Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Red Letter Day - Manchester 2004

14:08:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , , , No comments

I can’t possibly write on the theme ‘Red Letter Day’ without mentioning The Moody Blues. Sorry if you’ve heard it all before and if you know me you will have had chapter and verse for years – I’ll try to keep it brief.

I’ve lost count of how many concerts I’ve attended and which towns and cities I’ve stayed in ‘on tour’. I loved being on my home turf at the Manchester Apollo, 2004, waiting outside after the show, as close to their tour bus as possible. This ritual has rewarded me many times with waves, smiles, autographs and photos, usually in the nano-second it takes for a band member to emerge from the stage door and climb onto the huge, state-of-the-art motor home style of transport and disappear behind the one-way windows. I stepped inside once. Invited, of course, not gate-crashing. I was allowed up the steps into the front, next to the driver from where I could pass my concert programme to the guys for signing. They were on the other side of a low partition.  Breathless with excitement, I was so incredibly happy to be there. The previous eight or nine months I had spent in treatment for cancer. My personal goal was to recover sufficiently in time for this concert, which had been booked long before my diagnosis and it was great to have achieved it. I stood trembling with joy, hardly looking my best and feeling a bit vulnerable with newly growing hair. I was braving it without my usual bandanna. I’d taken to wearing red lipstick and dangly ear-rings like it was my feminine fashion statement. We all smiled. I said ‘Thanks for the music’ in a shaky voice and stepped down to the pavement, my treasured possession of a signed programme held close. It was over in seconds and meant the world to me.

There have been many concerts over the years. Every UK tour means at least three dates and for those further than Manchester we book a hotel. We’ve had holidays in London wrapped round concerts at the O2 and the Royal Albert Hall. I’ve collected more autographs, photographs and had longer chats with band members and their musicians, but most of all I have happy memories of what they bring to the stage and the music which is the sound-track to my life.

The Dream

When the white eagle of the North

Is flying overhead

And the browns, reds and golds of autumn

Lie in the gutter, dead

Remember then, the summer birds

With wings of fire flaying

Come to witness spring’s new hope

Born of leaves decaying

As new life will come from death

Love will come at leisure

Love of love, love of life

And giving without measure

Gives in return a wondrous yearn

Of a promise almost seen

Live hand-in-hand

And together we’ll stand

On the threshold of a dream

                  Graeme Edge
Thanks for reading, Pam x

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Red Letter Day For The Feet

19:24:00 Posted by Steve Rowland , , , 1 comment
When you have a family as large, as close and as long lived as mine is you're bound to have a fair few Red Letter Days (RLDs) along the way.
One suffers, we all suffer, one celebrates, we all celebrate.  In style.  So far, touch wood, I've been incredibly lucky in my life, with far more happy, celebratory days than sad ones. 
There are the obvious celebrations - births of children and grandchildren, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, special birthdays, including one ninetieth - but I suppose if you have too many celebrations they stop being RLDs and start being a bit run of the mill.
Don't get me wrong, all those celebrations have been special in their own different ways, united by the common thread of family and friends, but the real RLDs are the ones that had been either long awaited, painfully achieved or unexpected.
When our daughter left school, declined university and insisted she wanted to work in Superdrug for the foreseeable future we reluctantly accepted her choice and never imagined we would be watching her throwing her brand new police hat in the air a few years later, alongside those of her newly qualified colleagues.  The pride we felt in her that day was matched only by the pride we felt in her two brothers a short while later. 
We had always said we were proud of our children whatever they chose to do, we just wanted them to be happy. This sounds like a cliche - and it probably is - but it doesn't make it any less true. Ask any parent, they want their children to be happy, above all.  It's just that sometimes the child doesn't really know what will make him or her happy. 
We were quite laid back parents in that we never really pushed our kids. We encouraged them (and I do remember a fair bit of shouting during the GCSE and A level years - it did little, if any, good) so when eldest son Joe got himself to uni, graduated and then drifted about before setting to work laying carpets we kept our mouths shut.  The day he passed out from RAF training, complete with low flying planes and dramatic music was on a par with Laurey's Police passing out. Both times I fought back tears and felt as though my heart would burst with pride.
Still to come was number three child's graduation - slightly less dramatic than the pomp and ceremony involved in RAF and police events but an equally proud day nonetheless.  To see Dan in his cap and gown, with a First in Sports Science under his belt was another tear jerking moment. 

Three children, three very different paths, three uniforms, three fantastic results, two happy and proud parents, definitely three RLDs.

I mentioned birthdays earlier, and although they are great things to celebrate, they're not really achievements, not until you reach about eighty, when everyone tells you what a great achievement it is - which I would imagine makes you feel very, very old, and as though you should somehow be grateful.  I would guess it also makes you feel a little insecure - as though you've peaked and you might never reach that next great milestone.

My dad's ninetieth birthday, which I mentioned in a previous blog, was a great celebration for lots of reasons, not just that he'd achieved those nine score years and was still here, relatively unscathed, confident and competent enough to make a brilliant speech, but also because he was here surrounded by wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, brother-in-law, nephew, great niece and all the other halves that came with the above.  Not only were we there, we wanted to be there, celebrating those ninety years.

Another RLD.  

As a family, we are all great celebrators. I could go on and on, listing all the occasions we have got together and celebrated some milestone in our lives. I won't, it would take far too long, but before I go I must mention a day that stuck in my mind as my own personal RLD and that's the day I went for reflexology on my feet. 

You need to understand that although many people dislike their feet, I had a real hatred of mine. I think it stemmed back to the days when my mum used to take me to the Clark's shoe shop as a child. What I really wanted was a pair of dainty little sandals that I could clean with the natty tube of white paste with a sponge at the end, that we used on our plimsolls.  What I got was clodhopping black lace ups or a thick soled loafer if I was lucky.

How I hated those visits to the shoe shop. I was sulky and miserable and my mum was equally cheerful and determined.  I'll never forget the occasion that I was forced to try on a particularly ugly pair of dark brown loafers. I winced as I squeezed my feet in and hobbled across the shop, moaning.  The elderly male assistant took one look at me and my feet then turned to my mum and said haughtily, 'perhaps, madam, they'd fit her better if she liked them.'  If looks could kill that man would have collapsed in a heap beside me.

Anyway, back to my feet. They were wide with fat big toes and ugly nails. My daughter called them trotters and she wasn't far off.  So it was with some trepidation that I approached the lady who was offering free reflexology at a conference I was attending.  Whipping off my shoes and socks and drawing breath to apologise for them, the reflexologist picked up my feet and ran her fingers around them.  'Lovely feet,' she said. I looked up, thinking I'd misheard. I frowned at her.  

'Lovely feet,' she repeated, continuing to massage them. 

'You're joking?' I laughed, 'they're horrendous!' 

'Ah, but they're not,' said the reflexologist, squeezing and prodding, 'these feet are good, solid, walking feet. No callouses, no bunions, a bit of dry skin but nothing we can't deal with.  These feet,' she continued, looking at them fondly, 'get you from A to B don't they?'  

I nodded, 'I love walking,' I offered, as she continued to pummel.

'Good,' she said, 'keep walking and you'll always have lovely feet.' 
Something happened to me that day.  My relationship with my feet changed. I started to love them. They might not look glamorous, with dainty pink, sparkly nails, they might not be happy squeezed into a four inch heel, but by golly, those feet got me places.  They took me up mountains and down into valleys, they marched me along the prom with my camera, they whizzed me round the weekly shop, they stepped purposefully up stairs instead of standing still in a lift, and they turned the pedals on my bike.
I'll never forget that day with the reflexologist.  That was the day my feet and I made friends. Now that was a RLD.
The Red Letter Day That My Feet And I Made Friends by Jill Reidy
We were enemies
My feet and I
They were fat, ugly
And out of shape
No sparkly pink nails
Skin rough, flakey
Little toe squashed
Fighting for attention
Open toed sandals
Four inch heels
I was ashamed 

Until I heard those words
'Lovely feet'
Shocked, is that what she said?
Looked at them again
'They get you from A to B'
She was right
These feet take me everywhere
Up hills, down dales
Into town, along the prom
They pedal my bike
Lead me tiptoeing upstairs
Past slumbering babies

I look at them again
It's a Red Letter Day
We're friends
My feet and I
Thanks for reading, Jill

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Referred Growing Pains

Let me think.... no, I don't recall ever experiencing growing pains.

I remember going through a phase (don't ask me at what age - probably 5 or 6) where I wondered if I was really my parents' child. I thought perhaps I had been adopted or was part of some great social engineering experiment that everyone knew about and that I would read about one day. I might even be a strange fish from another star - you never know!

Such ontological speculations never caused me any grief and are probably fairly common for many kids. (When we are very young we just don't realise how much we look like our parents - it's a dead giveaway, if only we could spot it.)

Then there was the school field-trip to the Peak District aged 11 when I set off with a pair of size 8 shoes and returned from Castleton Youth Hostel with a pair of size 9 shoes instead - identical style and colour, don't know how it happened. It didn't hurt me but it must have caused some discomfort to the other poor unfortunate.

Therefore when it comes to growing pains I can only tell you about referred pain - that which a parent feels as she or he (in my case) agonises over the slights, setbacks, upsets and calamities that beset our children as they grow into the world. It really hurt (then and now) to see them suffer; and such referred pain is no respecter of degree, being felt over minor tribulations and major disappointments alike.

I won't embarrass anyone by citing specific examples, though there are many. It is enough to say this is how it was (and is). I'm sure all parents can relate to the phenomenon. It is born out of love for one's children and the instinct or desire to shield them from hurt. I'm sorry if any of the hurt was ever down to me.

A ceramic tile from dusty Crete
There are many things I like about starfish (asteroidea). One of them is their power of regeneration. If they lose a limb/pointer/tentacle they are capable of growing another one. They've been doing it for 450 million years. Fantastic and inspiring. The most lovely starfish we ever saw were huge colonies at a boulder-strewn beach on the Pacific seaboard in Oregon state.

This poem was written some summers ago for my daughters. It extends the biblical trio of faith, hope and charity (love) by two further factors. They've never seen it - until today. In fact nobody has seen it before...

Starfish Symmetries
a starfish lay in a tidal bay
gazing up through eternity
as the ocean of heaven
swept overhead

a starfish lay in a shallow sea
gazed upon by you and me
five-pointed symbol of endurance
and the power of recovery

you are beautiful creatures both
conceived in love
and raised in hope

if I can give you pointers
how to live your lives
I would name these five:
be honest
be hopeful
be loving
be happy
be kind -

and if you ever find
you're dealt a blow by fickle fate
then like the starfish we beheld,
be resolute, regenerate

Thanks for reading, Steve ;-)

Friday, 21 April 2017

Growing pains

Some say that " growing pains" are a figment of imagination. For me they were real and very physically aching. I remember coming down stairs, having been woken by these excruciating pains in my legs - like a toothache, a nagging ache with no let up. These were definitely not what my imagination conjured up.

At fourteen years of age I was very active. Deeply into ice skating for advancement and competition. I was working towards Bronze figures and inter Silver free skating plus my partner and I were to be the first pair skaters to represent the club and try for Bronze pairs. My practice regime was physically demanding...entailing weekend mornings, after school evenings...and I was even allowed an afternoon off school on a Wednesday to go to the rink, as it was not used for public skating at that time.

I also had off ice training, that in those days was not so vigorous as it is today...I had a few basic ballet lessons in deportment, balance and arm positions. At school I had use of the gymnasium at lunchtimes and could use the trampoline also. My coach also used me to illustrate lifts ...to my rather bemused young partner who was NOT expected to try them with me. Our first lifts were really my jumping from one hand to another - but that's all that was expected of us at this stage.

My other hobbies too were physical. Hillwalking and hosteling, cycling, roller skating and then just general playing (when I had time).
However, suddenly I grew 6" in six months ..I shot up. Everyone thought I was going to be really tall like my Dad (he was just 6'). And I ached...I don't know if it was the physical muscular activity that caused it or this sudden growth spurt. I overtook my partner so the pair skating was abandoned;(Michael never caught me up ). My coach thought this was even more wonderful, as now I was nearer his height but only weighed five and a half stone, so he could lift me with one hand way above his head (my mother hated it), but he never dropped me.
Then just as suddenly I stopped growing at 5'3". That was it ! No towering brunette! No lofty young lady. My growing pains were over...or at least the physical ones were.

Next on the agenda , as all teenagers experience, were the emotional growing pains. They were just as tough. Choosing the correct path for a career, taking exams, waiting for results. Making friends...breaking friends. Trying new things -- a summer job, a new hairdo, a fashion statement gone wrong, wearing makeup. Trying to be grown up. Meeting boys, going on dates, falling in and out of 'love'. Yes. The emotional growing pains caused aches and heartaches, alike.

 Today's two poems are about early love...not first love (that memory still makes me weep..but I was 'only sixteen'). They were written months apart about the same relationship...a distance romance...

 For my love.    26/11/68

   And as the miles between us slowly stretch on through the dark night,
   I feel no real pangs of remorse, for up to now there is no change
   In my life. I know I'll hear from you again-
   Yet I'm afraid lest I never see you again.
   If I say I love you now, it means forever.
   Never have I said these words before - 
   Though others professed their love for me-
                                         I paid no heed-
   But you were different, it meant that I could really give love
                                          In return for yours.
   Though the years and distance lie between
   I have my memories, my dreams and my hopes for the future.

It's Worn Off.      03/69

   And as I stir up those last dying embers of love,
   Trying desperately to revive the tiny flame,
   I realise the futility of it all.
   The sheer desperation of continuing it 
   Has worn off.

   Tomorrow is a new day and a new life,
   Tomorrow is the turning after which there is no return.
   I can see it all clearly now.
   The determination to hang on
   Has worn off.

Thanks for reading, Kath.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Growing Pains - Our Back Bedroom

 On Saturday morning I was upstairs in the spare back bedroom doing some ironing. Whoever is in charge of programme scheduling on BBC Radio 2 has shifted Sounds of the ‘60s to the ridiculous time slot of 6 a.m. until 8 a.m., so I’ve missed it. Instead of singing along to the Hollies, Marmalade, Love Affair and others who provided the comforting music of my younger days, I enjoyed the peace and quiet, alone with my thoughts.

I thought about the many make-overs the room had under gone with various occupants over the years. It was our room once. Magnolia emulsion on woodchip, Artex textured ceiling and I think it was a stripey carpet. We moved into the newly decorated front bedroom and, as children were our regular guests, we furnished this back room with bunk beds and made it a home for some of my teddy bears.

A nephew, about six years old, kept waking up with a headache one night. I sat with him, bucket at the ready for the inevitable sickness, and hoped his distress wouldn’t disturb his younger sister, our niece, who slept peacefully in the next room.

Our son arrived. He had the tiny boxroom at first. He had night terrors when he was a toddler until he was about four. It gave me terrors of my own when disturbed by his screaming. I would dash into his room to find him sitting up staring at something only he could see. He soon calmed down with a reassuring cuddle. Before he started school, we moved him into the back bedroom, now decorated in bright colours, mainly yellow and with a theme of cartoon style zoo animals. A few years later, while he was away at Cub Camp, we re-vamped his room with a Manchester United theme as a surprise to come home to. He loved it and was even more delighted, as we all were when Manchester United won the treble that season.

Our daughter arrived and the boxroom was suitably freshened up. When she was a little girl she suffered dreadful leg cramps. The pain made her cry and sometimes disturbed her sleep. By the time she was about eight, our son had moved into another room and she was resident in the back bedroom, now Barbie themed with bright pink curtains and sparkly pink painted walls. I would sit on her bed in this pink paradise, massaging ‘magic cream’ moisturiser into the offending leg hoping to relive the pain as we waited for the double dose of Calpol Junior to take effect. Growing pains, the doctor said.

Growing pains, whatever form they take, are the hardest pains of all. It’s the adolescent boundary pushing, teenage angst, tearful tantrums that is all part of growing up and discovering who we are and who we want to be, or think we want to be that I found the most challenging; both as a parent and with memories of my own teens.

In more recent years, our daughter and her boyfriend shared this room until they moved to their own place. Our son and his girlfriend made it home for a while and re-decorated it beautifully in brown and taupe, painting over the graffiti that I’d accepted was someone’s freedom of expression. This time last year they also found their own place.

This lovely, large back bedroom that holds so many memories is a spare room again. And there’s a cot now as our grandchildren are overnight guests. Our adult children are raising their own families and experiencing the next generation of growing pains.

I put the iron down for a moment and glanced through the window. I noticed the gentleman across the back was sitting out in the sun, newspaper and morning coffee to hand. Good idea.

This poem always reminds me of our son’s night terrors.

A Child Half-Asleep by Tony Connor
Stealthily parting the small-hours silence,
A hardly-embodied figment of his brain
Comes down to sit with me
As I work late.

Flat-footed, as though his legs and feet
Were still asleep.

He sits on a stool,
Staring into the fire,
His dummy dangling.

Fire ignites the small coals of his eyes.
It stares back through the holes
Into his head, into the darkness.

I ask what woke him?
‘A wolf dreamed me’ he says.

 Thanks for reading, Pam x

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Growing Pains - They Run In the Family

17:06:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography No comments
There are two types of growing pains, as far as I'm concerned. There are the well known physical pains that children suffer from as they try to keep up with their developing bodies; and then there are the emotional pains which don't get an official mention on Google. When the hormones kick in there's no escaping those emotional pains.  It's always just at the cusp of puberty, in that no man's land between carefree childhood and angst ridden teenage years. 

Just on the Cusp

As far as I recall, our own kids never went through physical growing pains but their teenage years were so long ago now that I find it hard to remember much of what went on.  Or is that Alzheimer's kicking in with me? Maybe it's like giving birth: horrendous at the time but somehow that gets forgotten and it's all worth it in the end. 

In fact, looking back, I think the whole family went through emotional growing pains together. Our three children were born so close in age (with less than four years from first to last) that each stage of their growing up was condensed into a short intense period of uncontrolled mayhem. 

I'd like to say their teenage years were probably the worst (and they might well have been as we didn't find out about half of went on until much later when we were all safely through it) but actually the years one to four of the youngest one's life, were pretty much hell on Earth. Dan cried constantly - and so did I. 

The day he started nursery I breathed a huge sigh of relief. With the other two at school I was beside myself with excitement.  Every single morning would be mine, and mine alone from then on. The euphoria lasted until lunchtime on that first day, when Dan thought he was Superman, jumped off the top bunk and broke his leg. He was off nursery (and I was off my head) for the next six weeks. 

Anyway, back to the teenage years.  I think we actually got off pretty lightly, although, as I say, what with the memory and the fact that we weren't privy to much of it till they were too old to be in trouble, means that I could be wildly mistaken. The few incidents I do recall are burnt into my memory: 

  • The sleepovers that weren't quite what they'd been sold as.
  • The slurred phone calls denying anything alcoholic had passed their lips.
  • A sixteen year old Laurey returning on the back of a motorbike as I was getting up to go to work.  My words, as we crossed on the stairs, were simple and to the point (the look said it all), 'I'll speak to you later.'
  • A fifteen year old Joe, spotted out in the garden in a sleeping bag early one morning. I can't remember now what the story was but I do remember being beside myself with worry that he was off the rails. To compound this I convinced myself that he was glue sniffing (rife at the time) due to the fact that he had sore lips and a runny nose (no doubt caused by a night on damp grass in a thin sleeping bag).
  • Some convoluted tale from Laurey about a purse she'd lost on the bus on the way home from her Saturday job. When I found out years later that she'd gone to her first nightclub and got so drunk that she hadn't a clue where her purse went I was very tempted to ask for the money back that had been given to her in sympathy. 
  • Meanwhile, Dan, the miserable toddler, had turned into a happy and sociable teenager, and the only incident I remember about him was when we went skiing in Italy one Christmas when he was about sixteen. He went out on Christmas Eve with Joe and Laurey, got so drunk that he had to be dragged out of bed at 6pm on Christmas Day and forced to dress and accompany us to our Family Christmas Day meal.  Under sufferance, he ordered a pizza, took one look at it, turned green and left the table. We didn't see him again till Boxing Day. 
  • And, in the early teenage years, the innocent questions and weeks of obvious puzzlement before the dawning understanding as things began to fall into place. The child who lay in the middle of the room, reading a teenage magazine, while all the family were sat around.  The piping, "What's an orgasm mum?" will haunt me forever.   As a parent who prided herself on answering all questions honestly, I knew what I had to do.  I just wished there hadn't been such an audience.  As it was, my mum, who had been a teacher and a Childline counsellor, launched confidently into a vivid description, leaving me breathing a sigh of relief, whilst I looked down into my lap and quietly squirmed with embarrassment. Spurred on by this result, the child continued to find even more probing questions within the magazine, the likes of which I will leave to the reader's imagination.  Suffice to say, I was glad to get up and make a cup of tea, leaving good old grandma in the Mastermind Chair (specialist subject "Sex Questions for the under Fourteens.")
Of course there must be more tales. I'm sure I spent much of the '90s tearing my hair out and phoning my mum in tears.  Fortunately, nature has taken pity on me and suppressed most of those painful memories.  Now, I remember, through rose tinted specs, the lovely holidays, the meals out, the birthdays and Christmases where we were all together, laughing and chatting.  I daren't ask the kids, maybe they haven't got the rose tinted specs and they're all writing blogs about what a miserable old tyrant their mother was back then.... 

I'm sure when my children have got teenagers of their own they will have a little more sympathy with the growing pains of their parents.  After all, I remember vividly my mum crying herself to sleep the night my sixteen year old brother bought himself a pair of Cuban heels (all the rage at the time - let's face it, the Beatles wore them).  With not only the Cuban heels but also the long hair and talk about getting a Lambretta, mum was convinced that he was in for a life of drug taking, mad racing  and delinquency.  At the time, as a fairly innocent, boy hating fourteen year old I was inclined to agree with her.  Fifty years on he's a respectable short haired maths teacher, in a suit.  And flat lace ups. 

Plus ca change and all that...... 

This week's poem is one I wrote a while ago.  I think it's relevant for today's theme, although maybe I should update it.  Apologies if you've seen it before. 

Oh Mother, Oh Daughter

A Poem by Jill Reidy
I wrote this in 1998 when I was 46, my daughter was 18 and my mum was 70. Dedicated to my mum from her favourite daughter, and to my favourite daughter from her mum. 

That dress
Pink stretch towelling
Plunging neck and a keyhole to reveal
A heaving teenage cleavage
The length was
Just this side of decency
Red patent shoes, platforms
High heels, crossed straps
I can see them now
Click clack click clack
They killed but I felt fab
Just fab

Mum watched me from the window
Brow furrowed
As I tottered, wiggled
Waggled, giggled
To the bus stop
She was never one of those
You're-not-going-out-in-that mothers
But I knew
I just knew
That she wasn't 

I didn't care, I looked great, I felt great
'Those white lips, black eyes
Like a clown'
She whispered it to dad in the kitchen
I'd heard, but I didn't care
I knew I looked great
The hooting, the wolf whistles
As I giggled and wiggled
Confirmed it
I was immortal, invincible
I got away with murder
I'd never be old like my mum

Thirty years
Gone by like three
Stretch lycra (we only had nylon)
Plunging neckline, bare midriff
Platform high heeled boots
To the knee
Skirt just - only just - 
This side of decency
Black eyes
Lips silver this time round
She totters and wiggles
Waggles and giggles

I watch from the window
Biting my lip
'what does she look like?'
Sighs her dad
'She'll freeze'
'She looks great,' I say
'They all go out like that'
I like her best with pink lipstick
And I wish she'd take a cardigan
She doesn't care
She knows she looks fantastic
She'll never be middle-aged like her mum.

 Thanks for reading     Jill

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Closely Encountered Clerihews

Clerihews! What on earth? you may well ask... and several of you have.

If this week's theme has proved one thing, it is that very few have ever encountered a Clerihew.  So, at the risk of sounding like a David Attenborough script, let us creep up on the little known fellow and observe it closely. What do we espy?

The Clerihew is neat and it is whimsical, but surprisingly isn't shy. Its structure is simple: it's got four lines and it contains two rhymes; (the first line rhymes with the second, the third rhymes with the fourth - aabb). It is also biographical, inasmuch as it contains the name of a (more or less) famous person in the first line and then proceeds to say something apt or witty about that person. For example:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered Sodium.

That is reputed to be the first Clerihew ever composed by the man who devised the form, one Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), while he was still a schoolboy in late Victorian London (and a classmate of G K Chesterton).

After  school and university (Merton College, Oxford), E C Bentley became a journalist, working for several newspapers including the Daily Telegraph and The Outlook (a particularly right-wing periodical). He also wrote humorous verse, per the template above, and published his first collection of Clerihews as 'Biography For Beginners' in 1905, which served to make the idiom popular and inspired several reputable poets to devise Clerihews of their own, including W.H. Auden.

Bentley couldn't stop churning them out and his initial volume was followed by two further collections, 'More Biography' (1929) and 'Baseless Biography' (1939), proving that there was a continuing public appetite for such witty little things.

Although the Clerihew is what Bentley is best remembered for (if he is remembered at all), that is a shame, because in my view his greatest service to literature was as a crime writer.

E C Bentley's detective novels, featuring the exploits of amateur sleuth Philip Trent, were much admired between the world wars and were championed by no less an authority than Dorothy L Sayers. With their clever and labyrinthine plots, they can claim to have blazed the trail for modern mystery fiction. They sold well as Penguin Mystery & Crime paperbacks and one of them, 'Trent's Last Case', was made into a very entertaining film in 1929 (and remade in 1952). From 1936 until 1949 E C Bentley was president of the Detection Club (for crime writers).

ECB - A Clerihew For You
I have to say I'm not a great fan of the Clerihew as a poetic form. It is slight and amusing and on a par with the limerick. However, I've swallowed hard and written one for E C Bentley himself and it goes like this...

Dear Edmund Clerihew Bentley,
There's no way of putting this gently.
You wrote great detective novels, it is true,
But when it came to poetry you didn't have a clue!

Well, let's hope we don't have to do that again in a hurry.

Thanks for reading, have a good week and may the Easter Bunny be bounteous, S ;-)

Friday, 14 April 2017

Clerihews...I never knew!

I confess to not knowing what a "Clerihew" was. So after reading some of this week's contributions I looked it up.

Interesting and just my type of ' thing'. Take a person's name (usually someone of importance, or known personally to the writer). Make sure that the name is at the end of the first line of poetry...then the second line must end with a word that rhymes with the name. Followed by two further lines ending with a rhyming word. Plus it must be amusing.

So it was that I knew I already had a poem like that. However my piece was short by two lines. So it is that this evening I am putting on my thinking cap to come up with the requisite number.

What I shall do (hopefully) is write out what I have (I'd written out in lines of two...not four as required )... then I shall write the added lines in italics (if I can!)

Then the amusing part is that none of it is true. It was a ' play on words' using the name of my dance partner ...who, I might add, is well over 80 years of age, and my own shortened name. Thus I'd almost written a " Clerihew" without knowing!

So here goes...

A Clerihew for you

Kind and gentle Donald Dixon
Met with Kate - the little vixen.
Kate was soon to discover
That Donald was an ardent lover.

So Donald Dixon, ardent lover
Took Kate home to meet his mother.
But his mother was not delighted,
Saying "Don your life is blighted ".

Now kindly Donald, gentle lover,
Wed with Kate ...expectant mother.
Kate she bore a son, first child
Who was gentle, meek and mild.

A year it passed and Donald caught her
And this time Kate she had a daughter.
This lovely daughter...second child
Was rough and tough and rather wild.

Thus Don's mother was proven wrong
Their life together was happy and long
As kind and gentle Donald Dixon
Spent years with Kate..a now tamed vixen.

I do hope you've enjoyed my few lines...which I trust is a "Clerihew"...

Thank you for reading...

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Clerihews - don't lose your head!

Ah the clerihew.  I had a brief encounter on an OCNW 'B' Unit course in creative writing in 2007. For one poetry assignment in poetic form,  I applied my small brain to the task of writing clerihews and because I also have a love of medieval history, decided to write a series.  Form poetry can be challenging and fun.

When it comes to the romantic exploits of Henry VIII, the basic memory trigger 'Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived', that has probably been indelibly etched on your brain since school days,  may not be sufficient information for immediate recall of the nature of such turbulent marriages. I hope that my clerihew series is enlightening, slightly amusing and useful to anyone who thinks that serial monogamy is the only way to fly. 

Take care though, a trip with United Airlines can be just as unpredictable.  At least passenger, 'unlucky number three', only got a thick lip and no doubt, a very good lawyer. These six, charming ladies had a far bumpier and more precarious ride: Two of them 'bumped off', one lost in transit and two others treated like baggage.  Here they all are, with my exhumed tribute.   

The Six Clerihews of Henry VIII

Queen Katherine of Aragon,
failed to bear her King a son.
Rome said no to his plea for divorce,
setting the church on a separate course. 

Vain, dark beauty Anne Boleyn,
accused of committing a deadly sin,
Inevitably she lost her head, 
for sleeping in another’s bed.

Best beloved, Jane Seymour,
Henry  was said to love, to adore.
All England shared in their joy
Sadly she died giving birth to a boy

King Henry’s next was Anne of Cleves,
hailed a political trick up his sleeves.
When she arrived, she was ugly as hell,
and very soon, Henry divorced her as well.

Young and carefree, Catherine Howard,
soon was branded a traitorous coward.
The terrible  scandal made Henry see red.
He stated, “Off with that strumpet's head.”

Lovely widow Katherine Parr,
most homely wife by far, 
loyal to the day that Henry died,
of six, the only marriage that survived.

Thanks for reading. Adele