Awards, poetry and Blogging Addiction

Yesterday I received a nomination for the Leibster Award, from my dear blogging sister Meg. It’s my first award for some time, and I remember in Lucid Gypsy’s early days, seeing awards flying back and forth and wondering if I’d ever receive one. One they began, they came thick and fast. Flattered, I accepted and shared the love, until I realised that I was spending way too much time on them and decided I wouldn’t take part anymore. Awards seemed to peter out a little anyway.

The Leibster was one of the first that I received, but when I saw Meg’s post I decided that I would take part, simply because it was Meg! Then, I remembered that I haven’t posted for three days, have lots of photos and things I want to share as it is, how on earth could I fit anything else in?

Time. My nemesis and many other peoples. Of the 168 hours in a week, I spend 43 walking to work, being there and walking home again. I spend 56 attempting to sleep (and usually achieving about 42). Probably 26 hours are taken up with cooking, housework, grocery shopping, and self-care. I might watch TV for 3 hours a week, 5 hours a week might be social times, 10 if I have a day out! That still seems to leave 4 hours a day to be too exhausted to move uh, have fun, be creative, walk the dogs.

Write. That’s the one. That’s the reason I began blogging, at the end of a three-year period of study, that was undertaken to improve my creative writing skills.  Twice a month I go to my writing group and sometimes share some work, but I actually write very little these days. I’m one of those people who is too interested in too many things. I want to learn everything, read everything, experience everything, from block printing to training ants, and talk to everyone I encounter.

My writing blog isn’t, it’s a photography blog.  Lured in by the Weekly Photo Challenge and similar, I get to indulge another of my passions. Sharing photos is far quicker and easier than writing and I’m kind of cataloguing some of my life, that’s how I justify it to myself. But the reality is, like Meg, I’m addicted to blogging, both posting and visiting my blogging friends around the world. Some of you are very special, you know who you are and you’re the other half of what fuels my addiction.

I’d like to be able to say I’m going to change, that this will become a writing blog, but I’d be kidding myself. So dear Meg, thank you for choosing me for the award, but I’m declining. Instead I’m going to schedule my weekly events and of course I’m going to write, perhaps, maybe, sometime. Meanwhile, I went hunting for my Leibster Award and instead I found this poem from 2011, and thought I’d share again.

By Train Through Somerset

Country gulls flushed by the 10.53

arrow  from fields with frosty periphery

like yuletide tinsel under threadbare trees

 

lamb filled ewes  felted and jacketed

join blanketed ponies to nibble on nothing

awaiting a ride or a jar of mint sauce

 

depart the Levels undulating uphill

where railway huts stand derelict lonesome

the sizzle of pylons shoot towards ozone

 

old man’s beard helplessly clings to dense hide

of hedge where Roe stags lurk in dank

acres furrowed and ready  for spring

 

spires crack the  mist near burst  banks

where Saturday shoals of angling young men

stand fishing

and wishing

 

Lazy Poet’s Small Thursday Poem

Who has lost this small pure heart? asks Tish. She has offered up this image for anyone who is inspired by it, to write whatever springs to mind.

Tish Farrel's Eglantine

Dog Rose

Twisting, tumbling from a dense hedge

 with a brief moment of gratitude for space.

It fell, it turned, raised a shocked face,

damp with the tears of morning mist,

 when a thousand more dropped en masse,

 to perish, impaled on blackthorn’s blades.

This Eglantine heart in gentlest Tyrian hue

will bear no royal crown, but a floral wreath

of Earth Chestnut will encircle its place of rest

and join with the detritus of seasons before.

This heart unbroken will nourish any tiny seed

and root that finds itself climbing skywards.

 

Thank you Tish.

All rights to this photo belong to Tish Farrell, Writer on the Edge.

Encounters with youth

Recently I was walking home from work and gang of young lads were coming towards me, rowdy and fooling around. They were daft, squawking and pushing each other, but I knew there was nothing bad happening because they were wearing the uniforms of the public school over the road. Interestingly, I made a spot judgement based on their appearance that there was no risk to either the puniest one of them, or to myself. Rather sad really, but if a gang of lads from the Academy half a mile away were heading towards me I’d feel rather different, possibly a tiny bit anxious if I had to pass them. They would probably be pushing at the uniform boundaries with hoodies and trainers, this bunch had polished black shoes and crisply pressed shirts.

All these thoughts passed through my mind as they got closer. They were giggling and jeering and I had the distinct feeling that some of it was at my expense, I sucked my cheeks in to stop myself laughing. Next, the tallest and probably sweet sixteen year old, detached himself from the rest and followed with his hands behind his back. The giggles of four pre-pubertal boys, with unbroken voices, got louder as they drew level with me, and then I was eye to eye with Mr Sixteenish.

‘Excuse me’, he said ‘would you like a flower?’ He held out his hand to offer me a freshly picked sprig of blossom. I took it with a smile and a thank you. Meanwhile, of course, he’d trotted to catch up with the younger boys, who were convulsed with laughter, at his accepting what was so obviously a dare. I called after them that they should ‘learn from their handsome friend, he will be a success with the ladies.’ More laughter.

A young boy was brought into my office for a work experience day. He spent some time with someone in the opposite team and then was given to me for the afternoon. I welcomed him and asked him why he had chosen this particular experience, in a busy finance department, he muttered something that sounded like ‘It’s what I want to do’, ‘really?’ I said ‘what school year are you in, have you chosen your GCSE subjects?’  Another mutter.

He didn’t listen, so he made small mistakes, the same one several times, so to help his learning, I got him to correct them. I found out later that he had been in another finance department for four days, somewhere a lot more sober and serious than mine, with rather more senior staff. I have no idea how he survived. I was gentle and kind to him the whole time, trying my best to bring him out, and I rarely fail, but oh he was hard work. It turns out he was just 14, imagine knowing that you want to be an accountant at that age, I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was middle aged! I hope he succeeds in his chosen path, but I can’t help feeling that he was just too young for the situation, he was cocky, bright, but not as clever as he thought.

Driving home across the city, close to the University campus, dark apart from the street lights, I saw the silhouette of someone in the road twenty metres ahead. I instinctively slowed down and the car in front of me swerved sharply as the man reverse staggered back to the curb. I could tell it was a guy, late teens in jeans, tee-shirt and a beanie hat. Several vehicles came towards me but as I crept very slowly, they were leaving a 20 mph area and speeding up, unaware that he was about to dash and wobble on to the road again. Horns sounded, he nearly fell but just saved himself. My mind was flying through the options, stopping with hazard lights in the hope that he would cross safely and away from the traffic, shouting at him, I really thought he was going to be run over. Where are the police cars when you need one? This lad was desperately drunk, alone and vulnerable. Then there was a pause in the traffic and he reached the opposite path and sat down. With my eye on the rear view mirror I eased slowly away, and as I moved I saw him up and still swaying around. I still hoped to see a police car as I got closer to the city centre, and hoped even more that I wouldn’t hear anything nasty on the news in the morning.

Seven young boys, 36 hours.

A Golden Age

If you had to live forever, what age would you choose, childhood, adolescence or adulthood, and why? This is the question posed by the Daily Post today.

I’ll start by saying why I wouldn’t want to be an eternal child. I had plenty of fun as a child, simple fun, where I could play for hours sitting in a den under a table, covered in a chenille cloth or eating raw sausage meat when my grandmother made sausage rolls. A wooden box full of buttons was perfect to let my imagination run wild, as I conjured up the garments they had fallen from.

But I also had strange and difficult times as I struggled to know where I belonged. No, belonged is the wrong word, it was more that I was trying to work out how I fitted in, an answer that I didn’t get until I was middle aged.

My teenage years were worse, expected to and indeed wanting to go out and meet the world, I was often fearful and I most definitely did not fit.

But that’s the past. Now my skin fits. It won’t fit for many more years though, in stead it will become looser, as the subcutaneous fat redistributes itself, and I take on the guise of the crone.

So I want to stay where I am right now. I want to keep the strength I have, keep the ailments that come with age at bay. No arthritis, hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid problems or dementia, because I need time.

I didn’t begin travelling until I was in my forties, I’d always wanted to but hardly dared to dream. I got my hit of exotic destinations watching Michael Palin, everywhere he went, I wanted to go. It wasn’t until I began to break free, that some of those places became reality.

But oh, there are so many places I need to see. Ethiopia, Mali, Uzbekistan, Namibia, Chile, Libya, Israel, Jordan, Greece. There are places that I couldn’t go to at the moment, even if I had the time and money. Pakistan, I’ve always wanted to visit, but I’ve just this evening watched a documentary, about it’s incredible history and culture.

I dream of being able to walk safely around the cities of Nigeria, to travel Ibgo country freely, meeting more of my family there and really understanding the culture. As things stand, it’s doubtful that this could happen in my lifetime. Who knows, give it fifty years and some miracles then, perhaps, it could be possible. So, I need to live forever as I am now, with the wisdom, confidence and experience that I have, and the brakes on the physical deterioration. This is my Golden Age!

I’m adding this comment I found on Facebook this morning. It’s from my lovely extra son, my daughter’s partner Steven, who has hidden talents that I hope he will use one day. Thanks Steve xx

This is a tough question. On first thought it seems easy, however who would truly want to live forever? The fact that we have such a brief sneeze of time to enjoy this crazy, heart aching, beautiful thing called life is what makes it so truly special. We live each day never truly knowing if it is our last, so we grab hold of it, squeeze it for every little drop and savour every morsel. If we live forever then surely part of that essence fades, knowing that we have forever to do the things we want. We lose the sense of urgency, the need, the desire to do today all the things we fear to delay until  tomorrow. The fear of tomorrow makes us live today.

But then I realise that I could spend forever with my beautiful family, watching my daughters play and grow. If only….

Writing from a prompt

This was written in response to a prompt from a member of my writing group, Word Central. We meet twice a month and I’ve been going for a year now. I love it, everyone is friendly, good fun and encouraging with their feedback. Anne-Marie said ‘Write about the worst holiday you’ve ever had’. I’ve never actually had a bad holiday, but I wrote anyway. So with apologies to Madhu and my other followers on the Indian sub-continent, and my tongue quite a way into my cheek,

Missing Jodhpur and Climbing Savitri

Have I ever had a bad holiday? No, only holidays during which I was sick, sick again and then sick some more. The most annoying of those holidays was the one where I completely missed the two days I had in the blue city of Jodhpur. Of course it was Jodhpur that make me sick with its spicy lime juice. Or perhaps it was the malady of enrapture, the one where I fell under India’s spell and briefly lost all common travel sense.

I’d survived the rigours of a night in the Thar Desert, where my friend was nearly paralysed by her camel, so I thought I was on the home run. It was enchanting to sit in an exotic courtyard, surrounded with moist greenery, after several days of scorching my nostrils every time I inhaled. Amazingly the mosquitos were kept at bay by the strategically placed candles, including the ones under the table, flickering dangerously close to the pants of my salwar kameez. The lilting sounds of unnamed instruments kept me entertained while the lime juice quenched my thirst, but if only I’d stuck with the lassi, I might have been saved. If only we hadn’t lingered so long on the road that afternoon we might have reached Jodhpur in time to see some of the promised blue.

I was woken from a blissful sleep a few hours later, my friend was ill and I rushed to help her. The emptying of her stomach seemed relentless. Half an hour later so did mine, and we were in danger of dehydration. We both slept and vomited, vomited and slept, through the whole of the next day, and every few hours our driver Muggan Singh would knock on our door, his face lined with concern that his two madams were so poorly. He arranged for us to move to a new, clean room, away from our infectious cave, supervising the hotel staff personally as they moved our every possession.

The next morning we were unable to travel on to Pushkar. On one of Muggan’s visits to bring us the bottled water that that was beginning to stay put, he brought some medication with him. The local cure was apparently Ayurvedic, small brown pills that had a vile smell and were very difficult to swallow. The western remedy we had ‘gone prepared’ with clearly didn’t work and I have faith in traditional medicine. Convinced that we had dysentery, we were desperate enough to get them down. Shortly after taking them we began to feel better.

We still didn’t manage to see any of Jodhpur. Teasing glimpses of Mehrangarh fort peered at us from its high perch, but spreading ourselves out in the four wheel drive vehicle, we had little energy to return its gaze. We had to let Jodhpur go, goodbye, maybe next time.

If we hadn’t had air conditioning that 120 miles would have seen us off. Neither of us wanted to have to use a squatter in some godforsaken roadside café, so we’d had as little water as we dared, and no breakfast. We couldn’t tell if poisoned belly or empty belly was making us feel so lousy.

After Jaisalmer, Pushkar was the place I most wanted to see, but we could only stumble around in a daze when we arrived. There were temples, there was without doubt a taking off of shoes and much to ooh and ah about, but I have little recall if so. We dutifully sat at a table in the Sunset cafe, admiring the sunset, pushing masala omelette around our plates, trying to digest Muggan’s announcement as well as our first solid food. We had to get up at 5am, he said. You need to climb Savitri Hill and be there for sunrise. To argue with Muggan was futile, besides we’d found that trusting his knowledge of Rajasthan made sense, he was a proud Rajput through and through.

He dropped us in the dark at the bottom of a hill, with handrails and a slope broken by a step every twelve feet. It didn’t seem too bad – to begin with. We took our time and there was no one to witness our walking like two very old ladies. At the top of Savitri is a very sacred temple and as the light began to come through, we saw a couple of very, very old ladies, with skin that looked like a mixture of leather and prunes that only elderly Indian women have. They namaste’d us as they sprinted by, we watched with loose jaws.

The path was no longer smooth and gentle, it was a rocky horror trail and any cool morning air had long since vanished. We sat on a low wall and stared back to our start point, then ahead to the temple. We were two thirds through the one mile climb and had no hope of making it to the top. We waited what we considered was a reasonable length of time to convince Muggan that we reached the top, actually that’s a lie, we sat there until we had the strength to move.

Muggan never did know our secret, we thanked him and said that the view from the top was incredible. Back in our hotel we slept for two hours, dysentery wasn’t far behind us after all.

So was Rajasthan the worst holiday I’ve ever had? Absolutely not, it was unforgettable. To have not been sick would have been better, but hey, shit happens. We did manage to extract from Muggan what the active ingredient was of the ayurvedic pills, it was cow dung.

 

The Nereids Zodiac Sign

My brand new zodiac sign would be Nereids, sea goddesses ruled by the tides and moon, therefore a mix of air and water elements. There is to be a full moon around my birthday, and I share the sign with others born three days either side of June 2nd. Nereids like myself have been known to howl at the moon and gather like minded daughters and sisters, crones and virgins to join in the lunar celebrations at the seashore, and the liminal space of the estuary. Nereids are volatile spirits, benign, warm and generous with a bountiful love of human, animal and faerie folk. Harm an innocent though and we will fight tooth, feather and scales to defend the broken ones, often suffering ourselves as a result. Beware triggering our rage.

Physically we are fleet as shoals of little silver fish, swirling in the shallows , where the sunlight shimmers. Because of our love of water and air, we can be prone to weakness of our feet, and they need much attention to keep them healthy. Both our hands and eyes are very expressive and full of emotion.

At times we become too grounded for our nature and that is when we become greedy, often devouring great quantities of things that are unsuitable and over processed. This slows us down, makes us sluggish and confuses our airways, causing asthma like symptoms . We can be opinionated, overbearing, and frequently become grumpy old women, with a flip side that never grows up.

Could you possibly be a Nereid? If this sounds like you, there is a fair chance that someone got your birthdate wrong. Maybe you could describe your own custom zodiac sign?

 

I created this post in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Custom Zodiac

Sleep, no, dreams, yes

Sleep? Very funny. I have a bad case of sleep envy. Is it only the young that can lie down and fall asleep at the lowering of an eyelash? I certainly can’t remember lying awake for hours in my youth can you? I can’t remember turning from my right side to my back to my left side and repeating the whole cycle for hours either. I can’t remember ‘killing’ pillows and having to buy new ones every few months, because the weight and swivel of my head leaves an unfillable crater in them, whether they cost £3 in the bargain shops or £30 in John Lewis.

Dreams were rare in my childhood. There was a nightmare that had a couple of times, self-inflicted I believe, and about rats. I used to play near the panny you see, a tunnel built to channel the North Brook under the road, for about a mile near where I lived. It was a sort of dare game, the place was mucky, wet as brooks are and as dark as tunnels under the road are bound to be. There were also eels in the water, so the choice was wading through it with them swimming over your toes, or trying to walk on the narrow edge where inevitably rats were scurrying over your feet. I’ve been rat phobic ever since and these images often come to me when I’m on the sleep threshold.

When I eventually get to sleep these days, my dreams are more sophisticated. I had a spell where I had very lucid dreams, like the one about the mansion. I’d be strolling through an endless set of rooms, each more grand, exciting and vibrant than the last. Very ornate, elegant and full of important paintings, sculpture and literature and I was always on the top floor of the mansion. So, as I understand it, dreams about the top floors of buildings are about the psyche, the fascinating stuff of our minds, what’s in our head space. I’ve often wondered what this dream says about me.

Another very powerful dream that’s stayed with me, was in a very definite place, at the top of the hill on the Moretonhampstead road, after you drive over the first cattle grid on Dartmoor. A deep valley is on the right and in my dream it was on fire. I want to get my family to safety in our tiny 2CV, but I know it’s futile because it’s more than just a fire. I hold my children in my arms and wait the end of the world.

My eyes are sleepy now. I might take my book to bed, but it’s rather good and will keep me awake. I need a boring one instead. I hope that you sleep well and wake refreshed.

I’ve written this in response to the Daily Post today, by Michelle W.

Writing 101, Serially Lost

Michelle W says,

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise; you can write about that time you lost the three-legged race at a picnic. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series

Violet Elizabeth was just sitting there when they crashed into her on the road. It was noon on one of those late winter days when you wake up and find the ground white with snow. We can’t drive on snow here in the UK, I confess it applies to me as well it happens so rarely in the south west of England. An inch of white stuff and I have this awful dilemma in my head. If I drive and the snow gets heavier I could be stranded somewhere. There could be an accident. If I walk I could fall on hidden ice and break a leg. I think perhaps I had a bad fall as a child that has affected me, or seen someone else fall. My grandmother had a fear of slipping on ice and hurting herself, it could be that causing my irrational fear.

On the March morning, there was an accident. The snow had fallen in the early hours, it must have thawed slightly before freezing again making the road treacherous, especially on the bend outside where violet was waiting.

My neighbour witnessed it from her window, and thinking it was a hit and run, she rushed out. Violet was ten years old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing 101 Two, A Cafe With a View

Take me to Pushkar, drop me down in the sunset café. You already did? Ahh yes, here I am, the sky is still bright and very pink. Inside people, locals and travellers begin to gather, for the nightly spectacle that is sunset over the lake. Neat rows of Formica tables are placed so that as many diners as possible get a good view. The best seats are right on the patio, and I’ve got one, under the curved and ornately painted arches, slightly raised from the pavement. I sink into a rattan bucket seat with a cushion made from recycled saris, red, orange and pink to match the sky. Babu comes to take my order, a mint lassi while I’m waiting for a masala omelette, ‘but that is breakfast madam’ he says giving me that look he gives to crazy English women, a sort of half grin as if he feels sorry for me. I add an ice cold cobra beer, Pushkar is so dry and so is my throat.

The smell of spice is suddenly challenged when two young women arrive, laden with backpacks big enough for their tiny frames to climb into, and with grubby salwar kameez. I don’t like myself for saying it, but I’m glad there wasn’t space for them. In contrast the musicians rock up, clothes gleaming as white as the Persil ads, and making a racket like the dustbin men at 7am. Now I realise why these seats were empty. Two drummers, a sitar player and another with an instrument that looks like a sack, a hosepipe and some bits of rope, sit crossed legged beside me.

The drumming begins, starting slowly and with little tune. It’s only when I look around and see people swaying that I realise I’m doing the same thing. For too long the drums continue, my lassi and omelette are both consumed and I’m on my second bottle of Cobra. They’re twice the size of the bottles at home and a few nights ago Muggan, our driver was horrified and amazed that I could contain one, never mind two.

The drumming is hypnotic and I’ve lost some time, pulling myself together, I put the music to the back of my mind and focus instead on the sky. Taking a photo wasn’t working, heads kept bobbing up and down between me and the view. Stay in the now G, stay in the now and imprint it on your soul. It is every bit as magical as promised. Every warm, glowing colour, that nature can create, is up there in the heavens. There might be sound but all I can hear is the noise of the universe, not even a sound, but a vibration, a distant echo that began light years ago. I’m standing now, we all are. With fairy lights around our heads, we watch as the sun slowly falls on the horizon behind the temple.

I am changed by India.

 

Writing 101 One, Stream of Consciousness

I’m doing the WordPress Writing 101 as from today and the first project is stream of consciousness. I won’t be posting the 101 stuff every day, more likely I’ll write every day and post bits from time to time.

This is what sprang out earlier.

Twenty minutes, that’s how long they were standing there. Whispering. What about? Or maybe who about, could it be me? Is it my turn? How long have I had this paranoia? Perhaps since playground days. They were always at it, at the back of class when Miss wasn’t looking, hiding behind their hands, staring at me, sneaky, laughing eyes. When they saw me look back they would look away quickly and giggle in their throats, keeping their mouths shut tight.

Strange, I can’t remember who they were. I remember the nice girls, Linda White, Lesley Morton and Jane Shelton, even one lad, Andrew Philips. He was always competing with me, he was top boy in every test, and I was top girl. I wonder why they separated us into girl/boy, would that happen now? Anyway we were well matched, he would score one point higher one week, the next it would be me. Most often we’d get the exact same mark, with our matching IQ’s. I bet he isn’t poor now, probably heading up some massive organisation (should have married him) unlike me, I wasted my grammar school years. My friends and I were too damn rebellious for our own good. Not that we had much to rebel against, if only that energy had been put to good use, but we were girls, still are of course. Nothing much was expected of us, despite Grammar School. We could be secretaries or nurses, a few dedicated ones could be teachers if they had the right background. I didn’t. We could work in a shop, become machinists in the bra factory or be hairdressers. I worked in a shop on Saturdays when I was still at school and walked out of the first one, they wanted me to wrap meat in cling film! Thinking about it, no-one suggested the bra factory until much later, I could sew well so that might have worked. Churning out fifty ‘Super Bras’ a day . . . perhaps not.

Hairdressing, that was never going to happen. I liked make up and beauty products like every other teenage girl, but no hairdresser in my part of England, would have taken on an apprentice with hair like mine. Looking the part would have been compulsory, back then who would want their hair styled by someone with head of frizz? Nope, hardly a black or mixed race woman to be seen, never mind one who styled hair.

I didn’t work out the answer from the beginning of this twenty minute stream of consciousness write, but hey, that’s the point. Maybe tomorrows Writing 101 will bring me back here.