silk that, along with the ‘Few’, Bouncing Bombs and breaking the Enigma codes would play a major part in the war effort. Meltham Mills had a secret, the real reason for the Air Raid Siren.

dbcropI was aware as an infant that they made jaunty red tractors in my village I used to love to watch them trundle past our gate. They looked friendly, their big round lights on the front always like smiling eyes. David Brown’s Tractors were manufactured not half a mile from my door. But in all the years I lived there I never saw the huge works or the hundreds of men who poured out of the gates, like a stampede, when the hooter sounded and boarded the waiting buses. There was a precision engineering works there also, well within striking distance, another part of Sir David’s empire and of course Aston Martin DB and the Lagonda are legend but as a toddler these were just words.

The specialist gear works was shrouded in mystery, even after the war, Official Secrets Act don’t you know. It just wasn’t talked about even though my brother got an apprenticeship there and my Dad looked after Sir David’s Polo ponies. It was in my teens that I heard about the specialist gears and components but, even these didn’t impress. But it was this endeavour, after engineering plants in the south of England were bombed virtually out of existence that David Brown stepped up to the plate and supplied the components for the Rolls Royce Merlin engines for the Lancasters’, Hurricanes’ and Spitfires’ that would be a vital shield against an incoming foe determined to pound Britain into submission.

One of the slogans of WWII was “Careless Talk Costs Lives” and in that little village those doughty Yorkshire folks took this to heart the enemy never discovered DB Precision Engineering Specialist Aero Gear Works though from 1940 to 1944 they repeatedly dropped explosives and incendiaries on neighbouring towns and villages. There is little doubt Meltham Mills roll in this conflict was heroic

A happy meeting and a fond goodbye

Tags

, ,

dsc_0234e

In the last several weeks we have lost three friends and a close family member all suddenly and well under the average age of life expectancy in the UK.

British people don’t talk about death we have lots of euphemisms; gone to sleep, passed away, passing to the other side, crossed the Styx, shuffling of this mortal coil *1,  I even used one myself, ‘lost’, in my first sentence. These have a sensitivity about them but there are others, often banal, which we can use where death is not so personal ‘Kicking the bucket’ is one.

There is a finality about the word death it seems almost harsh to speak it out loud particularly to someone who has suffered a bereavement.

Possibly struggling to use the right words we use gentle euphemisms to try to soften the blow, the verbal equivalent of stepping around on eggshells, or the fear of provoking an emotional reaction as if the expression of our pain and sorrow is something to be avoided. So, the bereaved are often forced into private tears.

vera 1

The finality and the suddenness of the reality that we will not see our friends again, that I will not hear my sisters voice again is shocking and I have and am struggling to accept it.

That we will not share again a Lakeland sunrise or walk bare foot along a wave lapped shore or feel the wind upon our cheeks only heightens our loss.799a8d_093930861b3343fb882d678083ef5fd9~mv2

 

But death is inevitable two of the constants of life, we are born, we die, and it comes easily for most people and yet we don’t plan for it or discuss the possibility as if, by ignoring it, it will never happen.

 

 

People who are still alive know they’ll die.

But those who have died don’t know anything.

They don’t receive any more rewards.

And they are soon forgotten.

Their love, hate and jealousy disappear.

They will never share again in anything that happens on earth. *2

I have reminisced about a shared experience, a moment of understanding and laughter and tried to remember the last time we met our friends and my sister and what we talked about and our attitude to them, did we have time for them? Did we encourage them, affirm them, leave them feeling welcomed and encouraged, a happy meeting and a fond goodbye with the hope of meeting again? Happily, I think we did.

As I said in my last blog ‘Love is’, from the moment we are born we are all searching for love. That unconditional acceptance, attention and affection that brings needed significance, safety and assurance.

It is when we don’t receive that unconditional acceptance and love that we can be, like a bird with only one wing endlessly going around in circles or getting blown of course and failing to soar to reach the potential that is within us.

Of course, most individuals choose the course of their lives and sometimes it is difficult to recognize their value but none the less whatever the circumstances the sanctity of their life should be respected and acknowledged.

In my blog, ‘Don’t leave it too late’, in August 2017 I talked about my appreciation for my Father-in-law, happily still going strong at 97, I didn’t want to leave it too late to express my admiration of this dear man. The current trend of the media and the public to lionise and praise those that die, unexpectedly or inevitably, sometimes turning them in to plaster saints with outpourings of praise and adulation, deserved or not it is not my place to judge, is something, which always prompts me to wonder if they thanked the deceased or told them what they felt whilst they were still alive.

I am determined now that I will endeavour to express my appreciation for everyone I know and meet so that whoever is next to exit this life, them or me, they will know that they were valued, respected and recognised as being fearfully and wonderfully made, for. “Anyone who is living still has hope” *2.

 

*1 Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

*2 Ecclesiastes 9: 4-5

Love is.

Tags

, , ,

imagesFrom the moment we were born we are all looking for love, that acceptance, attention and affection that brings needed significance, safety and security. Looking for expressions of love from our parents, our siblings from family and friends, and ultimately, for most people, from a life-long companion.

That first astonishing gasp of breath and tremulous cry of the newborn, for most, will touch an inner wellspring of love and compassion. But how we respond will depend on that straight or tortuous path that we have walked since our birth, our hearts and minds are encouraged or broken by our experience of relationships good or bad. For many this results in a lifetime looking for affirmation.

As I walked to the bus stop one evening with a young friend, younger than me that is, she confided that she had never felt she was loved, she was even unsure if her young daughter loved her.

Her parents had poured out their affirmation upon her brother, their culture values boys over girls. Her marriage had failed, and I suspect her daughter doesn’t feel loved or affirmed and doesn’t know how to express love, because her mother doesn’t know how to affirm and express love.

We learn the foundations of life from our life experiences, the models we see from birth, in our everyday lives and it begins from the moment we are born.

We would be foolish to wait for others to reach out to us in love; for love to be expressed to us, a baby’s response to their mother’s or father’s voice, that smile that lights up their face, is their invitation to love and be loved.Cornerstone
Loving one another is one of the cornerstones of our lives and if it is not set in place squarely and securely, we will struggle in every close personal relationship throughout our lives.

 

In Shrek Fiona is waiting, in her tall tower, for her true love. Of course, that is just a film but some of us can be like that we expect our true love to come along. We take care of our appearance and try to give a good impression; often we pretend to be something we are not. In the wild of course it’s always the strongest, biggest, brightest, loudest creatures that get the mate so that they can pass on the best genes to their offspring. But for human beings is it the same? Well in a manner of speaking it is. We want our true love to be rich, handsome, beautiful, and all the rest of worldly bling. In our eagerness for love we rarely look at the character, attitude and values that are only apparent over time. We are so caught up in external appearances that we are often blind and deaf to other much more powerful if subtle treasures of the human character, such as commitment, integrity, faithfulness and friendship.

I’m not talking just about sexual love, though in a marriage relationship that is important for sure. But it is rarely sex that keeps an intimate relationship firmly anchored, it is affirmation, trust and forgiveness.

Regretfully, particularly in the west, virtually in every sphere of life we are being seduced into thinking that sex is the answer to all our problems and if you are a Pika or a Bald Ibis trying to ensure the survival of your species that is probably true. But in an intimate relationship, that hope that a flash car will ramp up your sex appeal or bring instant friendships, that perfume, so sensuously packaged and marketed, will make you irresistible, that that fizzy drink or deodorant will make you more appealing is selling us a lie. They focus on the individual rarely on the one another for love is a two-way street.

In many wedding or civil partnerships ceremonies they often quote:

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. 1 Corinthians 13Dad and Mum's Wedding Photo

These characteristics of love are not just for marriage relationships but for every relationship, mother, father, husband, wife, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, colleagues, neighbours for true love is when we love one another unconditionally and sacrificially.

You might say I’m unrealistic and tell me I am looking at the world through rose coloured glasses. Of course, we are not all called to be like Mother Theresa, who gave up everything to serve the poor and rejected, all her worldly possessions in a cotton bag. But if we serve our loved ones with the same heart as hers they will be happy and know that they are loved: significant, valued and safe. If we love each other as we love ourselves, no easy task because we are by nature selfish, we cannot fail to be happy and at peace. Of course, we live in a difficult world, whose powers and authorities, media and social networks seem to delight in putting us down and sowing depression.

img-brbBut we should not allow their worldly, distorted perspective to blight our vision and rob us of our joy. There are millions of anonymous men, women and children who will put their hands in their frugal pockets and give millions of pounds to Children in Need, and young men and women who will spend their own time and img-feast-2energy to cut the hair of the homeless, or volunteers who weekly prepare food and other comforts on the Jericho Road Project reaching out to the most vulnerable on our streets or filling Big Red Boxes with food for the less fortunate amongst us so that they too can have some Christmas cheer. Whilst there are projects such as these up and down the length and breadth of our nation and also in other nations, there is still, unconditionally and sacrificially love in
the world.

kingschurchlondon.org/socialaction

info@bigredbox.org

WHY I HAVE A BLOG

Charlotte-finalMy latest novel ‘Charlotte Deanfield: of a finer ruth’ is selling well, thank you for those who have ventured to read it and for the very nice messages and reviews. If you have bought it and hopefully enjoyed it please post a review on Kindle.

If you are looking for a definitely feel good read, coupled with a good plot, for the coming holiday I hope you will consider my work.

No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet

Tags

, , , , ,

I could dance virtually as soon as I could walk because, despite the ‘Jitter Bug’ that came to Britain with the American GI’s in World War II, and Bill Hayley and the Comets in the fifties; the birth of Rock and Roll, the local dance in village and town with all age groups welcome, still meant that country dances would be included in the programme as well as the Waltz, Quick Step and Fox Trot. You only saw the Tango and the Samba at the pictures, that is the cinema, Fred Astair and Ginger Rodgers, Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable. Though I couldn’t speak for London.

We were still taught country dancing in school as part of our PE classes, there were no wall flowers in those days everybody danced whatever your build, clumsy or dainty, you danced, and we had fun I don’t remember glum faces. Each had a partner and as we formed the sets, usually three or four pairs, you didn’t have time to be self-conscious and if you didn’t like your partner you would probably be separated in the parade, carrousel, chain or promenade as the movements progressed around the hall. In the summer we would dance in the playground, on rainy days and in the winter in the Hall. It kept us fit! A single dance could last 30 minutes and they were generally fast paced and included both graceful and energetic steps and movements; some even had words that we would sing along as we danced.

Now the fiddler’s ready, let us all beginDancing1

So step it out and step it in

To the merry music of the violin

We’ll dance the hours away.

Katie and Peggy and Patrick and Paul,

Callum and Peter and Flora and Moll,

Dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing,Dancing2

dance away the hours together!

Dance till dawn is in the sky,

What care you and what care I?

Hearts a-beating, spirits high,

We’ll dance, dance, dance!*

I even remember the tune.

At school the music was on 78rpm acetate in the village halls probably a quartet, accordion, drums, double bass, violin or sometimes a banjo whilst on special occasions, like Burn’s night, Harvest Supper or New Years Eve, you might have a full-blown band with a conductor. And we would travel to other villages for a dance or to hear a particular band. The tunes were richly mellow and inviting and as soon as the first chord was sounded we would address our partner with a bow or a curtsy and off we would step joyfully into the dance. Even those who didn’t like sport enjoyed dancing, they might forget their PE kit but they never forgot their dancing shoes. In this way girls and boys didn’t have that silly awkwardness that seemed to happen with some kids when they hit their teens because, you knew everyone in your year and often in the year below and above. The local dance was also a pivotal event in knitting together family and community, and many an enduring friendship and lasting romance started at the village dance.

Some of the dances were hundreds of years old their titles marched through history, with the Bishop of Chester’s Jig, The Gay Gordon’s*, the Durham Reel, Cumberland Square Eight, Circassian Circle, Dashing White Sergeant*, Military Two Step, Three Drops of Brandy and the Highland Reel. Dances that had been on the programme of the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball on the eve of Waterloo still survived well into the late 1960’s.  Byron described it thus,

 

Unknown-2On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;

No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet

To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet— *

 

 

 

I remember going to a wedding in 1968 where the evening party included country dancing and it went on well into the early hours.

The advent of dating sites and speed dating, the plethora of which prompted this blog, are not a new thing, there have always been matchmakers, but the modern versions lack style and fun and in this age of instant communication seem so lacking in communication and really remind you of a cattle market or lottery and certainly there appears little of the romantic, or am I being old fashioned? There have always been arranged marriages Samson’s parent arranged for him to marry Delilah and I am sure there were earlier couplings than that. It’s been the prerogative of King’s, Henry VIII was persuaded to marry Anne of Cleves because he saw a painting of her by Hans Holbein the younger. Through millennia, it’s interwoven with folk-lore, think of the Arabian nights and Scheherazade.

imagesIn the Regency and the Victorian eras Austin, the Bronte’s, Thackeray, Hardy, and Dickens all used the intricacies of the dance to show off the physical charms and advance the relationship of, their protagonists. Though Mr Darcy was initially quite scathing even he would succumb. The finding of a suitable wife or husband was even termed the Marriage Mart, Jane Austin’s opening sentence in Pride and Prejudice is:

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’

77081-004-819C85B3Modern writers and film-makers often use dance to add some movement and colour to their works: Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, Far From the Madding Crowd, Four Weddings and a Funeral, to mention just a few. I’ve used this device myself in my latest novel ‘Charlotte Deanfield – of a finer ruth.’

 

As a teenager I didn’t really notice when the jive or the twist finally edged out the country dances, or when Jim Reeves’ songs heralded the last dance. I know that the village dances dwindled as young people got more mobile and headed for the towns for their entertainment, did we have as much fun? I’m not sure we did and there isn’t enough money in the world that could persuade me to be a teenager again.

* The Gordon Highlanders 92nd Regiment of Foot

* The regimental march for the Berkshire Regiment, they wore white uniforms.

* Byron. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Canto the Third. Stanza 22

 

‘Charlotte Deanfield – of a finer ruth.’ Amazon.co.uk on Kindle and in paper back is doing well. Dear readers if you have read it please do a review on the Amazon website, this really helps to encourage other people to read it also. I’m hoping of course that you enjoyed it.

Constants in life: Life’s first cry to final breath

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being the youngest of six I had a lot of stimulation. My siblings were articulate and like my parents read voraciously, haunted the library, listened avidly to BBC radio and Saturday night was the ‘flicks’ with Pathé News and Feature Films as well as the latest releases, I was taken along as a babe in arms. This was before every home had a TV.

Talkies came in, from 1927 but in post war Britain still struggling from the aftermath of war, right into the early fifties, they still showed Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello and Charlie Chaplin black and white, silent films along-side of Pathé News and the talking pictures. I clearly remember Chaplin’s 1952 film Limelight which, was the first film to evoke in me an emotional response other than laughter.

What brought on this train of thought was watching a brief glimpse of Royal Ascot: Her Majesty, the carriage drive, the hats, Mrs Shilling, the frocks, the parade ring, the sound of hooves, the colour. ‘My Fair Lady’ captures it all. I was there! In my childhood my year was punctuated by such events, shared experiences, with my family.

Starting with pancake day (Shrove Tuesday), in February, and in my day in town and village across Britain, a pancake race: pinnied housewives running along tossing pancakes as they ran, which we saw locally, on Pathé News or in pictures in the newspapers. There were also brave snowdrops, crocus and the first blossom on the plum trees.

Maundy Thursday the Queen again distributing the small silver coins symbolizing Christ humbling himself to wash his disciples feet. Good Friday and Easter Sunday. All dressed in our best for Church and always even Easter bonnet competitions. Of course there were Easter eggs or Pasche eggs not the ubiquitous chocolate eggs, that flood the market today just after Christmas, but duck or chicken eggs, marbled, dyed or hand painted with even the chance of an egg rolling race down a local hill. And there was always daffodils and narcissus and the first buds bringing a haze of green to bare boughs.

March through to summer brought us Crufts Dog Show the elegance of the Borzoi and the exuberance of the English cocker spaniel -Tracy Witch of Ware, Best in show twice! The Grand National Steeplechase, Fred Winter on Sundew my eyes tight shut hoping no horse would fall at Becher’s Brook. The Boat Race – Oxford verses Cambridge, Putney Bridge to Chiswick, they only showed the boys in those days, such fun especially when they sank. Monaco Grand Prix, real glamour, the yachts, the villas, the sun always shining, sparkling on the waves and with always the hope that a British car would take the checkered flag, possibly patriotic but never envious. The TT races, BSA, Norton, Triumph, Royal Enfield huge motorbikes at top speed tearing round the narrow lanes of the beautiful Isle of Mann. The return from Africa of the Swallows and Swifts. Whitsuntide – Resurrection – Pentecost, church, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and abiding memories of the first Summer wild flowers, Bluebells, Buttercups, Daisies and Cowslips and fancy-dress competitions. FA Cup, Manchester City lifting high that coveted trophy. Chelsea Flower Show, that bun fight on the last day to bag a bargain and taking them home on the ‘Tube’. I always wondered if any ever grew to maturity? May Day, a village fair on the green and boys and girls dancing round the Maypole and a brass band, these simple things cemented community. Trooping the Colour, glorious pageantry in the Capital wondering if a soldier would faint from the heat? It always seemed to be bathed in sunshine.

With the warmer weather came the flat racing, The 2000 Guineas, The Oaks, The Derby, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood, horse racing at its finest. Always reminding me of some medieval tournament. Tennis at Queens and Wimbledon, spawned tennis in the street, school playing field or local park, who could afford the tennis courts. Beating the Bounds, an old church tradition dating back to the Norman conquest when the boundaries are walked and prayers said for blessings on the community (it also ensured that no one had moved the boundary stones) and the scent of wild roses in the lanes. The English Grand Prix at Silverstone, Sterling Moss was one of my childhood heroes, ‘the greatest driver never to win the world championship’. The Ashes, ‘the voice of cricket’ Richie Benaud, I remember in a lull in play at the Oval him describing some birds on the pitch, a truly English game. The Great Yorkshire Show, it’s history dates back 160 years, truly impressive a feast of rural and farming life. Britain’s farming industry the life-blood of the nation. The sound of the wind rustling the leaves of the Common English Lime trees. The Royal Tournament at Earls Court, the Edinburgh Tattoo in the shadow of the castle, showcasing the armed forces, put through their paces at what always seemed like breakneck speed. Harvest Festival, ‘all is safely gathered in’, marrows the size of Zeppelins.

Autumn continues with The Proms, Sir Malcolm Sargent, he felt like family, we had heard him on the radio and followed him to TV. The St Ledger, another classic event the climax of thoroughbred racing for the year moving swiftly on to the National Hunt Season. Green leaves turning red, yellow and gold. The Horse of the Year Show, Olympia and Sir Harry Llewellyn’s horse Foxhunter. Bonfire night, potatoes baked in the ashes, treacle toffee and Yorkshire Parkin, delicious. The Admirals Cup, Cowes Week, white sails on the Solent. Poppy Day, wearing our poppy with pride, Remembrance Sunday, standing silently, heads bowed at the cenotaph.

Christmas, Carol Singers (The Huddersfield Choral Society going village to village), Handel’s Messiah, a nativity at school, the red berries of holly, the smell of the tree and The Queen’s speech, the continuity and stability that our head of state brings.

All these national events had their corresponding local events which, whilst not as significant were equally enriching and enjoyable.

unknown plant 2These were the constants of my young life. In some respects they still are today although some have faded from existence, or the media don’t consider them newsworthy enough. This was the daily salt and pepper of conversation, these were the childhood games I played with sisters and friends. Cowslips, Dandelions, Buttercups, and Foxgloves in jam jars were our flower show, or we could all pretend to be Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire or Donald Campbell driving Blue Bird. The long sunny days of summer it always snowed in winter. We had a Television from 1953. As a family we didn’t all support Oxford or Cambridge we were finely divided.

These were the back-ground tapestry of my childhood and even in maturity they are still the constants of my year. They were the foundations and sign-posts of my year, not dull days, but things that added colour and were to look forward to.

And in the warp and weft, year by year, there would be other significant events that brought light and shade to my palette.

Polio 1952, Iron Lung 1952, The Coronation, 1953, Hillary and Tenzing climb Everest 1953, Rosa Parks, courageously keeping her bus seat 1955, Suez Crisis 1956, Sputnik 1957, Thalidomide 1957, Munich Air Crash 1958, Mardale – an Atlantis village reappears 1960, Cuban Crisis 1962, Flyingdale –‘We are watching’ 1963, Churchill’s funeral 1965.

And so many, many more: The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Wonderful Life, The African Queen, The Greatest Story Ever told, North by North West the 10 Commandments. Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bill Hayley, Elvis Presley, The Beatles.

What are the constants that will echo across the years for the children of the 21st century?

PS

You may wonder why the Sport of King’s looms so large in my constants? My father, the bread winner, worked with horses from a young boy eventfully becoming a National Hunt Licensee. One wage and six children meant there were no extras. But despite our poverty I never felt poor or deprived my life was rich and colourful and still is.

 

BREAKING NEWS

Charlotte-final

 

Finally, and at long last my novel, ‘Charlotte Deanfield – of a finer ruth’, has been published as an ebook on Kindle but also as a paper back on Amazon Books ISBN: 9781983172977 I had to change the title because no one, who reviewed it, knew what it meant until they had read it, my titles can be a bit obscure, “ ‘ruth’ a noun a feeling of pity, compassion, sympathy, understanding.”

Announcing a new arrival – Fanfare please! Charlotte Deanfield by Angela H. Moor

Finally, and at long last my novel, ‘Charlotte Deanfield’, subtitled ‘of a finer ruth’, has been published as an ebook on Kindle but also as a paperback: ISBN: 9781983172977. I had to change the title because no one, who reviewed it, knew what it meant until they had read it; my titles can be a bit obscure. “ ‘ruth’ a noun a feeling of pity, compassion, sympathy, understanding.”

I feel as if there should be a fanfare of trumpets this has been so long in coming to fruition.

I think it was easier to write my story than it was to finally get it onto the paper page. I’ve changed the title at least four times. I do hope you will think it was worth it.

This story is unashamedly for the romantics among us, I hope it will make you smile, laugh, cry, recoil in terror and then hopefully stand up and cheer. My protagonists are set in the beautiful historic city of Carlisle and the village of Dalston nestling at the foot of the Caldbeck Hills on the fringes of the English Lake District. If you thought that village life was sleepy and slow possibly this story will help you think again.

CARLISLE

Any journey starts with just one step, which can be taken in joyful anticipation of a happy journey’s end or in trepidation of the unknown. The story invites us onto a rich and colourful stage, the plot intrigues and the characters, facing the challenges or left wanting, are skilfully lead with drama, loss, laughter and tears, to its climax.

Charlotte Deanfield is a story of adversity, enlightenment, hope and love set in early Victorian England its historical panorama interwoven with the fashions and social mores of the time.

Marriage was the only acceptable career for the female of the moneyed classes. The function of this genteel barter, dubbed the “marriage mart” was to enrich further the already wealthy and build and embellish empires. The hedonistic pleasures of fashionable society the rewards for unfulfillment, to step out of this accustomed round was to invite disaster.

Charlotte, takes this fateful step and is plunged into a harsher reality than she could ever have imagined, a tide of rejection and adversity. She is cast into a new milieu of life bringing her unexpected adversaries, new friendships, values, joys and sorrows and all the time a story, told to amuse a child, and an ancient legend parody the coincidence of reality.

Charlotte Deanfield by Angela H. Moor

Available from Amazon Books UK as a paper back, ISBN:9781983172977 and also as an eBook

 

 

 

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens – Oh no!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

For many people this song ‘My favourite things’ from the 1965 film The Sound of Music might be thought as insipid, sickly sweet, even nauseating. But, surprisingly, if we did a straw-poll you might find that most of us know some of the words. I remember in my early twenties coming home from seeing the film at the local cinema with my friends singing our heads off as we walked along.

I was reminded of my memories by the commentators at the recent World Championships on the Gold Coast when a number of them alluded to the unforgettable memories participants would treasure as they carried off their laurels and stood in triumph as their national anthem was played.

I can’t recall ever noticing this particular observation before at the Olympics or other sporting or cultural event, though I am sure it is true. Of course, it set me thinking about my own favourite memories, though none of them could match winning a gold medal.

I was further prompted to reminisce after watching a very interesting programme about John Paul Getty which spent some time looking at the Getty Villa, on Pacific Palisades in LA. but more about that later.

I spent a pleasant hour or so one Sunday afternoon, after a particularly busy week, ensconced in a comfy chair with my feet up, dredging my memories thinking about my memorable moments, not memorable things, although one or two of them are physical objects.

Ian Angela's wedding 1973- 2

Naturally my wedding day and the birth of my son and grandchildren must be at the top of my list of unforgettable memories.  But I was quite surprised, having had so far, a fairly adventurous, interesting and often challenging life, that of my memories, and I eventually selected some and discarded others, the most-dear are relatively simple and not spectacular, because we have had quite a few of those over the years.

As I have said in the past, time travel is easy we do it everyday when we remember or are reminded of past events. The taste of blueberries and also ginger beer take me back to my early childhood in Yorkshire whilst the smell of ground coffee takes me back to my teens in Cumbria.

My earliest memories are of idyllic days trailing behind my sisters through wild rose draped hedgerows as we wandered through God’s own county. We used to go every day that the sun shone, which seemed all the time, to swim in the river pools in Thick Hollins Dike at Royd Edge up in the Pennines, crystal clear, but with rust red rocks on the water margins from the iron in the water. Far above the Dark Satanic Mills we would spend the day just like the water babies in Charles Kingsley’s ‘Fairy tale for a Land baby’. Our Mother would give each of us a small container into which we were to gather the bilberries that grew in profusion alongside the century’s old sheep worn paths. My sisters dutifully filled their containers with the luscious, juicy berries but mine would have a mere handful and there would be a big blue circle round my mouth from the juice of the bilberries I would greedily cram into my mouth. My mother always threatened not to give me any of the delicious bilberry pies that she made to feed her hungry brood.

Picture1Another childhood memory is of a new coat, a dark shade of azure blue with a velvet collar. Being the youngest of a family of six, every garment I wore was a hand-me-down from my older sisters. Don’t feel sorry for me, all families were like that in the fifties and early sixties. This coat was the very first new garment that I ever had, and when I wore it I felt like a princess in fact, Princess Anne had a very similar coat.

I love red shoes and I attribute this to a pair of high heeled red shoes that my mother had, also hand-me-downs from her employer, but when she wore them to me she always looked like a film star.

For every girl her first bra is a “rite-of-passage” and my eldest sister bought me mine, it had pink rose buds and the minutest frill of lace. This is the only memory from my teens that I’m willing to share. There isn’t enough money in the world that could persuade me to be a teenager again, though I did get to see the Beatles live twice and they were asked to leave a dance I was attending at the poshest hotel in the city, this was before the mop haircuts and the jackets; leather jackets were ‘pas la chose’.

_DSC0288a.jpgWalking through the archaeological ruins of Carthage and the El Jem Amphitheatre in North Africa; nose to nose with a giant Groper and Nemo’s clownfish cousins on the Barrier Reef; the terrifying antiquated, rusty cable car and the history and horror of Masada; swimming with dolphins in the Red Sea; petal shaped dabs of sunlight shimmering and flashing on the water of lake Geneva; Caraway Bread for breakfast in Copenhagen; being stopped for speeding in New York State; the fairy tale that is Niagara in winter; a staggering lightning storm in the Glass House Mountains in Queensland and Hells Angels on the Nullarbor plain in Australia; and sea gulls washing the salt off their feathers in the river Sid at Sidmouth in Devon, all cherished memories. Unforgettable and so many, many more, I have been blessed._DSC0304a

It has been surprisingly difficult to pick the best of memories which brings us back to the Getty Villa This is a truly opulent building, a copy of a Roman Villa in Herculaneum destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, no expense spared, the repository of Getty’s fabulous Greek, Roman and Etruscan sculptures. Much to see and absorb so many things I might have chosen to remember but the strongest memory for me was sitting in the tranquil east garden eating our picnic. There were no other visitors there to disturb our peace, but we were not alone within moments of our sitting down on a stone seat tiny jewel like lizards came out of hidden crevasses to stare at us and we became the exhibit, they seemed to have no fear and after deciding that we would do them no harm they went about their business some to bask in the warmth of the sun others to hunt the many insects that shared their domain.

Of course, we have had our fair share of unhappy memories too but I choose not to dwell on the. The memories I have shared are the short list and I hope that as I get older I’ll accumulate more to add to them.

What we allow into our minds is what comes out of it so negative dark reflections I choose to expel Philippians 4: 8 is my mantra. Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.

I would recommend this memory exercise, I remembered not just the events but remembered also those who I had shared them with, the warmth of the sun or the breeze or the smell of trees or flowers, the taste of the air, the sound of the sea. A real sensory journey through my life.

P.S.

Sometimes I forget that this Blog was initiated to hopefully encourage people to read my Kindle ‘indie’ published novels, two so far. ‘Reflections of the Old Past’, and  ‘Red Sky at Dawning’: The Time Oak.

Watching Country file’s Royal Special this evening on BBC1 was like stepping into the pages of my Kindle ‘indie’ published novel ‘Red Sky at Dawning’: The Time Oak.

I found the programme encouraging, because for every author self doubt is never far away. I was reassured, whilst my story is entirely fiction it is also credible and current at the same time. My story charts the highs and lows, mistakes and triumphs, laughter and tears of the relationships of my characters often bitter-sweet. I hope is also expresses some of the culture and character of this green and pleasant land in which we live.

redsky3‘Red Sky at Dawning’ has been described as lyrical but readers have also expressed that the climax took their breath away.

The book is available on Kindle books, a free app will allow you to down load it to your iPad or posh phone, for the princely sum of £2.44, thanks to those who have already bought it.

 

 

_novel-1c-copyA recent review of my first published novel, ‘Reflections of the Old Past’ likened it to be a cross between Agatha Christi and Jane Austin I’m taking that as a compliment.

 

 

 

Vilified for putting someone else’s life before their own?

Tags

,

SuffrageIn this year, when the world is highlighting the role of women, and some almost Neanderthal attitudes and actions of men to women, I want to be; romantic, feminine, a home builder, a mother, a wife, a career woman, my gifts recognized, given equal opportunities and paid equally, encouraged and encouraging, gentle, empowered and empowering, not patronised, condescended to, humoured or the nominal woman in the plan, and I want to be an equal partner with men and women. But most of all I want to be myself and if I choose to be any or all of these, and I of course recognize that some still need addressing, I don’t want to be criticised or bullied because I don’t fit other people’s perceptions of who I should be.  There is a lot of bullying going on in the world today we seem to have got out of balance like a pendulum swinging too far in one direction. When things get out of balance eventually they stop or breakdown and there will always be pain.

An everyday example of this type of injustice is the way women who choose to stay home to care for their family are mocked and made to appear inferior. Vilified for putting someone else’s life before their own.

We must applaud the growing awareness of any inequality in the world we can speak about injustice and unfairness with passion, persuasion and determination but we do not have to be strident, derogatory or bullying. If this is to be our tone what difference is there in what has maintained any imbalance in history, ‘those who have the biggest stick and can shout the loudest usually get their own way’, and an equally unacceptable chasm will be opened.  I appreciate that sometimes we have had to raise our voices to beheard but let it be with dignity and not a snarl.

Suffrage 2

International Women’s Day, held on March 8, is an annual day that recognizes the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, with the first IWD being established in the early 1900’s through the women’s Suffrage movement.

Not every man is a sexist, exploitative, misogynistic moron and there are women who just don’t understand the “#MeToo” phenomenon that is sweeping all before it.

Each woman and man is quite unique and deserves justice, dignity, hope, equality, collaboration, appreciation, respect, empathy and forgiveness values that guide International Woman’s Day and should be shown to every human being on the planet.

 My recumbent cactus

Tags

, , , , ,

One morning a few years ago I woke up, thinking about the income tax forms I had to fill in. My day didn’t look promising but despite that my heart was singing ‘Where can I find some peace?’ (an amazing worship song by Phil Varley *) God reminded me of something then and this morning he reminded me again and so here goes.

Twenty-two years ago, I bought a cactus at my grandson’s first school fare, I don’t know why I bought it, there was nothing about it that really attracted me, I’m not a cactus fan, but you have to buy something and my friend had donated the cactus. It was 2 inches high. It wasn’t very interesting, green, spiky describes it.  I had no great expectations of it and consigned it to a corner in the conservatory, watered it spasmodically, re-potted it, it didn’t die, it just grew and grew. As it got older it got fatter, knobblier and slouched, in many ways it reminds me of me because along with how it looks, (fat, knobbly and slouching) it is very prickly, (I’m from Yorkshire) so you have to handle with care.

_DSC0863_DSC0878

About twelve years ago my recumbent cactus did something different, it grew a weird, furry, grotesque, wart. It did not enhance its appearance, I wondered if it was sick?

The protuberance, continued to grow. It made me feel squeamish, it strongly reminded me of the 1950s novel by John Wyndham ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘The Invasion of the Body Snatchers!’ Jack Finney’s novel, also from the 50’s. You could almost hear it grow, I watched it with some trepidation, and after two weeks, the wart,  was 7 inches long, hairy and bulbous at its tip, almost primordial!day-triffids

It was hypnotic and I kept stopping work to check its progress. One morning, to my astonishment, before my eyes, it burst open and unfurled the most fabulous heavenly trumpet like bloom. Its petals were like angel’s wings, rainbow tinged, translucent and ethereal. I just stood amazed gazing at it for hours it was so unexpected and touchingly beautiful. My ugly duckling had become a swan.

582688_340468176028120_703557606_n

Alas within 24 hours the splendour was gone, limp, withered and discoloured, you cannot measure my disappointment, I felt bereft. Every year since then this uninteresting, fat, knobbly, slouching cactus has put on this 24 hour display becoming more and more spectacular with multiple blooms.

I have got to say that each year I have hoped the splendour would last, it’s a forlorn hope I know, and I have wondered why God would create something so beautiful that is so ephemeral. “You’re the one all creation sings for.” This is a line in Phil’s worship song. You know if the cactus was growing a million miles away in a desert and no one ever saw the flowers it would still be amazing and also have fulfilled its purpose of bringing Glory to its Creator.

The parallels between the cactus and ourselves are obvious, sometimes we have low expectations of ourselves and others, we can look at our small endeavours and think they have no purpose but in God’s hands our small, random acts of kindness, can always serve his purpose. Like the cactus whose spectacular flowers last for such a brief time our creator sees our pinpoints of light in a dark world and it is amazing what a man can do when God takes hold of him.

thPS Both books have been turned in to creepily scary films and in the case of the Triffids a TV series. The Wyndham book is a good read and the films of both are well worth
watching unless you are squeamish, it just might cause you to put your house plants out at night the 1978 remake of the Body Snatcher particularly so.

* Where can I find some peace?  Phil Varley ©2009 King’s Church Catford London UK

 

 

PPS I was hoping to have my latest novel (really my first novel) ‘Of a finer Ruth’ published before Christmas but regretfully I just haven’t been able to finish the final edit. We live a busy life. But as a Christmas present to all my friends I am putting my two other publications, Reflections of the Old Past and Red Sky at Dawning: the Time Oak, as free books for a week at Christmas.

Red Sky at Dawning: The Time Oak – Kindle edition by Angela Moor … 

Reflections of the old past eBook: Angela Moor: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle …