This year my children bought me a Liberty Advent Calendar for my birthday. It is absolutely fabulous. I love it. A big box full of 25 little boxes to open every day from the 1st Decemer until 25th. So far it has revealed: special bath oil, face cream, lipstick, body cream, and a whole load of other things. I’ve been posting over on Instagram each day. But, just to make the whole thing more fun for the family, The Man and I shot a video of me opening the box for the first couple of days. This quickly became boring, so we made a little bit more of it, creating a character or a storyline each day and made little movies. I struggled but mastered (to a basic degree) how to use IMovie adding titles, music, speeding up the film and all sorts. Thinking up ideas wasn’t a problem but it began to take up most of my day and I have other important things to do! Like finish writing my memoir and creating more poetry — which I’m very much into at the moment — so today I resolved to stop making the mini series of Opening the Liberty Advent Calendar 2020 (what will she do next?). We haven’t completely abandoned the project, but will film a few random days between now and Christmas Day. I cannot possibly divulge what themes they might be. In the meantime, I thought you might find it mildly amusing to watch a couple of the earlier box openings, so I’ve uploaded number 6 and number 8 here.
Both clips were filmed before we realised it was better to use landscape mode on the iphone.
Well I submitted. Twenty-seven poems in a portfolio with the title, “Collaboration – Dance & Poetry. Only The Man has read the final collection before submission. It was hard work for four months, but I very much enjoyed it, and I learnt so much on the journey. I had to read and study many different styles of poetry and I think I have finally ended up with a “voice” of my own. I hope so, because finding your own voice, I have discovered, is an important part of writing poetry.
The poem above is from “the collection”. I gave it a last edit just before the final submission. I’ve included it here because a few people have “liked” it — I thought it would be a good one to share. It was inspired by the ballet The Firebird first performed in 1910 with The Ballet Russses.
I now want to finish my memoir about the loss of my son Tosh, and of course I want to write a lot more poetry. I’ve already entered a couple of competitions and looking around for more. I’m one of those people who needs a deadline! In the middle of September I’m going to do a Wild Writing weekend in Yorkshire. Watch this space….
I am now in Bristol to collect my two lovely granddaughters to take home with me to Dorset. It will be a break for their mum (my daugther) but now the pressure is off me, I can enjoy playing with them and spoiling them for a few days.
The last time they visited we went the the beach at Charmouth — I don’t think the weather will be good enough this time.
I know, I know, third blog post in just over a week, I told you last time, it’s like the buses. But, I have to post about my brother’s (Tony Hatch) fabulous 80th birthday party, before it’s old news. We had a ball on the Erasmus, a river boat on the Thames. It was amazing!
Erasmus Coming to Collect us
Even though I was born in Ruislip, lived there for over sixteen years and went to London frequently, I have NEVER taken a cruise up the river. It was fantastic. We left St Katherine’s Pier at 7pm and went first up river towards Chiswick. What a great view of the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and MI5 (my sister assured me it was, because it was green, but what do I know?). We turned somewhere, not sure where but it was beyond Battersea and then proceeded down river. Past the London Eye, the 02, Docklands, and out through The Thames Barrier. I was mightily impressed with the whole trip and would do it again next weekend if I could. Only minor problem was that they dropped us back at a different pier…had to find our way back to Tower Bridge and the car. It was okay, except for a load of drunk people from another boat…or were they from ours? Only joking!
We were treated to a three course dinner; prawn, smoked salmon and a fish mousse starter; tender lamb cutlets, spinach and some delicious potato concotion; summer pudding and cream. All served with lashings of red or white wine. I stuck to water, which was just as well because at the end of the evening, after my brother had negleted to blow out the candles quickly enough, and virtually set fire to the cake, he asked me to get up and sing that old song, Push A Little Button recorded in 1966 (a flop) and then a minor hit in 2010 when the BBC used it for their TV Licencing advert. Yes folks that was me!
Among the other artists who performed were Claire Sweeny, Cassidy Jenson, Richard Kerr (he sang the wonderful song Mandy which he wrote), Jae Alexander, Michael Dore, Roger Greenaway. Hope I haven’t missed anyone. I did see Tony Blackburn and Des O’Connor on board too.
Tony sang Downtown, Messing About on the River and several more of his wonderful hit songs. I am always amazed at how many he’s written. Of course the best thing was seeing my nieces, nephews and their siblings and other members of the extended family. Some from New Zealand. It was great to mix with the celebs for an evening but I don’t think I could keep up with the lifestyle for too long. Nice to dip my toe in though.
Me and my Bro
Me in front of London Eye
Me, Tony, Jean
Me Houses of Parl
Some of the family …My apoligies to all those members of the family whose photograph I didn’t get…there are so many of us! Isn’t it always the way, you get home and think, ‘how come I didn’t take more photos?’
Thank you Tony and Maggie, for organising such a tremendous event. I for one, really appreciated your generosity. You are great party hosts.
It’s easy to become nostalgic at this time of the year. . .it was all so different when I was a kid, but is that because I was a kid? Or were things really different? Less commercial I’m sure and our expectations were way lower. . . Whatever it’s all good fun. This poem is for my brother Tony, who was often away at Christmas because he was at a choir School and had to sing on Christmas day. Also for my sister Jean, her birthday is on the 23rd December (the day I’m uploading this). I’ve always felt sorry for her having her birthday so close to Christmas as I’m sure people used to give her a joint present. I think she should celebrate in the summertime and have an official birthday too. I’m sure I know at least one person who does that . . .
As ever, press the play button to listen or scroll on down to read. . .
When I was a kid there was much less fuss
No starting in September to beat the Christmas rush
We never got excited before the twenty-fourth
Any early preparations were of the culinary sort
Mother made a pudding and we all gave it a stir
She’d put a sixpence in it, and a spoonful of liqueur
Nowadays the sixpence is outlawed in every pud
As you might choke, or break a tooth and that would not be good
Father carved the turkey, mother drank the sherry
Brother played the piano and we sang, all warm and merry
Sister talked about her boyfriend, though I think she told me fibs
And I laughed out loud and ate so much until it hurt my ribs
Crackers and silly hats were the order of the day
You read the joke aloud before you threw it straight away
Mother kept all the bits of tinsel and crepe paper
She always said she would find a use for it, sooner or later
On Boxing day, we ventured up the M1 in our Ford
The journey took ages, as long as going abroad
We’d visit Auntie Florence in her big house with an Aga
Tea and cakes in the dining room – it was a huge palaver
The table was enormous, full-size for playing snooker
With mahogany cover, and fancy cloth – it was quite a looker
Heaving with meringues, coconut pyramids and scones
My aunt never had a problem keeping up with the Jones
Other aunts and cousins were all gathered with us there
The kids all liked each other, we didn’t really have a care
The grown ups used to send us in the garden for a run
‘Go and see the rabbits’ they’d say, ‘it will be so much fun’
The journey home to Ruislip was done well after dark
My dad driving recklessly, thinking it would be a lark
I vowed one day I’d have an Aga so that I could make and bake
Those mouth-watering meringues and other sumptuous cake
Lining up the non-alcoholic wines…they’re not bad. Not too sweet. The two on the right I bought from Waitrose and the one on the left from the Co-op (yet to be tested)
I spent from the end of September until Saturday 4th November without a drop of alcohol. When you tell people this the first thing they ask is, ‘do you feel any better for it?’ The honest answer is that I’m not sure, because I think the autumn weather (wet and windy), and preparing myself for the clock change at the end of October…do not bode well for me. I like warm sunshine and dry fields and whilst I love sitting by the fire in the dark evenings, reading a book and watching a film on the telly I find myself feeling ‘wintry’ as in not inspired to do very much but hibernate. Is that a good way to feel? I think not. Something has to be done about it.
I love the wood burning stove…a necessity for hibernating.
Get out and about, visit Bridport, attend some writing workshops, go to the library, walk the dog and don’t succumb to the winter blues. So that’s what I’m planning and have already implemented as far as I can.
First workshop attended was at Waterstones, in Dorchester. Organised by the Dorset Writers’ Network and led by Rosanna Ley. A group of twelve writers of varying experience, spent two hours listening, creating and having fun on the subject of ‘Sense of Place’. Making sure that your writing gets a true picture of where your story is set and bringing reality to the internal and external scenes that you write. I came away feeling inspired and keen to get on with at least one of my half-written novels, so that has to be good. I began reading through a manuscript this morning…or should I say trudging…think I need to make some drastic changes!
We are members of the Bridport Film Society (in fact I’m on the committee, not wanting to boast or anything) so every other Tuesday from now until March we can go and see an International film at the Bridport Arts Centre. This week is is Julietta ‘an exquisite study of a mother-daughter relationship tested though trying times…’ Sounds interesting eh? It’s a Spanish film with subtitles. I know some people hate subtitles but I love them because I love watching foreign films and I hate it when they’re dubbed.
Walking the dog has become something of a difficulty because of the muddy fields when it’s necessary to wear Wellington boots. These are hard to step out in and generally I end up with back ache at the end of even a half-hour walk. My decision is to put on the Wellies in the morning, take the dog to the nearest field, let her run for 5k while I walk for 1.5k then bring her home. In the afternoon I will put on an ordinary pair of lightweight walking shoes, take to the roads and do another 3k. This is my plan but we all know about my plans and how they can change depending on my mood and the weather.
My daughter striding out in the muddy fields last Saturday, complete with baby on her back! Oh to be young again….(she did get wet feet though)
Going back to the alcohol thing, when I did drink that half glass of red wine on Saturday 4th November, it was Ciu Ciu Gotico (if you’re interested) which, usually I adore…I didn’t really enjoy it on this occasion so the other 5 bottles that I brought back from Italy will probably sit on the rack for some time to come. I have found a couple of reasonable alcohol free or de-alcoholised wines and I’m going to stick to them for a while. Although a gin and tonic does sound rather tempting at around 6pm in front of the wood burning stove while I contemplate my next day’s writing challenge.
Watch this space for some Christmas poetry come December or I might record them on my other blog www.shortstorypods.com
The Bunny Cake in Dorset before Transportation and a Few Final Additions..
The Bunny Birthday Cake
I said I’d make the birthday cake, how foolhardy am I?
‘A number one or a bunny?’ I had to give it a try.
I chose the bunny and forged ahead, feeling quite inspired…
Number one, would’ve been, a piece of cake…’scuse the pun, I’m tired.
Four sponges I made altogether, two chocolate, and two quite plain
The sizes seemed to be slightly off, though the baking tins were the same
I cut them down and shaped them, being careful as I went
And fixed them together with icing and jam, hoping that would act as cement
It sat in the fridge ‘til morning, when the next phase could begin
I needed a layer of icing, should it be think or should it be thin?
The shop bought fondant was perfect, it was quite therapeutic to play
Rolling and shaping, cutting and making – the highlight of my day
I wanted to make some carrots for the dear little bunny to nibble
But no orange colouring could be found…not even a tiny dribble
I mixed the pink and yellow, but that was awfully pale
Perhaps this bunny could be eating a healthy piece of kale
The bunny’s hind feet didn’t look right – fat and rather heavy
They could belong to a monster, or a mini sized, white-haired yeti…
An attempt to shape the lop ears, was an impossible task I found
Except for his tail, I should have put, the whole bunny, right under the ground!
In the end the cake was presentable, you could say a bit of a winner
The one-year old really loved it – and the four-year-old ate it for dinner
From the front he looked delightful, with two orange carrots to boot
From behind, he was giving two fingers up…so perhaps not quite so cute!
Evie Flying the Kite at West Bay (you can just see her on the right hand side, almost out of sight behind the fence)
Our four-year-old granddaughter came to stay from last Friday until Sunday afternoon. It was lovely but exhausting. Grandchildren are a delight, especially, as when you’ve finished with them…you can give them back!
I penned a little poem for the occasion…
Collected and home in time for brunch
Or maybe, it could have been an early lunch
‘A cheese sandwich please.’ The request for food
So I made it with love…I thought it was good
But the cheese was apparently far too strong
Trust Nonna and Popsie to get it all wrong
When staying with you – they get away with a lot
Because parenting is definitely one thing we’re not
Ice cream and crisps, TV and games, and buying them all
The toys that they want – though most things are small
A rubber snail she called Albert, a hopper, a kite
Popsie said, ‘there’s no wind’ but for it’s maiden flight
She and I went to West Bay and found enough breeze
Upwards it floated with the greatest of ease… (I’m sure I’ve nicked that line from somewhere)
We went to the beach, we walked in the sand
And played in the rock pools hand in hand
We came home exhausted – us more than she
And Nonna needed something stronger than tea
She stayed just a few days, it was all good fun
Although none of the usual jobs could be done
Waking up at six-thirty is not to our taste
So this week we’re sleeping ‘til ever so late (and even in the afternoon!)
The cottage has been left with remnants galore
Teddies, toys and books, all over the floor
The bathroom’s invaded with ducks, fish and boats
And a little girl’s wellies are stashed under our coats
But, who would have it any other way?
It’s great when the grandchildren come to stay
Popsie (AKA The Man) and granddaughter, out on a bear hunt…he’s really getting into the action.
I have been fortunate in the last couple of months to catch up with most of my close family members. After six years, my daughter, her husband and two children have relocated from New York to Bristol. It’s great to have them so much closer, even though it’s still a couple of hours door to door, there’s no airports and flying involved. With FaceTime and Skype readily available the grandchildren know us well and we have been in contact every week while they’ve been living in NYC. Both of them were born there and the eldest, Evie has a great Brooklyn accent, soon to be lost to the Bristolian brogue perhaps? Emily has been away from England for sixteen years in total, ten of those years spent in Australia. A big change for her and I’m impressed with how she’s coping with it all…so far. But, even the Australian dog seems to be settling in well, enjoying the joys of a garden and less crowded parks. I recall Brooklyn dog walking with mixed feelings.
Coming Home to England….Emily, Daryl, Evie and Orla…
Matt in a Hat (a big one)…It’s impossible to visit Bridport without popping in to Snooks the Hatter!
At the end of May, my son Matt from Thailand came over for a few days, he’s been living away for over 20 years. First in Sydney, Australia, then Singapore and now Thailand. I don’t think he’ll ever come back to the UK. It was lovely to see him and even better that we all managed to get together for an evening in Bristol…at least most of us, Wills, the photographer couldn’t make it due to work commitments but he did meet up with his brother in London. Joe, (Will’s twin), who is a nurse, working and living in Bristol was with us. Of course, at our family gatherings there’s always one missing and that is Tosh, tragically lost to us in January 2011. But that’s another story which I think most of my readers know about already.
No photos of all of us in May 2017 but here’s one from the past…2009. An oldie but goodie and we’re ALL in it, including The Man’s lovely girls Jackie and Lottie. We’ve changed a bit since then mind (how’s that for Westcountry speak?) and not just the hair colour. We’ll have to do another family shoot next time we’re all in the same hemisphere and include the new members…
At the beginning of June The Man and I took a trip to Menorca to visit my brother and his wife. They’ve been living abroad for many years…over thirty I believe. It was a fleeting visit and we certainly packed a whole lot of stuff into three days. My brother drove us the full length of the island from Mahon (he lives close to here) to Ciutadella, where we had lunch. Then back to the middle and up Monte Toro the large mountain. The weather, which was a little inclement for only one day, cleared as we got to the top, so we were able to appreciate the view.
View as the clouds cleared from Monte Toro
The rest of the time we were there, we spent sunbathing, eating, drinking and sleeping…all the ingredients needed for a good holiday!
Both pictures are the port at Mahon…the boat on the right The Man thought was best suited to us…ha ha ha I’m not keen on any boats but I guess I could make an exception for this one. #dreamonbaby
Top Left: the pool, top right: My brother Tony and wife Maggie (he’s older than me…just so you know). Middle Right: plate of delicious baby squid. Bottom: Me and The Man enjoying outside, evening dining, at Restaurant Tamarindos, in the lovely village of Es Grau.
Loved these Menorca shoes called Abarcas…I bought three pairs and can’t wait to go back and buy more
Me and my sister Jean (she’s older than me in case you wondered)
I even managed to catch up with my sister in the month of May, haven’t seen her in ages but I drove up from Dorset to Surrey to visit her for just one night. It’s important to do these things as and when you can. She’s just become a grandmother…such a wonderful thing to be. I’m loving it.
Fun Being Nonna (it’s Italian for Grandmother)…not sure what kind of mystical animal I was being made into…
Window shopping on the Gloucester Road…makes a little girl very happy…
Take care everyone. Despite the awful events occurring in the UK and the rest of the world, there are also many good things going on. Oh dear…I do write such trite at times… ha ha ha. Enjoy the lovely weather, your families and friends and be sure to visit them and/call them as often as you can.
Today, six years ago in 2011 our family dynamics changed forever. We lost Tosh at the age of 27. He was a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a cousin, and an uncle, all our lives were affected in different ways. Every day that goes by I think of him and a couple of months ago I wrote this poem, trying to capture some of the emotions I felt and still feel and I’m sharing it with you on this post.
It is not right
It should not be
That he has left, ahead of me.
He was not done
Nor finished all
Before he took that tragic fall
There’ll never be a wedding now
Or children in whose face I catch
Some semblance of the boy I’ve lost
I wish him back no matter cost
It’s better not to think this way
Of things he’ll never do or say
But just recall the good times had
Don’t dwell on minor things of bad
But then, I make him like a saint
This youth who loved to live and paint
On urban trains and midnight walls.
He didn’t heed friends’ warning calls
Or sirens from the boys in blue
He didn’t think their hearts were true
To him there was no wrong in graff
Sprawling images of this and that
Slashing authority’s senseless laws,
Fighting all the small man’s wars
Against the corporation greed
Upon whose profits politicians feed
He left behind some works of art
On streets, at home, and, in my heart
I know it was his destiny
To leave this world ahead of me.
Thomas Hartley November 30th 1983 – January 14th 2011
I’ve had good times I’ve had bad times…most of my friends, present and past, have had lives that follow a similar pattern. But as you get older it becomes more evident that we humans are greedy things. We want our cake and eat it. We want too much in the way of material things and are never happy to be content to just have what we need. It’s nearing Christmas so I suppose that’s what’s making me feel this way. The constant flow of Christmas email offers coming into my inbox is frightening. The advertising in magazines, newspapers and on the television is bombastic. The pressure is on! There are so many people in the world with absolutely nothing. No home, no family, no food, nothing – and no prospect of things getting any better for them. It makes me angry and sad… and I know I’m a hypocrite, because I’m not going to give up everything I have and hand it all over to the needy.
In the past I have been without, literally, I have had nothing in my handbag or pocket and searched down the sides of the sofa (at least I had a sofa) for a few coins so that I could collect enough of them together for a meal. I’ve also had times when the table has been overflowing with food and the cupboards are bursting. I have worried about only having 50p in my purse and I have worried about having only £50 in my purse. It’s all relative. I have had my fair share of tragedy, losing my dad when I was only thirteen and then losing my lovely son when he was only twenty-seven. But, those events apart, I have been lucky in so many ways. I am lucky right now…the weather has been pretty rubbish but who cares? I am free, I’m not hungry and I’m comfortable. Most days I can please myself what I do. I have grown older and wiser. I’m a bit overweight and should try to lose it – but why? I’m healthy and happy and until I can’t actually get my clothes done up, I’m going to try not to worry about a few pounds of excess body fat.
I could never be as good as those people, who give up their Christmas Day to feed the homeless and needy before they have anything for themselves. But, I fully intend this year to try to do something helpful each day of the holiday. On Facebook I saw an advent calendar and each day it had a good deed to do, which I think is a great idea – much better than eating chocolate! Doing something kind or helpful does not mean that you have to deprive yourself of anything, it doesn’t even have to cost any money. Just make sure your neighbour has everything they need…whatever their age. Visit the local home for senior people…(trying to be PC) and maybe take a bottle of sherry for them to have a glass on Christmas day. I’m sure we can all think of something charitable to do? So far in December I haven’t done enough good deeds but I am trying, honestly.
I bought a wreath for the door today, it cost £10 and the money will go to charity. I’m not going to buy a load of Christmas decorations because it is a waste of money and we won’t be here for Christmas day but with family in Bristol (can’t wait). How lucky am I to be sharing time with my children and grandchildren and of course The Man…he’s a bit of a bah-humbug. I’m honestly not a Christmas grump but, I’m going try hard not to be too indulgent this year.
I’m not a religious person but appreciate the part of Christmas that brings people and families together. I do not appreciate the commercial side of Christmas at all and hope that you, readers, will take time out to think of those less fortunate than yourselves at this time of year and I will do the same.