Wednesday, 29 December 2010

 When I was a young girl my Mother and Aunt and I caught the bus every Saturday into a local town to visit the market.  In England, 'the market' isn't a shop or a shopping mall, it's numerous stalls with canvas awnings, full of produce either neatly laid out or haphazardly lying in heaps.  Over-riding all in my memory are the sounds and smells, and how hardy the market-people were to 'stand the stalls' in sleeting rain and biting snow or ice.  Raucous calls to buy chickens and eggs rang out in dialect, rising into the air with their breath, and always there were fragrant odours from the fresh beetroot stall, where earthy glowing-wine coloured globes would glisten and shine whatever the weather.  Roughly wrapped into newspaper still bearing their frondy tops dusty with soil, 'Ready to boil, fresh from the earth this morning.'  a swarthy vendor with purple stained hands, would shout.  I did love the smell of it!  But I was only interested in a small stall right at the rear of the food, hidden away next to the bus-depot was the second-hand book stall.  I would leave my Aunt and Mother buying cones from the ice-cream van because Saturday was my 'Spends day' and numerous old musty books of poetry and fairy-tales would come home with me to be dusted and polished, poured over, read aloud and cherished.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wishing you all a very
Happy Christmas and a wonderful
New Year, from a snowy North of England township!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

It snowed in the night.  When I awoke around half past four there was an orangy-glow in the gaps of the window blinds and my first thought was, 'It's snowed.'  Funnily enough only yesterday evening W and I were 'crowing' because the map of the weather on television showed swathes of Britain covered in the stuff, whereas Manchester area was unaffected. Big laughs all round, because it's nearly always us who gets the lot being bordered by the Pennine Hills the clouds need to rise up to fly over and ooops they dump the lot on Lancashire and Yorkshire.  It's been really bitterly cold for the past few days even the magpies have been staying in their nests.  When we were children you hardly ever saw magpies in the towns, you felt really lucky to be able to shout, "Morning Captain!" Or "Morning Mr Magpie, how is your Lady wife and family?" and salute  if you happened to spot one, now you'd be thought as mad as a hatter in a sock factory if you went about saluting all the time.  There are so many of them chattering and bounding around you'd have repetitive strain injury!  They're beautiful colours if you really look at them, iridescent blue, green and purple.  My brother had a friend at school who kept a Jackdaw as a pet, it used to talk he tells me.  I have a very vague memory of seeing it one day, it was upon the boy's shoulder out in our back yard.  Was it speaking?...I can't remember.  I wish I had a pet jackdaw now or even a pet crow.
'Krahe'  Artist: Rud Hurzlmeier

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The smallest of taps on the window-pane make me look up from the book I am reading. A great wind blows
cold raindrops against the glass hurling itself into my pine tree as though some wild thing resides within, thrashing and swaying.  Grey skies sail above wet slate black roofs and silver tear drops slide down glass in rivulets of reflection.

Once long ago now, we drove between dense forests of pine trees in a Czechoslovak summer.  Either side of us flashes of endless dark trees made that soporific noise..'Wahh wahh' as we pushed the air of them past us.  The long undulating road ahead stretched to an incline and twilight settled softly like a moth.  Suddenly from one side came a creature, magnificent in bearing, standing far enough ahead for us to slow to a creeping roll.  A king of the ancient forests, his stance and antlers proudly upright he was framed for no more than a heartbeat.  Yet the thrill of his majesty, his maleness his absolute power over his dominion is etched into my being - he was not afraid!

Friday, 12 November 2010

The river lies below us at the bottom of a steep 1/10 hill and this morning there is a strong wind blowing so that brittle leaves swirl from the trees in golden confetti, and seagulls having followed the coursing river inland from the sea, swoop and ride the buffeting currents in a silver-grey sky.
I have lived near fresh-water most of my life, even as children we were very aware of living in an important area.  Then the industrial heart of the North of England, Manchester has six rivers nearby, the Irwell, the Medlock, the Mersey, the Irk, theTibb and Tame.  Canals were also greatly instrumental in enabling the transfer of goods right into the heart of the city. The Manchester Ship Canal brought ocean going vessels and featured daily in our young lives...          
                                        "The big ship's sail on the Alley Alley O!
                                         The Alley Alley O
                                         The Alley Alley O
                                         The big ship's sail on the Alley Alley O
                                         On the first day of September."                    
was sung out loud frequently in the grey school playground next to the steep embankment of the first Steam Railway in the world.  Whilst the Duke of Bridgewater's canal wound it's way towards our city carrying coal, cotton and numerous goods, even crossing the Manchester Ship Canal via the Barton Aqueduct and the first ever Swinging Bridge, a marvel of the modern world of 1893.
Barton Swing Aqueduct.jpg
Photo: Wikipedia 

Sunday, 31 October 2010

We shall grow older and our hair turn from darkness to light, yet our same heart is in there beating its melody every second.  Beating, beating, bathing our brain that's keeping some of us sane and able to perform intricate tasks.  Instructing our limbs, nerves and organs and at the merest hint of a thought from us, our brains can conjure up a picture of a person, a place, a painting.  I am thinking of a painting.  The Fighting Temeraire, by Turner, a painting I had on my bedroom wall when I was thirteen.There was something in that painting that made me feel calm.  Maybe it was the great ghostly ship smoothly emerging from the mist accompanied by the vibrant tugboat in the glory of a golden sunset.  Turner referred to this painting as "My Darling" and apparently refused to sell it.  I still love it!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

To S,  Forty-Four Years Friends.

Searching for signs to follow
In fog
I have groped by pits and snares,
My many wild words mirrored
Chambers of a cold eternity.
But look now-
Utterly unsummoned comes tripping along
My longest friend.
She gazes into my eyes
Finds in them no premonition of a tear,
But only kisses, smiles
And every easy laugh.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Friday morning's still seem more exciting to me somehow even though I've retired now.  Maybe today it's the Autumn sunshine streaming through the blinds lighting up the minute diamonds of condensation or the shifting shadows and sunlight dancing lazily upon the glass.  I can't quite catch the real reason why Friday seems to hold promise for me still.  Is it so ingrained upon us that the week-end means no work for the next two days?
I am so lucky, I can listen to the clock alarm trill every morning if I want to, reach for my book and tea-cup or simply relish in my thoughts of daylight hours to be filled how e're I wish.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Wood pigeons calling to the cool blue morning, church bells tolling 7.30,
an early laugh from one lone magpie.  Skywards... air is crisp and clearly blue.
Flowery china with hot black tea and John Betjeman.

Business Girls

From the geyser ventilators
Autumn winds are blowing down
On a thousand business women
Having baths in Camden Town

Waste pipes chuckle into runnels,
Steam's escaping here and there,
Morning trains through Camden cutting
Shake the Crescent and the Square.

Early nip of changeful autumn,
Dahlias glimpsed through garden doors,
At the back precarious bathrooms
Jutting out from upper floors;

And behind their frail partitions
Business women lie and soak,
Seeing through the draughty skylight
Flying clouds and railway smoke.

Rest you there, poor unbelov'd ones,
Lap your loneliness in heat.
All too soon the tiny breakfast,
Trolley-bus and windy street!

Sir John Betjeman

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Sixty-five thousand questions.  Who are we? Who am I, pinned down by this mysterious illness that fluctuates and dies down, flares-up and disables, makes me feel like a kaleidoscope - a myriad different colours that change shape at every move and shake.

I remember the smell of freesia as I sat in the wedding-car in my bridal veil and dress. The perfume filled the car...creamy white Freesia and Stephanotis. Where did the time go, forty two Autumns ago?  All the heart-beats, all the breaths, a thousand kisses deep.  Dear JM, where are you now?  Among the stars, gone too soon.

'Ciao, un grosso bacione'.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Kersal cell                                
Old drawing of the Kersal Cell.
This old building still stands about a mile and a half from where we live, in fact there is a massive double stone wall at the end of our garden, which according to our deeds was the boundary wall for the Byrom Estate. The estate covered over a hundred acres and was first mentioned in 1142 when there was a monastery on the site. 
It's supposed to be haunted!  The monastery's were suppressed by King Henry the Eighth resulting in numerous monks being murdered and the estate was sold on by the King to a Baldwin Willoughby in 1540 who, in turn sold it on, until a third of it was transferred to the Byrom family who were wealthy Linen drapers in Manchester.  There was one famous member of the Byrom's, John Byrom, who was a Jacobite, a Hymn Writer/Poet, and a Shorthand Inventor.  It is said that John was born in The Old Wellington Inn in the Shambles Manchester.

But some sources say he was born in the old Kersal Cell house.  He was educated at Trinity College,Cambridge of which he became a 'Fellow',and afterwards travelled to study Medicine at Montepellier, France.  He invented a form of Shorthand which he patented as,'New Universal Shorthand', and it was taught officially at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and used in the House of Lords.  He was also a published Poet, writing the hymn 'Christian's Awake' as a Christmas present for his daughter, and he was reputed to be one of the tallest men in the kingdom.

Did I mention that the old house is supposed to haunted?  Course I did...... Years ago we had not one but two members of our family who were policemen, and I happened to mention the Kersal Cell in passing conversation to one of them.

"Ah...yes...Kersal Cell, your Uncle had a rather odd happening a good few years back.  You'll remember he was a Dog-handler in the Force, and that night he was down to patrol the Kersal Cell area.  This was in the days when 'Bobbies' actually walked the streets and generally made people feel safer in their beds.  It was really dark down that area overlooking a bend of the river Irwell opposite the cemetery. He'd made a round of all the out-buildings etc., and was making his way back up the driveway when he heard footsteps behind him on the path.  He stopped.  They stopped.  He continued, only to hear the footsteps again.  Suddenly the dog by his side stiffened, pointing his nose in the direction of the noise.  The footsteps began again advancing towards your Uncle and the dog.  The dog's hackles went right up and with a yelp he yanked the lead from what by now must have been a very sweaty palm of your Uncle and legged it off out of sight.  Your Uncle stood his ground, he was after all a stalwart member of the British Constabulary and a Forward-Prop on the Rugby-Team.  The ghostly footsteps came up level with him and passed on by with not a soul to be seen he said.  I think we can say however he made a dignified exit at a retrieve the dog he said...!  He got a right load of stick from his compatriots at the station of course, though I can tell you myself lots of us contrived to do the round in two's after that it certainly was a spooky dark old place down there and I don't mind admitting it."

Saturday, 11 September 2010

In Memoriam A.H.H.Obitt
by Alfred,Lord Tennyson

.............And suck'd from out the distant gloom
A breeze began to tremble o'er
The large leaves of the sycamore,
And fluctuate all the still perfume,

And gathering freshlier overhead,
Rock'd the full-foliaged elms, and swung
The heavy-folded rose,and flung
The lillies to and fro,and said

"The dawn, the dawn," and died away;
And East and West, without a breath,
Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
To broaden into boundless day.

Three years and four days before the Twin Towers fell I was standing beneath them at 8:45am on my honeymoon.  We could have gone in.  Gone up to the Observation deck, we didn't, I'm strangely glad we didn't.  Even though by 2001 three years had passed since I stood there looking up at their magnificence, I still felt such an affinity with New York, with the people and the tragedy and horror of all those lives lost.  As I watched our television screen, I kept thinking of those who that day had gone up to the top unlike us, and thinking of all the people working away in their offices the day I stood there who were most probably the very same people loosing their lives so horribly that day.  We were lots of us doing that-putting ourselves there...trying to gauge how we would feel, my God!... We most likely can't even begin to understand what it must have been like.  Nine years gone now. I would like to go back.  I love New York . I hope I can return one day to stand where we stood that morning.

Friday, 3 September 2010

A beautifully sunny birthday in the City.....a glass of champagne with coffee at eleven.  September, ....soft September sunshine and ducks swimming on the river.  Reflection and shadow.  Slowly summer ebbs into cooler mornings and my city is quiet, the children returned now to school desks with new uniform begin to fill their  notebooks once more.  Solitary mothers stroll, perhaps relishing the peace.  Somewhere a piano plays a mellow melody and I want to take the day and preserve every particle of it!

'i thank You God for this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes'

Monday, 23 August 2010

People    by Charlotte Zolotow

Some people talk and talk
and never say a thing.
Some people look at you 
and birds begin to sing.

Some people laugh and laugh
and yet you want to cry.
Some people touch your hand
and music fills the sky. 

Friday, 20 August 2010

'What's it all about Alfie?  Is it just for the moment we live?...' Song.

I spend most of my time in the house, it's been like that for nearly twelve years now.  After a while it feels like you've disappeared.  You forget who you really are when there is little interaction with others.
Tick doesn't follow Tock!
Sometimes...B o n g follows tick, sometimes even Bang-bang....B o n g..

Thank heavens there are cats!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Against all odds...

The sun is shining this morning after a couple of weeks of heavy downpours and thunderstorms.  By heck it's just such a lifter, especially first thing on a Sunday when no-one else is up and the road where we live is sleepy and traffic is intermittent.  I'm standing at our lounge window opening the blinds, enjoying the greeness. Ooh! The simple, sleepy snoozyness of the morning.  When my eyes drifted into my neighbours garden.
  Our next door house has been standing empty for over a year now; what with the state of the world market etcetera etcetera no-one seems prepared to buy it.  Years and years ago when the people she bought it from were preparing to sell they dug up the front garden, dragging out all the old plants and bushes grown leggy and bedraggled.  Our gardens are on a slope, so they laid old railway sleepers across to make ledges, first laying membrane and presumably weed-killer  then covering the whole lot with gravel.  Hummph....not very picturesque.  Not a plant left standing and surrounded by a privet hedge...typically a suburban eyesore, neat but barren, especially bounded by..a privet!  Privets always make me think of 1960 intercity parks, all uniform and soulless, or Glasgow council estates or Salford, where 'the Salt of the Earth' live but they haven't got the cash to splash on dahlias and geraniums. (I'm not knocking anyone..I've been there done that bought the tshirt.)  Anyway.... there, in amongst the gravel, which is a bit sparse by now having been ground hither and thither by the aforementioned rain I espied two tiny white cyclamen!  Straight as dyes,standing out  proudly and twice as delicate!  I snook over a low fence and grabbed a photograph.  I say snook as I was in my pyjamas and I didn't want anyone to see me...don't ask.   Oh well... if you must!  Oversized men's supermarket tshirt and washed-out pink bottoms, plus old beige cardigan, you should have seen me, SJP I'm not!
Right away 'Against all odds.'  popped straight into my mind.  I thought, there they are, sooo delicate looking, creamy white against the gravel and snatches of black plastic membrane, battling through to get to the sunshine and the warmth.  Tiny, tiny beautiful flowers, 'pearls amongst the swine' but still triumphant.
I thought, there's a sign for me!  Two tiny flags saying, "You know what...

Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth,
And as things have been, things remain;

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers-
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back,through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent,flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look! The land is bright."
Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

We live in a suburb area between two hospitals so consequently we hear Ambulance sirens all the time.  Both hospitals have Accident and Emergency departments and they must regularly use our road to transfer patients.  You'd be amazed at the number that scream past, it makes you think every time of some poor person whose life has just taken a turn they maybe weren't expecting.  I send them a thought when I can.  I try my best to take each day as it comes, what more can you do?  We only have this moment...and this moment, a Buddhist philosophy though I'm not a Buddhist.

 I was told I had something called M.E. nearly fifteen years ago now, I suspect I've had it longer.  M.E. or Myalgic Encaphalomyelitis is a distinct organic neurological disorder recognised by WHO the World Health Organisation with the neurological code G93.3.  There is substantial evidence indicating that M.E. is caused by an enterovirus causing damage to the brain.  As yet there is no one single test with which to diagnose all patients.  There are tests available but many people do not have access to these and most standard tests are inadequate in revealing M.E.  These standard tests may give normal results in up to 90% of M.E. patients, of which I am one.  Try  should you be curious to find out more, this is a brilliant site written by a lady with severe M.E. who writes succinctly yet in language you can actually understand!

It's taken me three years to pluck-up the courage to put this 'out there'.  There still remains such controversy and downright ignominy about this disorder.  As Jodi Bassett says,

'You soon find out that the disease you have is one of those that is treated differently from many others, that not every disease is treated equally and that bizarrely this has nothing to do with type of disease, the severity of the disease or its symptoms or testable abnormalities, or the possibility of death, but other non-scientific and non-medical factors. It has to do with political and financial factors, and marketing...........leaves you with no real care at all.  Even worse, not only with no appropriate care at all, but often subject to serious mistreatment from the professionals meant to be there to help you.
Most people trust absolutely that if they get severely ill, they can go to an emergency room and be given appropriate medical care. I used to think that too.'

I used to think that myself, one time being asked by a young house-doctor at hospital, 'Have you ever heard of the word hypocondriasis? I suggest you go home and be at one with your body.' On a different occasion during a crisis visiting a GP I was told,  'I needed a kick up the bum'.   Consequently I only visit the doctor when I absolutely have no alternative.  I have reached the age of sixty, lived and worked in five different countries, had three children.  Like most people my age I've lived through life changes and money worries, tragedies, divorce and unexpected deaths, all serving to give you a chance to find your own inner strength.  So I take umbrage at being told,that I don't recognise when I'm feeling truly ill, that I....'just need a kick up the bum.'  Believe me if I thought I could cure myself that way I'd be walking around with a sign over my rear end saying, 'Kick here!'

Monday, 21 June 2010

Rich music breathes in summer's every sound,
And in her harmonies of varied greens -
Woods, meadows, hedgerows, cornfields,all around,
       Much beauty intervenes
Filling with harmony the ear and eye,
        While o'er the mingling scenes
         Far spreads the laughing sky.

             from Summer Images by John Clare

Days of warmth and sunshine are scarce in my neck of the woods.  We have a large amount of rain and grey skies, so it's been glorious to wake up to sunshine and roses.  We've had hot weather for around a fortnight and everywhere you look there are flowers, blossoms and green green fronds, which is certainly a tonic.  The North of England is no longer a mass of belching chimneys, dirty smoke grimed buildings or clattering clogs.  We might now be described as vibrant, cosmopolitans with a unique character, peopling our metropolis with  truly contemporary style-  well that's my story anyway!  We've recently been treated on TV to new opening scenes at the start of, 'Coronation Street'. Now we see rooftops glistening with rain, pigeons fly up from chimney-pots and you just catch a glimpse of the famous cobbles and the public-house sign, Rovers Return.  It's only a matter of time before Betty's hotpot is replaced with Braised Goat Ragout and Crayfish Sushie puts Pork Scratchings out of the picture!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Almost a week has gone by since my lovely friend Georgie died.  I've felt wretched to say the least.  He had been suffering kidney problems for some time but all of a sudden he deteriorated rapidly and in the past month we had two mad dashes to see our Vet.  In the end we decided it was kinder to let him go, a heart wrenching decision.   He was my best pal, arriving out of the blue one day when I was sitting in our garden because I felt  poorly.  We discovered to whom he belonged when a young woman came knocking on the door asking had we seen a ginger cat, she'd been going up and down the avenue's calling for him for days.  So she took him back home with her, but within days there he was again strolling up our our garden path and straight in at our cat-flap.  We telephoned her to say he was back with us again, each time he'd crossed several busy roads and travelled miles.  But this time when she came to our door she selflessly decided to leave him with us as she said he so obviously wanted to stay. Afterwards for a good few years there would be a knock at the door heralding her two small children politely asking if they could visit George.  Whenever we went out somewhere on our return there would be my Georgie, strolling down the driveway to welcome us home, rain snow or shine.  He was such a star as well, in that he would assist me up our steep drive by letting me hold on to his tail!
Sorry to go on a little.... it's just that I felt chosen by my lovely ginger friend and I really miss him.
Don't let anyone tell you that cats are stand-offish or can't show you affection....they obviously hadn't met up with my pal.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Blossoms are scattered by the wind and the wind cares nothing, but the blossoms of the heart no wind can touch. 
- Yoshida Kenko-

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The cherry trees are pregnant with blossom, and as our met' office is predicting temperatures to reach 70 degrees this week, no doubt there will be masses of divine pink froth for our souls to feast upon!

  I've been thinking about our time spent in Abu Dhabi, UAE., this morning... We had dusty, tiny balcony's outside the lounge and bedrooms.  They were so narrow, one could open the sliding door and take just a single step to reach the railings.  It was stifling hot.  Too hot up there, and anyway too dusty and humid, not to mention noisy, with the traffic of a dual carriageway only a few floors beneath our feet.  The taxies went by honking their horns to say, 'I'm free for hire.'.  I've a photo of my eldest daughter crouched-up on one of the balcony's, alongside her stands the little girl from the next-door apartment.  The child who got her hands stuck as the lift went down.  The apartment-blocks elevator's had those metal doors that remain closed on the floor you get on at but a concertina metal gate to the actual lift compartment.  She'd put her hands against the metal door through the gate and as the lift went down her hands became trapped - awful!!  Luckily she kept those little hands, but she'll probably still have scars, she must be in her mid-thirties now,  around thirty-five years have gone by since those times.  So.... there they both are in the photograph, my eldest squinting because the glare of the sun against the marble and concrete is so bright.  Her skin is so light - transparent almost.  She has on a deep cobalt-blue dress with little bead tassels and her hair is in plaits.

It's one of those days when I think if only I felt well enough to sling on a pair of jeans, tee-shirt and jacket, jump in the car and together with my husband zoom off to somewhere like....  Harrogate.  Handsome Harrogate with Aunt Betty's Tea shop and fairy-lights twinkling in the twilight of the evening after a lovely sunny day amongst the stone buildings and the cherry-blossom!  Aunt Betty's with it's mile-long queues for a table, it's waitresses in little black dresses with white aprons and white caps.  It's gentle music and conversation, mirrors and delightful fare.  Heaven!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Ruth St. Denis in The Cobras, once more!

Sorry to have been away so very takes a good old while to recover from Christmas and New Year celebrations and then Spring time/climate changes when you have M.E.

How mysterious and yet strangely 'modern' is Ruth?  She's definitely not ordinary...and I love that quote below, by Nietzsche.

Ruth St. Denis in The Cobras.

'And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane
by those who could not hear the music.'

-Friedrich Nietzsche-

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Armstrong Siddley

That's me and my mother in the photo on the blog-header, with Dad's car, back in 1963 or thereabouts. Dad  brought home the lovely old 'jalopy' one evening right out of the blue, I remember my mum wasn't too pleased and she refused to  ride in it for a couple of days.  I don't even recall how he came by just arrived, in spite of us being impoverished at the time, hence mum's disapproval.  My brother and I went out with him that evening for a drive and I nearly wet myself laughing because not yet being used-to the clutch and gears Dad did 'kangaroo petrol' down the road.   He was embarrassed I think, because he shouted and looked stern which only made me want to laugh more, you know how it is?  Like when you're in the library right beneath the sign that says, 'Silence' and your mate cracks a joke about the librarians stuffiness.
I think I'm about fourteen in this photo...get a load of those jeans!!  You can just about see a little of the lovely old car.  Winding windows and a real wooden steering-wheel, no winking indicators either, they were the original little pointy-amber-hands clunking out like ears from the side behind the rear doors.  I loved that old car.  We felt 'posh' whenever we went out in it, in spite of a few mishaps we had in it.  Like the front wheel bowling off down the road on it's own, leaving Mum and Dad unharmed, though she never got over having to come home on the bus in her fluffy house-slippers!  She'd gone out quickly without a coat and hadn't changed into outdoor shoes.  Then the exhaust fell off completely on a trip to Yorkshire when were carrying an esteemed visitor from France and we had to drive home with the car sounding like a World War Two tank that certainly made an impression we didn't wish to repeat!