Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Tower - Jewel of the North West Coast

My son once told me that he could just about see Blackpool Tower if he stuck he his head out of the rear Velux window in his new loft conversion bedroom.  I was horrified, knowing that he must have climbed on to the wrong side of the banister and be sitting or standing on it with the drop of the stairs behind him. He certainly wasn’t tall enough to stretch from the other side. With visions of his mates coming round to see, and the real possibility of accidents, I locked the window and told him I did not want bits of broken boys on the landing. He was eleven at the time. The threat of being sent back to his old bedroom was enough. These days, it’s the attic again as we find ourselves housing many items for our grown up children who have long since fled the nest into homes of their own, homes lacking in storage space it would seem.

Both son and daughter had their fourth birthdays at the Tower. It was Jungle Jim’s, a ride to the top and the circus. The aquarium had recently moved to the Sea Life Centre when our son was four and the space was taken up with a dinosaur exhibition. A bit scary, for me. The view from the top is incredible. I haven’t ventured on to the outside platforms, so it could be argued that I haven’t actually been to the top, though I have stood on the glass floor known as the ‘walk of faith’ and looked down.

The highest building I have elevated is the Empire State Building many years ago. That was a great view of New York and surrounding areas. I’m not worried by heights but I can’t cope with crowds and it was too busy for me to wait to get an ‘I’m at the top of the Empire State Building’ medal. I think it was still the tallest skyscraper in New York at that time.

There’s something about building towers that fascinates children.  I worked with young children in an infant school and I watch my grandchildren doing the same thing. They nearly always build upwards and have fun knocking it down. Occasionally a child will make a straight line instead.
One day I might follow in the footsteps of Sir John Bickerstaffe and visit Paris, where a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower would be a must, and maybe I'd share his vision.

My poem was originally written as an exercise, now slightly re-edited.
Blackpool Tower       (McGonagal style)
“I know what we need,” Mr Bickerstaffe said,
Leaning back in his chair with his hands in his head.
He’d been to Paris and seen their tower
So decided to exercise some mayoral power.
“We could have one. Build it here.
There’s space just north of Central Pier.”
From his own funds he chucked in two grand
For building to commence on Promenade land,
And in September, 1891
The architects laid the foundation stone.
“They’ll come from miles,” Mr Bickerstaffe cried
“When to the very top they can ride!
Here in Blackpool we’ll have the most
Amazing tower on our golden coast!”
Girder by girder the tower took shape
As cynics below would stare and gape
And mutter about how long it would be
Before Bickerstaffe’s folly got washed out to sea.
“I’ve another idea!” Mr Bickerstaffe exclaimed,
With pride at the thought of being acclaimed.
“We’ll put in a circus with lions and clowns
And be the envy of all other towns.
Sixpence admission, another sixpence to pay
For the circus, and again for the ride; 1/6d for all day!”
And then, at last it was complete,
Reaching nearly 519 feet
And to the public, opened its door
On the 14th May, 1894.
 Pamela Winning 2010 (edited 2018)
(The photo of Blackpool is from Visit Lancashire and is the best I've ever seen of the Tower)

Thanks for reading, Pam x

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Bucket Lists

Bucket lists are funny ones. No one wants to die unaccomplished and bored but the problem is sometimes bucket lists are so expensive, unrealistic or bizarre that you might not ever complete them. I'm not a pessimist, I swear!

I think we should create an environment in our own lives that is so warm and full of hope that we don't need to wish our lives away. We should just live in the moment.

That might sound like a fairy-tale, living the perfect life, being perfectly happy and content. But I honestly think the best things that come to us....come as surprises!

I'm not saying we shouldn't have a bucket list - hell, I have one. I just think we shouldn't get upset if we don't tick everything off.

Like a puff of smoke,
He escapes back to Mars.
So far...
The depth of his brain
Swallows his dreams.
I scream,
Come back down to reality!
Come back!

Helena Ascough

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Bucket List

On the whole I'm quite a fan of lists. Making a list helps me organise and prioritise what I need to do (as long as I stick to it once I've drawn it up). It's also a useful technique for sharpening the critical faculties, for ranking favourite records, books, football strips, bird songs (and justifying the sequence). As the years advance, making lists will probably help me to remember things which should not be forgotten. However a 'bucket list' is not something I'll be devising; not now, not any time soon, probably not ever - it brings mortality too closely into focus.

Just in case there's anybody who doesn't know what I'm talking about, a bucket list is a list of things one wishes to do before one dies (i.e. kicks the bucket). I don't know when the concept originated but it was certainly made popular by Rob Reiner's 2007 comedy film of the same name which featured Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men setting out to do all the things they really wanted to do while they still had life in them.

Buckets Listing
Like I said, it's not for me. However I am okay with the concept of a Fantasy Bucket List - things which I should like to see come to pass in my lifetime, though over which I have no control. It would include, in no particular order:
- Blackpool FC back in the Premier League
- a cure for Alzheimer's and other forms of Dementia
- grand-children on my knee
- worldwide nuclear disarmament
- proportional representation in elections
- a 'best director' Oscar for Wes Anderson
- the return of the Elgin marbles to Greece

As for a poem , I offer you the following which began life in my head this week as a parody of a well-known song:

Bucket List!
There's a hole in one's bucket list,
dear Liza, dear Liza,
there's a hole in one's bucket list,
dear Liza a hole.

One eventually married
the love of one's life,
one's sons are both wedded
to beautiful wives,
one's Duchy is provident,
that much is self-evident
and one of course
is very well heeled.

In addition to that
one is head of the 'weal
a role which one will fulfil
with great zeal,
but there's a hole in one's bucket list,
dear Liza, dear Liza,
there's a hole in one's bucket list,
dear Liza a hole.

One enjoys doing one's bit
for our birds and our bees
and shooting the breeze
with one's favourite trees,
(all conjecture of madness
is just utter pish);
but one's spirit is broken
by a most fervent wish
that can hardly be spoken -
the hole in one's bucket list,
dear Liza, dear Liza,
the hole in one's bucket list
through which hope drains away.

Is talk of the 'A' word
really so silly?
Charles the Third
has a glorious ring.
One's waited so long,
willy nilly,
primed in the wing -
but while you're still Queen
dilly, dilly,
one can't be King.

There's a hole in one's bucket list
dear Liza, dear Liza,
there's a hole in one's bucket list,
dear Liza a hole.

Thanks for reading, Steve ;-)

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Slippers - What's The Point?

20:42:00 Posted by Steve Rowland , , , 9 comments
It's nearly Midsummer and we're expected to bend our minds to slippers? I can't be doing with them at the best of times and haven't possessed a pair since I was a boy. Indoor shoes, maybe; slippers - certainly not: a badge of poor taste, old age and/or infirmity. (Yes, I know I'm being controversial and grossly unfair.)

As far as possible when at home I go around barefoot, especially in the warmer months. I used to go out and about barefoot as well and once had an altercation with a publican who objected to my bare feet. When I asked him how many of his punters washed their shoes three times a day he kicked me out! But I digress.

My abiding memory of slippers is of ugly footwear with shiny soles and fluffy interiors: ridiculous to look at, dangerously skiddy to walk about in and very bad for one's feet - which get far too hot, itchy and frankly smelly in them. Slippers - rank items fit only for dogs to chew on. Need I say more?

If I have to, then let's consider the fashion for oriental slippers like the fine example illustrated below:

It's a style that has been quite widespread throughout Arabia and the Middle East from ancient times to modern, sometimes called Aladdin shoes, more commonly Turkish slippers with their distinctive curling, tapered toes. What's the point?

Historical research suggests that the tapering and curling served no practical purpose but was decorative and a marker of prestige - the more exaggerated and elongated the curl, the higher the standing of the wearer. Would I have gotten thrown out of that pub if I'd been sporting a pair of Turkish slippers? In all likelihood.

That has pretty much exhausted me on the topic.

At the Dead Good poetry gig last night one of the poets performed a piece that had been constructed around ten randomly chosen words. It was something of an epic. I thought I might try by a similar exercise to arrive at a suitable poem for today's blog.

Here are my ten words: failed - thought -  impressed - downtrodden - test - immodestly - wrong-footed - shoddily - best - never.... a fairly random gaggle, would you agree?

Okay, here's the 'Slippers' poem I've rounded them up into, having taken the unusual but expedient decision not to add extra words. If, in reading it, you detect any sense of foreboding that the England team is going to crash and burn in the upcoming World Cup, can I suggest that is purely coincidental?

thought best.
Failed test
Never impressed!

Thanks for reading. Wishing you a footloose week, Steve ;-)

Friday, 8 June 2018


I like wearing slippers - not those as of in 'days of olde' but velvet, plush, fur lined,zip-up, velcro-fastened or slip on with a good rubber sole.

Winter time requires my 'granny' slippers - lined with lambs' wool, zipping up and covering my ankles. Summer sees me in a flimsier pair - a bit floppy and they 'click clack' as I walk - but not 'mules' as I'm not keen on those as they may cause an accident.

I have 'camper van' slippers that are robust and cosy - able to withstand those walks to the toilet block and giving my weary walking-booted feet some luxury.

For travelling I always purchase a new pair every few months. Now they must be a bit more discreet in navy or burgundy, so that I can come down to breakfast and walk around my room in them.

I become somewhat attached to certain pairs and am loathe to discard them, so very often these end up coming camping......sort of like having  'home' on my feet.

      I Like Slippers

      Plush velvet embroidered cuff
      To fit my feet with comfort.
      Velcro-fastened secure enough
      Make me feel at home.

      Snails have shells - I have slippers.
      Blue or burgundy my usual choice.
      Worn at home or worn away -
      Instant ease for weary feet.

      A good sole for walking out
      Twixt kitchen and garden.
      Trusty warmth for my toes -
      A sigh when I don them.

       Thanks for reading, Kath

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Slippers - Real or Fairytale?

Not counting the mandatory footwear that I had to take into hospital then threw away afterwards, I can’t remember the last time I had a pair of slippers. I always wear sandals in the house and kick them off on the rare moments that I might be sitting down relaxing. When I think back to childhood, we always wore slippers indoors, except my mum, who had some very elegant mules that I longed to wear.

Nanna Hetty’s slippers fascinated me. Actually, it was probably her feet, bearing in mind I was only a little girl. There were lumps and bumps unlike anyone else and I used to get told that it was rude to keep looking. I don’t think it’s a punishment from staring, but I have inherited some of it. Not as bad, yet, but it is there. Arthritis, possibly, and certainly something osteo that runs in the family. My father had it as well. To help myself as much as possible I wear fairly sensible shoes.

I’ve never wanted Cinderella’s glass slippers. She had tiny, delicate feet, so that’s me out for starters. Also, I can’t cope with anyone actually touching my feet, regardless of how handsome the prince might be  – ask my husband when he was tasked with removing a tick from my toe when we were in a very remote part of the Highlands a few years ago. He was brave, but not as brave as I had to be.

     It would be good to have some ruby slippers like Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz, as long as nobody wanted to kill me for them. I don’t want to relive the story. I just want the magic slippers and modified so that with a click of my heels I could instruct them to take me anywhere. Imagine the travelling time it would save and the places to visit. I would have avoided feeling sea-sick recently, that’s for sure.

Whenever I stayed at Nanna Hetty’s, I followed her around all day. I watched the cooking, baking, cleaning and gardening. If I drove her mad, it never showed. She had lots of time for me and I adored her. She’s been mentioned before and previously featured in my poems. This is a new one.


Nanna Hetty’s Comfy Slippers.
Clouds of Pledge in the sitting-room,
Patio swept with the outside broom,
Tea-leaves saved to feed the roses.
I picked daisies for indoor posies.
She lets me peep in Uncle’s room
And lifts the blinds to ease the gloom.
He’s married now and lives in Reading.
He’s been there ever since the wedding.
Blankets cover his unused bed.
On his wall, huge African head,
Carved in wood, it fills me with fear.
Something he brought from Nigeria.
A duster in her pinny pocket,
Husband’s photo in her locket.
Currant buns on a baking sheet,
And comfy slippers on bunioned feet.
PMW 2018
Thanks for reading, Pam x

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Zest 4 Life

The word of the week has to be appetence. It's also the given theme for the blog. Like my fellow Dead Good Bloggers I wasn't exactly sure of its meaning.

After consulting a few wise tomes, the consensus appears to be that appetence derives from Latin, appetere (to seek after) and means something along the lines of: a longing or desire; a natural or instinctive inclination; an attraction or affinity. Yes, that makes perfect sense.

On a stunningly sunny Saturday in the jewel of the north, I shall choose to interpret appetence as a zest for life, a taking pleasure in just being, the rare ability to enjoy the moment (whatever moment that might be) and make it resonate. As my friend Ted Bruner sings: "If you're happy, cool - 'cos that's all there is...."

I'm not advocating thoughtless hedonism; rather a seeking after such simple fulfilment as brings happiness to oneself, does harm to no-one and possibly even makes others happy too. There are many ways to shine...

This is a zestful little poem I've been working on for a while, finished in time for the next Dead Good Poets' open mic night (Friday 8th June) when the theme is Midsummer Night Dreams.

Midsummer moon climbed pale
over Jenne
even before the last hint
of citrus had left the sky.
Twilight pipistrelles
swung and swooped their feasting hour
above the lemon grove and you
my dusky beauty
slipped into the sloping garden
like a ghost in bosky gloom
to stand uncertain by the gate
until our eyes met,
then our bodies.

Crushing an aromatic carpet
beneath those lemon trees
in unpeeling,
dress over head, shorts off,
you shy but sure, me marvelling
at your fragrance and your form,
we rekindled earlier passions
with urgent mouth to mouth affections,
grasping, clutching, cleaving,
caressing limbs and lips,
bruising separate bodies into one
until we lay
spent and tingling in the dark.

We cradled in our pleasure,
smiling with no need for words
and gazed up at pale lemon fruit
hanging bowered among
glossy almost-blue leaves
until a bell tolling the hour
advised us not to stay
and midnight's cooling breath
shivered our skin.

I wanted to leave you with another musical bonus this week, 'Shine' by the US band Wondermints. They are a frequent accompaniment to my trips to the gym. All I could find on YouTube was the complete album (which is fab, by the way). Nevertheless, if you click on the hyperlink and then fast-forward the time-bar to 18:05 you will find the four-and-a-half minutes of aural splendour that is 'Shine': Pop A Wondermint

Pip! Pip! I hope you liked the blog. Thanks for reading, Steve ;-)

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Appetence - seems it's all we need.

I hate to admit that the word appetence is new to me. Despite my English degree, this word has escaped my notice. I had to look it up. It wasn't in my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary so before I resorted to on-line versions, I dug out my battered, Chambers Etymological and there it was, defined in all its glory: 'Appetence - n - a seeking after: desire, especially sexual desire'.

As I browsed the list of words that follow, I found, 'Appetite  - n - a natural desire: desire for food, hunger.  From Latin appetitus. See 'appetence'. There is a very interesting difference that you may have spotted - appetite is described as a 'natural' desire: appetence is not. 

Yesterday evening I was dining with my son and because I enjoy the early evening antique programmes, the TV was on in the background. When the advertisements came on, there was one that drew my son's attention. A young man and girl in her bedroom, about to have sex when her father comes to the door. The young man makes no attempt to put his jeans on - he takes some chewing gum from his pocket, sticks it in his mouth and simply says, "Hi I'm Tom." I have to say that I find this comical. My father would have murdered him and I can't imagine that he'd get a smile from the father of most young girls - at least I hope not. It was my own son's reaction to the advert that really struck me as interesting. He said, " Everything is about sex now Mum, isn't it?" 

It's true. Everything - certainly when it comes to advertising - is about sex. I would like to tell him that this is something new - but of course the advertisers will tell you that 'sex sells'. I only have to think about the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey and its subsequent success as a movie blockbuster. Sex sells. It's a fact. But it is healthy? Selling chewing gum or toothpaste to young people with the implication that it will get them a brief encounter on a train or a pat on the back from a girl's father doesn't seem healthy to me. Perhaps I am old fashioned. When I was a girl, a man in black could climb into your bedroom but at least he was only leaving a box of Milk Tray. My Dad would still have murdered him.

The advertising industry did not begin the interest in the pursuit if sexual desire - it merely tapped into it.  E L James was not the first writer to capitalise on the appetence (see I am getting the hang of this now) of the general population. We can go back to the 18th Century to the writings of the Marquis de Sade when looking for the source of the problem.

He was held in he Bastille before being moved to an insane asylum, His cell was searched and a copper cylinder was found in a crevice in the wall: it contained the manuscript of an unfinished novel called The 120 Days of Sodom or The School of Libertinage. Even when incarcerated for his extreme sexual behaviour, Sade continued his appetence with the thirteen year old daughter of his jailer. 

The once unpublishable novel has now joined the ranks of Penguin’s Classics for the first time, and its author will take his place alongside the great figures of world literature – many of whom would no doubt turn in their graves at the news that their club now counted Sade among its members. Yet many of the surrealists and great writers of the modern age have been influenced by his works. It seems that the pursuit of sexual desire has always 'sold'. 

I am not going to lecture anyone but to me the beauty of an intimate relationship is in discovery. The modern high street abounds with kinky lingerie and shops selling sex toys.  I believe that if sexual desire is corrupted by sadism it can only end badly. In the film about Sade starring Geoffrey Rush, he was denied writing materials but continued to write in his own blood on his cell walls. He would constantly shout about obscene acts until in exasperation they cut out his tongue. 

 So here I am - the new Mary Whitehouse, setting out to censor the advertisers. My son is 29 and worries about the overt sexual nature of advertising. Perhaps it's about time we all did.  As the books states, appetence, unlike appetite is not a 'natural' desire. By the way - if you have copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, please don't give them to charity shops, they have been given so many that they have to be put on pyres and burned, for the sake of future generations.

I won't apologize for the lack of a poem on the subject. I am working on it quietly - in my own time.  
Thanks for reading. Adele  

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Appetence - We'll Get What We Need

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you’ll find you get what you need…”
from the Jagger & Richards composition, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

My late father used to say something like that, long before the Rolling Stones immortalised the words of wisdom in their song. He had lots of sayings and witticisms about things that belonged to his generation and his upbringing. He was an original Rusholme Ruffian, very grounded and proud of his roots. He became an engineer and lived in Northenden at the time of meeting my mother and marrying into a family of licencees. He soon joined in. His first pub was in Manchester city centre. He was ambitious enough to want a pub on Blackpool Promenade and made it his goal. Six years later he’d done it and stayed for the rest of his working life. He had focus, desire and appetence. He’d certainly found his niche with his change of career. I’m proud to display his Licensed Trade Diploma on my wall, with photos of most of his pubs.

In my twenties, I wanted lots of children. It was a real yearning to have a large, close family. Obviously, it wasn’t meant to be and how I would have possibly found time to fulfil my ambition to write something meaningful, I can’t imagine. My two arrived in my mid to late thirties. I worked in a school with the under 8s.There was little time to write anything more than a birthday card. Things have improved, slightly.

For a few years, it’s been my wish to relocate to Dumfries and Galloway when we retire. I have to work more years than I wanted because I won’t get a state pension when I expected to. Yes, I’m one of those WASPI women, affected by the government moving the pensionable age criteria at short notice. I’ve just come home from a couple of weeks indulging my longing for Scotland, a holiday on the Isle of Barra then time in D&G. I hope it keeps me going until later in the year.

My family is growing. A fourth grandchild is on the way. I’m a very hands-on Nanna, so in a roundabout way I’m getting something I always wanted.

I thank my dad for genetically passing on his patience and tenacity, for always encouraging my writing and for showing me the difference between what we want and what we need.

The Rolling Stones have been doing a UK tour while I’ve been away. It would have been great to see them. Instead, I’ll play their music and look forward to catching up with a friend who went to one of their London concerts.

The photo is of our holiday cottage in Barra.

The poem is one of mine from long ago, but it means the same.
The Lowlands
Take me back to the coast of Ballentrae,
And a breath-taking view of Ailsa Craig
Half hidden by mist on a rainy day,
Grey shape against dull sky, outline so vague.

It’s restful at Robert Burns place of birth
And Autumn quiet on the Ayrshire beach.
A cloudy sunset calms the Solway Firth
And all of the Lowlands is in my reach.

I close my eyes and think of Galloway,
Afternoon tea at a street side café
A chilly breeze coming over the bay
At the end of another perfect day. 

I will return to this place of my dreams,
My love of the forest and rolling hills
Where all is real and just as it seems,
In peace and tranquillity, my soul stills.
PMW 2013
Thanks for reading, Pam x 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Old Pile Of Books

"It’s just an old pile of books". I was once greeted with that phrase when I went to buy some books from a lady who was selling her husband’s library. Her husband had died recently and she was wanting to rid herself of his things. It was clear as conversation developed with her, that not only did she not like his books, but she hadn’t been very keen on him either.

The ‘old pile of books’, was a lifetime’s collection of interesting and valuable editions, numbering thousands. I offered her a fair sum for the books and gladly took them away to sell in my antiquarian bookshop I ran in Ambleside in Cumbria.

Books can divide opinion like that. Some people love them, can’t ever have enough of them, to read or collect or ‘furnish‘ a room. Others dislike them as clutter and dust collectors and are happy to be rid of them. Which of these are you?

I wrote this poem, in response to my experience with that lady and I think you will know which side I am on in the book debate:

Just an old pile of books
Books are from a bygone age
it’s an apt description;
yet turn another page
of a leather – bound edition
and you turn the tale of life
in another bygone age-
a time when words were rife
and teachers turned the page
to reveal what you know
and the unnoticed craft.
Books are a striking tableau,
showing draft after draft
of a person’s life
etched into the covers:
their joy, woe, success, strife,
family, friends, significant others –
and if you’re in the know,
that book description
can hide the real tableau
and bask in such deception.

I have many thousands of books in our Blackpool house, both for sale and in my personal collection.
In particular, I collect miniature books, books which have to be under 3 inches in height. These are delightful works of art, beautifully printed on a small scale and bound in leather or contemporary bindings. They have the added advantage of being housed in several small bookcases and hundreds of them can be displayed in a very small space.
Because I have been a book lover from childhood and that passion has grown even stronger over the years, I will leave you with another poem about collecting small things.

The art of small things
It can be hard to turn a page,
no offence to the book, or its age,
but it could be opened faster
if it were bigger, vaster

than the whole library I’m sitting with.
This is all part of the myth,
that bigger is better – or another,
that life is ruled by Big Brother

watching you. Mass Media’s laced
with this poison and can be traced
back to ‘size matters’ – it’s implicit,
all you have to do is listen for it –

no need to magnify; a magnifying glass
will show the miniature’s first class.
If you fix it in your view,
this truth that hides, becomes visible to you.

Thanks for reading, David Wilkinson