Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Death - Dreaming of Loved Ones

11:45:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , No comments


I was only four years old when I encountered death for the first time. My lovely great-grandmother had passed away during the night. My mother held my hands and explained that Nanna Mary had died because she was too poorly to get better. The angels had taken her soul to Heaven and if we blew kisses up to the sky, she would catch them. She loved me but I would never see her again because she had gone now and I had to be brave and not cry. So that was it. No more feeding the chickens in the back garden, no more cuddles in the big chair by the fire while we shared an orange, no more throaty laughter, no more Nanna Mary.

When I was born I had my parents, two sets of grand-parents, my great-grandmother, three great-aunts and a few uncles, aunts and a cousin. The angels took my family one by one, usually without warning and by the time I reached the age of thirty everyone had passed away except a couple of aunts, an uncle, a few distant cousins and my younger sister. For years I had the desolate feeling of emptiness associated with grief as I had to accept the changes and carry on like every bereaved person does. Even now I can feel the overwhelming sadness at the memory of someone I’ve lost, yet at the same time feel blessed to have known them as part of my family. My childhood was filled with love and joy.

Some time ago, when I was being treated for a serious illness, I had a recurring dream. Dreams don’t bother me generally but this one did.

In the dream I was entering a room full of people. The main source of light came from the blazing fire in a stone hearth that everyone was sitting round. Happy and smiling, they turned to greet me, saying my name. I felt more welcome than ever before, anywhere. These lovely, warm people were my family. Some of them I’d never known because they had lived and died before I was born. My mother was elated, reaching out to me. At that point, and always then, I would realise my father was not there and I would wake up.

The dream disturbed and upset me. Perhaps it was the medication or the condition of my illness. It’s the only time I’ve considered my own mortality.  I haven’t had the dream since I recovered. I decided that my father was missing because he wasn’t going to let me die. It made me wonder what death is like. Will my departed family be waiting to welcome my soul? Will anyone blow kisses up to the sky for me to catch?

Most of my dear departed are at rest in Southern Cemetery, Manchester or Brooklands Cemetery, Sale. These are my own photos.

 

This is my favourite sonnet from Christina Rossetti.

 
Remember

 
Remember me when I am gone away,
     Gone far away into the silent land;
     When you can no more hold me by the hand,
     Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
     Remember me when no more day by day
     You tell me of our future that you planned:
     Only remember me; you understand
     It will be late to counsel then or pray.
     Yet if you should forget me for a while
     And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
     For if the darkness and corruption leave
     A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
     Better by far you should forget and smile
     Than that you should remember and be sad.
 
 
Thanks for reading, Pam xx

 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Teddies and Other Animals

19:13:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , , 3 comments
Mojo mark 1


When I was teaching I bought myself a cheap, soft toy monkey who was destined to be a dunce for the rest of his life.  The six year old children in my class decided he should be called Mojo (to go with the polar bear called Polo who already lived in the corner of the room) and set about trying to teach him the basics.  The idea was that Mojo sat on my lap, looking happy but gormless, whilst I fired a series of questions to the children gathered around me.

“4 add 1?”
“2 add 3?”
“Can you sound out ‘pet’?”
“What does ‘dog’ start with?”

And so on.

Mojo was supposed to try and answer before the children, by whispering in my ear.  Needless to say, the children were desperate to beat Mojo, whose answers were invariably ridiculous.  The result was the children had a lot of fun, learned their sounds, added up their numbers, and Mojo remained oblivious to his own ineptitude, smiling inanely from my lap and receiving a lot of sympathetic comments along the way.  He always held a special place in my heart.

I took early retirement from teaching the same year my grandson was born, and somehow (I wish I could remember how) Mojo became Rio’s favourite soft toy.  Except he wasn’t just a toy, he was much more that that.   He was a supreme comforter and as time went on, became part of the family.  Rio moved around a lot in his first few years, between his mum, his dad and us, his grandparents, and wherever Rio went, Mojo was being dragged along too.  There was no chance of sleep without Mojo for Rio to rest his weary head on.  We all had a lot invested in that monkey.

I can honestly say, one of the worst weekends of my life followed the loss of Mojo one Thursday morning when Rio was seven.  I received a distraught phone call from my daughter.  Rio had been going to his dad’s that night so whilst he was at nursery, Laurey had taken Mojo, in a bag with some clothes, to the house and, finding his dad out, had left the bag in the side entrance.  Somehow, within a few hours, Mojo, the clothes and the bag had disappeared.  If you have never had a child with a comforter – in whatever form - that goes everywhere with that child then you have no idea of the distress caused by the loss of such an item.  Not only was Rio distraught, we all were.  It was like a death, and we reacted accordingly.  The worst part was seeing Rio trying to put on a brave face.  Laurey and I held it all together while we reassured him we were doing everything possible to find Mojo, but when Rio left the room the pair of us dissolved in tears.  When Rio returned he buried his head in his mum’s lap and sobbed.  I genuinely believe he was grief stricken.

I come from a long line of capable women who think that, not only is there a solution to every problem, but that we are the ones who have that solution.  I went into problem solving mode and eventually came up with an answer we hoped would make Rio happy again.  We had researched enough to know that we couldn’t replace Mojo with a newer model.  He had become extinct a few years previously.  I spent a day, searching desperately online for a similar monkey to no avail.  The only answer was to get another monkey and adapt it to look as much like Mojo as possible.  As a competent needlewoman I was confident I could do the job, but as a grandma I knew that Rio would not be fooled.  Only recently he had cried inconsolably and then stood by the washing line as Mojo dripped dry after a much needed wash.  He’d explained that the smell of Mojo was a big part of his appeal and I’d already agreed never to wash him again. 
The original Mojo, on his travels



The new Mojo, pre-op


The new Mojo, post-op

The following day, the new monkey arrived by special delivery and at vast expense.  He had long arms and legs, a bright smile and no ears, whereas Mojo had been short limbed with only the hint of a smile and ears like Dumbo.  I had quite a job on my hands.  What worried me more than the physical transformation of Mojo was the problem of explaining away the newness, the lack of worn fabric on his head and of course, the smell.  I set to work, chopping off limbs, adding ears and altering facial features.  By the time I'd finished Mojo had been reborn.  We were just left with the problem of explaining away the obvious differences.  And this is where Mrs Peacock and the Monkey Orphanage came to the rescue.....

The letter from the Monkey Orphanage

I'm not sure whether Rio, as a bright seven year old, was totally fooled by the orphanage story but Ido remember him telling me, years afterwards, that he'd gone home that day, hidden under his bed with Mojo and cried tears of joy.  As a family we never talk about the loss of Rio's favourite monkey, it was such a traumatic event, but as I look at Mojo now and see how worn he is once again I'm sure Rio would say the 'adoption' has been a great success. 

Long live teddies and other animals, but please keep your eye on them at all times.


The day the monkey disappeared by Jill Reidy

I like to think
The day that Mojo disappeared
He’d decided he was big enough
And clever enough
To set off on his own
That he didn’t need his daddy any more
(For that’s how Rio saw himself)
And he was going on one of life’s big adventures

He took the bag
Peered around the bin
And when the coast was clear
He made a dash
Nimbly climbing the nearest lamp post
And hanging there till the bin men had finished emptying bins
The shoppers had finished shopping 
And the children had gone in for their tea

Then, swiftly, he swung from post to post
Along streets where the dark seeped in
Until he reached some open spaces
Not quite the jungle
But maybe a local park
Where he met up with the other missing toys
Who had fled their owners
For a life of freedom

That’s what I like to think

Thanks for reading     Jill


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Teddy Burns

22:00:00 Posted by Steve Rowland , , , , No comments
Your Saturday Blogger's teddy#1 was still quite young and furry when it met with a catastrophic end.

I was four at the time but I remember the events of that afternoon (nearly 60 years ago) quite clearly. Our house burned down and the bear (along with everything else apart from the clothes we were wearing at the time) was lost in the conflagration.

Backing up to set the scene, I was born and grew up in Nigeria where my dad was a missionary. We lived a couple of hundred miles up country from Lagos in a small village - dad, mum, myself, Pooh bear (named after Winnie the Pooh, whose exploits I enjoyed having read to me), my baby brother Paul and our pet peacock.

Me aged 2 with teddy#1
It was, I suppose, a somewhat unusual childhood but it was all I knew and it was a very happy one. By force of circumstance I didn't really have any playmates so Pooh was my regular companion and confidant (as you can just about make out from the grainy photo above). I think the only place he didn't join me was in the bath-tub - because bears don't like getting wet - though he used to grub around in the dirt with me most days, so I can only conjecture that my mother had a secret way of cleaning him up that I wasn't privy to.

On the fateful afternoon of January 10th 1958 I was sitting on the verandah of our thatched bungalow with my afore-mentioned younger brother and my heavily pregnant mother. I was told years afterwards that we had been playing Happy Families. For some reason Pooh wasn't with me. He was probably enjoying a siesta on my bed.

We suddenly heard this incredible roaring sound - like a group of motorbikes approaching at high speed - except the road was empty apart from a few wandering zebra. The next thing we knew, thick smoke was billowing down through the thatch above our heads and villagers were running shouting towards us. Within a couple of minutes, the whole tinder-dry roof of our bungalow was ablaze, burning thatch was tumbling down into the rooms and all we could do was retreat to a safe distance and watch in horror.

My dad arrived with the group of men who'd been helping him to burn the elephant grass in the plantation a quarter of a mile away. Burning down grass was the most effective way of keeping it tended. The idea was to choose a windless day and raze it by small fires in a controlled manner. Late on this particular afternoon, the Harmattan got up early, picked up some smouldering elephant grass and as bad luck would have it, wafted it directly onto our thatched roof. By the time my dad and his helpers could organise a human chain of villagers to pass buckets of water from the well to the house, the fire was raging and the water proved ineffectual.

People just couldn't get near enough. The heat was immense and the noise was deafening. I gave not a thought to Pooh, trapped somewhere within the all-consuming flames. I was too concerned about my parents who were discussing whether dad might risk getting into the burning house to rescue anything of worth. In the end, common sense prevailed and we stood under the nearby trees and watched helplessly into early evening as fire destroyed our home.

Our burned out house
The next morning we drove down to Lagos to stay in a mission-centre. Dad went to buy new clothes for us all from the American department store in Kingsway and he came back armed with teddy#2 for me. This one actually looked like Winnie the Pooh but I only ever called it Ted. My mum went into hospital and my youngest brother David was born three days later. (Happy birthday, David.)

Four months after these momentous events, in May 1958, we set sail from Lagos for a new life in England and I've not been back to Nigeria since. My mum was in perpetual fear of house fires for the rest of her life.

I can't leave this theme without telling you what happened to teddy#2. He was my faithful companion for the next seven years. His fur was worn dull and thin (except for the bright, fluffy folds where threadbare arms and legs joined threadbare torso), he lost an eye and his paws were re-covered with corduroy but he remained stout and true. Came my twelfth birthday and, for reasons too complex to explain in detail, I arrived at the momentous decision that I had 'become a man' and teddy#2 had served his purpose. In what became a rite of passage for both of us, I sent him off in the time-honoured fashion (at least as far as my limited experience of despatching teddies went). I built a fine funeral pyre at the bottom of our garden, doused Ted in petrol from the garden-mower and watched respectfully as the flames consumed his little body.

Cremating teddy#2
After cremating teddy#2, it was another twenty-one years before I bought another bear. That one was for my eldest daughter on the day she was born, but it's a whole new story. Growler is still alive and well.

As a mark of respect to my own two teddy bears, there is no poem today.

Thanks for reading. Keep your loved ones close and have a good week, S ;-)

Friday, 13 January 2017

Teddy

   Of course we all think of Teddy Bears.- From the  original " Theodore ", to vintage teddies, Steiff Teddies. An age less toy, a lifelong companion..providing memories, giving comfort and boundless love.
    So I remembered my own companions...Maxie and Teddy. Maxie was a blue lamb with a sticking out tongue ( that at one time I'd cut off thinking it very rude ) and with a missing tail, as I recall. Teddy was threadbare , probably from being over -hugged, over-loved and over -played with. Now these two had wonderful adventures together. Maxie being a 'horse' that Teddy could ride into battle on, cross the boundless desert with, attack Indians and generally provide transport. When I was unwell the two would gallop over the mountains that my bent knees made, hide in the folds of the eiderdown, slink into the cave beneath the sheets and hug close as I fell asleep. It was imperative that the two accompanied me on visits, holidays and doctor appointments. Taking the place of siblings I guess. When I left home my mother cleared everything out...dolls, teddies, toys, postcard collection, books etc...so I don't know what happened to the intrepid pair. I hope they are somewhere together, as they are in my memory.
   Other 'teddies' were worn as undergarments. I made some at college. Slinky and silky, trimmed with lace, fastened with poppers .Not terribly comfortable if one was a very active person as the poppers came undone !
   Then Teddy Boys. My late husband had been one. He'd regale me with stories of having tailor made suits on a regular basis from a small tailor in Oxford. The trousers had to be a certain width at the hem ( some with turn ups ) . The back of the jacket cut in one piece ( no seam or vent ) . The collar, cuff and number of buttons just what was fashionable on that day. There would be a pocket for a cosh, one for a knife...another for a knuckle duster. The crepe shoes etc.  Oh , yes it seems he was a 'bad boy', but as I pointed out to my sister in law, whose husband had been his 'accomplice', they turned out to be good men. At a later stage in his life he enjoyed reliving those days and we attended ' Rock and Roll ' events featuring some of the original groups. When we moved house we  "lost " his remaining 1950's suit and he was really upset.So I made him a waistcoat and jacket to make up for the loss. When he died I had him dressed in those garments and we had a ' Rock and Roll ' wake. It was what he wished.
   So back to teddy bears and I have another story to tell. Two days before my husband died I won a teddy in a raffle, then two weeks later I won a simple knitted teddy in a tombola. They both sit on my bed to this day....

         



    My poem this week.....

                        Absolute Perfection

            I have a young man who sleeps with me every night
            He keeps me safe from evil and I hug him very tight.
            He's very liberated and thinks naked is the best-
            I must say I agree as I snuggle in his chest !
            He's terribly respectful and makes no demands.
            Not one of those men with creeping, groping hands.
            I trace his lips and nose, and nuzzle in his ears,
            Whispering words of endearment - the only ones he hears !
            He's absolute perfection - he doesn't even snore,
            And if I fancy 'lying in ', he's always up for more !
            He's lovely, adorable and always at the ready.
            Of course, I'm talking of a well beloved teddy !


   PS...After his death I found his original Teddy boy suit in a box in the attic. I wear the jacket to 1950's events.

       Thanks for reading....Kath...

   

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Teddy - a lifetime companion?

More than half of Britons still have a teddy bear from childhood and the average teddy bear is 27 years old, the poll found.  Travelodge, the hotel chain, surveyed 6,000 British adults and found that respondents said sleeping with a teddy a “comforting and calming” way to end the day.

The survey also found that 25 per cent of men said they even took their teddy away with them on business because it reminded them of home. In one year, the company say that staff have reunited more than 75,000 teddies and their owners. A spokesperson said: “Interestingly the owners have not just been children, we have had a large number of frantic businessmen and women call us regarding their forgotten teddy bear.”

Apparently, more and more teddy bears are being taken to 'teddy hospital' for repair. The trend seems to have begun following the television series Brideshead Revisted.  Sebastian Flyte's bear was Evelyn Waugh's symbolism at work.   Flyte would not let go of his bear because he did not want to relinquish his childhood. Symbolically, he was the aristocracy on it's last legs, trying to hold back the sweeping social change post WW1.  I won't get into the psychology of men and teddy bears. That is a science all on its own.

I don't recall having a teddy bear as a child. My sister says that I had a blue bunny and that bedtime was impossible if the much loved comforter could not be found.  I am a teddy bear fan though and bought a lovely jointed bear for my son.  Unfortunately around the same time my sister brought him a large Mickey Mouse from a Florida holiday and because Mickey talked, (I used to make his voice) teddy was relegated and Mickey soon became a trusted companion and confidant. My daughter loved Eeyore and he was her bedtime companion of choice.

Several years ago, I acquired a small cuddly Rhinoceros. Neal, as he is affectionately known is a handsome, horny little chap who sits in my bedroom. I can hear you asking , why would she call a Rhino Neal?  Well if you get that one, then you are of a particular generation.  If you don't then please ask your Mum.  When the kids were little, we encountered a real baby rhino at Chester Zoo.  Now that is what I call cuddly. He was gorgeous.

Anyway, getting back to Teddies. I have to say categorically that I am a Teddy lady and I really don't like dolls.  Creepy things dolls. I especially dislike the ones with pot heads and dark glass eyes.  I think the pained on eyelashes are hideous.  Give me a worn out, stuffed bear with a loveable face and stiff joints and I will be a happy bunny. I have a granddaughter now and I definitely won't be buying her dolls.  If I buy a teddy bear, it will be an investment in her future happiness. Perhaps I will buy her a subscription to the World Wildlife Fund.


You are invited
To a Pyjama Party.

Wear your pyjamas and bring your teddy
Or – wear your teddy and bring your pyjamas.

You can chose;
·         A bedtime story (pure fantasy)
·         An early night (it takes a while to warm up)
·         Lights on or off (night sight glasses available)
·         Late checkout (not available on Saturdays)
·         Breakfast in bed (no crumbs allowed)
·         Morning newspaper (or music magazine)

Toothbrush required.

If you are coming Neal – please wipe your muddy feet.

Please RSVP in person.  Thanks for reading.  Adele

 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Teddy - The Love for a Bear

13:23:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , No comments

There’s something appealing about teddy bears. Over the years I’ve accumulated many. They are not all mine, though they are very welcome to stay. The ones left behind when our children moved out have been given a home on a shelf in the spare room or in my writing space. I even have a Children In Need Pudsey Bear charm on my Pandora bracelet. I was delighted to discover a Teddy Bear CafĂ© in York last year and looked no further for somewhere to have an afternoon snack. It’s a shop, too, full of bears and I still can’t believe I didn’t buy one.

Meet Grandpa Teddy. He’s my oldest surviving bear and he’s been my treasure for fifty-seven years. A lifetime of continuing love has left him blind, threadbare and with a growl so weak it’s hardly audible. I was four years old when he arrived, a surprise gift as it wasn’t Christmas or my birthday. He was lying on the living-room floor, hiding under opened-out tea towels.

Covering him in clean tea towels was how my parents decided to wrap him up for me. It sounds bizarre but Grandpa Teddy is massive, much bigger than I was at the time and there was always an abundant supply of fresh towels in the pub, my parents being in the licensed trade. Also, it should be mentioned that they brought him home from a Licensed Victualler’s ‘do’ which would have involved the consumption of a couple of drinks, and I can imagine the pair of them, evening gown and dress suit, giggling as they draped the towels over him. The story was that Teddy was the subject of a ‘Guess the Name’ and nobody got it so they auctioned him instead and my daddy rescued him for me.

I don’t know what my first reaction was and there’s no one left to ask, but I would have been over-joyed.  I’ve always kept him in my bedroom and yes, that’s where he is right now, after nipping downstairs for a quick photo shoot.

The bears all mean something to me, though Grandpa Teddy, stuffed with straw and on the hard side is my favourite, they all bring comfort and joy.

 My son’s teddy from his baby days lives here, waiting in our cot to keep our grandson company when he stays. It’s a tuneful bear that plays Brahm’s Lullaby very gently over and over.

 I don’t know what happened to my first teddy. I named him Mickey Dripping and I used to take him with me to Sunday School. Maybe he’s the reason why I was given a certain book at prize-giving.

Recently, I was visiting my sister. She’s moved house and was showing me round.

“Ah, Teddy Carlo,” I said, delighted to see her first teddy propped up on a pillow in her bedroom. I remember he was a christening present to her. Now he’s pale and floppy, well-loved.    

We all need our bears, however mature we are.
 
Thanks for reading, Pam x

 

My Big Teddy
Grandpa Teddy, you’ve always been here
For all of my life I’ve kept you near
You’ve given comfort to my sadness
And shared in all my joy and gladness.
Your stitched-on smile is coming undone,
Your orange glass eyes have long since gone.
Straw stuffing is sneaking from your seams
You keep hold of my secrets and dreams.
Your proud growl, now a tiny rumble,
Brown leather nose begins to crumble,
Golden fur is thinning and threadbare,
And I love you, special teddy bear.
 
PMW 2017
 


Sunday, 8 January 2017

I Am the Queen of Excess

17:23:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , No comments
Where would you like me to start?  With the wardrobes full of clothes in every size, every colour, every style? With all the food I've eaten over the festive period?  Or with the piles of diet books and magazines I've accumulated over the years?

Although I aim for it, I'm not very good at the 'happy medium.'  In fact, I am the Queen of Excess.  Don’t ever offer me the box of chocolates with a casual, “ Would you like one?” 
I will smile at you and turn away virtuously, whilst a loud angry voice inside my head is yelling, “ONE?? ONE?? ONE’s no good to me! Go away, and leave me with them all.  Come back in the morning for the empty box!” I’m afraid it’s all or nothing.  And judging by the tightness of my jeans since Christmas it’s been an ‘All’ kind of season.

I don’t often do dinner parties these days, I’m too lazy, but when I did I would buy and cook enough food to feed at least twice the number of guests (even the greedy ones).  Now I’ll have informal suppers, but I’m not happy unless I’ve got back up food filling the fridge and freezer – and at least half a dozen bowls of snacks before we even start to eat a proper meal.   I've watched friends stagger down my front path at midnight, clutching their stomachs.  At least two have had accidents requiring A&E, although I suspect the liquid refreshment might have been to blame, and not the abundance of food.

For about the past thirty years I’ve cooked Christmas dinner (with a few reprieves).  This year we were having dinner cooked for us, which meant no festive entertaining other than a small gathering on Christmas Eve.   I heaved a great sigh of relief.  No frantic food shopping for me in the run up to Christmas, I thought smugly.  An unprecedented calm settled around me. I looked on sympathetically as people raced past me in town, clutching huge Iceland bags, their faces reflecting worry and exhaustion. I felt sorry for these poor saps, filling their fridges and cupboards (and ultimately their bellies) with all sorts of over indulgences.



That feeling of calm lasted until I found myself in Sainsburys at 8.30am a few days later, desperately hurling food into my trolley.  I knew then I was a lost cause.  Extra large packs of peanuts, huge jars of pickled onions, giant boxes of Quality Street, enough milk, cream and cheese to open a dairy, and for some reason, a family size packet of frozen chicken gougons and sate strips – what was that all about?  I didn’t come up for air.  Like a mad woman I barged my way past sweet old couples cooing over chocolate Snowmen for the great grandchildren, frazzled looking mothers trying to remove Christmas baubles and selection boxes from their over excited kids, and a single man carrying a basket containing a mini Christmas pudding for one, a single chicken breast and a small Toblerone.  I envied him but I did have to wonder at the sort of person who buys a SMALL Toblerone. 

You see, that’s not my style.  If you’re buying one, go straight for large; if you’re buying two then you might as well have half a dozen.  If it’s a BOGOF that’s even better.  I’ve only recently realized that my obsession with buying things in even numbers is just that – an obsession.  I don’t know when it started but I do know I feel very uneasy if I just buy one and not a pair.  I have been known to leave my shopping on the conveyor belt and hurtle back down the aisles to collect another jar of beetroot to accompany its partner by the till.

Pondering on this blog earlier today, I began planning meals for the coming week, opening cupboards and peering in the fridges and freezers (note the plural – more excess, I am ashamed to say: two fridges, three freezers).  It dawned on me that we could probably survive, in the event of a nuclear explosion, for at least a few months without shopping, feeding ourselves on meals that would continue to be healthy and nourishing but no doubt become more and more bizarre as time went on.

Now, please excuse me while I count how many pairs of black jeans I possess.  Don't wait up for me, I could be some time. 



A Greedy Person's Haiku 
by Jill Reidy

Just one chocolate
Eat it slowly, savour taste
Sorry, no way, mate!

Thanks for reading      Jill 


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Ex-cess

Excess! Woo hoo, what a topic. This could be an opportunity for your Saturday Blogger to throw caution to the wind and go completely (metaphorically) overboard, diving right into the shaming pool to stir up a few murky secrets and send revelatory shockwaves rippling towards the blogshore. Could be fun.

But no, it's an opportunity I'll have to pass on, because being diplomatic and discreet is second nature to me - and I don't want to get sued. (They know who they are though - and they know that I know.)

So if not whistle-blowing about the excesses of high-profile individuals of my acquaintance, what then? How about pollution in China?

I was horrified to see the newsreel footage of the smog cloud that rolled into Beijing this week. Having arrived, it stuck around - and not for the first time. It is just part of a bigger problem, for the smog blanket currently extends some hundreds of miles along China's eastern industrial corridor cloaking major cities in a foul soup of carbon dioxide, lethal particulates and hydro-carbons (see the image below).

This is not cloud, it's poisonous smog.
Last week I was bemoaning the 5,000 poor migrants who were drowned in the Mediterranean in 2016. By way of comparison, smog in China is supposedly responsible for 4,000 deaths per day - that's 3 every minute, or a staggering one-and-a-half million people every year! Unbelievable. The immediate culprits are the coal-fired power stations underpinning China's industrial revolution and the exponential increase in road traffic, especially in the cities. It's a chronic situation for the millions exposed and at risk on a regular basis: excess levels of mortality triggered by excess levels of air pollution. On the larger stage, it is state policy that allowed this to happen and greedy Western capitalism that has catalysed the catastrophe.

That's my first rant of the year concluded. On to the first poem of 2017.

The idea came to me when I couldn't help overhearing (okay, listened in to) an animated conversation between a group of likely lads in a pub discussing the nature of their relationships with their ex-girlfriends... who understand them so much better than their current squeezes! Breaking up clearly isn't what it used to be.

This may not be the poem's final form, as I can't quite hit the right tone of insensitively foolish laddish swagger, but it will do for now.

I must stress it is tongue-in-cheek and pure fiction. It bears not the slightest resemblance to my own life or views and any similarity to any persons living or dead must be spookily coincidental.

My Ex And Me
My ex and me we get on famously,
much better than we ever did
in pre-ex days.
Back then,
if we weren't at each other's throats,
we would wear each other down
with our constant niggling pre-ex ways.

Ex gratia, the hex is lifted -
post ex, she no longer vexes me.
That's some relief.
In fact I think
she understand me
better than my current squeeze.

My exposition moving forward,
this, in brief:
I reckon my ex and me
we could enjoy some great ex-sex together.

The lads agree.
What's not to like
if it's all done on the QT?
No ties, no grief, no expose.
I'll text her now,
ask her not to expostulate,
just try it out and see...

Thanks for reading. Keep smiling and have a good week, S ;-)