Sunday, 25 September 2016

Rubbish - What A Waste

My name is Jill Reidy and I'm a hoarder.

There, I've said it. My husband's been saying it for a long time but I've only just come to terms with it. One of the big problems with being a hoarder is that nothing is rubbish, everything is vital to my life. Everything.

I have Justincase Syndrome (JS). Nothing is thrown 'just in case' I need it years later - that odd nut and bolt that fell off something, the piece of string (too short to tie anything in reality), the elastic band that the postman dropped...... I actually can't remember the last time I needed or made use of an elastic band. What do people do with them? When I was a girl they were used to tie hair into pony tails. Now, their only use seems to be keeping wads of letters together for the postman before being discarded on our doorstep.

I know my feelings are unreasonable and irrational but just as a hoarder's nemesis, OCD, is deeply ingrained and almost impossible to break, so is JS.  I have tried, I really have. For a short while I had a cleaner, who on one occasion went through all my kitchen cupboards, filling a huge bin bag with leaking sauce bottles, bulging tins of rice pudding and out of date spices.  When I discovered the bag I was devastated - what a waste! About 80% of the items were returned to the cupboards.  I did know I had to get rid of things that were no longer needed. The cleaner got her marching orders.

A few months ago, rooting through the same cupboards, I came across a packet of 'Carmelle' dessert mix (yes, I was puzzled too), to be used by 1993. I was fascinated. I couldn't remember buying it (or why) and even I was surprised it had survived Bingate.  Never one to resist a challenge, not only did I make it up according to instructions but I took it in four tiny dishes to a dinner party, where it was eaten with varying degrees of relish.


I blame my grandma and granddad for my hoarding tendencies.  Grandma took me to jumble sales from about the age of three, where we bought the most magical assortment of rubbish: huge unsuitable hats for her, limbless dolls for me; dresses that didn't fit, books with pages missing; old wooden boxes with broken hinges.  We would stagger home, laden with bags, back to granddad in his shed.

Granddad was ensconced in his own little rubbish heaven. Jars, filled with an assortment of nails, screws, hooks and other rescued items lined the makeshift wooden shelves, each jar carefully labelled (with a thick builder's pencil) in granddad's inimitable shaky handwriting.  Granddad would be constructing a tiny chair out of old pegs or painting a wonky picture frame he'd made the day before. Everything was made from rubbish. Recycling and upcycling were unheard of fifty years ago. Granddad was well before his time, although I suspect the constructions were often a red herring. The shed was granddad's escape from the mayhem of family life. In perfect peace he would sit on a deckchair, throw back his head and smoke the thinnest roll up I'd ever seen, only picking up his tools at the sound of grandma's approaching footsteps.

Just lately, I've been thinking about shifting attitudes towards rubbish. For a long time I felt bad hanging on to things that others would discard. It was my guilty secret. Now I'm proud to say I'm helping the planet, keeping those landfills empty.  I'm not sure my husband would agree. He's still nursing the bruised shin from tripping over a huge pile of flattened cardboard that I'm keeping.  Just in case.


Despite my enthusiasm for hoarding, avoiding waste and recycling I'm including this poem by Shel Silverstein as a dire warning to myself. 

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would Not Take The Garbage Out
Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She'd scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
"OK, I'll take the garbage out!"
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!
 
Thanks for reading,   Jill

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Rubbish That!

I seem to be a bit out of phase here (or ahead of the topical curve), because last week's poem already addressed the issue of rubbish, specifically litter on the beaches and in the seas around Greece. That being the case, a different slant on the theme is required this time.

The word rubbish is thought to have evolved from rubble and rubble is what iconoclasts leave behind when they smash things up, so I'm going to defer to our American cousins' tendency to create verbs out of nouns and will write about rubbishing stuff.

It seems to be human nature to deface or destroy for ideological reasons. Maybe it's not so far removed from animals posting their scent on top of other animals' scents to establish territorial rights.

The rising tide, be it racial, religious, political, cultural, even generational, rubbishes what it seeks to sweep away. I suppose it does this in order to render powerless whatever magic and allegiance was attached to the icons of the old order in the interests of survival of the new.

The first band I was in, at school, was called Pussy Smash The State. This was at the cusp of the seventies, when rebellion was the norm and we thought we'd topple the establishment by cutting a musical swathe through to a revolutionary dawn. Actually, what we really hoped to get was a spot supporting the Pink Fairies when they played a May Day gig at our school. It didn't happen. I guess we had plenty of attitude but not enough ability - six years too early for punk!

I remember seeing early Christian symbols carved onto the walls of temples in Egypt, and one only has to think of the desecration of religious totems in Holy Wars, Reformations, Revolutions and by conquering hordes down the ages (right up to the recent demolition of Palmira by so called ISIS) to understand the deeply unpleasant and destructive power of the iconoclastic urge.

The rubbishing doesn't always have to be so physical. Satire tilts at icons in an acceptable way.

Today's poem attempts to give the idea a humorous twist... still a work in progress so this is not necessarily its final form.

 

Postcard From The Ruins
While I still have hands to write,
let me dash off these few lines,
just to reassure my friends
everyone's having a smashing time
at the Iconoclasts' Convention.

We picked up our name tags
and collected our goody bags,
each in receipt of a poisoned pen,
a hammer and a bunch of ten
at the Iconoclasts' Convention.

So far we've punctured the lungs
of the singer of songs
and butchered a poet's rhyming cutlets,
broken the back of hope for the future
and burned a few manuscripts just for fun
at the Iconoclasts' Convention.

We've defenestrated the arbiters of taste,
a window of opportunity too good to waste,
and broken off our nose to spite our face.
Who knows how far the fun will go
at the Iconoclasts' Convention.
Yours in haste, Venus de Milo.


This Saturday Blogging malarkey has reached something of a personal milestone. After two years at the typeface - with four weeks off for bad behaviour - this has been my 100th blog. I know a few of them have been rubbish, but I hope on the whole they have found favour. Thanks for reading. Have a good week, S ;-)

Friday, 23 September 2016

What a load of Rubbish!

Like Adele I abhor litter and fly tipping. Often when I'm out hillwalking I come across discarded packets, bottles and sundry 'once picnic' items. Generally it's not seasoned Trekkers that leave the detritus but more likely casual visitors...those who want to 'bag' a hill . It's not that difficult for heavens sake! If you've walked somewhere with a rucksack of goodies then just return with the wrappings.

Now that I've a small camper van I like to pull in to make a cuppa or spend the night and it's very annoying to find litter lying about. Not only does it spoil the surroundings, it can be dangerous to livestock and wildlife. Once again I don't blame campers, I rather think it's day trippers in cars. A prime example this last weekend. I spent the night in a remote car park at Wet Sleddale (near Shap). During the night some local youths drew in  ...not causing any trouble, apart from a bit of engine revving. However in the morning I found their chip papers and pop bottles discarded, and the crows had been tearing the litter apart. Anyway I collected it and put it with my own waste and the following day I drove onto Shap to put it on a bin. That was the difficulty, as the bin in the car park in the village was absolutely packed..no room for anything else. So that brings me round to the provision of litter bins ....and partly to the problem in Blackpool, that Adele mentioned. It seems that not enough bins, nor enough of the correct design ...to keep seagulls out....to prevent strong winds carrying litter away are being provided. After all people in hotels are unlikely to take their litter back with them.

Visitors and tourists to the countryside must accept that bins are not to be found in remote areas, as there is no collection...so they must take their litter, dog poo bags, carpets, fridges and old furniture home with them!

Rant over.....

PS. I finally discarded the litter I'd collected, in Arnside , when I pulled in to watch the sunset.

The photo featured is of Wet Sleddale reservoir
 
Discarded

Dustbins outside the padre's house
Full of discarded confessions?

Thanks for reading ...see you soon...off on another trip....Kath

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Rubbish - it really makes me angry.

I know that I am not the only person who gets angry about rubbish - well more specifically litter. I have a sticker in my car window that asks people politely to pick up their rubbish.  Please use the bins provided. Please put your picnic or takeaway trash back into the bag that you used to bring it here and take it home with you. Please do anything - except leave it  on the promenade where it will blow into the sea.

The old idea of a message in a bottle, has to be updated in the age of global communication. Plastic bottles float and billions of them are now floating around in our oceans, trapped in circulating currents, forming massive islands of discarded, non-biodegradable material, surrounded by swimming chemical silage. Marine life is dying as result: sea birds, whales and larger fish get trapped and perish or they ingest the poisons that humans discard so carelessly.

I have recently been to a Greek island, where simply because the pipework is too narrow, it is forbidden to even put paper down a toilet. I live by the seaside and every time I walk along our beautifully modernised seafront, I am sickened to see plastic bottles, carrier bags, tins and takeaway food wrappers, blowing around or bobbing in the water, waiting to be picked up by the tide and carried out to sea. Why people imagine that the sea is a suitable receptacle for their rubbish is beyond me. What do they imagine happens to it all when it leaves their sticky mitts and drifts out of sight?

NASA have been tracking floating plastic buoys equipped with satellite tracking devices for over 35 years in an attempt to identify the circulating currents in the largest oceans on our planet. The picture shows were they are. In the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, an area where the warm waters of the South Pacific meet the colder flows from the Arctic, a plastic island has expanded to such a huge mass that it has been given a name.   The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (or Pacific Trash Vortex) visible from space and soon to be visible from the West Coast of America, more specifically California.



Messages in Bottles

We are the literati:
a 'sling it' generation,
the scourge of every nation
when disposing our debris.

Out there in our oceans
are a multitude of islands
emerging from detritus
that we dump into the sea.

NASA have been tracking it
by satellite and mapping it;
charting the expansion
of this flotsam misery.

There's one in the Atlantic,
another South of India,
heading for Australia,
two others, maybe three.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,
fed by hydro-plastic highways,
lies off the West Coast of America,
circulating happily.

Sea creatures who alight on it,
caught inside the blight of it,
wallow in the swell of silage,
leaked by industry.

Every day increasing
moving closer to the coastline,
a pelagic plastic island,
of pollutant dysentery.

Thanks for reading.  Adele


 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

ReVerb Ignites!

21:45:00 Posted by Adele Robinson 1 comment
What is it?
ReVerb is a new live arts club collaboration coming to central Blackpool.  The aim is to feature
original live music and spoken word on the same bill, show-casing some of the North of England's best bands and poets as well as giving a stepping-stone to upcoming local talents. 

Where and when is it?
Friday 30th September upstairs at The Catholic Club, Queen Street, Blackpool FY1 1PU, from 7.30pm until late.

Why is it?
For too long, Blackpool has been a bit of a black hole when it comes to giving a platform to live performance poetry and good original music, so Lancashire Dead Good Poets have joined forces with Gillespies Folk Club to bring you ReVerb .

We want you...
...to please tune in, turn up and support this new spoken word and live music venture. If the first evening proves to be a success, there will be more in the months to come.


The line-up for 30th September includes:
Shaun Kennion, a well-known local instrumentalist who captivates audiences with his sublime guitar work whether busking on the streets of Lytham or in a concert hall.

Steve Stroud, a local modern beat poet whose heavily lyrical verses spiral through subjects such as Blackpool clubbing, religion, narcotics and why Jeremy Kyle is an abomination. Winner of the Dead Good Poets' Tram Slam, he is currently working on his first publication, 'Inkclot'.

Rose Condo, a writer, performer and multi-slam winning poet who hails from the Canadian prairies but is now based in West Yorkshire, Rose regularly performs at spoken word events across the North. She recently took part in the Hammer and Tongue National Slam at the Royal Albert Hall and the 2016 BBC Fringe Slam in Edinburgh.  Rose will perform her new solo spoken word show, ‘How To Starve An Artist’.

The Blackaways, a terrific four piece outfit, mixing acoustic guitars, mandolin/banjo, electric guitar, bass and drums that really rocks the folk scene. Their 2015 album, ‘North Pier’ introduced 11 original songs, with themes ranging from an Irish Bar in Willesden to a dream about Marilyn Monroe.

Ticketing information:
Advance tickets are available for £5 via PayPal to reverbevent@gmail.com or if reserved by email to reverbevent@gmail.com. They will be or £6 on the door on the night, subject to availability.
 
The ReVerb Team :-)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Curiosity

It might have killed the cat but curiosity has greatly enriched my life. There's a fine line between curiosity and nosiness, and I think I straddle that line rather precariously. I'm hugely curious (aka nosy), I always have been. Ever since I was tiny I wanted to know who, what, where, when and why.  Ad infinitum.

Young children have a natural curiosity. They need to make sense of this strange world in which they find themselves.  A newborn baby's first sensation is through his mouth, via nipple or teat. It's no wonder that their mouths continue to be receptacles for every lump of earth, piece of fluff, coin or small toy as they roll and crawl their way around. This is fine when your baby is grabbing a handful of shepherds pie and sending it in the vague direction of his face, but not quite so clever when you're washing out a mouth filled with soil and worms.

Curiosity is the catalyst for exploration.  If humankind had not been curious we would never have split the atom or got chicken nuggets. A mixed blessing some would say.

I realise now that my curiosity is the push I need to sort out problems of any kind.  If it's the Hoover that's bust I'm quite happy to take it to pieces to discover where (this bit goes), why (it does what it does), how (it does it) and what (the hell I am doing, wasting time like this when I've got a husband who should be capable).  Emotional problems often follow a similar course (why is he doing that? How can he be so selfish? What can I do about it?)  The questions – and potential answers – are endless.

For some unknown reason I share a trait with my mum. We both believe that we can solve all problems with just a little determined delving. Copious amounts of tea, a shoulder to cry on and a large roll of sellotape can all come in very handy but the starting point is curiosity.

My mum tells me that ever since I could go off on my own at about the age of eleven I would come home with a story. The overheard conversation on the bus, the group of kids who were misbehaving, the family making a meal of eating out.  Everywhere I went there was a tale unfolding. My life was spent watching a series of real life sitcoms.

I'm sure curiosity was the basis for my burgeoning interest in street photography, the photographic equivalent of earwigging.  When we go out together these days my long suffering husband now has to put up with me not only shushing him so I can hear neighbouring conversations but also shifting him out of the way so I can shoot some unsuspecting soul with an interesting face.

Thinking about my husband's lack of practical skills and the fact that he rarely joins in a communal conversation, I was hit by the sudden realisation that he simply lacks curiosity.

He has no desire to listen in to a conversation if it doesn’t mention music, football, films or beer.  There’s possibly one other category but I won’t go there.  If he’s on the phone, I’m desperate to quiz him when he finishes (and sometimes before),  “Who was it? What did he want? How’s his wife? What was he saying for you to say……..” and so on and on and on.  However, when I come off the phone, he doesn’t so much as ask who it was.  He simply has no interest.  If the toaster blows out black smoke Dave doesn’t question it – he has no desire to know why, and certainly no desire to take it to pieces.

I’m thinking this could be a problem to delve into a little more deeply.  Put the kettle on Dave, it’s time to investigate.



Curiosity (by Alastair Reid)
Curiosity
may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.
Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems,
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.
Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die–
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.
Only the curious
have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.
Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.
 
Thanks for reading,     Jill

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Curiosities

Your Saturday Blogger is back from dusty Crete sporting a suntan and a broken finger, the hallmarks of a good holiday. It was a much-needed respite from the topsy-turvy house on the strand, work on which is still in progress. (I may treat you to fables of the reconstruction next week.)

There was a time, forty years ago on my first visit to dusty Crete, when everything was in Greek alone - road signs, public notices, menus, advertisements, shop signs. Nowadays, to reflect the pervasion of the international tourist, English is pretty much everywhere as well - which is a shame in many ways, for it detracts from the 'Greekness' of the experience and makes the tourist lazy.

There is a silver lining to this cloud of globalisation. Occasionally, a well-intentioned attempt to sign in English can yield some amusing curiosities. These errors in usage can also be strangely poetic, something gained in translation. Two of my favourites from the recent holiday were a  hand-painted sign on a roadside orchard wall that read "Kindly do not tough the fruits" and a notice inside the entrance to a restaurant in Heraklion that requested patrons to "Please wait to be sated".

Then there was this sign-board on a beach-front shop, pictured below....


It took me a while before I clocked that, in addition to fruit, bread, milk, batteries (all bursting with freshness of course), it was also possible to purchase Sea Gods:


Fantastic! Clearly the owner intended to advertise his stock of sea goods (lilos, inflatable crocodiles, rubber rings, foam tubes, fishing nets etc) but I loved the idea of a trade in mythological Hellenic deities of the sea being fronted through this beach-side store in 21st century Crete.

Greece is a nation of hundreds of islands, of which dusty Crete is the largest, followed by Eubeoea, Lesbos and Rhodes and then another 200 habitable islands of decreasing size. It's no surprise then that the role of the sea has been central to the development of Greek civilisation and culture and no surprise again that Greek mythology is littered with a pantheon of over 100 sea deities. Google Greek sea gods if you have the curiosity, an evening to spare and a good bottle of retsina to hand.

These sea gods between them embodied, epitomised or represented every aspect of the sea (storms, tides, waves, whirlpools), its contents (dolphins, krakens, whales) and the dangers it posed to mere mortals. The deities were propitiated (kept sweet, basically) through rituals performed at shrines in their honour. At their head was Poseidon, brother of Zeus. Poseidon, with his trident, ruled over seas and oceans.


Verdigris
With our junk culture,
we swarm, we litter
in thoughtless droves,
each act of hubris
a heedless desecration
of the green of Greece.

It seems to me
sea god,
as you rise majestic through emerald swell
dripping brine from verdigris
like the spray-bedecked tamarisk trees
lining this rocky shore,
that it's just as well
your bronze-age eye
has grown for evermore blind.

Otherwise
what horrors
would you find
to inflict on us
with a swift flash of trident
in retribution for our pollution
of your beautiful seaways
and sandy coves?
I imagine waves of anger
coming to engulf us all.

*Verdigris is from the Old French Verd de Grece, green of Greece.

Thanks for reading. Here's hoping for one last late summer sun-drenched week, S ;-)

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Curiosity - who knows where it will take you.

The say that curiosity killed the cat but I have always had an enquiring mind. I asked too many questions and was often referred to as a 'knowing child' or remarks would be made that I 'had been here before' or perhaps that , 'she knows things that she's not supposed to know.'  Well often I did and a public blog is not an appropriate medium with which to reveal close family secrets or how I came to discover them. All I will say is that as an avid early reader, it make assessments. In a way I was a child detective, investigating anything and everything.

My early reading, Aesops fables, Greek myths and Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales often gave me moral wisdom way beyond my years and as the confident youngest child of four, I happily dispensed the lessons that I learned whenever a situation required my knowledge. I read everything from log tables and the bible to cookery books and my elder sister's Dennis Wheatley novels. What I most enjoyed was trying to research something that interested me and I was relentless in my pursuit of a solution to a problem.

Had I not been a gifted dancer, I think I might have had a career in science or perhaps law but in recent years I am convinced that I would make a really great detective. My reading favourite reading from age nine was Enid Blyton's Mystery series. Dad would buy me a new paperback at the Post Office every Saturday and when I had a good selection of books, I painted a wooden box yellow, decorated it with butterflies and started the Butterfly Club for the village children, charging them sixpence to borrow a book.

I still love to read detective stories, especially the Scandinavian variety but also fell in love with Alexander McCall Smith's traditionally built First Lady Detective, Mme Ramwotse.  They are great human interest stories. If being a private detective in the UK didn't involve so many licences, perhaps I would enjoy the work. As things go, the cuts in Legal Aid for matrimonial cases means that many detectives are finding work thin on the ground, so perhaps it isn't such a great idea.

I have a slight disconnect in my short term memory, I often lose items when out and about and although it is quite distressing to misplace my reading glasses, car keys or gloves, I actually relish the pursuit of their retrieval.  I love retracting my steps, thinking through the logistics and am always so delighted when I get things back that it is almost worth experiencing the initial loss. When I began having immediate recall problems, I did think that I was losing my mind and actually went through all the tests for Alzheimer's.  I am relieved to say that my problem is not progressive.  I was delighted to discover that my long term retention memory is in the 95th percentile for my age and even my short term memory is well above average.  It is just a concentration deficit due to chronic pain that affects me, my neural pathways divert so that my brain is not aware that I am in pain. The human brain is such a remarkable organism.

I spent a little time this morning in a newly opened dementia café.  This is an innovation to bring suffers of dementia and their carers together in a safe environment. Carers can open up, share their experiences, obtain help and advice. My friend and former college buddy Peter Brooks who works as demetia care homes officer for Blackpool Council invited us to go along to consider whether poetry is a medium that might help sufferers of this debilitating disease to unlock long term memory and open conversations.  We are going to give it a try. As a frim believer in QED - I won't dismiss anything until I have investigated it thoroughly.  Oh and if any of you think you might like to join in as a volunteer poetry reader - just email deadgoodpoets@hotmail.co.uk


Memory Café

You are locked in now,
a safe place,
because your forget,
your name, where you live
when to wash, to eat, to sleep.
They care for you,
keep you safe,
help you to keep you warm,
but all the memories that made you
are locked away too,
as if they could cause you harm.

Will Wordsworth's words unlock them?
Will Keats offer release?
Could a host of daffodils clear the cobwebs in the mind,
or neural pathways reconnect as 
seasons mists sweep away in rhyme?

If I just leave you there, to sit and stare,
or simply walk away
no one may hear the things you want to say.
If time told poetry and prose
reanimate emotion in your face,
then in your remembering smile,
I may find grace.


Thanks for reading.  Adele   

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

My Curiosity Thing

My curiosity thing, it all started with a name I didn’t recognise.

Following the death of a close relative, I came into possession of her belongings, including a large, torn, worn and overly stuffed envelope bearing the words Important Papers printed neatly on the front. When I got round to examining the contents, there were all sorts of things and none of it in any order. Certificates of births, marriages and deaths, mainly concerning my grandparents, were folded up amongst old photographs of family members I struggled to recognise. I smiled at the black and white image of my beloved maternal grandmother, young, slim and fashionable with a dashing young man by her side. I didn’t realise it was my grandfather, white scarf, white gloves, tilted Trilby hat. How handsome he was and what a shame about the tea or coffee stain, a perfect brown circle across the lower half of his pin-striped trousers.  Black-edged funeral cards dating back to long before I was born, one from just before the twentieth century were squashed together in a small, white envelope. A collection of very old Prudential insurance certificates were particularly delicate with tears appearing along the fold lines.

As I glanced through the items and attempted to put them in some sort of order, the same surname kept cropping up and I grew increasingly curious. I knew the maternal side of my family very well, at least I thought I did. No one had this surname and there was nothing to indicate what the contact was. There was nobody left to ask and at that time, I didn’t expect to find out.


Years later, during a lengthy recovery from illness, I decided to see how far I could track my family tree online. I had been fascinated by the television programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and public records were easily accessed on a couple of reliable websites. I wondered if it was really an ok thing to do and I was full of ‘what ifs’. Curiosity got the better of me and I subscribed to one of the better known genealogy sites and spent hours studying electoral rolls and census details. I discovered that the recurring name in my aunt’s papers was the maiden name of my great-grandmother. She had many siblings which accounted for the frequency of the name showing up.

My late father never knew his heritage from his mother’s side. I wish he could have lived long enough to have had access to the information which is so easily available nowadays. He knew she was orphaned as a baby and taken in by another family and maybe not formally adopted, nothing more. She might not have known anything herself. Recently, I was having another look at my paternal side and after discovering a possible link, I found her on the 1901 census. I was able to trace her back to her parents and after obtaining death certificates, I learnt that her mother died days after giving birth as a result of what we now know to be pre-eclampsia and her father died a few months later of TB.

Curiosity killed the cat, so it’s said and satisfaction brought it back. I’ve found the answers to most of my genealogy curiosities and I haven’t discovered anything bad. No one has been thrown in jail, or worse. It seems like we’ve always been the ordinary folk that we are today. I’ll let you know if I uncover anything shocking.

Thanks for reading, Pam.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Clouds

19:30:00 Posted by Steve Rowland , , , No comments
I was a bit flummoxed when I read the title for this week’s blog. 
 
What do I know about clouds?  Very little, that’s what.  I dropped Geography in what was then Fourth Year at Grammar School, shortly after I’d been ejected from the classroom for falling asleep during a black and white slide show on irrigation.  I didn’t know my cirrus from my stratocumulus – and now that was never going to happen.
 
Actually, the falling asleep episode hadn’t been the first time I’d been in trouble in geography.  I didn’t mean to be cheeky but I did believe in justice, and for some reason I always felt the need to go out of my way to ensure everything was fair.
 
It was a hot afternoon in a stuffy box of a badly designed sixties classroom.  Mr Packer, our Welsh geography teacher was halfway through a lesson on cloud formations – pretty boring to my fourteen year old ears.  Behind me in the classroom, somebody calls my name and I turn around.  Instantly, Mr Packer is swiping at the back of my head with a wooden ruler.  Ducking, I turn back around to face the front, whereupon Mr Packer spends the next few minutes telling me how rude I have been.  The caller is not even acknowledged, never mind reprimanded.  With hindsight (and with the draining experience of having since taught pupils who weren’t interested) I realise my turning round was probably the last straw for Mr Packer, who no doubt needed to let off steam.  At the time, however, I do remember feeling extremely indignant and hard done by.
 
“But Sir –" I whined, “If someone calls you, you turn around.”
 
Mr Packer was having none of it. “You didn’t have to look round,” he said decisively, and continued with the lesson.  I simmered quietly with the unfairness of it all, didn’t listen to a thing, and planned my revenge.
 
Cut to break time and I’m walking along the corridor with a group of friends.  I see Mr Packer ahead, about to turn into a classroom.
 
“Mr Packer!” I yell, grinning at my friends.  Mr Packer’s head spins around, a split second before he realises he’s been had.  I’ll never forget the question he spits out in that distinctive Welsh accent as he glares at me from a distance, “Are you the INSTIGATOR of this little joke?”  I go home and look up ‘instigator’ in my dad’s big, red Oxford dictionary.
 
And that, dear reader, is why I don’t know my cirrus from my stratocumulus.
 
These days, as a photographer, I love clouds.  They have the ability to make or break an image – and the best part is their names are totally irrelevant.  I can marvel at the big white, fluffy, cottonwool shapes; I can swoon at the orange sunsets with those long thin streaks scudding across the horizon; I can feel the weight of the gathering storm clouds, full of dark, impending doom.  They all have their part to play in creating drama or tranquility in a shot.
 
One day soon, I shall sit down with my grandson’s geography book and teach myself the names of each type of cloud.  And when I’ve done that I shall offer up a silent apology to Mr Packer, who is probably somewhere up there by now, nestled into a great, big cumulonimbus.
 
Clouds Over Mickleton, May 2016 - Red Snapper Photography
 
Clouds Over Mickleton
Dull sky
Black clouds
Valley darkens
Rain threatens
Quietly we close the door
Look longingly towards the fire
 
Then - no warning
Sun appears
Clouds turn themselves inside out
Scud across a brightening sky
Cotton wool shapes
Fighting for prime position
 
Fire abandoned
Wellies on
Camera seems to wink at me
I run outside
Stare across the glowing fields
And capture a brand new landscape
 
Thanks for reading, Jill.