So here is my Christmas Card to you all, dear readers, wishing you a HAPPY CHRISTMAS …
This is my Christmas card,
filled with bonhomie,
In a winter world,
who wouldn’t want
the sun to rise again,
grow stronger every day,
to feast and make merry
to stave off the dark?
We know that it may be
that His birth was not
in the winter months,
no deep, crisp snow lay
round about the stable,
or else the shepherds
would have been home,
not out upon the hills
watching for angels.
We know that the date
was stolen from wilder
gods, man chosen,
So how strange to find
God in a baby’s guise
weak and vulnerable,
born to teach love – and die.
… And a VERY PEACEFUL and JOYOUS NEW YEAR
Thank You so much for reading, commenting and staying with me through this past erratic year – much love to you ALL – Ann
ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂 If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann
pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again, please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂
Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write 🙂 Thank You
I don’t know about you – but I do not usually re-read novels. I may re-read a paragraph if, as I’m going through a book, I wonder if I understood properly something that was intimated, when subsequent events suggest I didn’t – but a whole novel – no. Even as a writer of fiction I tend to think that if I have read it – that’s it, done and dusted – there are far too many books out there to re-read fiction. Usually, if I have read a fiction book I have got from it all I wanted. Intrigue, thrills, laughter, a new perspective, escape … and then I look for the next novel to entertain me.
So, I can honestly say, I have never consciously re-read a novel. Now, I do know that I have sometimes started to re-read a novel … one that has come out in a new cover say …but as soon as I get into it and realise I know where it is going and that I have read it before I abandon it.
Just after January settled itself down, I was tidying a book shelf … !yes, unusual phenomena – but there were a few books that needed to be homed – so a bit of judicious shuffling had to happen! … and I spotted a novel by Terry Pratchett that I had not read – and I thought I had read them all over the years. Now I need to explain that #2 son had emptied his rucksack of books out onto these shelves, in what had been his room, before he set off to ‘climb around the world for a few years’ – and at some time he’d had a lot of Pratchett books too.
‘Nation’ is not part of the disc-world series, in fact it is not part of any of Terry’s other series either … it is a complete stand-alone. Weirdly, I hadn’t even heard of it. So I picked it out of the shelf and began reading. ‘Nation’ is set in a parallel world at a time we would call early Victorian, so much is recognisable and that which isn’t is just that little shift different and all this makes for an unusual and engaging book.
Mau, a boy about to become a man, has left his tribe as boys must, to go to the boys’ island, to come back a man. I do not think I will spoil anything by saying that as he leaves the island to return home a big wave comes, a tsunami … and all that follows is as a consequence of this.
I couldn’t but help think about the tsunami that hit Thailand, and neighbouring countries, on Boxing Day of 2004, and of the island of Koh Phi Phi where #4 son spent a few years, more recently. There 70% of the buildings were flattened, and up to 40% people of the ten thousand estimated to have been on the island at the time (including tourists) were wiped off the face of the land by the wave, leaving 104 children with no parents. Only 850 bodies were recovered, the rest remain missing.
After I had finished reading it I went to my Goodreads page to write a review … and while I was looking for the correct version cover to put on the page I realised that this book had been first published under Pratchett – Children’s books, then only later more generally. I wondered why it was ‘for children’ – as are a few of the disc-world linked novels – but decided it was only because it featured young people as the main characters as it is as intricate and full of meaning as many of his other books.
Yes, full of meaning – as well as being full of ‘funny layers’ and ‘hard truth layers’ and quirky asides. If you are a Pratchett fan you will recognise all these aspects of his work. If you have never read them – or just picked up one and read a little bit here and there, you may think that his books are too weird, too ‘other’ for your taste, but I would urge you to settle down and read a few, to get to know the city of Ankh-Morpork and the Watch as a start. You do not need to know about their world view (a world that is a disc, on the backs of four elephants balanced on the back of a celestial turtle, hurtling through space – it doesn’t really feature much) you only need to know a heaving metropolis populated by the adventurous of every kind of sentient creature that exists on their disc-world – be it dwarf or troll, werewolf or human, vampire or Nobby Nobbs.
So it was, that, after reading Nation, and feeling in the mood for more Pratchett I had to resort to re-reading a novel. I chose THUD!.
THUD! Is an exquisite commentary on our times. If you swapped out dwarves and trolls for Muslims and Christians you could be near the mark. And history – oh, history and how it can be manipulated and cause trouble in the mouths of the wrong people. And then there’s the Watch – Ankh-Morpork’s policemen – made up of almost the right mixture of beings to represent the inhabitants of the city… Sure – there are comic elements – in fact I know I literally laughed out loud more than once – but there … there it is – a fundamental message, glowing in the ‘dark’ of a ‘fantasy’ novel.
I have since gone on to re-read ‘Jingo!’ about War and those who actually wish for it, create it, push for it … to further their own agendas – regardless of the consequences to the ordinary people … also somewhat pertinent.
Do you re-read novels?
If so – What is your favourite – and how many times have you re-read it?
Do share – I’d love to know which novels you think are worth reading twice.
I was told to clear out the old bureau – the idea being that we are de-cluttering – bit by bit.
Hmm… Result – a huge bag of old (and very old) bills, bank statements, leaflets, birthday cards (saved for ??), random sheets of paper with notes on, magazine and newspaper cuttings (now no longer relevant), posters (now tatty round the edges) to go to recycling or shredding and composting.
Plus, many, many things, that I want to keep, that I don’t know what to do with, or where else to keep them, including a drawer full of photographs. At the bottom of the draw, almost lining the whole of the drawer, just where they had been placed about thirty-three years ago when we moved here, were two photographs in a long-sleeve. I knew what they were immediately. …. End of college photographs.
At Shoreditch Teacher Training College (actually situated in Surrey, at Englefield Green, over looking Runnymede on the Thames) as in many other institutions I expect, when the year group reached the end of their course a whole group photograph was taken … then, while the staging was all up and the photographer waited, we all ran off and came back ‘dressed-up’.
Look at this one – it should have been entitled ‘would you really want this lot teaching your kids?’
Can you spot me? Here I am in both … close-up … now can you find me??
Two things occurred to me (we will all be in our sixties) – where are all these people now?
If this is done nowadays (and I have no idea if it is or not) you can bet that the ‘costumes’ would be more than ‘dresses’ using the curtains from the halls of residence, or bedsheets as nuns-habit, or ‘flasher-man’ lab coats, or ‘funny’ hats and cuddly toys .. as now everything is ‘professionalised’ not just thrown together with a bit of imagination and no cash. I can imagine the local hire-shop would be at the ready to provide ‘funny’ outfits for prospective teachers (or whatever), the internet peppered with good ideas and where to get them.
So, if you are in one of these photographs do let me know! I’d love to know where you are now and what is happening in your life.
If you have a similar set of pics from your past – do tell! What does it make you think about?
Do you keep lots of things that you don’t want to part with – but don’t know what to do with either?
Did you find me – just click on the photo to enlarge (and clarify) it – if that helps 😉
… so this doctor said, to the woman on the Radio 4 programme, ‘I recommend that as you get older you change the radio station you listen to – choose a music station with music you like to dance to … that way you can exercise whenever you are working around the house – just dance!’
I grew up with Radio 4 on in the background (Home Service in my youth – if I am truthful) and though as a teenager I listened to Radio Luxembourg / Pirate radio and eventually Radio One (when they gave up fighting it and made pop-music mainstream) on my radio in my room while doing homework or reading in bed – Radio 4 was the sound-track to my home life.
After my parents moved in with us down here in Cornwall, Radio 4 was once again the default on the radio – and always on. When, because of her developing dementia, Mum couldn’t follow what they were saying and she began to get annoyed with Radio 4, I found that music stations were better for her … and for me. Radio 2 now became the default and, though I missed the thinking pieces, the reports and studies, and some of the humour from Radio 4 – I found I really liked the music played on Radio 2 as so much was ‘my era’.
Music of your own era is hard-wired into your brain. It is a fact that memories associated with music are extremely evocative and form some of the strongest memories. There have been various pieces of research that indicate that the emotional response that music can create may have something to do with this. Dementia patients, who respond to very little else, will suddenly join in with songs and music from their youth – singing along with Old Music Hall songs (as my Mum would) or be-bop-a-lula – if that bit younger.
As for me – hard-wired is the operative term – and it is both brain and body. There are some pieces of music that I just cannot sit still and listen to – I have to get up and dance around (or at the very least tap my foot enthusiastically)
So – I listened to the doctor – and dance as I go about my everyday life. And it works – okay – so it may look strange to see me pirouette and shimmy across the kitchen, utilising all my favourite belly dance moves – or mosh to heavy-metal in the dining room – but it keeps this old gal limber (love that word!) and if another lovely memory 😉 happens along with the song – it puts an extra smile on my face.
Now for your Saturday Smile – enjoy this video – and go on, GO ON! Why not? Have a dance around 🙂
What is your favourite music to dance to?
Do your have music-linked memories that return every-time you hear a tune?
It’s not really funny … I was wondering why the tax man kept sending me these little reminders to fill in my tax return. I mean, I distinctly remember filling it in back in September. I’m sure I did.
Eventually I go and look at my tax folders – where I put all the receipts, the bank record, the mileage notebook. Where, I wonder, is the print-out of the result of my filling in the tax form?? Hmm, maybe I better check in with the tax-man on-line.
OH! HOW TIME FLIES! My clear memory of doing my tax was nearly 16 months ago – and now I was in a PANIC.
You see, I am not good with numbers. See this blog here about dyscalculia. So all my number stuff takes me twice as long as average – as I check, and re check, that I have entered the numbers in the right way round.
It took me all day! To do the task that took my husband half an hour! (okay, so I have an extra section to fill in – but still!)
And I know I probably put it off in September because the thought of these forms just gives me the shudders – but I then TOTALLY forgot!
Now to Chill – here’s a nice little bit of calypso / reggae music called Time Really Flies — 🙂
There – that’s better 🙂 Smiling now.
How are you with numbers?
Does filling in a ‘number-based’ form fill you with dread?
Are you a very organised person? Do you buy throughout the year as ideas come to you?
Sad to say – I’m not one of those.
Maybe you are a blitzer – make a list and blitz the shops notching up scores until the whole lot is got?
No, I’m not one of those either.
Maybe you like to sit at the computer in late November or early December and order everything on-line?
Now, I have to admit I’d like to do this. However, if I am stuck for ideas this doesn’t work very well for me – real browsing would be better at triggering ideas.
I have a confession – I do not like shopping.
There, I’ve said it. I know, I know, we women are supposed to like shopping.
But I mean – who says?? No-one asked me!
I do not even like shopping for things, clothes, treats or gifts for MYSELF – let alone any other type of shopping!
A trip to the shops usually has me returning with either something, which I later decide is not the right thing after all, or nothing – except a headache – which I always come back with. (which is why the internet shopping is attractive – don’t usually get a headache doing that)
More than anything – I do not want to go to Plymouth, our nearest metropolis, and trail around the shops there – it is not just Plymouth – I just do not want to trail around shops in any town or city – it is not my thing.
You get the picture – Christmas shopping is not a joyous time for me – though I love to give gifts that I know the other person will actually want and like!
For the main presents ‘want’ and ‘like’ are the key words to me – however I am now resigned to the fact that I cannot buy what my loved ones will really want and likeand make it a surprise. Oh, yes – I forgot to mention that. I really would like presents to be a surprise. A surprise that also happens to really and truly be ‘Just What they Wanted’ … Yeah, right, in my dreams.
And so … no surprises any more for the big stuff – now the esoteric gifts (climbing gear – for instance) is ordered via a link to the precise item, or a description given that cannot be mistaken in any way, for the more usual things.
However, for ‘secondary’ or ‘stocking’ presents I like unique, interesting, different gifts if I can find them to suit the right people – and so, as I said in an earlier blog, I do frequent local quality Craft Fairs – like the one coming up at Upton Cross next weekend. (4th– 6th) where lovely things and beautiful paintings are to be found (as well as my novels) and these have to satisfy my longing to ‘surprise!’
I’ve told you that I was going along to see why I couldn’t sing – despite loving to sing. I set off expecting to be asked to hit a few notes, perhaps played on a piano or something for me to repeat, or a trilling ‘lalala’ to copy, perhaps even a rendition of “Doe a deer a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun, me … ” from the sound of music or just a ..me-me-me-me-me…Hmmm?
None of it, well not for a long time. My dear and lovely friend, (this is why I felt safe even though still vulnerable) made us both a nice cuppa and we sat. ‘Why do you think you cannot sing?’ she asked, without having heard the evidence (ie, me trying to sing.) ‘When, in fact, did you first think you could not sing?’ I did tell you before that she is of the belief that everyone can sing! Did I mention she is also a beautiful singer and ex speech-therapist?
As it happens the first time I realised I could not sing is etched in my memory. I must have been about nine – as I was in Mrs Snow’s class. I can see the room, the double desks on cast iron frames, the ink-wells set in them. Mrs Snow was choosing people for some sort of special choir. The actual reason is, for me, lost in time. I suspect it was something to do with the church, as our school was a C of E and we trooped next door to the church for various events.
‘All those who would like to be in the choir put your hand up.’ Me, me, me, my hand up and waving. She picked out about a dozen, maybe fifteen, hand-wavers. Pointed at me and said, ‘Not You,’ then also to a contemporary sitting two desks away. This was a lad whose voice I had heard often in our ‘Singing Together’ lessons (A lesson broadcast on the radio and followed in class with special booklets of the songs) as he sat quite close to me and, I thought, sang like a frog. He was a keen joiner-in though so had his hand up for the choir too, finally a ‘Not you,’ for one other child, over towards the back of the classroom. Everyone else who wanted to sing was chosen.
It was obvious to me then … I knew the lad couldn’t sing .. so I must sing like a frog too.
Sadly that was not the only time I was deterred from singing, my dear OH wonders aloud ‘if I am ill’ if he hears me singing loudly in the kitchen (as he often does – as I love to sing along to the radio) and I was even asked to mime at the end of an Am Dram panto as I was ‘putting the others off in the last big chorus.’
So, after an hour of chat and probing about my memories of singing, which included the times I liked to sing, happier memories of singing and the like, she gets out the words to Good King Wenceslas. ‘Lets have a go at this,’ she says, ‘but as you sing I want you to swing your arms from side to side.’
And so we did. We sang the first verse together.
‘Perfectly in tune,’ she says. ‘Next verse you sing ‘the King’ I’ll sing ‘the page’.
‘Great – perfect. Next verse, together..’
Well I was right in the swing of it now I thought (arms swinging away rhythmically too, to help distract me from thinking too much – I think) ….. but when we came to the second half of the verse my voice went to pot…… ‘Ah HA!’ she said, ‘You tried to sing that high when it didn’t need it and it went everywhere!’
And so it had.
‘You could be as low as a tenor,’ she said, ‘or at least second Alto. And if you sang naturally low even as a child you may have not blended in with the high voices of the rest, so that Mrs Snow wouldn’t want a low voice mixed in with the general high voices. You sing low – but not out of tune and not like a frog!’
‘I suspect that you try to sing like others around you, but the melody line is frequently out of your range so your notes go all over the place – which explains why even in later life you have been told not to sing.’
So, like the Page I follow, placing my feet in the footprints as we ‘siren’ swooping from high to low and back up high – and higher. Good vocal stretching, silly noises that are not singing but may extend my range. I am to practise.
We are going to have another meeting. None of this is to teach me to sing… but I now know that it is not without hope. If I choose I can find my voice – perhaps have some singing lessons, perhaps join a choir that needs low voices… exciting or what? Certainly something to sing about!
Do you remember ‘Singing Together’?
Have you ever been told not to sing?
Is it possible that it is only a misplaced voice?
Can we really all sing??
What do you think – do share, you know I love to hear from you.
Some are of the opinion that doodling is akin to ignoring the meeting altogether. Not so! In fact it has been shown that those who doodle actually are taking in more than those who merely sit and listen. Even if I am chairing the meeting, I usually end up with a doodle or two – usually around the items on the agenda that cause most discussion.
Doodles, it is said, can also be interpreted, sharp angular ones indicating dissent, or difficulties, loose flowing ones indicating calm and non confrontational thought. I really can’t comment on this! Enough about doodles – on to some real Art!
If you have been watching The Big Painting Challenge you will, by now, be a little familiar with the contestants. Next time you watch please notice Anthea. Anthea Lay exhibits her paintings at the same morning market that I mentioned last week, where I take my books as an opportunity to meet friends and the buying pubic, and has become a friend.
A long while ago I asked Anthea about painting a picture that I could use as a cover for my next book. At that time I had only just started writing but I knew my main protagonist was a woman who was very involved in art, and I felt a cover that was, and looked, like a painting, would be appropriate. Fast forward to this winter and I now know where my protagonist lives (in a fictional village near Kit Hill in the Tamar Valley) and much more about the story, so I commissioned Anthea to create this fictional scene.
To assist with the transition of my idea to her vision I gave her a photograph of a ‘wild’ sky I had taken over Caradon mast, another with Kit Hill in the background, saying the fictional village could be on the ridge by the valley full of trees you could see, a photograph of a converted chapel that I had in my mind’s eye for the home of the main character and a plan of the ‘village’ that I created to make sure my characters move around their landscape properly; and then asked if all the relevant details could be squished onto the right hand side of the painting as this would be the front cover. Tall order!? Not for Anthea! ‘Landscapes’ are Anthea’s thing and she usually paints only from life but she had fun creating this new, imagined and ‘painterly’ landscape and I am delighted. So lucky to have such talented friends!
The sky is suitably ‘Turner-esque’ and though from a ‘real’ sky looks as if it could only exist in a painting, the salient points in the story-village are identifiable should you wish to do so, the whole countryside effect is perfect.
To be turned into a book cover it, obviously, has to have the title and author’s name across it.. and blurb and other info on the back – to give you all an idea I have just added the words to the front cover part (not done professionally – words will be better and properly spaced on the real thing) The whole painting will be used for the cover – running right through onto the back.
Okay… so I suddenly realised that it is February and my next birthday – marking the end of being just 60 – is coming up rapidly. I had intended to try 6 new activities / experiences in my sixtieth year and so far I have only managed three. So I need to squeeze three into the remaining month and a half!
Luckily I have one lined up already – I am going to find out why I sing so badly and, with any luck, learn at least how to keep in tune.
Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE singing …. it is just that other people around me do not love my singing very much… well, not at all. (The OH usually asks me if my stomach is hurting or something if he’s within earshot)
But it doesn’t stop me because I LOVE SINGING! It makes me feel good! It keeps me cheerful!
I can be found upstairs singing familiar songs from the sixties and seventies, complete with hairbrush ‘mic’ 🙂
I can sometimes often be found dancing and singing around the kitchen, especially if I have radio 2 on and the songs they play are those I know well.
I even apologise in advance to new people near me if at a church service because I will (and do) sing in church (My reasoning is that He made my voice so He must like it 😉 )
And even at the Country Market I go to on a Wednesday morning with my Novels to meet friends and the buying public (My OH calls it my social-club) I sing, though not too loudly, 🙂 as I do not want to frighten-off the customers!
Strangely, though I can tell a duff note when other people sing to music – or even play music – I could not tune my own guitar when I had one, not being sure whether I was hearing the same note or not. I used to say I was tone deaf – but have since been told that this is rare and so I am probably not.
A dear friend who is not only a beautiful and talented singer but also a trained speech therapist is coming to my aid. She, of the belief that everyone can sing, asked me to do a few simple singing exercises and as a result has become interested to discover why it is that I can hold a note sometimes – but at other times I cannot.
This exciting revelatory experience will begin next week .. so I have to think hard and plan quickly what my other two New Things will be.
On my original list I had both things I would LIKE to do and things I would not like to do – in fact things that SCARED me – but I thought I ought to try before it was too late.
So which would you choose, something you would just like to do … or something you are a little scared of doing but feel you ought to try before it is too late??
Answers in the comments please – you know I listen to You!
Well, when you SAY it as opposed to READ it it does cause confusion (and a little consternation if not concern) however, this is all soon put right when I explain (waving hands about) that I mean dyeing – with COLOURS from natural plants.
A good friend of mine runs workshops from her beautifully converted small barn at Nine Acres near Callington, Cornwall. Workshops on all sorts of crafts. This one was on DYEING USING NATURAL PLANTS .
So on a chilly morning we met and after a welcoming cuppa went out into the garden to see some of these plants in their natural state. Now, as this was early winter most were as as stalks of dried out flower stems, or low growing base leaves, but it gave us the idea about the ones that were native or could be grown easily in the UK
Back in the barn we were shown a range of plant material we could work with, some harvested from Jane’s garden, some bought in, some native, some not.
There were eight of us and four work-stations and it was suggested we pair up and each pair work on a different dye in the morning, and yet a different one in the afternoon. Some people had come together, easy pairing. I was there for a very specific reason.
Jane had been to our WI and demonstrated dyeing using Woad, a native plant, and I wanted to know about dyeing using other native plants.
I said ‘I want to dye with WELD,’ and immediately another guest said, ‘yes, me too!’ This is how Sally and I started working together.
As we gathered the ingredients together I confessed I wasn’t so much interested in dyeing for the product – but that I was researching for a book I want to write one day. Her response was ‘Me too. I’m researching for a book.’
We worked on the WELD, producing a yellow dye which we then coloured some prepared sheep-wool with. As we worked so I learned of her Trilogy about the real historical figure, Caradoc, set in AD 25 onwards and I told her of my idea to write the legend (that doesn’t exist) to explain the naming of our church after an obscure Irish nun from the late 600s. Both of us wanting to absorb the sights and smells that may permeate the backgrounds of our stories.
Now when it comes to researching for novels it can often be done at a remove. You can find many things out now with a carefully worded internet search request and a few clicks of the button. I have also ‘flown’ myself to different parts of the world when researching as I mentioned here in another blog – where I wanted my main character Luke Adamson in The Angel Bug to travel to a prison facility in the USA.
Then you can ‘pick the brains’ of people you know (policemen / doctors / engineers /whatever) for the bits that research cannot really tell you – sounds, smells, pain-levels, consequences etc.
You can also ‘extrapolate’ from your own experiences. You take the feeling / physical experience from say, the scary experience when some idiot was overtaking and caused a near-miss situation … and develop that snap-shot gut-twist into the feeling that your character has in a near-death situation.
And then you can do some first hand work and absorb these sights, textures and smells yourself.
In the afternoon we worked with the third native natural dye – Madder, though the dried root we used was un-soaked, so did not give the deep ‘Beef-Eater Uniform’ red it should. The scent of under-simmering madder (you mustn’t let it boil) seemed sweet in comparison to the ‘cabbage smell’ of the weld, especially noticeable as we compared them directly. Then at a whim we mixed the remaining Weld Dye with the left-over Madder liquid to produce a pleasant peachy colour.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at Authors researching and the world of workshop experiences. I am happy to say that Sally’s trilogy will be published by my partnership publisher (Pendown Publishing) so we’ll get to see more of each other as our books go out together into the market.