Monthly Archives: March 2012

summer in the city

Tuesday morning broke with a gentle warm glow and gradually turned up the grill until only the architecture  and retail gave away the deception that Grey Street was not Rodeo Drive.  I had planned to go straight home after my meeting and deforest the garden but the city girl of my childhood  suddenly broke out, stamped her foot and threw a hissy fit demanding a summer in the city moment.  There is a song/poem I learned in the early seventies about a childhood summer in the city, I wish I could remember it, but one line always sticks “pavements singing”

I’ve no idea what the author meant, but it always reminds me of sitting on the steps of Georgina’s house on Hillgate Place with our penny sweets from the scary lady at the grocers on the corner of Hillgate Street (gosh I can even remember the names!).  Hot and sticky and planning our futures.  She is now a highly respected agent but every time I see her name I think not of famous authors and the Groucho Club, but long hot summers, Holland Park, the Serpentine and the freedom we had to do pretty much as we wanted unencumbered by parents.

Today a report has been published suggesting that today’s children suffer from NDD – Nature Deficit Disorder.  Any more tags and we will be unable to move from the flapping of little bits string and cardboard, like an army of evacuees or an over addressed Paddington Bear.  This one posits the theory that children don’t get outside and interact with nature.  Rather difficult if you live in an inner city tower block I would imagine even if you wanted to.  Interacting with the dead bush in the concrete pot in the middle of the local roundabout has a limited appeal even to the most imaginative child.

Living now, not in the city but the kind of rural idyll I dreamed of as a child my children have not had a shortage of natural interactions, not all of which have been great fun.  We have endless fights with the foxes who tear through the poultry and not just at dusk.  Poultry feed attracts rats and never ever underestimate the intelligence and memory of a rat.  Septic tanks crack, I don’t think I need to expand on that one.    The nearest bus stop is over a mile away, pleasant enough during the summer, terrifying in winter walking along an unlit single track road used as a rat run by morons too lazy to use the brake pedal.  As for the internet to which children apparently are overconnected, that requires a phone line, which works, and can take broadband …… nuff said.

My children long to live in a modern house with wall to wall carpets and reliable heating and plumbing.  They wonder what it would be like to have neighbours.  Oddly enough they don’t want to live in the city, they are exhibiting the classic grass is greener symptoms.

I am sure if you looked at Georgina and I wandering along the streets to get another bag of sweets you could have sighed and said how terrible that we were out on our own unsupervised open to all the hazards of London.  My father spent his childhood avoiding being killed by Hitler’s bombs and scavenging for shrapnel in craters and half standing buildings.

The whole point of life is that it is transient, that it is full of risk.  Yes I am sure that children should get out more, I am sure my mother said that to me as I begged to be allowed to watch some dreadful TV programme on the new colour TV recently delivered by the nice man from Radio Rentals.  I expect my grandmother shooed my father out of the house and told him to go find some more shrapnel.  We all survived, some us did rather well.


99 reasons why

Have you ever read a book and been dissatisfied with the ending?  Have you ever wondered what would have happened if one of the characters didn’t waltz off into the sunset.  Have you ever just wanted to try on different ending for size?

Well here you can.  99 Reasons Why, by Caroline Smailes,  is a book with a difference, eleven differences to be precise.  It has eleven different endings and you can try out one of the endings here.  If you don’t like this one, then have a hunt around blogland and see if you can find the other ten!  So here you go, you read the ending (well one of them!) here first 🙂

99: the reason why I was only worth ninety-nine quid

It’s been six days since the little girl in the pink coat went missing and me Uncle Phil’s in me bedroom.

We’ve been watching the little girl in the pink coat’s mam on the news. She was appealing to the public for witnesses.

‘Didn’t realise she had a mam,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Everyone’s got a mam, pet,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘She sold her story to The Sun,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Got a few quid,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘She wanted nowt to do with that bairn before all this,’ me Uncle Phil says, looking at me telly.

‘Do you know where she is?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Belle?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘She’s safe,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘Your mam’s keeping an eye on her.’

‘Can I be her mam?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘No, pet, you’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Can you make Andy Douglas come back, Uncle Phil?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

Me Uncle Phil shakes his head.

‘I love him,’ I tell me Uncle Phil.

‘Andy Douglas is your brother, pet. You didn’t seriously think Princess Di was your mam, did you?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘You’re a cradle snatcher just like your mam,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Your mam miscarried when she found out I’d been banging Betty Douglas. Betty was expecting you,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

‘When you was born, your mam went mad and I ended up buying you from Betty Douglas for ninety-nine quid,’ me Uncle Phil says.

‘Ninety-nine quid?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘I paid a hundred but got a quid change for some chips for your mam and dad’s tea,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You bought me?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

I’m a little bit sick in me mouth.

‘It was the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘I got Betty Douglas pregnant straight away with Andy.’

‘I’m pregnant,’ I says to me Uncle Phil. ‘I’m pregnant with me brother’s baby,’ I says, and then I throws up on me purple carpet.

‘You’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘What am I going to do?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘You’re going to have the baby,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘Have me brother’s baby?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Then I’m giving it to Betty Douglas to bring up,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You what?’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘I can’t—’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s either that or I’ll make you disappear,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

I’m thinking, they’re all a bunch of nutters.

Available as an ebook from  Amazon  or from iTunes

in which I learn a lesson

I went to a book shop yesterday.  In theory I went to purchase a card for our wedding anniversary but it seemed rude not to have a look at the books as well.  Card selected I sidled up to the books.  This was the first real challenge, the first time I knew I was going to feel a wobble and would have to steel myself against non-essential purchases.  There is no book which I need other than the Kopprasch Horn Studies which I have been instructed to purchase by Runner One forthwith for impending exam.  At the current music expenditure rate I am hoping for a trio of virtuosos who can at least make my old age more cultural if not more comfortable.  There are plenty of books  I would like, but that is not the point.

I started in children and young adults on the grounds any purchase would be research.  I girded my loins and moved on.  We have a houseful of children and young adult literature and there is a perfectly good library in town should I notice a shortfall.

A meander around Literature A-Z lead to a discussion with self about whether, when I am a Published Author, to use maiden name (beginning with A and which nobody can spell correctly but would be at the front of the shop) or married name (beginning with S and thus at the back of the shop but an exceptionally memorable name).  A quick peek to see if old favourite, my copy long since lost but feeling a sudden need (want?) to replace was on the shelf.  But unsurprisingly as it is a little offbeat, it was not; a narrow escape.  I snapped a few photographs on my phone of books I rather liked the look of and could put on my birthday list, and then felt very guilty as if I had actually taken the books and slipped them in my bag.

Finally I flicked through self-help.  Nothing specific, but there were a couple of new editions of Tony Buzan which looked interesting and there were one or two NLP books which I would gladly have bought if buying was an option. But it wasn’t.

And I didn’t mind.  I bought my card and didn’t feel short-changed for not leaving with a couple of books as well.  In fact, the whole exercise only brought home how many unread books I have  propping up the eaves and how much pleasure they gave me when I bought them.  So in fact I felt rather uplifted, as if I had discovered a whole library of unread books, which of course I had.

That evening, after a long couple of hours taking the Dancer from one lesson to another I picked up the Nomad catalogue.  Once again buying was off the agenda, but window shopping is still allowed.  I idly noted a couple of items that vaguely tickled my fancy.  On close reflection I realised I already owned something that was almost identical to each one.  How often have I bought the same thing again and again, without thinking?  Many times I fear.  This is proving an interesting journey.

one hundred things

Creativity is relative.  I am convincing myself of this each and every day to take into account the low levels of creativity currently failing to course through my veins. When editing comes down to cutting a phrase and pasting it at the beginning of the sentence I know I’m in trouble.

So I decided to try a trick I found on the internet.  I do love the internet.  Don’t let anyone tell you that surfing is a waste of time (well not the internet variety anyway, I’ve never tried the wet stuff but it looks fun if rather hard to remain upright). You can probably go from bread and butter pudding to vulcanised rubber via ice hockey and the Large Hadron Collider in less than 10 clicks.   In fact that could be item number 101 on the list below.

I challenged myself to come up with 100 ways to become more creative.  Here is my list.  It won’t be yours, but that’s only because you haven’t written yours yet.  You MUST write it in one sitting; don’t worry about repetition and if you want to know more have a look here

  1. Morning pages
  2. Read
  3. Meditate
  4. Listen to other people
  5. Get out of my comfort zone
  6. Go to an exhibition
  7. Go for a walk
  8. Try to do something I am convinced I can’t do
  9. Use the house on the right bank
  10. Pray
  11.  Take advice from people in my mind
  12.  Use the right brain
  13.  Try to draw
  14.  Keep a dream diary
  15.  Go on artist’s dates
  16.  Play flute/sax/piano
  17.  Sing
  18.  Sight read something totally new
  19. Listen to music I haven’t listened to before
  20.  Read a totally new author
  21.  Read autobiographies
  22. Go on a mystery trip.
  23. Do something repetitive over and over
  24.  Do something backwards
  25.  Sew make something see it grow
  26. Read poetry
  27. Write poetry
  28. Write for half and hour without stopping.
  29. Write 300 word flash fiction
  30.  Write haiku
  31. Write 6 word story
  32. Write a story about what’s just out of view in a picture.
  33. Describe my childhood bedroom
  34. Write my autobiography
  35. Write my imagined autobiography
  36. Scrapbook
  37. Imagine a world where one fundamental thing is different – describe living in that world.
  38.  Do a mind map of my mind
  39.  Do a mind map of my life
  40.  Doodle in my Discovery Journal
  41.  Make a visual treasure map
  42. Imagine Jack was human – what would he want to do, to be, where would he want to go?
  43. Doze, manage the dreams as I doze.
  44. Turn a dream into a story.
  45. Write Romilly’s Indo China story.
  46. Watch the old films I watched with Daddy.
  47. Go and see a film I really don’t want to see
  48.  Go to a charity shop, buy something for under £2.  Write its story
  49.  Rearrange a room completely
  50.  Wash the windows and let in the light
  51.  Declutter
  52.  Take a book off the shelf turn to page 46 – continue the story from the second paragraph.
  53. Go to an art gallery and mark the paintings out of ten.  WHY do I like some and not others.
  54. Wear clothes I’ve never worn together before.
  55. Sleep upside down
  56. Sleep on the wrong side of the bed
  57.  Have a go at drawing on the right side of the brain
  58.  Learn poetry by heart
  59.  Learn a psalm
  60.  Spend a whole day saying yes to everything.
  61. Spend a whole say without ever using the word can’t
  62. Do a couple of pages in my sketchynotebookything
  63. Continue the 100 uses for a used matchstick list.
  64. List all my favourite songs
  65. Reduce the list above to only 50
  66. Make my desert island list
  67. Have my desert island conversation with Kirsty Young
  68.  What if I had been born a boy?
  69. What if I had been born 10 years earlier?
  70. What if I had been born 10 years later?
  71. Plan the most exciting journey I can imagine, right down to the tickets and accommodation and travel etc.
  72.  Finish the house on the right bank
  73. Redecorate the Mill – money no object.
  74. If I had one million pounds – allocate every single pound.
  75. Escape for a day totally alone with just books and pencils.
  76.  Build a shed or bolt hole.  My wooden caravan.
  77. Tackle a really difficult world issue – how would I solve it?
  78.  Spend time in the house on the right bank  – really use it and explore it.
  79.   If I were Poppy what would I do?
  80.  Tell Julia’s story
  81. Tell Helen’s story – when does she realise this is her chance?
  82. Get a lump of clay and see what it turns into.
  83.  Go and sit in front of Orphelia – where did it take me as a child, where does it take me now?
  84. Learn how to make shadow figures.
  85.  Explore somewhere from top to bottom, learn everything about it. Who lived there, when why?  Make it up if nobody knows.
  86. What if there really was a Faraway Tree?
  87. Plan a journey by train around the world (man in seat 61)
  88. Invent a new animal.
  89. Tell the story from the Pensillia’s point of view.
  90.  Visit a small town I’ve never been to before.  Explore.
  91. Go out to the shops and try on clothes I would never dream of wearing.
  92. Pick a one day course on something esoteric and mind stretching.
  93.  Change something in my life/house/work/anything every day for at least a month.
  94. Climb a tree
  95. Keep a visual diary – do it without words.
  96. Draw what I hear.
  97.  Colour my calendar
  98.  Build a library of future histories
  99. Revisit Heath Robinson
  100. Explore colours?  Which are my favourites? Do they change? Why?

fresh start

I like new starts.  I like them so much I like to have one every day.

I always thought a “fresh start” was a good thing, a gift.  But it would seem I am in the minority.  Not in liking the idea of a fresh start, but in seeing it as purely a “good thing.”  Apparently the term fresh start implies, to many people, the existence of something that was “not a good thing”, something that needs to be swept away and forgotten.  I prefer to think of a fresh start as a state of grace, unsullied by the flotsam of the day.

I will not cry over spilt milk; hold a grudge; worry about that which I cannot control (though I will pray/campaign/work for or whatever I will not “worry”); I will not look backwards other than to cherish a memory or learn from a mistake.

Some people spend so much time being busy rather than just being that they miss life.  In the three months of this year alone I have been showered with opportunities.  One or two have been quite substantial in their potential, many have been small in magnitude but huge their effect on my life.  I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked how I manage to fit so many different things in an apparently busy life.  I am not some paragon of virtue, or a time manager’s dream.  I just start each day knowing that it is a new day and I can choose to open my eyes and my mind or I can close them.

Try opening your eyes tomorrow.  Really opening them, don’t ignore anything.  The colour of the jacket of the women next to you on the bus might just be the exact colour you’ve been searching for to paint your hall.  That snatch of music from the open window of White Van Man might just make you want to smile – so smile – you never know what might happen if you do!

I like a fresh start because I like an adventure and every day can be a new adventure or it can be another day on the treadmill.  The choice is yours.